Earlier this week, Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated put together a list of ten of the best players to drop off of the Hall of Fame ballot without receiving a vote (though, players that made the ballot but did not receive a vote were not reported until 1978). It's a mouthful of a title, to be sure, but it's also an endlessly intriguing topic - particularly when you consider that Armando Benitez, Jacque Jones, Bill Mueller, Aaron Sele, Kenny Rogers, and David Eckstein have all received votes over the last five years. I was in the midst of some frustrating downtime when I read Jaffe's piece, so, naturally, I put together a 25-man roster using his guidelines.
And here it is.
Mickey Tettleton (C - Starter)
Tettleton was a career .241/.369/.449 hitter (122 OPS+), averaging 27 HR per 162 games. He was a switch hitter with no real platoon split (.821 OPS against RHP, .810 against LHP), and his defense was at least passable when he was in his 20s.
Paul Lo Duca
Lo Duca had a six-year stretch as a solid everyday catcher, posting a 103 OPS+ and averaging 3.1 bWAR from 2001 through 2006.
Cecil Cooper (1B - Starter)
It surprised me quite a bit to find that Cooper received no love on his lone crack at the Hall of Fame. He finished in the top-five in MVP voting three times, won a couple of Gold Gloves, and led the league in RBI twice.
Ray Durham (2B - Starter)
Durham had a solid yet unspectacular career, which was largely defined by a modest power/speed combo and a healthy walk rate. He was essentially an above-average regular from ages 24 through 34, averaging 3.1 bWAR a year in that stretch.
Troy Glaus (3B - Starter)
Glaus is another player that surprised me here. He led the league in home runs once, and won the World Series MVP in 2002 - and that's usually enough to have a writer or two toss a vote your way.
Rich Aurilia (SS - Starter)
If you remember Aurilia, it's likely because you're (1) a Giants fan, or (2) you appreciate a tremendous outlier like his 2001, when he led the league in hits and cranked out 37 HR. He was a steady, league-average shortstop for a long time otherwise.
One of my proudest moments as a young baseball fan was being able to spell 'Grudzielanek' with ease. There might be more deserving infielders out there, but we're making a 25-man roster here, and he can fill in at 2B and SS.
Zeile was a league-average hitter (104 OPS+) for parts of sixteen seasons, and saw 100-plus games at C, 1B, and 3B (his primary position).
Brian Giles (LF - Starter)
Arguments that Giles is a borderline Hall of Famer are a bit overstated, but he flat-out raked at his peak. His average line from 1999 through 2005 was .303/.418/.554 (151 OPS+), with 102 R, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 10 SB, and 5.1 bWAR.
Jimmy Wynn (CF - Starter)
When I first drafted this list, I had Wynn on the bench, opting for defense over offense. I'm switching things up this time around, as I simply can't overlook someone with three 7+ bWAR seasons and an another three 5+ bWAR efforts.
Oscar Gamble (RF - Starter)
I changed this one up, too, largely because of his 80-grade hair and this wonderful image:
Well, that, and the fact that he had a 141 OPS+ at his peak (from 1973 through 1982).
I changed gears again (sorry Jermaine Dye). Mondesi was a terrific hitter through age-26 (127 OPS+ in nearly 2500 PA), and he had one of the best outfield arms that I've ever seen.
White is one of the greatest defensive center fielders of my lifetime, if not of all-time. He was also a league-average-ish hitter (98 OPS+), and a good to great base-runner.
Sexson's career was a relative blip on the radar, as his last full season came at age-32 (and his last productive season was the year before) - but from 2001 through 2005 he averaged 42 HR per 162 games, slashing .270/.363/.537 (135 OPS+). That'll do from the DH slot.
The man dealt for Randy Johnson was a very good pitcher in his own right, leading the league in strikeouts three times and finishing in the top-ten in bWAR five times (including seasons of 7.3 and 8.7 bWAR).
Nolan was one of the best young pitchers in the game before his arm fell off in 1973. He posted a 127 ERA+ from ages 19 to 24, averaging 3.5 bWAR along the way. And that includes 6.3 bWAR in 1967 ... his rookie year, during which he turned 19.
Sudden Sam led the league in strikeouts five times, and sits 15th on the all-time K/9 list. He was the best pitcher in the AL in 1965, when he led the league in bWAR (8.1) and ERA (2.18).
Schmidt is best-remember for signing a big contract with the Dodgers in 2007 (3-years, $47 MM), and starting just ten games over those three years. Prior to that, however, he was a solid mid-rotation starter, pitching to a 126 ERA+ over six years with the Giants.
Tanana is 21st all-time in strikeouts and 35th in innings pitched, having spent the vast majority of his 21-year career as a league-average starter. He also finished 9th in Cy Young voting in 1977 - a season in which he led the league in pitcher bWAR, ERA, and ERA+.
Everyday Eddie averaged 71 appearances a year from 1996 to 2003, pitching to a 122 ERA+ along the way. His best stretch came from 2002 through 2005, when he averaged 35 saves and a 157 ERA+.
Hernandez is 9th in games finished and 14th in games played on the all-time leaderboard. He made at least 43 appearances per season every year from 1992 through 2007, retiring after 2007.
Mesa might have been the best reliever in the game in 1995, when he posted an insane 418 ERA+ and a league-leading 46 saves. His career totals are dragged down a bit by the five years he spent as a starting pitcher - he had a 114 ERA+ as a reliever.
Only Jesse Orosco made more appearances than Stanton - and he received one vote for his efforts. His best season came in 1997, his first with the Yankees, when he posted a 176 ERA+ and held lefties to a minuscule .157/.250/.157 slash line.
Timlin led the Majors in appearances once, in his age-39 season - a season in which he had a 203 ERA+ and 2.9 bWAR (the best mark of his career). He was better than most remember, with a career 125 ERA+ over an eighteen-year career.
Worrell dealt with injuries throughout his career, and spent two full seasons on the disabled list. Despite that, he had a 122 ERA+ in over 600 appearances. He also won the Rookie of the Year in 1986, when he pitched 103.2 IP across 74 appearances, and led the league with 36 saves.
What do you think about this squad? If we take all of the players at their peak, I'd have to say that this is a World Series contender. If we instead focused on their career norms, we'd still be looking at a playoff team.