Every year baseball fans debate who should make it into Cooperstown. There are some players who have fallen off the ballot and have basically been forgotten. This is the second part of a three-part series looking at the biggest Hall of Fame snubs at each position.
For this article, I will not be including players who have been snubbed for steroid use, character issues, or bans. I also will not be including players still on the ballot such as Andruw Jones or Scott Rolen as the writers still have a chance to get it right. So let’s take a look at the All-HOF Snub Team in the outfield.
Bob Johnson is far from a household name in the history of baseball. Make no mistake though, the dude could play. Unfortunately for Johnson, he was stuck in the minors until 1933 at age 27. From 1933-1942 playing for the Philadelphia Athletics, he had 252 home runs and drove in 1,040 runs. There were only two other players in baseball to have 250+ HRs and over 1,000 RBIs in those 10 years, Jimmie Foxx and Mel Ott. Johnson also slashed an impressive .298/.395/.520 in that time.
Johnson played for three more years. His counting stats are solid: 2,051 hits, 1,239 runs, 1,283 RBIs, 288 HRs. He was also an eight-time All-Star and received MVP votes in seven different seasons including finishing in the top-10 twice. Johnson had a career .411 wOBA, 133 wRC+, and 4.25 fWAR/600 PA. Comparing him to a couple of his contemporaries who are both in Cooperstown, Goose Goslin checks in with a .402 wOBA, 127 wRC+, and 3.91 fWAR/600. Al Simmons, the man Johnson replaced in Philly, had a career .410 wOBA, 130 wRC+, and 4.37 fWAR/600. Starting his major league career so late certainly hurt Johnson’s totals, but his stats still warrant another look after garnering only two votes and dropping off.
Jim Edmonds joined the ballot in 2016. He lasted one year and garnered only 11 votes. That is a travesty. Edmonds became the starting centerfielder for the California Angels in 1995 and immediately made his mark hitting 33 HRs, driving in 107, and making his first All-Star appearance. After an injury-plagued 1999 season, he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. From 2000-2005, Edmonds was one of the best players in the game. He had a 40.1 fWAR in those six seasons along with averaging 35 HRs with a .414 wOBA and a 153 wRC+.
For his career, Edmonds was a four-time All-Star and won eight GGs. He also finished in the top-5 of MVP voting twice (2000, 2004). Edmonds also finds himself in elite company. Among players in major league history with 1,200 games in center field, he is one of only eight with a .380 wOBA and 130 wRC+. The others are Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio Duke Snider, and Ken Griffey Jr. Pretty elite company for sure, and all of them Hall-of-Famers except for Edmonds.
Kenny Lofton was the leadoff hitter for one of the most potent offenses in recent memory. He was also an all-around excellent player. Lofton was a great baserunner. He is one of 18 players to have 600+ stolen bases. Of those, he ranks sixth in SB% at 79.54. His hitting was certainly above average and his eight-year peak (1992-1999) was very good with a .364 wOBA and 117 wRC+. While Lofton could beat you at the plate and on the bases, in the field is where he shined.
According to Fangraphs, Lofton is third all-time among center fielders in Total Zone Runs above average behind only Mays and Jones. He won four GGs and was a six-time All-Star. Despite being a top-20 baserunner and a top-5 defensive center fielder in baseball history, Lofton got just 18 votes in his first year on the ballot.
Dwight Evans was a fixture in Fenway for over 2,000 games and 19 seasons. He could take a walk or hit one over the fence. Evans was also better than teammate Jim Rice for more than a decade. Rice is in the Hall of Fame, making it in on his final year on the ballot. Evans got dropped in his third year but why?
|Evans (1975-1988)||Rice (1975-1988)|
Now the difference between the two players isn’t stark. Rice did have an MVP along with a higher peak and lower valley. Evans was more consistent. Rice’s career started one year before and ended one year after the totals you see above. Evans played in over 600 games more than Rice aside from the same stretch. It seems that as we’ve seen with a player like Lou Whitaker, consistency doesn’t hold much weight with the BBWAA voters as long as you are dominant for a few years.
Reggie Smith‘s career started off fairly well in 1967 after a cup of coffee in 1966. He finished second to Rod Carew in Rookie of the Year voting and made it to the World Series with the Red Sox. In 1968, he led the league in doubles and won his only GG. 1969 came and Smith garnered a few MVP votes and was elected to the first of seven All-Star teams. That year he proved what he could do with the bat, hitting .309 with 25 HRs and driving in 93 to go along with a .395 wOBA and 139 wRC+.
After another good season in 1973, he was traded to the Cardinals where he would spend a couple of years being an All-Star in the NL this time. After a rough start to 1976, the Cardinals traded Smith to the Los Angeles Dodgers in June. He played well and stayed in Los Angeles until 1981. He finished fourth in MVP voting in 1977 and 1978, was an All-Star both seasons, and helped the Dodgers to consecutive NL Pennants. After injuries slowed him down, and he finally won a ring in 1981, Smith played for one season with San Francisco and retired after the 1982 season.
Let’s do a little comparison to a Hall-of-Famer who was voted in on his sixth year on the ballot.
|Smith (1967-1982)||Williams (1961-1972)|
It seems Billy Williams has a slight advantage at the plate but Smith was a better baserunner and a much better fielder. Not only is Smith not in Cooperstown, he fell off the ballot on his first try after getting only three votes.
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images