These Players Belong in the Hall of Fame

Who should be in the Hall of Fame, but isn't?

With this year’s Hall of Fame voting results announcement just around the corner, it’s time again to look at some players that belong in Cooperstown.

I first wrote this column last year and included the one player I felt is the Hall’s biggest omission—Barry Bonds—as well as some other famous cases such as Roger Clemens and Pete Rose. However, other less obvious choices such as Kenny Lofton and Tommy John were also discussed.

According to this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Voting Tracker, as of 1/13, there are four players projected to hit the induction cutoff of 75%: Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton, and Billy Wagner. Gary Sheffield (discussed later in this article) is hovering at 74.5% This is with around 41% of ballots submitted, so things could still change.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some more names that deserve your consideration as a baseball fan.


Roger Maris


Roger Maris is one of the most famous players of the mid-20th century but he is not in the Hall of Fame.

As you are probably aware, Maris hit 61 home runs in a historic 1961 season, breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. This record wouldn’t be touched for almost 40 years and that season was even commemorated in a movie.

In addition to the 61 homers, Maris led baseball with 132 runs and was first in the American League with 141 RBI. He slashed .269/.372/.620 on the year and was named the American League MVP for his efforts.

But did you know Maris went back-to-back as he had won the AL MVP the previous season? In 1960, Maris hit .283 and was first in the American League in RBI (112) and slugging percentage (.581). He nudged out teammate Mickey Mantle, who finished second in MVP voting.

Nineteen other players have won two MVPs in baseball history, and among eligible players, only Juan Gonzalez and Dale Murphy (highlighted in last year’s column) are not in the Hall of Fame.


Two Career MVP Awards

  • Ernie Banks
  • Johnny Bench
  • Miguel Cabrera (just retired, not yet eligible for HOF)
  • Mickey Cochrane
  • Lou Gehrig
  • Juan Gonzalez
  • Hank Greenberg
  • Bryce Harper (active, not yet eligible for HOF)
  • Rogers Hornsby
  • Carl Hubbell
  • Walter Johnson
  • Roger Maris
  • Willie Mays
  • Joe Morgan
  • Hal Newhouser
  • Cal Ripken Jr.
  • Frank Robinson
  • Frank Thomas
  • Ted Williams
  • Robin Yount

During his career, Maris played 12 seasons and was a seven-time All-Star. He was also a talented outfielder, winning a Gold Glove in 1960 and thrice leading MLB right fielders in fielding percentage.

Yet the biggest argument against Maris is his lack of counting stats—they are simply not high enough to touch the traditional Hall of Fame milestones. In total, he had just 1325 hits, 275 home runs, and 850 RBI.

If the prime of Maris’ career had been a bit longer, it may have been a different story. If he had played 3-5 more seasons, he would have neared the 400 home run mark and that may have been enough to get him in.

Here are his 162-game averages stacked up against Dave Winfield, a Hall of Famer who played for 22 seasons.

Roger Maris 162-Game Average
Dave Winfield 162-Game Average

Maris was first eligible for the Hall in 1974 and that year he received 21.4% of the vote. His support hovered there before rising to 43.1% in 1988, his last year of eligibility.

However, he deserves to be in Cooperstown due to his cultural impact and for producing one of the most hallowed seasons of all time.


Gary Sheffield


Gary Sheffield had one of the most unique swings in baseball.

It was a thing of beauty watching a Sheffield at-bat. The pre-pitch waggle and the quick flick of the wrists. The laser home run shot off his bat. A true combination of power and speed that was unmatched by any peer this side of Barry Bonds.

Now in 2024, Sheff finds himself in his final year of  HOF eligibility. His support has skyrocketed in the past few years, sitting at 30.5% in 2020 before jumping to 55% last year. He’ll need a similar increase this year to make the Hall—but there’s no doubt he belongs.
Voting Results (2015-2023)

Sheffield was a nine-time All-Star who debuted with the Brewers at age 19 before breaking out in 1992 with the Padres when he finished third in MVP voting after leading the National League with a .330 average. He hit 33 home runs and 100 RBI that season. His best season came in 1997 with the Marlins, when he hit .314 with 42 home runs, 120 RBI, and led the NL with a .465 OBP.

Sheffield was consistent throughout his career with eight seasons of 30+HR/100+RBI seasons, including a late-career surge from 2003-2005 when at the ages of 34-36, he averaged 36 home runs and 125 RBI. He finished second in AL MVP voting in 2004, more than a decade after his breakout 1992 season. In total, Sheffield hit 509 home runs and finished with a career slash line of .292/.393/.514. He was also a patient hitter, retiring with more walks (1475) than strikeouts (1171), and even with a reputation as a power slugger, never struck out 100 times in a season.

His career WAR of 60.5 is higher than both Vladimir Guerrero (59.5) and David Ortiz (55.3) and among those in the 500-home run club, only Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez have more career steals than Sheffield’s 253 steals.

Next, let’s look at some pairs of players who had similar career paths and compare how they measure up.


Torii Hunter/Andruw Jones


If the only requirement for Cooperstown was to be elite on defense—both Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones would be unanimous selections.

The underrated Hunter spent most of his career on small market teams patrolling the Metrodome outfield for early 2000s Twins teams when he made two All-Star games and had two 20-20 seasons. He was arguably the best player on the Twins during that period—an important part of his legacy considering the contraction whispers the franchise faced. He left the Twins in 2007 and went on to play a combined seven seasons for the Angels and Tigers, making three additional All-Star games before returning to Minnesota for his final season.

Hunter won a Silver Slugger Award in 2009 (22 HR & 90 RBI with a. 299/.366/.508 line) and 2013, at the age of 37, when he hit .304 with 17 HR and 84 RBI. His career offensive totals: 2,452 hits, 353 HR, 1391 RBI, 195 steals, and a .277 average—numbers that qualify him for the Hall of Very Good.

But if you are a fan who values defense, then Hunter deserves deliberation. He captured seven straight Gold Gloves from 2001-2007 and his nine career Gold Gloves are sixth among outfielders. Hunter is 14th all-time with 5,263 putouts and his .993 fielding percentage in center field places him 18th. Yet he is fighting an uphill battle as the support during his first three years of eligibility has been below 10%.

Andruw Jones had a similar scouting report as Hunter—a player whose best skill was defense but who could also swing the bat, and the two ended up with similar career totals in many categories.

Their career strikeout totals (Jones – 1748, Hunter – 1741) and fielding percentages in center field (Jones – .992,  Hunter – .993) are nearly identical. The same goes for the number of Gold Gloves—Jones finished with 10 and Hunter had nine.

Jones benefitted from playing under a larger spotlight, playing in the World Series at just 19 years old, and was clearly a better power hitter. You could also argue that his peak was better than Hunter’s prime, as the longtime Atlanta Brave had seven seasons of 30+ home runs and five seasons of 100+ RBI. His best season came in 2005 when he crushed 51 home runs and 128 RBI en route to being the runner-up in NL MVP voting that season. Hunter only topped 30 home runs in a season once and 100 RBI just twice.

However, Hunter concluded his career with more hits, RBI, and steals, and has a higher career batting average (.277 compared to Jones’ .254).

This is Jones’ seventh year of eligibility and his support continues to grow. During his first year of eligibility, he only received 7.3% of the vote, but it was up to 58.1% last year. This year, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker, about 40% of ballots have been turned in, and Jones’ support sits at 70.9%.

With a few more chances left, it’s likely Andruw Jones gets in, and if he does, then voters should also give Hunter a shot.


David Cone/Andy Pettitte


Here are two more players who are interesting case studies to compare. Pettitte played for 18 seasons, while Cone’s career lasted 17 seasons. Their career WAR: Cone – 62.3 and Pettitte – 60.2. They each played in five career World Series and were even teammates for a stretch with the Yankees.

In a vacuum, Cone was the better pitcher. He had a lower career ERA and WHIP than Pettitte and twice led baseball in strikeouts. He also won a Cy Young in 1994, a feat never achieved by the Pettitte. And if you stack their best seasons against each other, Cone’s were statistically superior.


  • 1988: 20-3 / 2.22 ERA / 1.12 WHIP / 213 SO (3rd in Cy Young Voting)
  • 1994: 16-5 / 2.94 ERA / 1.07 WHIP / 132 SO (*1st in Cy Young Voting*)


  • 1996: 21-8 / 3.87 ERA / 1.36 WHIP / 172 SO (2nd in Cy Young Voting)
  • 2005: 17-9 / 2.39 ERA / 1.03 WHIP / 171 SO (5th in Cy Young Voting)

Cone retired in 2003 with a 194-126 record, a 3.46 ERA, and a 1.26 WHIP. Pettitte’s career lasted until 2013. He retired with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP and in the end did stack up more regular-season career wins than Cone (256 – 194).

The most important factor in Pettitte’s favor is that he is one of the best postseason pitchers of all time. He basically pitched a full additional season of baseball while in the playoffs. Pettitte cranked out 276.2 innings and 19 wins in the postseason. Both of those marks are first all-time and he’s also fourth in postseason strikeouts with 183.

Pettitte is halfway through his Hall of Fall eligibility period so he still has a chance. Last year, he received 17% of the vote and this year is hovering around 15% of the vote.

Cone only received 3.9% of the vote in 2009 and was dropped off the ballot.


Johnny Damon/Jimmy Rollins


For our last comparison, let’s begin with a guessing game—which of the players listed below do you think is Damon, and which is Rollins? These two are closer than you’d think when you look at their career numbers.

Player A

  • .284/.352 /.433
  • 2769 Hits / 522 2B / 109 3B
  • 235 Home Runs / 1139 RBI / 408 Steals / 1257 Strikeouts

Player B

  • .264/.324/.418
  • 2455 Hits / 511 2B / 115 3B
  • 231 Home Runs / 936 RBI / 470 Steals / 1264 Strikeouts

Now for the drumroll please…………if you guessed Jimmy Rollins is Player B and Johnny Damon is Player A, then you are correct.

Rollins has the advantage in steals but Damon racked up more RBI, and he beats Rollins in BA, OBP, and OPS. In a recurring theme of this article, they played nearly the exact number of seasons (Damon – 18 & Rollins – 17) and finished only a handful of home runs and strikeouts apart.

As far as accolades go, Damon made only two All-Star teams during his career, so looking back he may have been a bit underrated. He had five seasons where he hit better than .300 and led the American League in runs (136) and steals (46) in 2000. He averaged 13 home runs, 63 RBI, and 23 steals a season.

Rollins’ peak was higher and he was the more accomplished player (1x MVP, 1x Silver Slugger, 3x All-Star, 4x Gold Gloves). Rollins averaged 14 home runs, 55 RBI, and 28 steals a season. In his MVP season of 2007, he hit .296/.344/.531 with 30 home runs, 94 RBI, and 41 steals. He had a total of 10 seasons with 30+ steals and led the National League in triples four times.

Damon only captured 1.9% of the vote in his first year of eligibility in 2018 and dropped off the ballot. Rollins is in his third year of eligibility and is currently tracking around 13.5%. He garnered 12.9% of the vote last year, but Rollins’ support is something to keep an eye on as he has seven more chances to hit 75%.



Nate Kosher

Nate Kosher is based in the Twin Cities and is a staff writer for Pitcher List. He grew up watching low-budget Twins teams at the Metrodome before eventually converting to the Arizona Diamondbacks (the power of teal and purple in the 1990s). His goal is to someday visit all 30 MLB ballparks and he believes Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. You can read more of Nate's writing in his newsletter, The Relief Pickle.

3 responses to “These Players Belong in the Hall of Fame”

  1. TJ says:

    Hi sir, read both articles. Overall good stuff with research. Respectfully though, where is Curt Schilling? How could Bonds, Clemens, and even Pettitte to a lesser degree be deserving but not Schilling? Can we not separate someone’s post-career politics from their contributions to baseball? Schilling absolutely deserves the call, without question

    • Nate Kosher says:

      You are right – Schilling deserves consideration if you strictly look at his accolades on the field, especially his postseason heroics. However, I do think many voters take the off-the-field stuff into consideration.

  2. Sunny Jim says:

    Luis Taint, or sure. And Dwight Evans borderline, but was outstanding defensively and probably has stats that rival HoFers.

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