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2003, RIP, Obituaries of Players We're No Longer Considering

RIP, Players Falling Off the 2003 Ballot

Fernando Valenzuela, SIAttorney Clarence Darrow once said that he never wanted to see anyone die but that there were a few obituaries that he read with pleasure. While that’s not exactly the sentiment behind the Hall of Miller and Eric obituaries, I can admit to having fun with these posts each election, even when a few of my favorites like Fernando, Mickey Tettleton, and Brett Butler bite the dust. Lee Smith, on the other hand, just offers straight and unadulterated joy. It’s not in the same way I liked ending the candidacy of Jack Morris, but I sort of resent Smith for no good reason. It’s just that he’s currently taking Hall votes from deserving candidates, and I can’t seem to separate him from the guys voting for him. Sorry Lee. I did love watching you pitch.

Today, we finish off the 2003 election with six more obituaries, five from guys new to the ballot this year, and one from a player who we’ve reviewed for the 40th and final time. With Ryne Sandberg and Eddie Murray elected on Friday, we have now enshrined 173 of the game’s greats in our 43 elections. And our death toll has now reached 460 obituaries. In all, we have only 120 of our 752 nominees to review for our 42 remaining HoME spots. Right now we can elect exactly 35% of the remaining population.

Below is the tally from each election since our first in 1901.

Year   Carried     New      Considered   Elected   Obituaries  Continuing to
         Over    Nominees  this Election                       Next Election
2003      14         7          21          2           6           13
2002      18         7          25          6           5           14
2001      23         8          31          2          11           18
2000      26         9          35          1          11           23
1999      30         9          39          4           9           26
1998      33         9          42          4           8           30
1997      40         3          43          3           7           33
1996      42         7          49          4           5           40
1995      41        11          52          4           6           42
1994      38       8+1          47          3           3           41
1993      41         9          50          3           9           38
1992      40        10          50          3           6           41
1991      40         9          49          1           8           40
1990      42         9          51          3           8           40
1989      45        10          55          6           7           42
1988      44         7          51          2           4           45   
1987      44         3          47          0           3           44
1986      44         4          48          1           3           44
1985      47        10          57          1          12           44
1984      50         5          55          2           6           47
1983      52         8          60          5           5           50
1982      51         8          59          3           4           52
1981      59         8          67          1          15           51
1980      59         8          67          3           5           59
1979      67         6          73          6           8           59
1978      78         6          84          5          12           67
1977      86         6          92          2          11           79
1976      82        26         108          6          16           86
1971      87        21         108          6          20           82
1966      94        26         120          7          26           87
1961      91        24         115          6          15           94
1956      92        32         124          7          26           91
1951      93        27         120          9          19           92
1946      94        26         120          8          19           93
1941      82        29         111          5          12           94
1936      75        29         104          8          14           82
1931      69        17          86          2           9           75
1926      71        25          96          9          18           69
1921      66        27          93          4          18           71
1916      53        31          84          5          13           66
1911      47        20          67          5           9           53
1906      33        28          61          3          11           47
1901       0        54          54          3          18           33

Dead in 2003

Jake BeckleyJake Beckley is in the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Stats, and the Hall of Merit. He’s in nearly every Hall we follow, and we worked to put him into the Hall of Miller and Eric as well, but we just couldn’t. Eagle Eye is the poster boy for long and low. He had eleven seasons of at least four wins but only a pair of at least five. Only six first basemen ever can match his 14 seasons of over 3 WAR, but all of those guys have at least nine years at 6+. Beckley doesn’t have one. Overall, both Eric and I rank him very close to Mark McGwire, but he clearly didn’t have Big Mac’s peak. He was known for his use of the hidden ball trick, and maybe for cheating by using two baseballs. And he was the first player ever to homer three times in a game. For his career, he retired with the second most hits ever. Today, he ranks 34th. See ya, Jake.

Brett ButlerWith a terrific bat, speed to burn, and excellent plate discipline, Brett Butler maybe wouldn’t have received a HoME obituary if he were a plus defender. Butler was a mediocre fielder, certainly not as rough as Bernie Williams, but the lefty struggled with the glove. Even so, he posted four seasons of All-Star play and another nine when he was at about 3 WAR. That’s quite a record and one that sometimes gets a player into the HoME. But Butler wasn’t ever great and didn’t have the reputation at that level, as only one All-Star game would suggest. He stole 558 bases, but led the league in CS three times. Of note, he’s the first batter Roger Clemens ever faced in the majors.

Darren DaultonThree-time All-Star Darren “Dutch” Daulton led the NL in RBIs in 1992. Playing almost his entire career with the Phillies, Daulton had decent power but was very frequently injured. Overall, he was about as good as Hall of Famer Ray Schalk. His career highlight may have been the homer against the Indians in the 1997 World Series as a member of the Marlins. Oh, and apparently, he’s also crazy.

Lee Smith, 1983Lee Smith was menacing, that’s for sure. He threw hard, and he put up a ton of saves – 10 times saving 30+ and four times leading the league in that category. But saves just aren’t all that valuable, and pitching just one inning at a time, almost no matter how good you are at it, isn’t that valuable. I rank Smith with HoFer Rube Marquard and Harvey Haddix. Eric likes him better than that, at the level of Ellis Kinder, Rick Rhoden, or Charlie Root. No matter which level, he’s not very close.

Mickey TettletonKnown as “Froot Loops” because of his claim that the sugared cereal was the source of his power, Mickey Tettleton was a powerful hitter who knew how to draw a walk. He smacked 30+ HR four times and put up a career .369 OBP despite only a .241 BA. Overall, he was quite a hitter for a catcher, which is why fewer than 60% of his games played were behind the plate. If a player hits that well, teams like to protect him from the grind. In one of the HoME’s greatest contributions to the baseball community, I got the folks at BBREF to change the spelling of his nickname from “Fruit” to “Froot,” like the cereal. Hooray!

Fernandomania took the game by storm in 1981 when Mexican lefty screwballer Fernando Valenzuela threw eight shutouts in 25 starts, led the NL in strikeouts, won the Rookie of the Year and Cy Young, and helped lead the Dodgers to the World Series title over the Yankees. While Valenzuela was never that special again, he had a fine career despite some real injury issues. One highlight was matching Carl Hubbell’s All-Star strikeout streak, though not quite the level of Ruth-Gehrig-Foxx-Simmons-Cronin, when he set down Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken, Jesse Barfield, Lou Whitaker, and Teddy Higuera on strikes in the fourth and fifth innings of the 1986 game. Overall, the six-time All-Star was about as good as Jack Morris or Harry Brecheen, which, in spite of the way we may feel about Jack Morris, isn’t that bad.

Our 2003 election is now complete. Please take a look at our Honorees page to see the plaques of our new members and all of the HoMErs. And check back here after the 2004 election for more obituaries.

Miller

 

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