A couple weeks ago, the ever-enterprising Graham Womack wrote about the 25 worst Hall of Fame selections ever. Good stuff as always. That said, I disagreed with some of Graham’s choices, so I thought I’d present my own list of the bottom 25. Grahamdude included managers, umps, and execs, and so I will too. Well, not umps because I don’t feel qualified on that account. I won’t have the cool pictures like he does, but you’ll get the idea.
As we go along here, I’m going to refer to my own CHEWS system. It’s just like Jay Jaffe’s JAWS except that I use my own WAR stew instead of BBREF’s WAR as it appears on their site, and I put more weight on a player’s peak. For batters at the Hall of Miller and Eric, the last man in at a position is usually around 48 to 50 WAR, except catcher which is more like 40 to 43. For pitchers it’s around 42 to 45 WAR. For managers, I’m going t refer to my manager score. This uses the sum of Z-scores to rank the 100+ men who have managed more than 1000 games on several different categories. A score of 0 means a manager is roughly average.
#25 Ray Schalk
- CHEWS: 30.2
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 24
- Similar players: Javy Lopez and Mickey Tettleton
Graham is pretty tough on Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk. I’ve got Ferrell 18 catchers below the borderline and Schalk 24 below. Obviously that’s not great, but it’s barely getting them on this list, and catchers are just, well, different. Especially because our fielding metrics for them have much less descriptive power than at any other position.
#24 Lefty Gomez
- CHEWS: 34.0
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 22
- Similar players: Jon Matlack and Al Leiter
Goofy was his nickname. Also a fine word for his selection by the Vets.
#23 Bucky Harris
- Manager score: 3.0
- Similar managers: Charlie Grimm and Joe Cronin
The headline for his induction should have read: “Slightly above average manager elected to Hall of Fame.” He rode the “Boy Genius” label of his early days to a very long managing career…and a .493 winning percentage with and -35 wins versus pythagenpat.
#22 Jack Chesbro
- CHEWS: 32.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 71 (equivalent to about 24 at his position)
- Similar players: Mark Gubicza and Curt Davis
At least he had a peak and was an impact pitcher at some point (unlike some of the pitchers further down this list). For one year, at least. Until that unfortunate wild pitch.
#21 Earle Combs
- CHEWS: 37.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 26
- Similar players: Andy Van Slyke and Eric Davis
That sweet, sweet batting average, and the countable ringzzzzz. It’s all about context, ain’t it? The average is good but for that era not amazing. The rings are less about him than those other guys named Ruth and Gehrig.
#20 Catfish Hunter
- CHEWS: 31.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 80 (equivalent to about 27 at his position)
- Similar players: Jim Maloney and John Tudor
What more could possibly be added to the reams that have been written about this miscarriage of justice? Not much, though I once met him at an autograph tent on Hall of Fame weekend, and he was nice and fun as he joked around with Enos Slaughter about growing up in the country.
#19 Candy Cummings
If he had invented the curve, that’s plenty enough to land him in the Hall. Trouble is the evidence, as Graham points out, isn’t conclusive.
#18 Hack Wilson
- CHEWS: 33.4
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 38
- Similar players: Ray Lankford and Al Oliver
I like Hack a little more than Graham. There’s at least a peak or a prime there.
#17 Ross Youngs
- CHEWS: 33.3
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 34
- Similar players: Babe Herman and Juan Gonzalez
Youngs was stringing together a fine career before kidney disease killed him. He had 31 WAR by age 27, which is the 90th highest total since 1893 for someone through age 27 and the 13th highest among right fielders. Similar players in general include Ralph Kiner, Joe Sewell, and Lou Whitaker. Among right fielders are Tony Gwynn, Vlad Guerrero, Willie Keeler, and Dave Winfield. Plenty of players wit his credentials went on to have great, Hall-level careers from there. He just didn’t have the chance. Doesn’t mean he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s not, only that sometimes we see the mockery of his election and forget that he wasn’t some schlub.
#16 Jim Bottomley
- CHEWS: 31.6
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 35
- Similar players: Cecil Cooper and Steve Garvey
Bottomley was more schulbby than Youngs. For sure.
#15 George Kell
- CHEWS: 29.6
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 36
- Similar player: Jeff Cirillo and Carney Lansford
Neither was as schlubby as George Kell. He never had a BB-REF seasonal WAR above 5.0 (though was this close twice). My adjustments yield a single season at that level. He played 150 or more games just twice, ironically leading the league with 157 in 1950, and appeared in 140 just one other time.
#14 Bill Mazeroski
- CHEWS: 29.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 28
- Similar players: Frank White and Bill Doran
Maz was popular, and he had that one great skill—turning the deuce—and was otherwise a fine second baseman. But in reality he had no other great, nor even good skill. He hit a big homer, and that helped a lot. But meh.
#13 Bruce Sutter
- CHEWS: 28.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 123 (equivalent to about 41 for hitters)
- Similar players: John Hiller and Keith Foulke
At least Candy Cummings might have invented a pitch. Sutter didn’t even invent come up with the splitter. I wish I could show up for just a third to a ninth of my work day and still get rewarded for it.
#12 Rollie Fingers
- CHEWS: 24.5
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 155 (equivalent to about 52 for hitters)
- Similar player: Kerry Wood
He didn’t even sort-of invent or popularize a pitch, though he did have a popular moustache. And the saves record, for what it was worth.
#11 Rube Marquard
- CHEWS: 26.1
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 143 (equivalent to about 47 for hitters)
- Similar players: Dean Chance, Mike Moore, Jack McDowell
He won a bunch of games in a row one year, and the fame it gave him got him a plaque.
#10 Highpockets Kelly
- CHEWS: 29.4
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 43
- Similar players: Andres Galarraga and Kent Hrbek
I used to think he was among the top-five worst Hall members. Then I did this exercise, and I’ve got him here. And that’s only because the players below him were even worse.
#9 Freddie Lindstrom
- CHEWS: 26.7
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 49
- Similar players: Clete Boyer and Edgardo Alfonzo
Thank. You. Frankie. Frisch.
#8 Chick Hafey
- CHEWS: 26.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 34
- Similar players: Bob Meusel and B.J. Surhoff
Never played 150 games. Played 140 twice. Oy.
#7 Pop Haines
- CHEWS: 24.4
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 157 (equivalent to about 52 for hitters)
- Similar players: Kevin Tapini and Bill Hands
I’m certain that no one felt more surprised to pick up the phone and talk to the Hall of Fame than this guy. I’m also certain there’s some kind of Inspector #12 joke here about “They don’t say Haines until I say they say Haines.”
#6 Tom Yawkey
Before integration, Yawkey revitalized the Red Sox with Eddie Collins’ help. Then around the time of integration, he replaced the departing Collins with Joe Cronin who took a very talented team nowhere. During Cronin’s tenure, Yawkey treated the front office like his personal club. He retarded the progress of the organization considerably by not only failing to integrate in a timely manner but then also running the club through cronyism. He wasted almost the entire career of Ted Williams this way.
#5 Alexander Joy Cartwright
Didn’t invent baseball or its rules.
#4 Lloyd Waner
- CHEWS: 21.7
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 58
- Similar players: Gary Pettis and Rick Monday
Graham has him as the #1 worst Hall of Famer. I can certainly see it, and I won’t really quibble. What I can say is that if this guy was your best player, your team would lose a lot of games.
#3 Morgan J. Bulkeley
Founded the Hartford Dark Blues of the National Association, one of the NL’s charter franchises who didn’t make it out of the 1880s. He served one years as the NL’s president before the real power of the league, William Hulbert took over. He probably did some good that year, but he was mostly elected for being first as Hulbert’s one-year stand-in.
#2 Wilbert Robinson
- CHEWS: 16.6
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: at least 50 (I stopped assessing catchers after 35, and he’s well below there)
- Manager Score: -0.9
- Similar players: He’s worse than Rick Dempsey and Tim McCarver
- Similar managers: Don Zimmer and Tom Kelly
You can add those comps any two ways you want and not get half a Hall of Famer. Uncle Wilbert was famous for being Uncle Wilbert. As a manager, he came in with a winning percentage between .500 and .501. He didn’t hurt his teams and may have helped since his Pythagenpat was positive. Thing is, so what? Like Bucky Harris, he managed a long time. Unlike Bucky Harris he didn’t reach three World Series or win even one. As a player, Robby simply wasn’t very effective. In the end, he got in because he had fame.
#1 Tommy McCarthy
- CHEWS: 22.9
- Players between him and HoME borderline at position: 47
- Similar player: Jackie Jensen
You say Waner, I say McCarthy. The Hall tends to like career numbers, and Waner had more of them than McCarthy. Neither was very good. McCarthy, with lower career totals seemed much more like he came out of left field, so to speak. Invented the hit and run? Nah. At least Waner had a famous brother.
Graham listed three men who’ve we actually inducted into the Hall of Miller and Eric: Red Faber, Dave Bancroft, and Harry Hooper. Faber is a lot like Don Sutton with a higher peak and a slightly shorter prime. He’s not my fave among HoME pitchers, but I don’t think he’s worse than Chief Bender or Bob Lemon who didn’t even make my list. Dave Bancroft results from my inclusion of Michael Humphreys’ DRA. It likes him very much (though not wildly), and as a result he’s got value in my way of looking at it that runs neck and neck with Joe Sewell. Bancroft was the last shortstop in the door for us. Finally, Harry Hooper. DRA also loves Hooper, but so does BBREF’s rfield. He appeared to be a borderliner that wouldn’t make it at first. And then, I started looking into his outfield arm. Without the benefit of BBREF’s play-by-play analysis, I had to use assists, so I compared him to other right fielders with lots of assists and who frequently led their league in assists. It appeared to me that he was “missing” a great deal of value via his arm that neither DRA or rfield has captured. My estimate of his arm value boosted him up to just above the borderline. But even if it hadn’t, his value was enough that rather than being one of the worst Hall selections, he was merely below the borderline.
What’s great is that thoughtful people like Graham kick off conversations like this that we all get to participate in. Please put your thoughts into the comments section and be sure to check out his article if you haven’t already!