Yesterday, SweetSpot's David Schoenfield came up with one of those fun posts you usually only see in the dreary baseballless (three L's!) months of December and January: "Ten guys who should be in the Hall of Fame," in which he names the one player at each position, among those with HOF eligibility who aren't in yet, that he believes should be. Some of the choices (Larry Walker, Kevin Brown) are pretty surprising and controversial to a lot of people, but I actually agree with all of them with the exception of Dale Murphy, and given his one-line description, I got the sense that Mr. Schoenfield probably wasn't a big believer in Murphy either. You need a centerfielder, and until Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton and Andruw Jones are eligible, there won't really be any huge snubs out there at that position.
Anyway. The most common complaint in the comments to the piece -- other than "put Pete Rose in!!!!" which was brilliant since, you know, Pete isn't actually eligible and so doesn't qualify for consideration -- was that the Hall has become too "watered down" recently, was intended to be for the best of the best, and shouldn't be cheapened by including any of David's picks.
Which is baloney for a number of reasons, chief among them that, as I've written at length before, that's just a misstatement of or ignorance over what the Hall of Fame actually is. It's never been for the best of the best; the Hall was founded in 1936, and it took all the way until the fourth class in 1939 for them to induct Candy Cummings (a mediocre short-career pitcher who definitely didn't invent the curveball) and until the fifth for Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance (who were the subjects of a poem, not actually poets, in much the same way Tommy John doesn't deserve much credit for Tommy John Surgery, and were not great baseball players). The Hall has been "watered down" since at least year four, and has been proceeding at about the same level ever since.
But enough of that. Each of Schoenfield's ten (save Murphy, at least) is a lot closer to the median Hall of Famer at his position than he is to the bottom of the list, so they wouldn't contribute to the watering-down at all. But, there are a lot of guys in the Hall who just don't belong under any reasonable standard. So let's kick twenty of them out, un-dilute the pool a little bit, and then we'll have plenty of room freed up for David's ten. I'll do what Schoenfield did and go by position, except that there aren't even two DHes in the Hall, so I'll add in two extra players at other positions and skip DH. And: just to be different, I won't even use Jim Rice, even though everyone knows (or should know) that he doesn't belong. So here we go:
Catcher: Ray Schalk, Rick Ferrell
It's astounding that with just twelve individuals in history having been inducted into the Hall of Fame for their contributions as Major League catchers, two of those twelve are as uninspiring as these two. His OPS+ of 83 is equal to Miguel Olivo's career mark, and he was certainly good behind the plate, maybe great, but that's not nearly enough so to make up for his Olivoness for Hall purposes. He seems to have benefited from sort of a reverse halo effect, being one of the only clean major players on the 1919 White Sox.
TCM talked me out of including Ernie Lombardi here. I'm not a big fan of the Schnozz, but Ferrell was worse. A slightly better hitter than Schalk, but still just about average for the position, without a single year in his entire career (which spanned 18 seasons, but just 11 of over 100 games) that you'd even call a good one, without giving him a ton more credit for his defense than Total Zone does.
First Base: High Pockets Kelly, Orlando Cepeda
George Kelly -- who I always saw referred to as just that until Baseball-Reference started listing him as "High Pockets" not too long ago -- was an entirely mediocre first baseman, save one good year in 1924. Lucky for him, his infield neighbor that year was Frankie Frisch, with whom (and Hack Wilson and Ross Youngs) he led the Giants to the World Series and who, years later, would take control of the Veterans' Committee and usher all his old buddies through the door.
The Baby Bull's 46.8 rWAR falls behind Mark Grace, Fred McGriff, Norm Cash, John Olerud, Will Clark, Keith Hernandez, and Dick Allen, among others, and is awfully close to a guy named Ed Konetchy. Three brilliant (but not at all earth-shattering) years strewn throughout an otherwise average seventeen-year career.
Second Base: Red Schoendienst, Bill Mazeroski
I don't know what the Veterans' Committee saw in Schoendienst in 1989 that made them think "yep, Hall of Famer." He was a useful player for a long time, almost exactly like his #1 Baseball-Reference comp, Tony Fernandez.
I'm partial to Maz because I think a special exception can be made for the greatest of all time at defending a key position, 26.9 WAR and all. But we're trying to make room for Lou Whitaker here, who's just a dead-center, no-doubt Hall of Famer (as I wrote here), so I'll make the sacrifice. Bobby Doerr could depart in Maz's stead, almost as easily.
Third Base: Pie Traynor, George Kell, Freddie Lindstrom
Third base is the most underrepresented position in the entire Hall, with only ten inductees who can list third as their primary position, and three of them are among the very worst players on the list. Ron Santo, Graig Nettles, Sal Bando, Buddy Bell, Ken Boyer, Darrell Evans, and Robin Ventura each have pretty strong cases for induction, and each was twice the player any of these three guys were.
All three of Traynor, Kell and Lindstrom have basically the same story -- got almost all their value from their batting average, which wasn't that great when you consider the eras they played in, and they didn't last long enough to pile up enough just-above-mediocre seasons to look anything like Hall of Fame players. The weird thing is that Traynor, for a long time, was considered the best third baseman in history, largely because it was an awfully weak position for the first sixty or seventy years of the game's history (but Frank Baker was much better).
Shortstop: Rabbit Maranville, Travis Jackson
Maranville was elected by the writers in 1954, which again puts the lie to the notion that the Hall used to be some kind of exclusive pantheon limited to elite legends. He's a bit in the Mazeroski mold -- almost all his value came from his phenomenal defense, and at least from a purely objective standpoint, with 38.2 WAR, it's just not nearly enough.
This is starting to get repetitive, but, yeah, Jackson was another Frisch buddy (and a member of that same 1924 team as Frisch and Kelly, but notice that I didn't even mention him; he was just that bland).
Left Field: Chick Hafey, Heinie Manush
Hafey makes it because I couldn't bring myself to list a guy with 3000 hits and the second-most steals of all-time (but I wanted to). Hafey benefited hugely from the offensive environment of the twenties and thirties, but still amassed fewer than 1500 hits and only 164 home runs in a short career.
If you've never heard of Heinie Manush, I hope you'll be brave and admit it below. Because I know there are a few of you. It was the twenties, he hit for a pretty average and a lot of doubles. Blah.
Center Field: Lloyd Waner, Earle Combs
I mentioned the halo effect above? Waner got to play on the same team as his really, really good brother, and Combs got to play with Ruth and Gehrig. And, the twenties and thirties let them both put up .310-plus batting averages. Combs' career was way too short, and Waner was just never very good. There are loads of center fielders who will never see the Hall that were better than both.
Right Field: Tommy McCarthy, Chuck Klein
McCarthy is the worst player in the Hall, among those inducted for their play. He was a mediocre player in seven of his nine even arguably "full" seasons--four of them in the old American Association--putting up 19 WAR total. He didn't hit .300 for his career or do anything even remotely interesting. A bunch of the Old Timers Committee members (who put him in way back in '46) must have been thinking of somebody else.
Klein's career is almost painful to look at. In his first five full years, he led the National League in homers four times, runs three, hits twice, doubles once, RBI twice, stolen bases once, batting average and on-base percentage once each, and slugging three times; then he left the friendly right-field fence in Philadelphia for the much less Friendly Confines of Chicago, and never came close to leading the league in any category again. Klein was a better player than Dante Bichette, probably, but the major difference between the two is that Coors helps everybody, not just lefties who can hit really high medium-deep fly balls, so OPS+ and WAR know that Bichette was a fraud. Klein, or more accurately Baker Bowl, confound the system, as they apparently did the Veterans' Committee.
Pitcher: Rube Marquard, Catfish Hunter, Bruce Sutter
Marquard was one of the original bonus babies, raking in a boggling $11,000 bonus when he signed with the Giants in 1908. He never did anything particularly Hall of Fame-ish, just put up a few pretty good years during which he was blessed to be playing for very good Giants teams, such that he racked up a bunch of wins in those years (but still ended just 201-177).
Hunter had three really good years, and a whole bunch of not-even-average ones. His case is based entirely on wins...224-166. He did get 20+ wins five years in a row, since he was pitching for the two best teams in the AL of the time (the early-seventies A's and mid-seventies Yankees).
I think Sutter is the worst choice the writers have ever made. He barely made it ten full seasons in the bigs, and "full" is a relative term probably not applicable to 100-innings-a-year relievers. If you're going to get in the Hall on the strength of 1000 innings, they better be great innings, and Sutter's just weren't. He was a good closer, but absolutely nothing special apart from a couple lights-out seasons. John Franco, Dan Quisenberry, Tom Henke, and Billy Wagner all have cases about as good as Sutter's.
Boom, there you have it. Twenty guys out, and then ten guys in, all of them much, much more qualified than any of the twenty they're replacing. What's the opposite of watering down?