While we wait to find out whether Bert is going to get in or not, let’s look at all of the Twins already inducted in baseball’s Hall-of-Fame. In all, there are five Senators and three Twins enshrined in Cooperstown, though Bucky Harris was inducted as a manager, and Clark Griffith got in as an executive. Here’s a brief look at all of the inductees who got in as players:
Walter Johnson, inducted by the BBWAA in 1936: 2.17 ERA, 147 ERA+, 2.36 FIP, 127.7 rWAR. Arguably the greatest pitcher of all time, The Big Train dominated the American League for 21 seasons between 1907 and 1927. He was a two-time MVP (the Cy Young was not established until 1956, nearly ten years after his death) three-time triple crown champion, and the all-time leader in shutouts and, well, pretty much every important pitching stat ever. Unfortunately, most of the Senators teams he pitched for were terrible, so Johnson never got a chance to pitch much in October, appearing in just two postseason series in his career: in the 1924 (which Washington won) and 1925 World Series (which they didn’t). Still, there’s little doubt that he is the greatest player in franchise history, leading the second-place Rod Carew in rWAR by a pretty comfortable margin. And hey, he could hit a little, too. His career .235/.274/.342/.616 line is about as good as a replacement-level shortstop, and his 13 rWAR as a hitter is on par with Omar Vizquel. Not bad for a pitcher.
Goose Goslin, inducted by the Veteran’s Committee in 1968: .316/.387/.500/.887, .402 wOBA, 135 wRC+, 63.0 rWAR, 71.9 fWAR. Between 1924 and 1934, Leon Allen Goslin was one of the best hitters in the American League. His .413 wOBA and 141 wRC+ is good for fourth place in the league over that period of time, and he won the batting title in 1928 (the story of how he won the title in his final at-bat has to be one of my favorites in baseball history). He was instrumental in helping the Senators win the 1924 World Series, driving in seven runs, smashing three homers, and collecting 11 hits in 32 plate appearances. He hit a 3-run homer off of Virgil Barnes in game 4, putting the Senators ahead 3-1 (they would go on to win by a score of 7-4). Goslin appeared in 5 World Series over the course of his career, batting .287/.348/.488/.836 with 5 doubles, 7 home runs, 19 RsBI, and a 12/14 BB/K ratio in 143 plate appearances.
Goslin’s Hall-of-Fame case was hardly a slam-dunk, which is probably why he only got in via the Veteran’s Committee. Other than his 1928 batting title, and when he lead the league in RsBI in 1924, Goslin has never actually lead the league in any other offensive stat. He never finished any higher than sixth in MVP voting, and appeared in one All-Star game, in 1936. His reputation as a fielder is less than stellar (he got his nickname because the way he would flap his arms while chasing down fly balls in the outfield resembled a goose flapping its wings), and the numbers seem to back that up. Over the course of his 18 year career, Goslin was worth 4.5 WAR on defense, 50 runs above replacement, and was slightly below replacement most seasons of his career. Whether he deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown is certainly debatable, but he was undoubtedly one of the best players in franchise history, and it’s a shame the Twins don’t have any Senators players in the franchise Hall of Fame.
Sam Rice, inducted by the Veteran’s Committee in 1963: .322/.374/.427/.801, .374 wOBA, 121 wRC+, 51.1 rWAR, 58.4 fWAR. Like Goslin, Rice isn’t exactly a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, though he may have been inducted by the BBWAA if he had collected at least 3,000 hits (he retired at age 44, with only 2,978). Rice was a very good player for a very long time, and that certainly has a lot of merit. He also played in three World Series, all while in Washington, putting up a respectable .302/.333/.302/.635 line. However, he didn’t have much power (he hit just 34 career home runs), and his production was actually pretty average for an outfielder. Rice was mostly known for his speed, leading the league in steals in 1920, and finishing in the top five seven years in a row, between 1919 and 1926. His 351 career stolen bases are good for 107th on the all-time list, though he is sixth among players of his generation.
Harmon Killebrew, inducted by the BBWAA in 1984: .256/.376/.509/.884, .389 wOBA, 148 wRC+, 61.1 rWAR, 78.4 fWAR. I don’t think I need to re-hash Killer’s Hall-of-Fame case, but I will, because it’s fun:
573 home runs, 11th on the all-time list (he lead the league in homers six times)
63.3 WPA/LI, 9th all-time
59.7 WPA, 12th all-time
1,559 walks, 15th all-time
1,606 RsBI, 36th all-time (he lead the league in ribbies three times)
160 IBBs, 35th all-time (he lead the league in intentional walks three times)
1,699 strikeouts, 22nd all-time (hey, he had his faults)
He was also a 13-time All-Star, an MVP (he also finished in the top ten in voting six times, five times in the top five, and his 3.22 career shares are 26th all-time), and a postseason monster, batting .250/.444/.500/.944 with three homers, six runs batted in, and ten hits in 54 plate appearances. He was also one of the inaugural inductees in the franchise Hall-of-Fame, inducted in 2000 along with teammates Rod Carew and Tony Oliva, as well as Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and former president and owner Calvin Griffith.
Rod Carew, inducted by the BBWAA in 1991: .328/.393/.429/.822, .370 wOBA, 136 wRC+, 79.1 rWAR, 80.3 fWAR. Again, I don’t think there is any debate whether Carew belongs in the Hall. One of the greatest players of his generation, Carew was an on-base machine who won seven batting titles and lead the league in OBP four times. He was an All-Star almost every season since his debut in 1967 (when he also snagged the ROY), except for the final year of his career. He won the AL MVP in 1977, and finished in the top ten in MVP voting five times. Carew is also undoubtedly the second-best player in franchise history, behind Walter Johnson, and the all-time greatest player if you don’t count the Senators years.
Kirby Puckett, inducted by the BBWAA in 2001: .318/.360/.477/.837, .368 wOBA, 126 wRC+, 44.8 rWAR, 49.4 fWAR. Okay, there is little debate whether Puckett belongs in the franchise Hall-of-Fame. His rWAR is fifth on the all-time franchise leaders list, and his fWAR is sixth. And then there are his postseason heroics. He didn’t do much against the Tigers in the 1987 ALCS, but he was a menace to the Cardinals in the World Series, batting .375/.419/.464/.884, driving in three runs and collecting ten hits in 31 plate appearances. And while most people remember his game winning home run in game 6 of the 1991 World Series, few remember how he absolutely destroyed the Blue Jays in the ALCS (and won the series MVP). Puckett batted .429/.435/.762/1.197, driving in five runs on nine hits, and smashing a pair of home runs, in just 21 plate appearances.
He also won a boatload of awards in his career. Puckett was a 10-time All-Star, winning the ASG MVP in 1993. He also won six Fielding Grammies Gold Gloves, six Silver Sluggers, the Branch Rickey award in 1993, and the Roberto Clemente award in 1996. Aside from all that, there were few players more beloved by fans and teammates alike; thus, inducting Puckett into the Twins’ Hall-of-Fame is a definite no-brainer.
When it comes to Cooperstown, however, it doesn’t really look like Puckett belongs*. It’s not like he was a horrible player or anything like that; on the contrary, like Goslin and Rice, he was a very good player for a very long time. It’s just that his numbers fall a bit short of being Hall-worthy. He wasn’t one of the best players of his generation, though he was one of the most decorated. Actually, if he hadn’t hit that home run off of Charlie Liebrandt in the ’91 World Series, I doubt very much that the voters would have inducted him in his first year of eligibility. He may have gotten inducted after his sudden death in 2006, but most likely his case would have gone to the Veterans’ Committee.
Of course, it wasn’t just his accomplishments that got Puck into Cooperstown. The voters reasoned that he would have put up Hall-worthy numbers if his career hadn’t been tragically cut short by glaucoma. Maybe that’s true. He hadn’t shown much of a decline before his season was abruptly ended by an errant Dennis Martinez fastball, and it’s possible he could have ended his career with some 60+ wins above replacement. That isn’t very likely, however. Puckett was already 35 when he was forced to retire, and given his body type, it’s unlikely he would have played more than 3 more years. The odds of a 35+ year-old outfielder putting up at least 3.5 WAR per season over the next three or four seasons are pretty slim, though certainly not outside the realm of possibility (Puckett had been remarkably healthy and durable throughout his career despite his, um, larger frame). Still, it isn’t exactly fair to induct certain players based upon the numbers they could have put up, especially since there are so many great players whose careers were cut short by World War II.
*I know, I know, it’s blasphemy. It took me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that the player I loved so much as a little kid, whose World Series home run was probably the greatest moment of my entire childhood, was no Hall-of-Famer. I think this is one of the reasons people hate sabermetrics so much; it makes our childhood heroes seem so much more human.
Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. You can send all of her hate mail to erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com.