The Hall of Fame Case: Carlos Lee
The likes of Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero -- and even first-timers like Jim Thome and Chipper Jones -- shouldn't have too much trouble racking up National Baseball Hall of Fame votes. But there are plenty of other players on the 2018 ballot who require a little more voter-cajoling. Players who may not have the on-field resume, but deserve an impassioned Hall of Fame case nonetheless. Players like ...
Carlos Lee. This was a man who was simply born to mash baseballs, and mash baseballs he did. For 14 years, he torched big league pitching with 2,273 hits, 469 doubles and 358 homers, mostly with the White Sox and Astros. As MLB.com's Joe Posnanski noted, the three-time All-Star's numbers were, in fact, remarkably similar to another pure masher, Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda.
So, should this destroyer of baseballs get some Hall of Fame consideration? Here are some points in his favor.
He debuted with a bang
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and Lee made the most of his on May 7, 1999, against Tom Candiotti. The pressure was on, as the White Sox thought a lot of him -- the 22-year-old had been among Baseball America's top 30 prospects entering the season. And leading off the bottom of the second inning, Lee took the knuckleballer deep for career homer No. 1:
That was no easy feat, either. Of the 18,856 players in the history of Major League Baseball, only 118 (0.6%) have managed to homer in their first MLB at-bat. The White Sox had existed for 98 years and no one had ever done it -- until Carlos Lee came along.
He had an all-time classic nickname
Early in Lee's career, White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson bestowed the nickname "El Caballo" on him, and it was the perfect fit. Translated from "the horse" in Spanish, it was appropriate for the slugging outfielder, and it stuck with him throughout his 14 seasons ... even after he left Chicago.
He was a grand slam machine
Lee is the all-time leader in home runs among players born in Panama, and he had a habit of making his dingers count. Of his 358 long balls, 17 were grand slams, a total higher than all but six players in MLB history. That's some pretty impressive company, as Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron only reached 16 slams each in their legendary careers.
Not bad, Carlos. Not bad.
He was more flexible than you'd think
Carlos Lee might have been a big guy, but he could obviously still climb an outfield wall.
Not even debris could distract him
While playing for the Astros on April 13, 2007, Lee had the best game of his career. He pulled off the hat trick, homering three times at Citizens Bank Park in a 9-6 win over the Phillies. Taking down a team that would go on to win the division title that year was great, but the reported 20-mph winds made it even more amazing:
It was even raining hot dog wrappers, according to MLB.com's Joseph Santoliquito. Lee's manager, Phil Garner, was amazed. "Carlos Lee must have hit 1,200 feet worth of homers on a night when I didn't think anyone would hit any homers," he said to Santoliquito after the game.
He had some serious light tower power
Long before George Springer was blasting homers onto the Minute Maid Park train tracks, Lee launched his fair share of monster shots in that direction.
Even at the end of his career in Miami, he could still crush: