Johan among heralded HOF 'one-and-dones'

Host of era-defining players unable to garner 5 percent of BBWAA votes

January 25th, 2018

Wednesday night featured plenty of celebration as the Baseball Writers' Association of America elected four members to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It was the second time in the last four years that the BBWAA elected at least four Hall of Famers (and only the fifth time overall), and the idyllic village of Cooperstown figures to be an extremely busy place this July as Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome join Veterans Committee selections Jack Morris and Alan Trammell on stage.
But as the phone calls were received and champagne bottles were popped, a host of other candidates quietly exited stage left. As voters grappled with the impact of performance-enhancing drugs and the 10-player maximum on their ballots, here are the former bona fide stars who are dropping out of Hall consideration after just one turn at the plate.
Complete voting results
Johan Santana
Santana is the headliner out of this year's "one-and-dones," simply because he's a pitcher who was a crucial part of the story of baseball in the 2000s. The Twins and Mets great appeared on only 2.4 percent of the BBWAA ballots and thus fell shy of the Hall's 5 percent threshold to remain under consideration next year. That's a strange fate for a man who was almost undoubtedly the Majors' best starting pitcher from 2003-08, before an assortment of injuries took a toll. Santana, it should be pointed out, is still aiming for one last taste of the big leagues. Regardless of whether he's able to come back, the proof of Santana's dominance sits on his mantle.
Start with the two American League Cy Young Awards that Santana won in 2004 and '06. Of the other 18 pitchers who claimed multiple Cy Young Awards, 10 are already enshrined in Cooperstown, while four others (, , and Max Scherzer) are still active or have not yet retired. That leaves seven-time winner Roger Clemens (now in his sixth year on the ballot) and the late Roy Halladay (who is not yet eligible) outside the Hall, along with two pitchers whose cases in some ways resemble Santana's.

The first is Denny McLain, who captured back-to-back AL Cy Young Awards, the 1968 AL MVP and holds the distinction of being the last 30-game winner. McLain's peak was sensational, but short-lived -- he lost 22 games just two seasons after winning 24 -- and he was out of baseball after just 10 seasons. The Tigers star garnered just one vote in his 1978 BBWAA debut, meaning he would have been a one-and-done under the Hall's current voting rules, and bowed out after receiving three votes in his follow-up.
Santana's other comparable is Bret Saberhagen, the owner of two AL Cy Young Awards, a World Series MVP trophy and a no-hitter, who pitched in parts of 16 seasons, but could only compile two full campaigns after age 31. Saberhagen garnered only 1.3 percent of the vote in his 2007 one-and-done appearance.

Santana's peak was arguably higher than both McLain's and Saberhagen's, but all three pitchers saw external forces sap their potential for even greater glory.
Santana also becomes only the fourth pitcher to win at least three league strikeout titles and not last more than one year on a BBWAA ballot, following Mark Langston (2005), Sam McDowell (1981) and Sam "Toothpick" Jones, who was never listed for consideration. For the time being, Santana will also join Clemens as the only retired pitchers with at least three league ERA titles who are not in the Hall.
Complete Hall of Fame coverage
Johnny Damon
This year's other one-and-done candidates were never recognized as the absolute best at their position like Santana and Jones, but collectively they gave the game plenty of moments. Damon was a folk hero for the 2004 Red Sox, while also defining the '09 World Series with his daring two-steal dash for the Yankees in Game 4. His 522 doubles rank among the top 50 totals in baseball history.
Chris Carpenter
Like Santana, Carpenter had both the stuff and the guile to be a Hall of Fame pitcher, had injuries not kept him from compiling a fuller résumé. Carpenter will forever have the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, and the Cardinals might not have their 2006 or '11 World Series championship banners without him.
Livan Hernandez
Hernandez's magical 1997 postseason as a 22-year-old for the Marlins won't soon be forgotten, but the righty turned into a workhorse, pacing the National League in innings pitched for three straight seasons from 2003-05.
Kerry Wood
Wood's 20-strikeout afternoon on May 6, 1998 -- the fifth start of his big league career -- endures as one of the most dominant days of pitching ever seen. The 2003 Cubs are remembered for the way their season ended, but Chicago wouldn't have gotten to the NLCS without Wood's pair of dominant NLDS starts that October against the Braves.
Brad Lidge
Lidge's celebration to cap the 2008 World Series will resonate for decades in Philadelphia; a perfect capstone to his perfect 41-for-41 ledger in save chances that year.
Hideki Matsui
Matsui came to the States with plenty of fanfare and proved his power was worthy of the "Godzilla" moniker. Yankees fans will always remember Matsui's six RBIs in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, sealing New York's 27th world championship and his World Series MVP Award.
Carlos Lee
A consistent run producer, Lee's 17 career grand slams is tied with Jimmie Foxx and Ted Williams for the seventh-most in history.
Jamie Moyer
Moyer proved that velocity was far from everything one needed to cut it on a Major League mound. Not only was Moyer durable; he was valuable far into his 40s.
Carlos Zambrano
Like many aspects of Zambrano's career, the good (his strikeouts) came with the bad (his walks). Still, among starters in history who walked more than four batters per nine innings, only Bob Feller (122 ERA+) had a better league-adjusted ERA+ than Zambrano (120).
Kevin Millwood
Millwood attacked hitters head-on with his fastball. When things were clicking, Millwood was among the game's better moundsmen. He placed third in the 1999 NL Cy Young Award voting.
Jason Isringhausen
Something clicked when the hard-throwing Isringhausen moved to the bullpen full-time. Only Mariano Rivera, Hoffman and Billy Wagner topped Isringhausen's 293 saves from 1999-2008.
Orlando Hudson
Hudson's pure energy will be remembered long after his exit from the ballot, and four Gold Glove Awards to go with a career .273 average is nothing to sneeze at from a former 43rd-round Draft choice.
Aubrey Huff
Huff overcame troubles off the field to be a certified masher in Tampa Bay and San Francisco (four seasons with 25-plus home runs). The first baseman made an impressive surge to a seventh-place finish in the 2010 NL MVP vote at age 33.
There simply weren't enough votes to go around, but these players will still be fondly remembered in the years to come. It's possible, however, that we look at Santana further down the road and wonder why he only got one shot at immortality.