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Every team's best player not in Hall of Fame

December 21, 2018

It's Hall of Fame season, when everybody lines up their arguments for this guy getting in and this guy being left out. However exhausting you might find Hall of Fame debates, always remember that no other sport cares nearly as much about its Hall of Fame. That's a pretty solid

It's Hall of Fame season, when everybody lines up their arguments for this guy getting in and this guy being left out. However exhausting you might find Hall of Fame debates, always remember that no other sport cares nearly as much about its Hall of Fame. That's a pretty solid sign that baseball's Hall of Fame truly matters.
And, of course, every team has its favorite sons, the ones it advocates for most powerfully every year. Thus, we take a look at every team's best player who isn't in the Hall of Fame. Some of these guys deserve it; some might fall just short. But they're all players the hometown fans can't fathom aren't worthy of baseball's highest honor.
Hall of Fame coverage
Obviously, players change teams often, so we're going with the team most associated with the player: It's a judgment call, but we're all on the same page. We're also excluding active players or players who haven't appeared on the ballot yet. Let's make the case!
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Dave Stieb, RHP
Whether or not you think he deserves to be in, certainly Steib -- who still has the highest Wins Above Replacement total in Blue Jays history -- shouldn't have left the ballot so quickly. Maybe it's time to make his case again?
Orioles: Mike Mussina, RHP
He threw 500 more innings for the Orioles than he did for the Yankees, and had nearly a half-run lower of an ERA. He was up to 63.5 percent of the vote last year, so he's got a real chance.

Rays: Fred McGriff, 1B
You don't think of McGriff as a Ray first, but he played for them as many seasons as he did with the Braves and the Blue Jays. The guy hit 493 homers! You have to think he'd already be in had he managed to hit seven more.
Red Sox: Roger Clemens, RHP
Will he ever sneak in? His vote totals are going up, but he is running out of time.
Yankees: Don Mattingly, 1B
There was a point in Donnie Baseball's career when he would have seemed as slam-dunk a Hall of Famer as anyone in the sport.

AL CENTRAL
Indians: Kenny Lofton, CF
As FiveThirtyEight pointed out last year, Lofton probably could have used some of those statistical advocates who helped out Tim Raines so much.
Royals: Bret Saberhagen, RHP
Someday, there will be some sort of reckoning with how we've treated starting pitchers in Hall of Fame voting, and perhaps Saberhagen will be a beneficiary of it. The guy won two Cy Young Awards and his career WAR (59.0) compares well to Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning (59.6).
Tigers: Lou Whitaker, 2B
Now that Alan Trammell's in, it's Sweet Lou's turn.

Twins: Kent Hrbek, 1B
Hrbek is more of a hero in Minnesota than he is nationally, but his Hall of Fame case isn't nearly as compelling as Joe Mauer's will eventually be.
White Sox: Eddie Cicotte, RHP
You might think the answer is Shoeless Joe Jackson, but he actually spent more of his career with the Indians. So let's go with Cicotte. In 1917, he went 28-12 with a 1.53 ERA, and two years later, he was 29-7 with a 1.82 mark. And even in the scandalous World Series of that season, he still posted a 2.91 ERA over three starts.
AL WEST
Angels: Bobby Grich, 2B
Had Grich played a decade later, he'd be a major stathead cause. His 71.1 career WAR ranks 91st on the all-time list, ahead of Hall of Famers Trammell, Ron Santo, Barry Larkin and Raines, to name a few.
Astros: Jose Cruz, OF
Always a little bit better than anyone ever appreciated, he's fifth in lifetime WAR for the Astros.
Athletics: Mark McGwire, 1B
Don't rule out the possibility of him making it on the Today's Game Era ballot one of these days.
Mariners: Edgar Martinez, DH
He got more votes last year than anyone who didn't get in. He's very close and will likely get in when this year's results are announced in January.

Rangers: Rafael Palmeiro, 1B
Hey, you never know, maybe he's got another comeback attempt up his sleeve.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Dale Murphy, OF
It also turns out that he's almost as good of a writer as he was a ballplayer.
Marlins: Gary Sheffield, OF
Sheffield's unlikely to ever get there, but of the eight teams he played for, the Marlins were the club he played for the longest.

Mets: Dwight Gooden, RHP
If this were just peak, rather than career value, Gooden would be an inner-tier Hall of Famer.
Nationals: Livan Hernandez, RHP
I am not entirely convinced Livan couldn't give six innings of three-run ball right now.
Phillies: Curt Schilling, RHP
His voting climb has stalled, and, as usual, he's not doing himself any favors with his Twitter spats. He still deserves to be in, though. Roy Halladay is obviously also a perfectly acceptable answer here, and he has a good chance to get in on this year's ballot, his first one.

NL CENTRAL
Brewers: Cecil Cooper, 1B
Definitely in the Batting Stance Hall of Fame already.

Cardinals: Jim Edmonds, CF
It remains absurd that he was booted off the ballot so quickly. The 393 career home runs don't stand out for a power hitter, but the career .284/.376/.504 line sure does, especially for a center fielder.
Cubs: Sammy Sosa, OF
The lack of a case for Sammy Sosa for the Hall of Fame, I'll confess, continues to baffle me.
Pirates: Dave Parker, OF
The Veterans Committee didn't put him in the last time it had the chance, but he still has a good case.

Reds: Pete Rose
Whatever you think about the guy, it's obviously him.
NL WEST
D-backs: Luis Gonzalez, OF
His moment in the 2001 World Series is almost better than being in the Hall of Fame.

Dodgers: Fernando Valenzuela, LHP
He should be in the Hall of Fame on personality alone.
Giants: Barry Bonds, OF
Call me crazy, but I sort of think the best hitter of the last 50 years should be in the Hall of Fame.
Padres: Andy Ashby, RHP
Ashby has the highest career WAR for the Padres outside of those already in the Hall of Fame (Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield, Trevor Hoffman) or not yet eligible (Jake Peavy).
Rockies: Larry Walker, OF
He still has a bit of a climb, but his candidacy is gaining momentum.

Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.