Now that the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot has arrived, the baseball world's focus turns to the elite former players who are eager for a chance to receive the most prestigious honor in baseball. But among all those hopefuls, only a select group enter the Hall, leaving induction just out of reach for many quality players.
Who are some of the best Cleveland Indians players on the outside looking in? Here are five former members of the Tribe who are not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame:
1) Kenny Lofton (1992-96, 1998-2001, 2007)
Lofton’s career slash line is impressive -- hitting .299/.372/.423 from 1991-2007 -- with 622 stolen bases, 781 RBIs and a 107 OPS+, but it wasn’t enough to convince Hall of Fame voters. Though his numbers did not make him a lock for induction, it was surprising that the former center fielder didn’t receive enough votes to stay on the ballot for more than one year. Lofton bounced around to 11 clubs in his career, but he was in Cleveland for 10 of his 17 seasons. And his performance in Cleveland makes it even more difficult for Indians fans to understand how he didn’t last longer on the ballot.
Over those 10 seasons, Lofton set the franchise record for stolen bases with 452 and had the third-most runs, hits, doubles (244) and triples (66) among Tribe center fielders. He led the AL in stolen bases for five straight seasons (1992-96), was elected to six All-Star Games and won four consecutive Gold Glove Awards (1993-96).
2) Manny Ramirez (1993-2000)
Ramirez has a few more years to garner more votes, but his history with performance-enhancing drugs may hinder his opportunity. He was the man with arguably the best right-handed swing the game has ever seen. The first eight years of his career were in Cleveland, and during that time, he was selected to four All-Star Games and won three Silver Slugger Awards. In his final two seasons with the Tribe, Ramirez led the American League in slugging percentage and OPS, and he knocked in an MLB-best 165 runs in 1999.
It’s evident how much Ramirez meant to the Indians, leading all Tribe right fielders in games played (967), runs scored (665), hits (1,086), doubles (237), homers (236), RBIs (804), walks (541), slugging percentage (.592, the club record at any position) and OPS (.998). That success lasted beyond his time in Cleveland, as he ended his 19-year career in 2011 with a .312 average, .996 OPS, 555 homers, 1,831 RBIs and a .585 slugging percentage.
3) Omar Vizquel (1994-2004)
Vizquel has another chance this year to secure his spot in the Hall of Fame. He received 209 of 397 votes cast (52.6%) this past January. In his first year on the ballot in 2018, Vizquel earned 36.9% of the vote before jumping to 42.8% in 2019. The progression continues to be an optimistic sign for Vizquel, who has as many as seven more years (including 2021) to reach the 75% required for induction.
Vizquel is often remembered for his dazzling defensive plays at shortstop over his 24-year career, and he has the hardware to back it up. He won a Gold Glove Award each season from 1993-2001 and picked up two more in '05 and '06 with the Giants, giving him 11 in his career. He sits atop the leaderboard in career fielding percentage as a shortstop with .985, and he turned the most double plays at shortstop in MLB history with 1,734. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith is second with 1,590 over a 19-year span.
It’s his offensive production that cause some voters to hesitate to check off his name. In 2,968 career games, Vizquel batted .272/.336/.352 with 2,877 hits, 951 RBIs and 404 stolen bases with three All-Star selections.
4) Shoeless Joe Jackson (1910-15)
When you look at Jackson’s .356/.423/.517 slash line with 202 stolen bases, 307 doubles and 168 triples over a 13-year career, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. But after his six-year stint in Cleveland, Jackson went to Chicago and was one of eight players banned from baseball for playing a role in fixing the 1919 World Series.
5) Mel Harder (1928-47)
Harder is the only player in franchise history to spend 20 seasons in Cleveland. Throughout his long tenure, he racked up the third-highest bWAR among pitchers (48.5). He was a four-time All-Star and won the ERA title in 1933 with a 2.95 ERA. He ended his career with 223 wins and a 3.80 ERA (113 ERA+).
Albert Belle: He ran into his problems off the field, but the slugger made quite a convincing case to at least be considered for more than the two years he remained on the ballot. Belle finished his 12-year career with a .295 average, .933 OPS, 381 homers, 1,239 RBIs, 389 doubles, five All-Star Games and five Silver Sluggers.