Giving props to the '22 HOF one-and-dones

Let's not forget just how good these players were

January 26th, 2022
Design by Tom Forget

It's nearly impossible to become a Major Leaguer. Out of the millions of kids who run out to the sandlot and dream of the future, only some 20,000 people in history have ever reached the big leagues. And of those, only a couple hundred have been elected to the Hall of Fame.

So, yes, let's honor this year's inductees -- Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neil, who reached Cooperstown through the era committees, and David Ortiz, who was elected from the writers' vote on Tuesday night -- but let's not forget the guys who dropped off the ballot in their first year after failing to get 5 percent of the vote.

Sure, they may not be Hall of Famers, but this isn't like voting for the homecoming king! To even be eligible for the ballot, a player needs to have played for 10 years, filling our afternoons and evenings with highlights and heroism. So, yes, these players may not be destined for a special plaque in upstate New York, but they do deserve our respect. Let's look back at the 10 players who dropped off the ballot after just one appearance this year.

Mark Teixeira (50.6 WAR, 6 votes, 1.5 percent)

One of the game's premier sluggers and among the greatest switch-hitters to ever step into the batter's box. Teixeira starred at Georgia Tech, winning the Dick Howser Trophy -- college baseball's version of the Heisman Trophy -- before getting selected fifth overall in the 2001 Draft by the Rangers. He hammered 26 dingers his rookie season and would top 20-plus homers every season except for an injury-shortened 2013 campaign that saw him play in only 15 games and his final season in 2016. Along the way, "Tex" smashed 409 home runs with a .268/.360/.509 batting line, went to three All-Star Games, won five Gold Gloves and set the switch-hitter's record by homering from both sides of the plate in 14 different games. He also played a crucial part in the Yankees' 2009 World Series title, leading the American League in home runs (39) and RBIs (122).

While it probably had no bearing on his Hall of Fame candidacy, we would be remiss if we did not point out that Teixeira also hosted the superbly uncomfortable, Chris Farley-meets-Will Ferrell vibes of his YES Network minishow, "Foul Territory."

Jake Peavy (39.2 WAR, 0 votes, 0 percent)

A 15th round Draft pick out of high school, Peavy became one of the fiercest big league pitchers to ever step on the mound. The all-time Padres strikeout leader, Peavy also ranks second in wins with the team (92), WAR for pitchers (24.8) and is fourth in innings (1,342 2/3). Peavy's dominating stuff helped him win two ERA titles, two strikeout crowns and collect the 2007 National League Cy Young Award after going 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts -- winning the pitcher's triple crown along the way that year.

After pitching for the White Sox from 2009-12, Peavy won the 2013 and '14 World Series with the Red Sox and Giants, becoming the first pitcher to win back-to-back World Series titles in different leagues. He then (probably) became the first person to celebrate those victories by purchasing the duck boat he rode on during Boston's parade and a San Francisco cable car to display on his ranch.

For those keeping score at home, that all adds up to a 152-126 career record, a 3.63 ERA, 2,207 strikeouts, two World Series titles and two pieces of transportation that few private citizens could ever hope -- or want -- to own.

Carl Crawford (39.1 WAR, 0 votes, 0 percent)

While we now think of the Rays as the team that has seemingly figured out how to win every year despite a constantly changing roster, Carl Crawford made his debut when the Rays were still six years away from their first winning season in franchise history. After debuting as a 20-year-old in 2002, the speedy outfielder became one of the most exciting players to watch as he led the AL in steals and triples on four separate occasions. Perhaps his single most dominant game came on May 3, 2009, when Crawford tied the modern record with six stolen bases in a single game.

“I found that out late,” Crawford told the New York Times of his accomplishment. “I wish I had known during the game. I probably would have broken it if I knew. I’d have definitely tried.”

Injuries kept him off the field and from running wild during his time with the Red Sox and Dodgers, though he remained an important part of Los Angeles' postseason runs in 2013-15. He finished his career with a .290/.330/.435 batting line, 136 HR, 480 stolen bases and 123 triples -- the second-most career triples by any player in the 21st century.

Justin Morneau (27 WAR, 5 votes, 1.3 percent)

Now a front office member for the Twins and a member of the team's broadcast crew, Morneau was one of the greatest power hitters in team history. Morneau topped 30 home runs three times, with his best season coming in 2006 when he hit .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBIs en route to collecting the AL MVP Award. Morneau went to four consecutive All-Star Games, won two Silver Slugger Awards and -- with M&M teammate Joe Mauer at his side -- helped Minnesota to five division championships. Morneau even won the 2008 Home Run Derby when he defeated Josh Hamilton, who had blasted a then-record 28 home runs in the first round.

All the while, he was starting every day with a sub sandwich and a half-Mountain Dew and half-red-or-orange flavored Slurpee.

Morneau struggled following a 2010 concussion, but helped break the Pirates' 21-year postseason drought in 2013 and he won the NL batting title with the Rockies in 2014.

While Morneau may not have the title of best Canadian player ever -- he ranks fourth in home runs behind Larry Walker, Joey Votto and Matt Stairs -- he is the best Major Leaguer to appear in NHL 2k8 as a goaltender, the position he played as a hockey-loving youth.

Screengrab via

Joe Nathan (26.7 WAR, 17 votes, 4.3 percent)

Initially taken by the Giants in the 1995 Draft as a shortstop, Nathan actually quit baseball and returned to get his degree after struggling with the bat in his first Minor League season. He made the right choice to come back to baseball and switch to pitching, though.

After making his big league debut with San Francisco in 1999, Nathan was part of one of history's most lopsided trades as S.F. shipped him, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser to Minnesota in exchange for one season of A.J. Pierzynski behind the dish after the 2003 season.

There, the Twins put him in the back of their bullpen and watched as he became a shutdown closer almost immediately. From 2004-09, Nathan saved a Major League-best 246 games -- three more than Mariano Rivera and seven more than Trevor Hoffman, two Hall of Famers, in that period.

After missing all of the 2010 season with Tommy John surgery, Nathan returned in 2011 to pass Rick Aguilera for the most saves in franchise history. Nathan would add 116 more saves with the Rangers and Tigers to finish with 377 -- eighth all-time -- before returning to San Francisco to finish his career in 2016.

Though Nathan dropped off the writers' ballot, he could later get some extra consideration from the Era Committees in the future, especially as his numbers are comparable to fellow reliever Billy Wagner, who earned 51 percent of the vote.

Prince Fielder (23.8 WAR, 2 votes, .5 percent)

Fielder was destined to hit a lot of dingers. That was clear from his family -- he's the son of slugger Cecil Fielder -- and his appearance in a MLB commercial at the tender age of 11.

After debuting with the Brewers in 2005, Fielder became an instant fan favorite as the beefy slugger showed off giant swings, tremendous power and some pretty nifty feet for a big man. Fielder smashed 230 home runs with Milwaukee, including a league-leading 50 dingers in 2007, and ranks third all-time in team history.

Fielder continued to mash after joining the Tigers and Rangers, but an unfortunate neck injury halted Fielder's career in his early 30's, preventing him from putting up the kind of numbers that could get him into the Hall. He finished with 319 home runs, 10 triples -- 11 if you count his unbelievable All-Star Game sprint -- six All-Star Game appearances, three Silver Slugger Awards ... and one season of the "Fielder's Choice Food Show."

A.J. Pierzynski (23.8 WAR, 2 votes, .5 percent)

Though he debuted with the Twins, Pierzynski will always be best known for his eight years with the White Sox. Blessed with a big mouth -- which now helps him in his current day job as a baseball broadcaster -- Pierzynski was able to get under opponents' and teammates' skin, winning the most hated player poll in 2012 with 34 percent of the vote. But few players also competed as hard as Pierzynski did, as evidenced by his 19-year career.

After breaking in with the Twins in 1998 and being part of the lopsided Joe Nathan trade in 2004, Pierzynski signed with the White Sox before the 2005 season. His then career-high 18 home runs and steady work behind the dish were important contributions to the team, and he made his most significant impact in the postseason with three crucial home runs and an infamous dropped strikeout en route to the White Sox first World Series title in 88 years.

Perhaps equally important was his role in choosing Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" as the team theme song. (So, next time you're at karaoke and someone busts it out, blame him.)

Pierzynski would later play for the Rangers, Red Sox, Cardinals and Braves, wrapping up his career with a .280/.319/.420 batting line, 2,043 hits -- 12th all-time among catchers and just five knocks behind Johnny Bench -- and 188 home runs.

Jonathan Papelbon (23.3 WAR, 5 votes, 1.3 percent)

Maybe it would have become a city anthem on its own, but Jonathan Papelbon running to the mound to the tune of Dropkick Murphys' "Shipping Up To Boston," certainly helped turn it into a cultural event as the song's intro seemed to all but guarantee a Red Sox victory. After debuting as a starter in 2005, Papelbon took over the closing duties in 2006 when Keith Foulke proved ineffective. He was absolutely dominant that year, posting a 0.92 ERA and saving 35 games en route to a second-place finish for the AL Rookie of the Year Award and first of six All-Star Game appearances.

He held down the job with Boston through 2011, doing party jigs on the mound, wearing silly Christmas sweaters and even shaving his head to look like Wild Thing from "Major League" after winning a bet with third baseman Kevin Youkilis. (Yes, it appears he cut it himself. If he didn't, he should demand a refund from his barber.)

After being traded to Philadelphia and later Washington, Papelbon couldn't help but run into controversy, but he also kept shutting the door with ninth-inning authority. He retired with a 2.44 ERA and 368 saves -- 10th most all-time. His most famous came in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series, though, when a strikeout of Seth Smith sealed the Red Sox's second championship of the 21st century.

Tim Lincecum (19.5 WAR, 9 votes, 2.3 percent)

If it were up to cultural impact and simply how much fans adore a player, Lincecum would be a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. A diminutive -- by baseball standards -- 5-foot-11 and 170 lbs, Big Time Timmy Jim used a back-breaking windup to throw a killer fastball and a darting curveball. After going 7-5 with a 4.00 ERA his first year, Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in 2008 and '09, while leading the NL in strikeouts from 2008-10. That culminated in the Giants winning their first World Series championship since moving to San Francisco in 2010, with Lincecum picking up two of the victories against the Rangers that October.

Unfortunately, Lincecum's peak was brief. After going to his fourth All-Star Game in 2011 while posting a 2.74 ERA, Lincecum struggled mightily with command and was used as a multi-inning reliever for the next two Giants World Series runs in 2012 and '14 -- though he did also toss two no-hitters against the Padres in that time. (It's important to note that he did celebrate the first no-hitter by running through the clubhouse wearing a gladiator's helmet.)

He tried to make a comeback with the Angels in 2015 and then signed a Minor League deal with the Rangers -- convincing a teammate to drink salad dressing along the way -- but it just wasn't in the cards. Notoriously difficult to track down, Lincecum made an appearance for Bruce Bochy's final game as manager, though he sadly didn't reprise his very best role when he pretended to be the manager in 2014:

Ryan Howard (14.7 WAR, 8 votes, 2 percent)

Howard certainly made an impact on pop culture. The Phillies slugger inspired the naming of a character on "The Office" before later appearing on the show. He also acted in "Entourage" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and inspired a group of Phillies fans to put on Homer Simpson wigs while waiting for his epic taters to land in the upper deck.

It's not hard to see why he inspired such devotion: Howard won the Rookie of the Year Award after hitting 22 home runs in just 88 games with the Phils in 2005 before winning the MVP Award and setting a Phillies single-season record with 58 homers the following season. That started a stretch from '06-09 where Howard topped 40 home runs and 135 RBIs every season -- leading the Majors in both categories twice. He went to the All-Star Game three times and helped the Phillies to the 2008 World Series title over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Unfortunately, Howard's age -- he didn't have a full big league season until he was 26 -- and an Achilles injury he suffered in the 2011 postseason made for a short peak. After hitting 253 home runs between 2004-10, he hit only 129 more from 2011-16. Still, those 382 home runs are second behind Mike Schmidt for the most by a Phillies player. The peak may have been short, but it was one of the most incredible heights in big league history.