It must have been a strange weekend in sleepy Cooperstown, New York. The only Hall of Fame inductees were 19th century players, Hank O'Day and Deacon White and Jacob Ruppert, the brewer who owned the Yankees. For the first time since 1965, there were no living inductees. Blame it on steroids. This was the year that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds would have been voted in but the Baseball Writers decided that such tainted stars don’t belong. That was no surprise. But the complete shut-out was. Also deprived of Hall of Fame honors were Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and his Astro teammate, Craig Biggio. Which brings us to Second Base.
Here are my top 10 Hall of Fame eligible second basemen who are not in the Hall:
10. Junior Gilliam
The Dodger legend’s versatility works against him since he also played in hundreds of games at 3rd base and leftfield. But Gilliam is most famous as the player who took over second base for Jackie Robinson and did it well enough to win Rookie of the Year in 1953. He went on to play 14 seasons for Brooklyn and LA Dodgers and was a four-time World Series Champion.
9. Del Pratt
A college football star at Alabama, Pratt starred for the St. Louis Browns in the years after World War I. He also played for the Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers. He was a career .292 hitter and was among the top 10 American League RBI leaders over 5 seasons.
8. Frank White
An 18-year veteran for the Royals, White was the best fielding second baseman of his day, winning 8 gold glove awards.
7. Buddy Myer
A career .303 hitter with over 2,000 hits, Myer played 17 seasons for the Washington Senators and won the batting title in 1935 with a .349 average. No, he wasn’t Jewish.
6. Davey Lopes
A four-time all-star, Lopes joined Steve Garvey, Bill Russell and Ron Cey to form one of the longest running infields in baseball history. He stole 557 stolen bases at an impressive 83% success rate. Lopes had a late start to his career, breaking into the majors at 27, the age when most players hit their prime. Here’s a remarkable statistic: In 1985, at the age of 40, he stole 47 bases in 51 attempts.
5. Willie Randolph
An excellent number 2 hitter and a terrific glove, Randolph was a six-time all star and key contributor to a Yankee squad that won two World Series. He is ranked 5th all time in games played at second base.
4. Larry Doyle
A career .290 hitter, Doyle starred for John McGraw’s Giants winning the Chalmers MVP award in 1912, while batting .330 with 90 RBIs.
3. Lou Whitaker
Partnered with Alan Trammell to form the longest running double-play combination in baseball history. An excellent fielder, Whitaker had over 2300 hits, 255 home runs and 1000 RBIs.
2. Bobby Grich
Grich is the darling of sabermetricians like Bill James who convincingly argue that the six-time all star for the Orioles and Angels is one of the most under-rated players of all time. Grich was a terrific pivot who won four Gold Gloves, and his 1800 career hits, 224 home runs and .266 batting average don’t tell full the story of his offensive value. His adjusted OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) is the 6th greatest of all time among second basemen.
1. Craig Biggio
Here is the guy who was missing from Cooperstown this weekend. Biggio received 68% of the vote in 2013, his first year on the ballot. (75% is needed). Jeff Kent, who has hit more home runs than any second baseman in history, becomes eligible next year, but he wasn’t better than Biggio. In 2001, Roberto Alomar was elected in his 2nd year of eligibility. I would expect the same for Biggio. Look for him to join Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas (at least) as Hall of Fame inductees in 2014. The debates about steroids will continue in Cooperstown, but at least we'll also have some marvelous careers to talk about.
Honorable Mention: Bobby Avila, Davey Johnson, Tony Taylor, Chuck Knoblauch