The 2019 BBWAA Hall of Fame voting results were released on Tuesday. No Cubs were elected, so why not take the time to look at the Hall of Fame cases of six former Cubs!
The criteria? Play for the Cubs in at least one game. The number of games played in a Cubs uniform among my six candidates ranges from three to 1,124. Hey, like I said – at least one game.
I avoided Sammy Sosa, who’s still on the BBWAA ballot. I also didn’t bother reviewing Rafael Palmeiro’s case. Both of those players’ cases depend heavily on what your stance is on alleged PED use. I chose to keep it limited to players who might be on a ballot (be it BBWAA or an Era Committee) in the next few years.
Note: rWAR is baseball-reference WAR, fWAR is Fangraphs WAR
Alfonso Soriano (BBWAA – 2020)
412 HR, 1,159 RBIs, .270/.319/.500, 28.2 rWAR, 39.1 fWAR, 111 wRC+
Alfonso Soriano is one of only 55 players in MLB history with 400 or more home runs, and his 412 rank 53rd all-time. He is the fourth (of four) players in MLB history to hit 40 HR and steal 40 bases in a season (2006). Soriano’s total of 54 leadoff home runs ranks second only to Rickey Henderson. He was a seven-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger winner.
Will he get in? It’s doubtful. He had a late start; Soriano wasn’t a regular until he was 25, then once he joined the Cubs he tailed off considerably. In 889 games with Chicago, he was worth 8.1 rWAR (1.5 per 162 games) or 18.3 fWAR (3.3 per 162 games). His .319 career OBP was subpar, as was his defense.
Rick Reuschel (Modern Baseball Era Committee – possibly 2020)
214-191 W/L, 3.37 ERA, 3,548 1/3 IP, 2,015 K, 69.7 rWAR, 68.2 fWAR, 114 ERA+
Rick Reuschel had a sneaky-good career. He spent many years toiling for mediocre teams but had success because he was able to keep the ball in the park and was relatively stingy with the base on balls. Even without huge strikeout totals, “Big Daddy” was able to turn in a strong Major League career. There are 27 pitchers in MLB history with at least 214 wins, 2,015 strikeouts and 68 pitching WAR; 24 are in the Hall of Fame. The others are Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Rick Reuschel.
Will he get in? Likely not, but he’s probably better than you think.
Aramis Ramírez (BBWAA – 2021)
386 HR, 1,417 RBIs, .283/.341/.492, 32.6 rWAR, 38.7 fWAR, 115 wRC+
Ramírez is fifth all-time in career home runs as a third baseman, with 381 (the other five were either as DH or PH). In his first five full seasons with the Cubs, he averaged 32 HR and 105 RBI, hitting an excellent .302/.366/.554 (131 wRC+). With the third base position being considerably underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, Ramírez starts to look a little more interesting.
Will he get in? It’s doubtful. He put up big offensive numbers in an era where many players did the same. His defense was underwhelming and his high MVP finish was 9th (in 2012 with the Brewers).
Joe Nathan (BBWAA – 2022)
377 SV, 2.87 ERA, 923 1/3 IP, 26.7 rWAR, 19.4 fWAR, 151 ERA+
Nathan pitched three games for the 2016 Cubs. Did you forget already? He’s 8th on the career saves list with 377 and he brought quality as well as quantity. Of the 50 pitchers with at least 200 career saves, he’s eighth with a 151 ERA+.
Nathan’s peak run was 2004-09 – his first six seasons with the Twins. He put up a 1.87 ERA and 0.934 WHIP with 518 K to only 271 hits in 418 2/3 IP over that span.
Will he get in? Probably not. Billy Wagner was clearly better yet only managed 16.7 percent of the BBWAA vote in 2019.
Fred McGriff (Today’s Game Era Committee – possibly 2022)
493 HR, 1,550 RBIs, .284/.377/.509, 52.6 rWAR, 56.9 fWAR, 134 wRC+
McGriff received 39.8 percent of votes from the BBWAA in 2019 – his final year on the ballot. His case now goes to the Today’s Game Era Committee.
The Crime Dog’s case has had some recent momentum – with good reason. McGriff was consistent and he had a clean reputation, which will help him going forward. The work stoppage of 1994-95 likely cost him a shot at 500 career home runs, which would probably been enough to get him elected via BBWAA in the first place.
By the way, who was the last Cubs lefty prior to Anthony Rizzo to hit 30 HR in a season? It was Fred McGriff in 2002.
Will he get in? I think he’ll get elected the first time he goes on the Today’s Game Era ballot.
Kenny Lofton (Today’s Game Era Committee – possibly 2024)
Lofton played only 56 games with the Cubs – all in 2003 – after coming over from Pittsburgh along with Aramis Ramírez. When considering leadoff men from 1980-present, Rickey Henderson was the best. Then there’s Tim Raines. After that, it just might be Kenny Lofton.
Player B is Lofton. Player A is Ichiro. Player C is Lou Brock.
Lofton earned six All-Star selections and four Gold Glove Awards in his career. He’s one of five players in MLB history with 100 triples, 100 home runs and 600 stolen bases. The others are Tim Raines, Lou Brock, Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner. From 2002-07, Lofton played with nine different teams, which may hurt his case a bit.
Will he get in? I think Lofton will get in eventually through the Era Committee, though it might take a while.