I’ll never forget when I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a sports journalist. I was driving home from another boring day at my internship and talking on the phone with my brother. He asked me if I was excited to be graduating from college in a few months and I admitted that I wasn’t too thrilled about it. He pressed and I told him that I didn’t want to be an engineer, I wanted to work in sports. He then laughed at me when I pointed out that there was no point, because I was too old to try to switch careers—I was 24, my brother five years my senior. He simply said, “If that’s your dream and you think you’re good enough, just go and do it.” It was the push I needed, the support I was looking for to take a crazy leap. I can’t thank my brother enough for doing that for me. There have been numerous other people I’ve befriended along this journey, many of whom I looked up to either personally or professionally, who said or wrote me something that helped keep me going when I was ready to give up.
I tell this story because it was brought to my attention that veteran Reds reporter Hal McCoy gave Aaron Boone one of the two votes Boone received for the Hall of Fame. On its face, that seems a bit odd, but, according to this column, it turns out McCoy had a pretty nice reason to give Boone a vote.
McCoy admitted he might be the only BBWAA member to vote for Aaron Boone, who McCoy credited with helping to convince him to continue his writing career several years ago despite problems with his vision.
There will be those who will say McCoy still shouldn’t have given Boone a vote, that he should have honored him another way. I’m not really sure how McCoy could have done that, but I’m sure others have ideas. But I don’t really have a problem with this. McCoy wasn’t bumping anyone off his ballot to give Boone a vote (he only voted for nine guys), so while I do think there are times when these stray votes are a little strange and handing one out because a guy was nice to you seems like a stretch, I’m going to say that, at least for me, this belongs in the ‘extenuating circumstances’ category.
However you feel, you should definitely give a read to McCoy’s piece from five years ago, in which he discussed how Boone sat him down and wouldn’t let him quit when his sight started to deteriorate. I know I owe the world to the people who pushed me to get to where I am (and continue to do so); I’m sure McCoy felt this was the least he could do to thank Boone for saving his career.
With that, here are the remaining six players who failed to get 5 percent of the vote for the Hall of Fame and thus fall off the ballot. You can read Wednesday’s column, in which I talked about the other six players, including Boone, here.
Jermaine Dye (0.0 percent)
Outside of his first season in the bigs, when he finished sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting while with the Atlanta Braves, Dye’s career was largely spent with three different clubs, each of whose fan bases likely remembers him for different things: a trade, a broken leg, and a great postseason performance.
After being sent from Atlanta to Kansas City following the 1996 season, Dye managed to play just 135 games in his first two seasons with the Royals, suffering a multitude of injuries that kept him on the shelf for long stretches. Finally healthy in 1999, Dye broke out in his 158 games played, posting a .287 TAv and 4.4 WARP. He followed it up the next season with an even better offensive output (.299 TAv), while making his first All-Star Game and winning his lone Gold Glove award (though most advanced defensive metrics had him as a below-average defender that year).
Midway through his 2001 season, Dye was struggling (at least compared to his previous two seasons) through 97 games with a .272/.333/.417 slash line. Royals fans are probably well aware that the team then shipped him to Colorado for Neifi Perez, and he was then moved to Oakland for prospects. Dye was a monster at the plate for the Athletics in 61 games, adding to an already powerful lineup that featured Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez, and Miguel Tejada. The A’s finished the season with 102 wins, losing to the Yankees in an epic five-game series in the ALDS. Unfortunately for Dye, he fouled a ball off his left leg and suffered a gruesome break that required surgery and even ate into 22 games of his 2002 season.
After a couple solid seasons and an injury-riddled 2003, Dye signed with the White Sox prior to the 2005 season. Of course, that was a magical year for the South Siders, as they led the division wire-to-wire and cruised to a World Series championship with just one loss in the playoffs. Dye posted a 1.214 OPS in four World Series games and drove in the lone run in the clincher, on his way to winning MVP of the Series.
Dye carried his postseason success into 2006, posting career-bests in TAv (.314), WARP (4.6), home runs (44), and slugging (.622). He made his second, and last, All-Star Game, won a Silver Slugger, and finished fifth in MVP voting in what was easily his best season as a major leaguer. Dye played three more seasons with the White Sox, each solid in its own right, including some down-ballot MVP votes in 2008.
It was a strong career. Once he got past his initial injury issues, he delivered 10 seasons out of 11 with an OPS+ over 100, with the lone sub-100 season the banged-up 2003. He played in six postseasons and two World Series (winning one) and gave multiple fan bases plenty to remember.
Jason Schmidt (0.0 percent)
There’s been a pretty common theme I’ve encountered while researching the players on this list: Many have been extremely talented, some with Hall of Fame abilities, only to have injuries keep them from fulfilling their immense potential. However, even with those injuries, Schmidt was able to put together a fine career and for a short while was one of the best (some would argue the best) pitchers in baseball.
Schmidt was a solid pitcher in his early years with the Pirates, showing flashes of brilliance, but he never really developed any consistency until he was traded to the Giants. He had an impressive peak in 2003 and 2004, making the All-Star team both years. He also finished in the top four for Cy Young both seasons, finishing second in 2003 to Eric Gagne, who just happened to put together one of the most dominant reliever seasons ever. During that two-year period, of starters who tossed a minimum of 200 innings, Schmidt led all of baseball in strikeouts (459), ERA (2.79), and shutouts (6).
He was utterly dominant in that stretch, and one evening in 2004 I was lucky enough to witness it in person. It was May 18th and Schmidt shut down the Cubs at Wrigley, tossing nine one-hit innings, striking out 13 and walking just one. I distinctly remember being in awe of Schmidt that night, his fastball pumping in the mid-90s and the one hit he allowed was a dribbler toward third by Michael Barrett. While walking down Clark Street toward my apartment a mile away, a friend and I were lamenting that the Cubs would be leading SportsCenter after the best pitcher in baseball just shoved at Wrigley. Suddenly we overheard a person walking in front of us: Randy Johnson had just tossed a perfect game at Turner Field. Once again, Schmidt had performed as good as anyone could have hoped, but was outshone by a historic performance.
Tom Gordon (0.4 percent – two votes)
Gordon pitched in the big leagues for 21 years and made three All-Star Games, all as a reliever, even finishing 13th in MVP voting after 46 saves and 173 ERA+ with the Boston Red Sox in 1998. That ’98 season was his first as a full-time reliever and he never made a start again. However, prior to that season, he had had quite the career as both a starter and coming out of the pen.
From 1989 (when he finished second in Rookie of the Year voting) to 1997, Gordon tossed 1,532 innings, appearing in 345 games and starting 201 of them. He was striking out nearly 20 percent of the batters he faced, which back then was quite impressive. However, he was racking up the walks as well, handing out free passes to over 10 percent of batters. “Flash” was pretty solid as a starter, something many forget. But clearly, the decision to put Gordon in the pen permanently was the right one, as his control issues were less of an issue and his stuff played up in relief.
Darin Erstad (0.2 percent – one vote)
Erstad’s Baseball-Reference page is one of the more perplexing ones I’ve looked at during this series. In 1997 and 1998 he put up a 2.5 and 2.8 WARP, making the All-Star team and garnering some down-ballot MVP love in the latter season. In 1999 his bat completely vanished as he posted a .229 TAv, but nearly every fielding metric loved Erstad, as did Web Gems highlight reels, and he provided solid value as a stud in center field.
It was the 2000 season that Erstad and Angels fans will never forget. In one of the greatest leaguewide offensive seasons any of us has lived through, Erstad still managed to post eye-popping numbers. That year he slashed .355/.409/.541, won his first of three Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, and finished eighth in MVP voting. It was an absolutely unforgettable season—well not really, I totally forgot about it, but I was real impressed when I looked it up.
Unfortunately, Erstad’s bat never really showed up again, as he never posted an OPS+ of 100 or above in any of his remaining nine seasons. He managed a few more seasons of strong defense in left field, eventually moving to first base (where he won a Gold Glove in 2004), before finishing off his career as a bench player helping out at multiple positions.
Carlos Delgado (3.8 percent – 21 votes)
Of the dozen players who failed to get 5 percent of the vote, Delgado is the only one who likely would have had a chance to reach the mark had the ballot not been so packed with elite talent. The slugging lefty had 10 straight 30-homer seasons, hit 473 for his entire career, won three Silver Sluggers, appeared in two All-Star Games, and received MVP votes in seven different seasons, including four top-10 finishes and two in the top five.
One of those was a second-place finish to Alex Rodriguez in a very close vote in 2003, in which he slugged 42 home runs and led the league with 145 RBI and a 1.019 OPS. However, that wasn’t even his best season. In 2000, Delgado led the league with 378 total bases and 57 doubles, slugged 41 homers (this after a career-high 44 in 1999), posted a 1.134 OPS, and walked at a 17.3 percent rate while striking out in just 14.6 percent of his plate appearances. This all happened during a dominant stretch from 1998 to 2005 when he was fifth in all of baseball in OPS+ (153) for batters with at least 3,000 plate appearances, tied with Vladimir Guerrero and behind only Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Giambi.
In my view, Delgado doesn’t belong in Cooperstown, but there’s no doubt he had the numbers, especially the kind that many voters love, to at least stick around for another ballot or two in a normal year.
Brian Giles (0.0 percent)
Unlike Delgado, Giles never put up the gaudy home run or RBI totals that often gets the attention of the fans and media, but he was just as valuable, if not more so. It was his patience and impressive plate approach that really set him apart, and that's likely why he often went overlooked by many, as Giles posted a career walk rate of 15.1 percent and struck out in just 10.7 percent of his plate appearances. His career slash line of .291/.400/.502, good for a very strong .310 TAv, would likely come as a surprise to some.
Giles was best from 1999-2005, when he made two All-Star games and earned MVP votes in five seasons, including a ninth-place finish in 2005. During that span, Giles was fourth in the NL with a 151 OPS+, third in walks (747), and fourth in OBP (.418). Outside of not delivering the sexy stats that made headlines, Giles spent his peak seasons in the small markets of Pittsburgh and San Diego.
Of the players on this year’s ballot, he was one of only five with an OBP of .400 or above, and according to Baseball-Reference he had the highest JAWS score, WAR, and WAR7 of the dozen players eliminated (and he’s above multiple players who are still on the ballot in each of those categories). Like Delgado, Giles doesn’t deserve enshrinement, but to not get one single vote is a bit of a surprise—especially when names like Jacque Jones and Aaron Sele have found isolated votes—and just goes to show how underappreciated he truly was in his time.
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