Hall of Fame Index: Right Field Tiers

We finally come to the end of the position player list. Just like all of the other positions, we can split right fielders into tiers. The initial thrust behind going through tiers was to solve what I lovingly call the “Harold Baines problem.” He did not make it into the top 50 players, but wasn’t that far off the list. So, we could call him a tier five guy.

The idea is that debating whether Baines (or anyone else) is a Hall of Famer is foolish on its face. One could list the number of hits, RBI, or runs scored and compare that with other players. Simply put, the question shouldn’t be about whether someone should or should not be in the Hall of Fame. It should be about how is the most qualified. Baines is nowhere near the best player that wasn’t in the Hall of Fame.

Tier One

 CareerPeakTotal
Babe Ruth (B)502.1297.7799.8
Hank Aaron (B)407.9225.9633.8
Mel Ott (B)323.9218.1542.0
Frank Robinson (B)315.1187.8502.9
Al Kaline (B)270.3163.7438.0
Roberto Clemente (B)250.5181.7432.2
Reggie Jackson (B)235.5170.9406.4
Paul Waner (B)231.5170.9402.4
Sam Crawford (V)235.6157.6393.2
Harry Heilmann (B)212.4170.2382.6
Gary Sheffield208.6149.9358.5
Tony Gwynn (B)213.8142.1355.9

This works out well. Sheffield is the only tier one player not in the Hall of Fame and the writers have the ability to rectify that. Of course, nothing is ever that easy. Sheffield has been implicated in the steroids scandal and he has what many would call a prickly personality. Those two factors have torpedoed his efforts to get elected to this point. He might end up being one of those guys that has to wait for the Veteran’s Committee.

Ruth has the highest index score in history. Technically speaking, this means he is more fit for the Hall of Fame than any other player. It should not be interpreted to mean that he is the greatest player of all-time. Naturally, many will interpret it that way and it would be a fairly popular opinion.

With eight players above 400, you could claim that right field is the best position on the diamond in terms of depth. The 350 cutoff on tier one is the highest of all the positions, so that claim has validity. As we know, tier two guys can still claim to be qualified Hall of Famers, but it is more difficult to make that argument for those on the outside looking in.

Tier Two

 CareerPeakTotal
Larry Walker203.0141.2344.2
Bobby Abreu190.8153.4344.2
Ichiro Suzuki181.7160.0341.7
Sammy Sosa182.9156.6339.5
Reggie Smith194.2144.9339.1
Dave Winfield (B)207.1129.5336.6
Vladimir Guerrero (B)178.5155.1333.6
Elmer Flick (V)167.4163.7331.1
Dwight Evans201.6129.2330.8
Bobby Bonds175.5153.4328.9
Willie Keeler (V)176.5141.2317.7
Brian Giles163.4144.7308.1
Enos Slaughter (V)171.3128.9300.2

There are a number of modern right fielders here and some of them will eventually get in the Hall of Fame. The question is whether they are the most qualified players outside of the Hall of Fame. Walker and Abreu have very strong cases and Suzuki is all but a lock to get in as soon as he is eligible for enshrinement. From there, the situation gets a little dicey. Evans certainly has a compelling case when you compare him with his teammate Jim Rice.

Those in the Hall of Fame have some mitigating circumstances that make their tier two status unique. Keeler played in the 19thcentury when there were fewer games per season. Slaughter lost a few seasons serving his country in World War II. As we know, Winfield played forever and eclipsed 3000 hits.

Guerrero and Flick are interesting choices. They aren’t bad choices but they are interesting ones. Abreu is a contemporary of Guerrero and arguably more valuable. He may fall off the ballot the first season. It’s always interesting to see who they end supporting and who they overlook.

Tier Three

CareerPeakTotal
Rusty Staub165.3121.9287.2
Kiki Cuyler (V)158.0128.0286.0
Harry Hooper (V)170.0114.0284.0
Rocky Colavito148.6135.3283.9
Sam Rice (V)168.4114.9283.3
Jack Clark166.9114.4281.3
Ken Singleton146.6130.5277.1
Chuck Klein (V)134.0128.6262.6
Tony Oliva132.8128.4261.2
King Kelly (V)146.7114.3261.0
Mike Tiernan135.5123.8259.3
Dixie Walker139.9117.0256.9
Dave Parker146.6109.8256.4
Sam Thompson (V)135.7120.4256.1

The four tier system doesn’t always work out cleanly. There are really five tiers in this group as Klein is separated considerably from Singleton. That being said, about half of these guys were Veterans Committee selections and some were more controversial than others. Klein and Cuyler are perfect examples of guys that were a product of their time. They hit and hit and hit, but so did a lot of the league at that time.

Meanwhile, guys like Staub, Oliva, and Parker are knocking on the door. There are a number of people that would swear by those guys and with the election of Baines you could foresee an “if…then” kind of situation. Staub in particular is almost in tier two. Heck, give him another all-star level season somewhere and he would have been. This is the nature of tier three guys. If you close one eye you can possibly justify putting one or more of these guys in. Undoubtedly, they are more qualified that some of the guys that are in. So, the big question is whether they are the most qualified guys on the outside looking in.

Tier Four

 CareerPeakTotal
Herman, Babe129.4121.5250.9
Chapman, Ben129.7118.5248.2
Drew, J.D.132.2114.8247.0
Canseco, Jose138.9106.8245.7
Nicholson, Bill127.0118.2245.2
Alou, Felipe128.5110.4238.9
Callison, Johnny121.3117.0238.3
Justice, David127.6110.1237.7
Salmon, Tim122.4112.5234.9
Ordonez, Magglio124.5109.6234.1
O’Neill, Paul131.6100.3231.9

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen zero Hall of Famers in tier four. At first glance it would appear to be encouraging. This isn’t to demean any of these guys. There have been hundreds of right fielders in the game’s history, so being in the top 50 is quite an honor. However, we say this in the backdrop of knowing there are guys outside of the top 50 that somehow made it into the Hall of Fame.

In addition to Baines, Ross Youngs also got elected by the Veteran’s Committee without the benefit of being a top 50 guy. Baines officially is the least qualified right fielder if you eliminate players who also managed. What made his selection so disappointing is the fact that these statistics are readily available for everyone now. If he had been elected in 1960 or 1970 we could forgive the focus on hits and RBI.

Some of these tier four guys were beloved because they put up some outrageously good numbers for a short time (Herman) or were a part of a great dynasty (O’Neill). The rest were some combination of the above. Depending on the era when you grew up, you probably have a soft spot for one or more of these guys. This is why we try to take passion out of it with these tiers.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for thefantatasyfix.com. You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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