Mark Teixeira’s case for Cooperstown is really Keith Hernandez’s

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Retirement announcements immediately lead to Hall of Fame speculation these days, and there was plenty of it in my twitter feed when Mark Teixeira announced Thursday that he’d be hanging up the spikes at season’s end.  The twitter consensus seemed correct in this case; Teixeira wasn’t quite good enough for long enough to earn a place in Cooperstown.

Still, that we’re even having this debate about Teixeira can’t hurt the cases of some other first basemen already passed over by the BBWAA. Ranked by OPS+, here’s a list of the best first basemen not currently in the Hall of Fame (min. 7,500 PA):

163 – Mark McGwire – 7,660 PA
157 – Albert Pujols – 10,360 PA
149 – Jeff Bagwell – 9,431 PA
139 – Jason Giambi – 8,908 PA
139 – Norm Cash – 7,914 PA
138 – Carlos Delgado – 8,657 PA
137 – Will Clark – 8,283 PA
134 – Fred McGriff – 10,174 PA
134 – Boog Powell – 7,809 PA
133 – Todd Helton – 9,453 PA
132 – Rafael Palmeiro – 12,046 PA
129 – John Olerud – 9,063 PA
128 – Keith Hernandez – 8,553 PA
127 – Mark Teixeira – 7,894 PA
127 – Don Mattingly – 7,722 PA

Looking at this list, it’s really hard to make an argument for Teixeira. He has a clear advantage defensively over some of the guys ahead of him, but he was a less valuable hitter and he didn’t have a long career. You could skip the steroids guys and still come up with five better Hall of Fame cases from the group. Will Clark seemed like a short-career guy and he’s going to end up with 300 more plate appearances than Teixeira. He was Teixeira’s match with the glove and a better hitter. Helton will have nearly three seasons of play over Teixeira. Palmeiro’s tainted career was a full 50 percent longer than Teixeira’s.

Really, though, it’s the guy immediately above Teixeira on this list that I want to look at. Keith Hernandez belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he probably would be if he had Teixeira’s stat line instead of his own.

Hernandez: .296/.384/.436, 162 HR, 1,124 runs, 1,071 RBI in 8,553 PA
Teixeira: .269/.361/.511, 404 HR, 1,085 runs, 1,281 RBI in 7,894 PA

Hernandez was just as valuable of a hitter as Teixeira, despite hitting 240 fewer homers. The difference is in the eras, the ballparks and the on-base percentages. Hernandez was also the game’s best ever defensively at his position. Unlike Teixeira, he won an MVP, though he had to share it. He also finished second and fourth. Teixeira finished in the top five just once (though he was traded in the midst of his best season and probably deserves credit for another top-five finish there). He had better postseason numbers than Teixeira, as well. Still, Hernandez never received more than 11 percent of the vote in his nine years on the ballot. He didn’t have the homers, and he fell short of the .300 batting average that might have swung a few more to his cause.

As for Teixeira, he can find a home with Mattingly and others in the hall of very good. Maybe if he hadn’t needed wrist surgery and missed nearly all of 2013, things would be different. Still, I’d say probably not. He seemed on the decline before that (he had OPS+s of 124, 121 and 115 from ages 30-32), and even just comparing them through age 32, he still wasn’t as strong offensively as guys like Delgado and Clark, who were dismissed from Hall of Fame contention with nary a thought.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.