These World Series champions may never have a Hall of Fame player
By Dan Holmes December 18, 2017
Now that Jack Morris and Alan Trammell have been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the 1984 Tigers have two members so enshrined. That takes care of one of the greatest single-season teams in baseball history, giving them representation in Cooperstown.
It might seem hard to believe but almost every team that wins a World Series has at least one Hall of Fame player on their roster. Going back to the start of the modern World Series in 1903, there have been 113 World Champions, and only 13 have never had a player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. That includes the most recent champions, who undoubtedly will get a player in the Hall someday in the future. Justin Verlander and Jose Altuve will be the most likely inductees to take care of that years from now.
Here are the only teams since 1903 who have won a World Series and as of yet, do not have a member of their roster inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Of course, some of these teams do not have qualified players eligible yet.
1981 Los Angeles Dodgers
If you took the top five players at every position who are most qualified but not in the Hall of Fame, this team would probably have 6-7 players in that group. Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Pedro Guerrero, Davey Lopes, Reggie Smith, Dave Stewart, and Fernando Valenzuela all had very successful careers that sit on the bubble for the Hall of Fame. Yet not one of them has slid in.
Garvey was on the writers’ ballot for 15 years, topping out at 42.6 percent. But as analytics made it easier to dive deeper into the value of players, Garvey’s statistical record started to look less worthy. Both his defense and lack of patience at the plate have hurt his candidacy. But he did a lot of things that voters used to like (hit .300 seven times, had 200-hits six times, and drove in 100+ runs five times).
Cey may be the best candidate of the bunch, yet he’s very underrated because he was the polar opposite of Garvey: the third baseman hit for a low average, drew a lot of walks, and played stellar defense despite looking sort of odd while doing it.
Stewart is really indistinguishable from Catfish Hunter, another righthander who had most of his success with Oakland. Both pitchers won 20 games at least four times, both led pitching staffs that won three straight pennants, and both had postseason success. Both Stewart and Hunter had fairly modest ERA’s (Catfish was at 104 in ERA+ and Stewart came in at 100). Hunter is in the Hall, Stewart was on the ballot for merely two years.
It appears that unless a veterans committee is packed with some players from the 1970s, Garvey may never get in, and the ’81 Dodgers will hold a place in history as one of the few championship teams to not have a Hall of Fame player. Their manager, Tommy Lasorda, is in the Hall.
1997 Florida Marlins
Several players on this unlikely World Series champion (the Fish were in their fifth season as an expansion team) had excellent careers. There’s Gary Sheffield, who put up great numbers and looked a lot like one of the best hitters of his generation, much like Jim Rice did in his. Then there’s Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla, and Edgar Renteria, three players who had long careers and did some impressive things. As a shortstop Renteria’s glove work and decent career numbers with the stick make him a non-laughable candidate. He’d be better than 4-5 shortstops in the Hall now, but his election would help define that lower bar down. Bonilla and Alou had HOF stretches in their careers, but didn’t extend that level of excellence long enough.
The most interesting option is Kevin Brown, the surly starting pitcher who burned bridges everywhere he went. Brown accumulated 211 victories and won 59% of his decisions in a 19-year career. He put up a couple of great seasons, and was consistently brilliant for about six years after the age of 30, but he suffers in comparison to much better contemporaries like Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling. By the numbers, Brown would fit near the meaty middle of all HOF pitchers, but his style points are very unattractive.
2002 Anaheim Angels
Of the seven teams on this list, the Angels are the most likely to never have a Hall of Fame player. Their best candidates are a pair of relievers: Troy Percival and Frankie Rodriguez. Given the stingy way Cooperstown has treated relief pitchers, the odds are about 1 in 10 million that either of those hard throwers will earn a plaque.
Among position players, the player with the best career was Garret Anderson (who received one measly vote and was off the ballot), and Tim Salmon. Both were good ballplayers who had some good seasons, but neither is within sniffing distance of the Hall of Fame.
The best career based on numbers was that of starting pitcher Kevin Appier, an underappreciated hardthrower who was a lookalike for Goose Gossage. Appier was, by numbers, a batter pitcher than Jack Morris or Dave Stewart. But didn’t earn the swagger and postseason cred.
The ’02 Angels are almost certain to be shut out for the Hall of Fame.
2006 St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols, once he’s eligible, will glide into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
2007 Boston Red Sox
Let’s get this out of the way: neither Dustin Pedroia nor Manny Ramirez is ever getting elected. The former because he’s fallen prey to the middle infielder “age quickly and fade syndrome”, and the latter because he was suspended for 100 games for using steroids and basically received a life sentence.
That leaves Curt Schilling, who I think will get in eventually, and David Ortiz, who will probably have to wait longer than many people think to get his plaque.
Big Papi was a DH for almost his entire career, a part-time, one-dimensional player who doesn’t even have the best stats for a DH not in the Hall. That distinction goes to Edgar Martinez, who deserves to be in Cooperstown just as much as Ortiz.
Because of his image and post-season heroics, Ortiz will earn a plaque eventually, which will wipe this team off this list, and another one below too.
2008 Philadelphia Phillies
What is it about second basemen and the Hall of Fame? Many of the best candidates who are still waiting to get a plaque played second base. Two players near the top of most lists of “most deserving Hall of Famers” are Bobby Grich and Lou Whitaker. But once he retires, Chase Utley will add a third name to that talented group.
Utley will emerge as the best HOF candidate from the talent-rich Phillies who won five straight division titles in the first decade of the 21st century, while copping a pair of pennants. The ’08 team easily dispatched the Rays for the Phils’ second championship.
Other HOF candidates on the roster are shortstop Jimmy Rollins (an MVP winner), slugger Ryan Howard, and pitchers Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer. But none of those four are particularly strong candidates. Moyer, Howard, and even Rollins, could see their names flushed off the writers’ ballot in year one. Hamels is still adding to his credentials.
The best chance, and probably the only real legitimate chance, for a HOFer from this team is Utley, a player who was sort of Joe Morgan Lite: very, very good at everything a ballplayer does, but not possessing the statistical milestones some voters covet.
2009 New York Yankees
In 2019, Mariano Rivera will be elected in his first year of eligibility. A year later, Derek Jeter will join him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Others from the 2009 Yanks who will get consideration: Andy Pettitte (starting in 2019 when Mo first appears on the HOF ballot), Alex Rodriguez (in 2022 amid certain controversy), Johnny Damon (in 2018), and CC Sabathia and Robinson Cano, whenever they retire.
2010, 2012, and 2014 San Francisco Giants
There are two clear top candidates from this every-other-year dynasty, but neither are locks for the Hall of Fame. Catcher Buster Posey is already one of the top 20 catchers of all-time. He’s both a threat at the plate and a very good defender behind it. Assuming he stays healthy in his 30s and doesn’t tank, the former Rookie of the Year, MVP, and batting champion will get his plaque. Three titles (at minimum) as a catcher will also help.
Madison Bumgarner will only be 28 when the 2018 season starts and he already has more than 100 victories and a postseason resume that might be unmatched in baseball history. While he might be in the shadow of Clayton Kershaw and hasn’t yet won a Cy Young Award as a result, Bumgarner has a career ERA just a tick over 3.00 and he’s already been an All-Star four times. He was little more than a baby in 2010 when the G-Men won their first title of the 21st century, but the 20-year old tossed three quality starts. But his October dominance was just getting started. Two years later the lefty beat the Tigers for his second World Series victory. Two years after that he was a beast: he made six starts, winning four and losing none, and posting a 1.02 ERA. He’s pitched three shutouts in the postseason, and two of them came in winner-or-go-home games. If Mad Bum could win 200-225 games and get near 3,000 K’s (which he’s on pace for), his credentials could warrant a Cooperstown phone call.
2011 St. Louis Cardinals
See the 2006 Cardinals. Catcher Yadier Molina might also get some Hall of Fame love too, but considering Jorge Posada was booted from the ballot after one year, Molina’a chances are slim.
2013 Boston Red Sox
The possibilities include the previously mentioned Ortiz and Pedroia, as well as pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey. Neither of the pitchers looks to have the steam to put together a strong case. I think Ortiz will be elected somewhere between his second and fifth year on the ballot.
2015 Kansas City Royals
The 2002 Angels are almost certainly not going to have a player elected to the Hall of Fame. Of the other teams on this list, the ’15 Royals are most likely to join them in that distinction.
There are a handful of players you can like on the Royals: first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielders Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain, and catcher Salvador Perez. Ultimately I don’t think any of those players is going to have the gumption to push their career to Hall-worthy status. Which leaves a few longshot options.
First is reliever Wade Davis, who will be 32 in 2018. Davis is working exclusively as closer now and if he stays healthy, could potentially rack up 350 saves in the next decade or so. I suppose he could do that, but the chance of that happening is probably about four percent. Greg Holland, his bullpen partner, has more than 170 saves as of the close of the ’17 season, but he’s already nearing his mid-30s and missed one full season with an arm injury.
Another possibility is Ben Zobrist, the useful infielder who is currently putting together a decent career. Zobrist is closing in on 200 career homers and he’s done some nice things, especially on winning teams, but he’s 36 as of 2017. It’s an extreme longshot that he’ll tack on the numbers he needs to reach Cooperstown.
The 2015 Royals will always be remembered by Kansas City fans, but unless Perez has a late-career surge like Carlton Fisk, or Johnny Cueto learns the knuckleball and has a second-half career like Phil Niekro, they won’t ever have a HOF player.
2016 Chicago Cubs
It’s too early to tell about this team, or the 2017 Houston Astros, who have more obvious established candidates. But most likely, both of these champions will have at least one HOF player.
Postscript: the 2018 Boston Red Sox have several emerging Hall of Fame candidates: Chris Sale, David Price, Mookie Betts, and J.D. Martinez the most obvious.
Dan Holmes is an author and baseball historian. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and Major League Baseball. He once defeated George Brett in Texas Hold Em poker and faced Phil Niekro's knuckleball. He has two daughters and he writes regularly about baseball and many other topics.