After being forcibly retired against his will, Gary Sheffield made it official today – he’s done playing baseball. And, now that he’s filed his papers, the clock has started ticking on his five year waiting period before he becomes eligible for election to the Hall Of Fame. According to The New York Post, Sheffield certainly feels like he belongs in Cooperstown:
“I am sure it will be mentioned and debated but from my standpoint I know who is in the Hall of Fame,” Sheffield told The Post. “A lot of them don’t belong in the Hall of Fame. If someone wants to debate me, check the stats.”
Checking the stats is something we’re particularly good at, so let’s take him up on his offer. By the numbers, is Sheffield a Hall Of Famer?
The first number he’ll undoubtedly point to is his home run total. With 509, Sheffield stands 24th all time, Most of the members of the 500 home run club are in Cooperstown, though as Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire will tell you, that number no longer gets you automatic entry, especially if you’ve been linked to PEDs. Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report, so he’s going to have to overcome the suspicion of sluggers from the era, and simply pointing to his home run total won’t be enough. So, let’s look at his overall performance and compare him to some of his peers.
At +65.8 WAR for his career, Sheffield’s overall value leaves him squarely on the bubble. The +60 to +70 WAR range is the gray area of players who have better cases than a decent amount of players already enshrined, but didn’t have the kind of dominant careers that make them easy calls when their time comes. While Sheffield might hope that his home run totals get him compared to the likes of Frank Thomas, he’s actually comparable to guys like Jim Edmonds, Larry Walker, and Edgar Martinez. As Edgar’s results on his first two opportunities have shown, voters are not overly eager to put these great-but-flawed players into Cooperstown.
Whether they should or not essentially depends on how large of a Hall Of Fame you’re in favor of. There are arguments to be made for all of these guys, but smaller hall supporters can legitimately argue against putting any of them in. The problem for each of them is that there are quite a few players in the same boat, and electing one means that you’re probably electing all of them. It’s tough to argue that Sheffield should be in but Walker should not be unless you just give defensive value no consideration whatsoever. If you do take the stance that defense doesn’t matter, than you probably have to put Edgar in. Either way, Sheffield is going to find himself linked with others who are not viewed as slam-dunks, and with a crowded field of similar players, he’s likely going to have a hard time getting in.
That’s just considering the performance. Once you factor in the Mitchell Report appearance and the line that some voters drew in the sand this year – especially with Jeff Bagwell, a demonstrably better player who is simply suspected of use despite a complete lack of evidence – it is hard to see Sheffield gettting elected. His numbers aren’t overwhelming enough for voters to look past his link to PEDs, and as a home run hitter during the wrong era to be a home run hitter, I don’t expect Sheffield will do all that well when he comes up for election.
I think you can make a case both for and against his election. He’s at least worthy of consideration. When it comes to predicting whether he’ll actually get in or not, though, I don’t think he has much of a chance.