Is Gary Sheffield A Hall Of Famer?

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.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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Alex Remington
Member
Member

I don’t think he’ll get elected in 5 years. But maybe in 20.

DonCoburleone
Guest
DonCoburleone

Not a chance.. Sheffield has the double whammy of suspiscion of PED’s and not being liked (to put it kindly) at all by the media.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I don’t think there’s much suspicion. He used the Cream and the Clear when he was in Atlanta during the time he trained with Bonds.

hawkinscm
Member
hawkinscm

I think people should consider the suspicion of PEDs like this: assume he did do steroids, look at his performance at the time he did do them, and see if you can come up with any evidence that his performance was affected. I don’t see that at all. His power was already there because of bat speed. Also, I note that his body did not fall apart toward the end of his career. He still had some athletic ability at the end.

Ed
Guest
Ed

Hawkinscm, the problem with that is for almost all players we have no idea when the did or didn’t do steroids.

That approach works great with Bonds as there was a ton of investigation into him, but he’s the exception, not the rule. Most of the guys who did admit to using steroids admitted to as little as possible.

As for Sheffield, his body did fall apart at the end. He dealt with a bunch of injuries as a Yankee. Detroit used him as a DH because of that. And with the benefit of steroids, there’s two issues at hand. There’s the Bonds like case of massively bulking up and gaining power, but there’s also the players who didn’t use them as heavily and used them more to combat their decline.

Dan in Philly
Guest
Dan in Philly

Hawkinscm, though you cannot repeat history and say how many HRs he would have hit without PEDs, it is not possible to argue plausably that they did not affect his total at all. Even if you buy the case that PEDs don’t increase HRs for anyone (which I do not), it is beyond question that PEDs in general and steriods in particular allow the body to recover faster from injury. It is extremely likely that Sheff would have missed quite a bit more time, particularly in his declining years, due to injury without them. Since his HR total is barely above the magic level of 500, it’s almost certain that without them, he would not have much of a case (since that’s his main one).

mark
Guest
mark

Bonds, Sheffield, Clemens, Pettitte, Plamiero. McGwire, Sosa, McGriff, Bagwell…HOF Class of 2204.

mark
Guest
mark

Let’s elect Kal Daniels Darryl Strawberry and Greg Vaughn right away too. Oh and Ken Caminiti.

Joe R
Guest

I think he’d be an eventually veterans’ committee guy. There’s just too much bad “juju” around Sheffield for modern writers to ignore, in my opinion.

You can ask Dick Allen what can happen when you have this situation.

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