Center field is probably the most glamorous position in all of baseball. And, as you’ll see below, has the highest grade of excellence in all of the hall of fame. Why is that? Well, unlike the other positions that are considered “up the middle” (C, 2B, SS), this one has always had impact offensive players at it, beginning with baseball’s birth. Center field tends to have some of the best atheltes on a team, and they tend to show it on both offense and defense. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at these guys and figure out who belongs where.
Like I said, CF has the highest grade of excellence for the Hall. They tend to have shorter careers (15.5 years), but have high impacts on their team and league (78.9 WAR for a career, 4.9 per year) in that amount of time. Imagine playing for 15 years and being worth 5 wins a year! That’s insane!
Here’s our tier rankings:
Can I emphasize enough on how Lloyd Waner doesn’t deserve induction? He has the second lowest WAR+ of any player, and the lowest we’ll get to in the right fielder’s list. Probably got in because of his brother Paul Waner who does deserve election.
Really not much to say about this one. Mays, Speaker and Cobb are definitely the greatest CF of all time, and probably end up skewing the average a little higher than it should be. What hurts a guy like Kirby Puckett is that his career got cut short due to his injury, and he was definitely on track for a Mid Tier career I think, so I’m OK with him being inducted. Other than that, not a lot to mention with this list. Everyone falls in nicely, and pretty much where you would expect them to.
Pre-2013: Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams are both on the ballot. They get scores of 61 (Bernie) and 69 (Murph) repectively. Can’t say that I endorse either of them very much, and no one else really should, right?
2013: Kenny Lofton becomes eligible. He’s a borderline candidate (86 WAR+), and tough to say. I’d probably go “No” for him because that’s just a little too low for me. But, when it comes to guys in the 80s I tend to be firmly against, just because I think too many of them water down the hall of fame too much. If they are just about 90 I probably would be OK with it (that’s within 10% of average HoFer don’t forget), and 86 is just a little too far south for me to feel strongly about him.
2014 and 2015: Blah
2016: Here we have a pair of CF who are considered strongly to be candidates for the Hall of Fame. That’s right, I’m talking about the immortal Gary Mathews and even more immortal Randy Winn.
OK, of course I mean Griffey and Edmonds. Griffey, considered the most automatic no doubt of the two, has a WAR+ of 103 IF you don’t look at his last few years, and 83 if you do. He hung on way too long, but if there’s that big of difference, I think you would have to recognize him as a HoFer. And for Jimmy, he has a WAR+ of either 97 or 86 if you treat him like Griffey. It’s a tricky thing to think about. I’d honestly would have no trouble voting for either of them because for a long time they were the best CF in the game, and for a long time too.
I think with the “D” ranks you have to get subjective. That’s where you either say “He had a span of greatness and then just hung around for a while, and that span of greatness was phenomenal baseball, so I vote for him.” OR you say “He played a long time, but he was merely a good player for that time and might have accrued good career numbers, but not really a great player.” For me, that means looking at a career and saying “Did they have a stretch of 6+ WAR seasons for more than 6 or 7 years?” And, with Griffey and Edmonds definitely did. So again, I’m putting them in my personal Hall of Fame, and the writers definitely will put Griffey in, and maybe Jimmy (though they definitely should). And to revisit Lofton from earlier, he did not do such a thing. When I’m all done with this, I’ll probably go back over my D tier and see if I find any like that and reassess my rankings. Maybe call it a “C-” tier or something.
Among active players, there aren’t many that have the playing time to be looked at. The only one I want to look at is Andruw Jones, who completed the “Holy Trinity” of CF of the mid 90s to mid 2000s, along with Griff and Edmonds. Jones was definitely the best defender of the bunch, and was no slouch with the bat. He gets a 93 WAR+, so definitely worthy of induction, especially if Griffey AND Edmonds get in. They were the best CF for 10 or so years, so I do have some hope.
Up next is the second to last position player tier with the Right Fielders. And yes, Babe Ruth got the highest WAR+ value of all time, as he rightfully should being the greatest damn ballplayer ever. After the RF we will take a pause to look at a more contemporary and derided position of designated hitters. Yes, I think they should be in the Hall of Fame and yes I will discuss it more then. After them comes the pitchers, who are the largest class of inductees.