The Bizarro Hall of Fame: The Class of 1996

April 23, 2012
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The Bizarro Hall of Fame was a series I ran on my old blog, One More Dying Quail, in 2007. It consists of players who appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot but did not receive any votes. Mike suggested I bring those old posts over to Bus Leagues. I liked the idea, so for the next few months, we’ll re-run a couple each week in addition to our regular content. For the most part, they will be unedited and un-updated, although I’ll make a few minor changes (removing mentions of YouTube videos, for example) from time to time as needed. Bob Knepper – Most Bizarro Hall of Famers from 1999 – 2007 (which were originally the first years in this series, as I started in 2007 and worked backwards) have some sort of claim to fame that put them on the Hall of Fame ballot in the first place: a top ten finish in major award voting, exceptional performance in the postseason, a stretch of four or five great years. I’m at a loss, however, to explain Knepper’s presence. Yes, he was a two-time All-Star and yes, he won 146 career games, but he also lost more games than he won and had a career ERA well above the league average. Not even close to Hall of Fame worthy (although looking through the last few classes, this seems to be a trend. For some reason, the committee that actually develops the ballot seems to have become more selective in recent years). Johnny Ray – Ray’s career started off on a promising note when he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting to Steve Sax in 1982, but he never progressed much beyond a solid everyday player for the rest of his career, winning one Silver Slugger award and being named to one All-Star team. Jeffrey Leonard – I will always think of Jeffrey Leonard as a power hitter, a notion he did little to dispel with his performance in the 1987 National League Championship Series (four homeruns in seven games to earn series MVP honors), but the stats don’t always support that line of thought. In his rookie season, for instance, Leonard finished second in the voting for NL Rookie of the Year; remarkably, he hit .290 with zero homeruns in 134 games. His power stroke didn’t come around until his last twenties, when he broke double digits by hitting twenty-one in back-to-back seasons, and peaked with a career-best 24 homeruns and 93 RBI in 1989, his second and final All-Star campaign. According to Baseball Library, he was known as Penitentiary Face, which definitely earns a spot on my greatest nicknames of all-time list from this point on. Claudell Washington – Washington was a two-time All-Star who had nearly 2,000 career hits and may or may not have been allergic to walks, but the most interesting thing about his seventeen years in the major leagues was the fact that of the five times he was traded, two were for the fathers of likely Hall of Famers who rose to prominence in the 1990s (got all that?). On May 16, 1978, the Texas Rangers sent him and Rusty Torres to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Bobby Bonds; eight years later, on June 30, 1986, the Braves and Yankees swapped Washington and Ken Griffey, Sr. as part of a four player deal.

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