Who is the best player to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot and not get a vote?

Bob Levey

Tony Womack? No. Try harder.

There's no mystery about the subject of this post, so we might as well dive in.

First, we should point out that this is going to be restricted to 1978 and after because of the way the Hall of Fame voting was structured. Here's how voting works now, from Wikipedia, which is never wrong:

Five years after retirement, any player with 10 years of major league experience who passes a screening committee (which removes from consideration players of clearly lesser qualification) is eligible to be elected by BBWAA members with 10 years' membership or more.

Before 1978, there was no such weeding out, so there weren't any zero-vote players; if a player was on a ballot, that meant he got a vote. In 1960, 134 players got a vote. General Crowder got a vote, as did Sibby Sisti, Bubbles Hargrave, and Van Mungo. Other players with normal, boring names also got votes.

With that out of the way, we'll restate the purpose of this: To find the best player who appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot, but didn't receive a single vote.

Another thing to point out: It's not that hard to get a vote. I mean, once you're good (or well-known) enough to get on a ballot. Bill Mueller got a vote, as did Danny Tartabull. Travis Fryman got two, and Dante Bichette got three. There's usually a writer around who will throw a favorite player a vote.

But for some reason, these players didn't even get that. They weren't just one-and-done; they were completely forgotten by the hundreds of Hall of Fame voters. The top five, as ranked by WAR:

5. Roy White
Career WAR (Baseball Reference): 43
All-Star appearances: two
Position: left field

Is there such a thing as an underrated Yankee? Yep. Here's the proof. White was a lifelong Yankee with a pretty good peak. He shouldn't have merited serious consideration for the Hall -- a theme that will come up again until the end of the list -- but he was good enough, and 15-year-Yankee enough, to merit at least one vote. He had an OPS+ above 120 in eight of the nine seasons from 1968 to 1976.

The things White did well weren't the sexiest -- running well, taking walks -- and he finished his career with just 160 home runs. When manager Bill Virdon took over the Yankees in 1974, he started platooning White, even though White had just turned 30. But for a player on the Yankees team that snapped that dreadful 13-year championship drought, it's surprising he didn't get at least a single vote from a writer who remembered him fondly.

4. Devon White
Career WAR: 44.2
All-Star appearances: three
Position: center field

And what a center field. He's of no relation to Roy White. In fact, Devon White's name is legally Devon Whyte now, which is what it was before it got futzed up in the paperwork when he immigrated from Jamaica.

The old-timers will take Willie Mays as the best defensive center fielder ever, unless there's a partisan for one of the DiMaggios. The new-timers might go with Andruw Jones, who was like electric butter out there in his 20s. White deserves at least an honorable mention, though, as one of the very best of his generation. He won seven Gold Gloves, but he could have (should have?) won several more.

His bat wasn't especially exciting though, residing in that good-for-his-position gray area that isn't going to get a lot of HOF love. His OPS+ was over 100 just five times in 17 seasons, and he received an MVP vote in just one season (1991).

A good present-day comp is Mike Cameron; let's see if he can garner a single vote in 2016.

3. Mark Langston
Career WAR: 47.1
All-Star appearances: four
Position: left-handed starter

He is the template for the electric-but-wild arm who suddenly straightens out -- the reason teams were interested in Jonathan Sanchez until last season. Langston was kind of a latter-day Nolan Ryan when he first came up, leading the league in strikeouts three out of his first four years, but walking more than 100 in each of those seasons.

The thing was, he was almost as effective when he was walking the league silly as when he wasn't. His career WAR is almost neatly split in half between Seattle (his really wild years) and California (his more reserved, mature years).

One of Langston's best seasons was 1989, when he had a 2.39 ERA following a trade to the Montreal Expos. That's good! He was traded for Randy Johnson. That's bad. Still, Langston had a better career than, say, Fernando Valenzuela, who stuck around for two ballots.

2. Frank Tanana
Career WAR: 52.7
All-Star appearances: three
Position: left-handed starter

Looks like the kiss of death is to be a) a player named "White" or b) a left-handed starter with the California Angels. Sorry about that, C.J.

Tanana peaked before he was 24, when he was one of the very best starters in baseball, but he hung around for years. His career WAR is more a function of his longevity than anything else. If I ordered this list using my subjective opinions, and not just Baseball Reference's WAR totals, I probably would have put Steve Rogers on the list instead, but Tanana is probably the most understandable of the no-vote players. More than a few of the voters probably never saw him at his peak. He was more like a Chris Capuano-type for the last decade of his career, and while valuable, that's not going to excite voters.

Something that might have excited voters: 240 wins. That's in the range of guys like Luis Tiant and Jerry Koosman, who each got a few votes, but still, Tanana was shut out. If he'd had his best years at the end of his career instead of the beginning -- like Dennis Martinez -- Tanana might have picked up a lone vote, at least.

1. Jimmy Wynn
Career WAR: 53.1
All-Star appearances: three
Position: center field

From the "50 best baseball players not in the Hall of Fame":

Jimmy Wynn played at the wrong time in the wrong stadium. Wynn posted a high OBP and a high isolated power for his career, but his batting average came in low in an era when most commentators saw that as a very important statistic. Wynn played for Houston, spending many years in the Astrodome, which reduced his power. A look at his splits shows him hitting 137 home runs in his home parks, 154 away. If you look at Wynn’s road stats during his 12 years as an everyday player, he compares favorably with Billy Williams, a Hall of Fame outfielder who played in a much better hitter’s park.

The Astrodome was the Petco or Safeco of its time -- a cavernous thing that sucked stats into its maw and never spit them back out. And after Wynn left Houston, he had one of his best seasons in Dodger Stadium, which also depressed the raw numbers. There are all sorts of outfielders with a lower career WAR in the Hall of Fame: Joe Medwick, Enos Slaughter, Kirby Puckett, Jim Rice, Lou Brock, and 15 others by my count. Which isn't an argument that Wynn should be in, of course. But not a single vote?

Fewer Hall of Fame votes than Danny Tartabull? Than Marquis Grissom? David Segui, Jay Bell, Jesse Orosco, Shawon Dunston, and Jay Buhner? Hal Morris, Jim Eisenreich, and Juan Samuel? Fewer than ...?

You get the idea. And in a way, it's perfect. Because before you took the HoF voting into account, Wynn had an argument as one of the most underrated players of all-time. After the HoF voting? He has a really, really strong case.

We already know that Kenny Lofton will get at least one vote this year, as will Sammy Sosa. So for now, the record is safe. Here's to Jimmy Wynn: the best player to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot without receiving a single vote.

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