Luis Gonzalez is a Diamondbacks legend, having kick-started his career following a trade to Arizona. A huge 2001 season was one of the best seasons of the decade and helped propel the D-Backs to a World Series victory. His first five years in Arizona saw him earn four All-Star bids and receive MVP votes three times.
However, outside of that brief peak, he was a much more ordinary player. Will writers vote for a player with a nice peak, even if he wasn't great over the rest of his career?
Why he's a Hall of Famer
In all honesty, he's probably not. He had a few years in his 30s that saw him produce two or three truly great seasons, with a few good ones surrounding them.
In 2001, Gonzalez had an absolutely outstanding season. He played in every game, hitting .325/.429/.688 with 57 home runs and 142 RBI. In most other years, that's a Triple Crown year. In most other years, that's an MVP season. In 2001, he didn't lead the National League in any major hitting category other than plate appearances. In 2001, he did not win the NL MVP. He didn't even get second. Sammy Sosa got second, with a .328/.437/.737 line and 64 home runs with 160 RBI. Barry Bonds was even better, with a .328/.515/.863 batting line. That sort of looks like one of those weird OBP/SLG/OPS lines. It's not. Bonds OPS'd 1.379 that year.
Gonzalez was a big part of the Diamondbacks' World Series victory in 2001. He also posted a .900 OPS in three other seasons. He was an All-Star five times and a Silver Slugger once.
Perhaps his biggest attribute is the fact that he played in the steroid era, but has not had as many accusations of using performance enhancers as others from the time. The allegations are still there, but for such a fringe candidate the minimal suspicions may be a plus.
Why writers won't vote for him
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Other than that 2001 season, he never posted Hall of Fame numbers for an outfielder. For a shortstop or catcher, maybe. Even then, he would still be questionable. Over his career, Gonzalez posted an .845 OPS which, without phenomenal defense, is not a great number. It's good and would make him a valuable member of any team, but is not a mark that would get him in the Hall of Fame.
Prior to his age-30 season, Gonzalez hit .268/.342/.425 over eight years. In 1998, he hit for an .816 OPS after signing with the Tigers and topped 20 home runs for the first time in his career. He was traded to the Diamondbacks the following offseason for Karim Garcia.
His first five years with Arizona are what his entire Hall of Fame case is built on. Over those five years, he hit .314/.405/.564. Without the 2001 campaign, those numbers would still be excellent, but it's that one big season that is carrying him here.
Simply put, writers likely will not vote for a player with as brief of a prime as Gonzalez had. The rest of his career was too poor. Gonzalez may be lucky if he receives enough votes to stay on the ballot for another year, but then he will have to deal with a loaded group in 2015 that will threaten his candidacy once more.