Tuesday November 25th, 2014

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2015 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to this year's ballot, please see here. For an introduction to JAWS, see here.

They can't all be Hall of Famers, and thanks to a considerable backlog, the majority of the 17 newcomers on this year's ballot are likely to be one-and-done. Given my Ripken-like streak of not letting a candidate pass without comment since I began this endeavor at Baseball Prospectus in 2004, it's worth at least a brief valedictory for those whose stays on the ballot are likely to be short. These players had impressive, eventful careers that deserve one more round of recognition.

In my previous article, I shone the spotlight on four pitchers in that category; here I turn my attention to half a dozen position players who fit the bill.

player career peak jaws h hr sb avg/obp/slg OPS+
Tony Clark 12.5 15.8 14.2 1,188 251 6 .262/.339/.485 112
Avg. HOF 1B 65.9 42.4 54.2          
Rich Aurilia 18.1 16.7 17.4 1,576 186 23 .275/.328/.433 99
Avg. HOF SS 66.7 42.8 54.7          
Aaron Boone 13.5 15.2 14.3 1,017 126 107 .263/.326/.425 94
Avg. HOF 3B 67.4 42.7 55          
Cliff Floyd 25.9 25 25.4 1,479 233 148 .278/.358/.482 119
Avg. HOF LF 65.1 41.5 53.3          
Darin Erstad 32.3 28.7 30.5 1,697 124 179 .282/.336/.407 93
Avg. HOF CF 70.4 44.1 57.2          
Jermaine Dye 20.3 23.2 21.7 1,779 325 46 .274/.338/.488 111
Avg. HOF RF 73.2 42.9 58.1          

Tony Clark

The 6-foot-8 Clark was better known as a basketball player in high school. Recruited by several major college programs, he chose the University of Arizona, but his hoops career was sidetracked by a herniated disc two weeks into his freshman season. After surgery, recovery and a transfer to San Diego State, he devoted his attention to baseball, and showed so much promise that he was taken by the Tigers with the second pick of the 1990 draft, following Chipper Jones at number one.

JAWS and the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot: Introduction to JAWS

Slowed by further back woes that cost him the 1991 season, Clark didn't reach the majors until late 1995. He went on to hit .277/.354/.509 for a 120 OPS+, bopping 124 home runs for the Tigers over his first four full seasons (1996-99), though his annual totals didn't even dent the American League's top 10 in that homer-saturated era. He earned All-Star honors in 2001, but his back problems resurfaced, cutting into his power and his playing time as he approached free agency.

Clark began bouncing around the majors as a part-timer, with single seasons for the Red Sox, Mets and Yankees from 2002 to '04 before a re-emergence with the Diamondbacks. In 2005 his first year in Arizona, he put up monster numbers in a part-time role (.304/.366/.636 with 30 homers in 393 PA), and aside from a half-season detour to the Padres in 2008, spent the remainder of his career with the Snakes.

Active in the Major League Baseball Players Association as a player representative during his career, Clark joined the union staff as director of player relations in 2010 and took on a greater role when union head Michael Weiner was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2012. Promoted to deputy director in 2013, he was appointed as executive director last December, in the wake of Weiner's death. Upon his confirmation, he became the first former player in that capcaity.

Rich Aurilia

A Brooklyn native and a product of St. John's University in Queens, Aurilia spent 15 years in the majors, 12 of them with the Giants, six of them as their starting shortstop. During that last stretch (1998-2003), he helped San Francisco to three postseason appearances, including its 2002 pennant; he hit six home runs during that year's October run, two apiece in the Division Series, NLCS and World Series, which the Giants lost in seven games to the Angels.

JAWS and the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot: Burning questions

Beyond those October highlights, Aurilia's 2001 performance (.324/.369/.572 with 37 homers and an NL-best 206 hits) towers above the rest of his career. In addition to representing the year of his only Silver Slugger award, All-Star berth and down-ballot MVP votes, his 6.7 WAR ranked seventh among National League position players and marked the only time he ever exceeded 2.4 WAR. Alas, he produced just 3.5 WAR over the remaining eight years of his career, passing through the hands of the Mariners, Padres and Reds before returning to the Giants and finishing his career with three more seasons in San Francisco, the last in 2009.

Aaron Boone

Most players are lucky to carve a single niche in baseball history. Boone carved several. He's one of seven third-generation major leaguers, the grandson of All-Star third baseman Ray Boone and son of former manager and all-time catching games record holder Bob Boone; additionally, he's the brother of contemporary slugger Bret Boone. He's one of eight players to play for a team while his father was the manager, having done so for parts of three seasons (2001-03) with the Reds. But wait, there's more...

After spending parts of seven seasons in Cincinnati and earning All-Star honors for the only time in his career in 2003, Boone was traded to the Yankees that July 31 for two players and cash. In addition to providing an upgrade at the hot corner and finishing his season with a career-high 4.1 WAR, he gave New York one of the signature moments in its franchise history: an unforgettable pennant-winning walkoff home run against Boston's Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of the epic ALCS Game 7:

Set to be the Yankees' starting third baseman in 2004, Boone tore his ACL playing pickup basketball in mid-January, a loss that led the team to trade for Alex Rodriguez, picking up a whole lot of headaches for their trouble. After missing all of 2004, he knocked around the majors for four teams with diminishing returns over the next five seasons, highlighted by his brief but stirring comeback from an aortic valve replacement in 2009, his last year in the majors.

Jermaine Dye

Drafted and developed by the Braves, Dye was a top prospect who homered in his first major league plate appearance — off the Reds' Marcus Moore on May 17, 1996 — but he squeezed in just one season in Atlanta's crowded outfield before being traded to Kansas City. Though it took him a few years to control a strike zone that Baseball Prospectus estimated as "wider than the Mississippi," Dye hit 60 homers combined for the Royals in 1999-2000, batting .321/.390/.561 and making the All-Star team for the first time in the second of those two seasons.

As a pending free agent, he escaped the baseball purgatory that was Kansas City in mid-2001 via a three-way trade involving the Rockies and Athletics. He helped the latter to 102 wins and a wild-card berth, but he suffered a broken tibia when he fouled a ball off his knee during the Division Series against the Yankees.

Dye stuck around Oakland via a three-year, $32 million deal, but the fracture cut into his 2002 season, and he struggled to stay healthy during his green-and-gold tenure. He had better luck on a two-year deal with the White Sox, hitting 31 homers in his first year and earning 2005 World Series MVP honors while batting .438/.526/.688 during Chicago's four-game sweep of the Astros. In '06, he bashed 44 homers and hit a sizzling .315/.385/.622; his home run total ranked second in the AL, his slugging percentage third and his 4.6 WAR was 0.1 off his career high. In addition to another All-Star appearance, he finished fifth in the AL MVP voting.

Dye hit a combined .267/.334/.496 with 89 homers over the next three seasons, but wretched defense (-48 Defensive Runs Saved) undercut his value, and the White Sox declined his $12 million option for 2010. He passed up less lucrative offers in each of the ensuing two offseasons before officially retiring.

Darin Erstad

A punter for the University of Nebraska football team that won the 1994 national championship, the Angels made Erstad the number one pick in the 1995 draft. He reached the majors the following year, earned All-Star honors in 1998 and after a down season in 1999, posted monster numbers in 2000, the majors' highest-scoring season since 1936. Erstad hit .355/.409/.541 with 25 homers and a 137 OPS+ that year; his batting average ranked second in the AL, as did his 8.2 WAR, and his 240 hits matched Wade Boggs' 1985 total as the highest in the majors since 1930. Additionally, he made the All-Star team for the second time and won the first of three Gold Gloves.

Not only did Erstad never approach those numbers again, but he also never again managed a season with even a 100 OPS+ (league average). Off-the-charts defense in centerfield (+39 runs via Total Zone, though just +18 via Ultimate Zone Rating) pushed him to 6.4 WAR in 2002, and he helped Anaheim to its first world championship, a seven-game triumph over the Giants in which he caught Kenny Lofton's fly ball for the final out. Alas, over seven more seasons for the Angels, White Sox and Astros, he was beset by hamstring and foot injuries that sent him to the disabled list for a total of 333 days, and was worth a combined 5.5 WAR in that span.

Cliff Floyd

Had he ever stayed healthy for an extended stretch, there's no telling what Floyd might have accomplished in the major leagues. As it was, a cruel litany of wrist, knee, hamstring, foot and shoulder injuries sent him to the disabled list a total of 13 times while limiting him to just four seasons of more than 121 games, only once (2001 and '02) in back-to-back seasons. In those four years, he averaged 29 homers, 18 steals and 4.6 WAR while batting .290/.368/.524. The man could play.

A first-round draft pick by the Expos out of high school in 1991, Floyd came up with Montreal at a time when the team was a veritable outfielder factory. The presence of Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom and Larry Walker pushed Floyd to first base, where he was the regular on the Expos' 1994 juggernaut whose chance at glory was wiped out by the players' strike.

Alas, Floyd lost most of his follow-up season due to a severe fracture and dislocation of his left wrist in a collision at first base, and struggled to regain his stroke. He was traded to the Marlins in the spring of 1997, but his season was wrecked by a hamstring injury that limited him to a reserve role during their world championship run. Floyd finally broke out in 1998, hitting 22 homers and swiping 27 bags. That kicked off a four-year stretch over which he would bat .300/.369/.527 for a 133 OPS+, yet play in just 492 games.

Off to a particularly torrid start in 2002, Floyd was traded back to Montreal — surprise contenders despite being considered for contraction — as part of an eight-player blockbuster that sent Carl Pavano to Florida. The Expos faded, however, and less than three weeks later, Floyd was flipped to Boston, where he capped off a strong season that helped him garner a four-year, $26 million free agent deal from the Mets.

Floyd continued to hit -- he putting up a .268/.354/.478, 113 OPS+ for New York -- but he also continued to battle his body, with Achilles tendinitis and a bone spur in his heel hampering him in the 2006 postseason, where the Mets lost a seven-game NLCS to the Cardinals that ended Floyd's time in Queens. He served as an elder statesman/role player for two more playoff-bound teams, the 2007 Cubs and 2008 Rays, but a torn labrum cost him most of 2009 with the Padres and led him to retire.

With that, the short stories from this year's ballot are over. I'll proceed to the first of my 24 single-candidate profiles, starting with Craig Biggio on Thursday.

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