JAWS and the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot: The All-Overlooked Team

Thurman Munson, Keith Hernandez and Bobby Grich are among the best players at their positions who are not yet enshrined in Cooperstown.
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NOTE: This story is a revised version of an article first published by SI.com on Jan. 3, 2014.

Once upon a time, during Hall of Fame election season I would revisit an idea inspired by Bill James, identifying the top players at each position who remain outside Cooperstown. The concept is a nod to James’ systematic Keltner Test, named for former Indians third baseman Ken Keltner, a seven-time All-Star best known for his defensive work in helping to end Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak in 1941. James’ test is a set of 15 questions that can be used to frame a player’s case for a plaque. One of the most important (emphasis in original) is: “Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame but not in?”

The answers to those questions form what I refer to as the Keltner All-Stars, the best player outside the Hall at each position.

The ballot backlog of the past few years has kept several of those answers unchanged; Jeff Bagwell (first base), Barry Bonds (leftfield), Roger Clemens (starting pitcher) and Larry Walker (rightfield) are all tops at their positions, now joined by ballot newcomer Ivan Rodriguez (catcher). Given that I’ve said my piece about those already this Hall season, it’s worth revisiting a piece I wrote a few years ago to highlight the best eligible player—those retired for at least five years, and not banned for life—at each position who is not on the current ballot, and thus likely to remain in limbo for at least a few more years.