>With the famed NABCL now in its 13th season, enough balls have passed through the infield that we can start to consider those rare few who might merit inclusion in the NABCL Hall of Fame. The busy WIS drones will eventually get around to automating an HBD HOF feature, but why wait to start the debate?
To determine our likely HOF candidates and their disposition, we looked at the records of every NABCL MVP, Cy Young winner, ROY, Fireman of the Year, Silver Slugger and All Star. We also scoured every record worth considering, career, team and single season. After compiling a representative sample of data, we started drawing some boundaries. To whit, we established reasonable minimums for ABs (2500) and IPs (1,000 for starters and 300 for relievers) and some pseudo-standards for awards, records and other personal accomplishments. We gave some consideration for the early pioneers who joined the league in their absolute prime but couldn’t stay around long and we developed a logarithm to forecast results for guys still in their prime.
When the dust settled, we looked at 48 HOF candidates and divided them into these categories:
Inaugural Class (5)
The Best of the Best. The NABCL version of Cobb, Johnson, Mathewson, Ruth and Wagner. Some are still playing and may further enhance their legacy but they are all true no-brainer additions to the Hall.
First Ballot (2)
One retired guy and one current who have had great careers but not quite good enough to make it on the NABCL Mt. Rushmore.
Second Ballot or Later (5)
Active or retired players with very strong records, but just not so compelling that they would automatically make it on the first ballot. The active guys are far enough along to know that their career merits the Hall, even if they seriously screw thing up for the rest of their careers.
Tracking for First Ballot (11)
Active players whose body of work so far strongly suggests that they will make it to the Hall on their first try. Of course, they could still mess things up, but the signs are all positive right now.
Tracking for Second Ballot or Later (11)
Active players who seem well on their way to great careers, but not so great that they are guaranteed a short wait for the HOF invite.
Not Long Enough (1)
A retired player who had good numbers but who finished too early and lacks the compelling achievements to make up for the early exit.
Not Good Enough (9)
Active or retired players who are/were very good, but not so much so that they qualify for the ultimate honor that is Hall of Fame induction. Better hold out hope for a sympathetic Veterans’ Committee.
Active or retired guys who are riding the line between just good enough and not quite. Herein lie those who will wait actually by their virtual phones, hoping beyond hope that this is their year. The stuff of great debate can be found here.
We’ll post these players category by category over the next few weeks, beginning with those great men who have claimed their place in the pantheon of NABCL heroes.
The Inaugural Five
The initial class of the Baseball Hall of Fame included Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner. The first group of NABCL players to enter the hallowed Hall must be similarly legendary in their achievements. We think any reasonable assessment would result in these NABCL stalwarts being the first to have their visages cast in bronze and framed for all to gaze upon and admire.
Lenny Singleton, SP, age 37, ML Seasons 1 through now
240 W and 97 losses, 2.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .223 OAV, 3141 Ks, 756 BB
Love him or hate him, there is no denying that Lenny Singleton has been the best pitcher in NABCL history and possibly the best across HBD. A six-time CY Young winner (despite some ugly prejudice against him) and nine time All Star, the Pride of Sandusky Ohio should be an unanimous choice as the first inductee to the NABCL HOF. With a career ERA of 2.50, an OAV of .223 and an insane WHIP of 1.06, it is obvious why he remains a threat to reach 300 wins. Digging deeper into the stats, he already has over 3,000 Ks, averaging just under 1 per IP and his K/BB ratio is an impressive 4.15 to 1. The only hole in the Singleton resume: no World Series ring, but through no fault of his own as his post season numbers in 15 games are better than his regular season stats (1.40 ERA, .196 OAV and .93 WHIP). Simply put, Lenny is the standard by which all others are measured.
Albert Boone, SP, age 41, ML Seasons 1 through now
226 W and 112 losses, 3.37 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .239 OAV, 2783 Ks, 1151 BB
A longtime stalwart of the Tacoma/Sacramento and now LA franchise, Albert Boone is a nine-time All Star and a fine hitting pitcher to boot. While he has never brought home a Cy Young award – how could he with Singleton around the entire time? — he does have a NABCL World Championship to his credit and he is a longtime and consistent winner in the league, having never won less than 14 games in a season. Boone has also been incredibly durable; he’s never pitched less than 246 innings in a season and he had a stretch of three seasons in a row of 300+ IPs. Blessed with a hard sinker, Albert has been a strong strikeout pitcher as well, with eight seasons of 200+ Ks, and he might still join Singleton as the only pitchers in NABCL history with 3000 punchouts. Boone is a model of pitching excellence, consistency and longevity.
Felipe Matos, SP, age 41, ML Seasons 1 through now
202 W and 97 losses, 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .244 OAV, 2230 Ks, 840 BB
Even at 41, Felipe Matos remains an effective number 1 starter for the two-time defending NABCL Fargo Roughriders. A bit of a slow starter in his early career, Felipe bounced around the league a bit before reaching his first of seven All Star games as a member of the Pawtucket Patriots, but he only recently reached a level of mastery that allowed him to secure back to back Cy Young awards. While his numbers aren’t as spectacular as his contemporary Lenny Singleton, his stats are top notch in all aspects, including an impressive .667 winning percentage. Critics may scoff at an inflationary lift from pitching with the support of the mighty Fargo bats behind him, but Matos spent more seasons pitching for non-contenders than juggernauts. Who knows how long Felipe can keep aging like fine wine, but his numbers to date are enough to put him in the Hall.
Ricardo Johnson, 1B, age 34, ML Seasons 2 through now
.306 BA, .410 OBP, .618 SLG, 1.028 OPS, 625 HRs, 1643 RBIs, 1387 Runs, 2110 hits
The youngest of the initial five members of our Hall, Johnson’s accomplishments to date leave no doubt that he could be hit by a virtual truck tomorrow and still have the credentials to get in the door and then some. A three-time AL MVP and fixture for the former LA Robins and now Arizona Arithmetics franchise, Ricardo made his mark early as season two Rookie of the Year and he’s never slowed down since. A vicious slugger, he has never had less than 48 homers in a season and he has twice hit 67 (along with 150 RBIs both seasons). Moreover, Johnson has never had less than 104 runs and 129 RBIs in a season (with career highs of 143 and 182, respectively). He’s also been a seven time All Star and a six time recipient of the Silver Slugger award. His post season numbers are equally impressive and he twice led the Robins to World Series championships. At only 34 years of age and showing no signs of slowing down, who knows how deeply Ricardo will chisel his name into the NABCL record books before he is done?
Gerald Stull, LF, age 38, ML Seasons 1 through 9
.343 BA, .419 OBP, .602 SLG, 1.021 OPS, 221 HRs, 804 RBIs, 759 Runs, 1,385 hits
Stull’s relatively brief stay in the NABCL and his rapid decline toward the end of his career were almost enough to get him excluded from HOF consideration. But a closer examination of his storied career not only impresses, it all but demands entry into the Hall as part of its inaugural class. He was the AL MVP for the first three seasons of the league, leading the storied Fargo franchise to three league championships and two world series wins. During that span, he was also a three-time All Star and Silver Slugger recipient. Stull still retains the NABCL record for highest career batting average and his second season was perhaps the most dominant in NABCL history (.396 BA, .502 OPB and 1.319 OPS – all records by far). Gerald was an above average fielder as well, spending most of his career in left before his deteriorating skills forced a move to 1B and DH. All in all, he was among the most feared hitters to ever play the virtual game. While no place for true one-hit wonders, the Hall of Fame gladly opens its doors for a true star who shined bright and burned fast.
Not Long Enough
The nature of the NABCL beast – with some fine players in season 1 already closer to the end of their careers than the beginning – means that we never got to see the full impact of these players. In some cases, these initial stars shined so brightly that their achievements make up for their relatively brief tenures. But in some unfortunate cases, very good for not very long simply isn’t good enough nor long enough to merit inclusion to the Hall of Fame.
Christin Cook, LF, age 38, ML Seasons 1 through 9
.324 BA, .425 OBP, .480 SLG, .905 OPS, 89 HRs, 499 RBIs, 917 Runs, 1402 hits
Cook was a very good hitter with a great eye and blazing speed for the original Little Rock franchise (now El Paso) and for Kansas City where he won two championship rings in seasons 3 and 4. He was also a four-time All Star and winner of the Silver Slugger award, splitting his time between second base and center field. Even more impressively, he also has top five career numbers in Batting Average and On-Base Percentage. So why is Cook on the outside looking in when a similarly tenured Gerald Stull makes the grade? First, hardware. Where Stull was a two-time MVP, Cook was never near the best in the league, probably because, as good a hitter as he was, Christin never had the power numbers that propel an All-Star to MVP status. Over nine ML seasons, he averaged less than 10 homers and only about 55 RBIs. Second, potential, or, better stated, failure to reach potential. Cook was a top speedster and an OBP machine, but he never managed more than 48 steals in a season and he was caught stealing 40% of the time. He also had good glove and range ratings, but his actual stats suggest he was more of a defensive liability. Yes, Cook was a very good hitter, but as good as he was, he failed to reach his considerable potential and he lacked either the major impact or extended tenure of excellence that would have gained him a seat in the Hall.
After the inaugural class is seated in the Hall of Fame, attention turns to the next group of NABCL whose exploits and talents were such that they are certain to receive the necessary votes to waltz right in and take their place with their esteemed colleagues. To date, there are two players – one retired, one just past the prime of his career – who have done more than enough to ensure a quick and uncontroversial enshrinement. Doubtless there are more to come who will make the Hall on the first ballot, but most still have a few achievements to add to their resume or perhaps a minor flaw or two to fix. But these two champions have the record and the stature to get into the HOF right away.
Otis Pavlov, 3B, age 33, ML Seasons 1 through now
.293 BA, .359 OBP, .579 SLG, .938 OPS, 498 HRs, 1494 RBIs, 1359 Runs, 2060 hits
At first glance, the skeptic might wonder if the BA and OBP are good enough for the first ballot, and, true, there are several other players with impressive hitting and on-base rates. But this nine-time All Star, two-time MVP and former world champion with the Sacramento franchise (nee Tacoma, now LA) has been a model of consistent excellence throughout his career. In 12 full seasons in the majors, Pavlov has averaged 41 HRs, 113 runs, 135 RBIs and 25 SBs per season and throughout he has maintained better than average fielding skills, with a Gold Glove to his credit. He is also a fine base runner and, for a power hitter, he is well disciplined, exceeding 100 whiffs only once in a season and averaging just 81 Ks per season. While he has slowed a bit of late and was allowed to leave as a free agent by new LA ownership, Pavlov has several more productive years ahead of him and will undoubtedly continue to build on his already sterling credentials.
Paul Yoshii, C, age 38, ML Seasons 1 through 12
.310 BA, .391 OBP, .538 SLG, .929 OPS, 341 HRs, 1112 RBIs, 1005 Runs, 1827 hits
In the MLB, catchers get lots of love when post season awards are handed out and HOF ballots are filled – backstops who can hit, catch their position well and call a good game are few and far between – and things are no different here in the NABCL. There have been a few very good catchers since season 1 (e.g., Brandon Nixon, James Hujimoto, Randy Carpenter, Placido Blanco), but Paul Yoshii is the only catcher in NABCL history to be named as a league MVP and he is fittingly the first to enter the Hall of Fame. In addition to his MVP honor, Yoshii is a world champion (with the Jackals in season 8) and a five-time All Star and a four-time recipient of the Silver Slugger award. He was also a very consistent slugger who could hit for average and power, with 1000+ in Runs and RBIs (the only NABCL catcher to reach that combined milestone). Time will tell if Yoshii goes down as the greatest catcher in NABCL history, but he is certainly the first great catcher, a league pioneer and a Hall of Famer.
Second Ballot or Later
The next group of NABCL players all belong in the Hall of Fame – of that, there is little doubt. The question is how long will it take for them to amass the necessary votes to get through the door. Each of these players excelled and most maintained that excellence for a significant duration (though there are exceptions). But unlike the Inaugural Class and the First Ballot players, these athletes just come up a bit short in one aspect or another that would otherwise have made them first ballot material. Some lacked the personal awards that might have sealed the deal. Other lack the team accomplishments, the championships that allow players to jump to the front of the line. Still others may have been a bit one- or two-dimensional and lacked the overall numbers that put candidates over the top. Whatever these imperfections, these players are all still going to the Hall. They just may need to wait a bit longer and endure a little more aggravation getting there.
Randy Carpenter, C, age 37, ML Seasons 1 through 10
.337 BA, .407 OBP, .529 SLG, .936 OPS, 181 HRs, 804 RBIs, 754 Runs, 1504 hits
If there is a player on this list who may feel a bit screwed over for not getting into the Hall on the first ballot, it’s Randy Carpenter. The resume is truly impressive: six-time All Star, three Gold Gloves, three Silver Slugger awards, and the 4th highest single season and career batting averages for any NABCL player. All in all, not too shabby. So what’s missing? A few things: no MVPs and no championship rings (he had one shot with the Screwballs in season two when he hit for a 1.203 OPS in the post-season but lost nonetheless). Moreover, Randy had a relatively short run of good seasons; he was great in legs one through six, but once the Scranton ownership waived him in season seven, it was a quick drop to the bottom. And despite being a great hitter, Carpenter’s relatively short run left him shy of some key milestones that get guys noticed: no 1,000 runs, no 1,000 RBIs. Plus, Randy wasn’t much of a power hitter as he only averaged 18 dingers a season over his career, well short of comparable hitters of similar tenure. Yes, Carpenter was one of the premier catchers in the NABCL, but without the MVPs and rings, he won’t make it to the Hall on the first ballot.
Happy “The Fritter” Henley, RF, age 39, ML Seasons 1 through 9
.298 BA, .367 OBP, .566 SLG, .933 OPS, 301 HRs, 997 RBIs, 745 Runs, 1309 hits
Gentlemen, may we present for your Hall of Fame consideration, The Fritter? Surely in the long and illustrious history of the NABCL, there is no player more loved, more revered, more feted in word and song, than this two-time MVP, world champion and Gold Glover, and four-time All Star and Silver Slugger winner. An athletic marvel at a less than streamlined 5’ 9” and 241 lbs, Henley began his career as a hitting terror, first with Helena and then with Ottawa, where he destroyed pitching to the tune of a 1.138 OPS and picked up a fondness for Tim Horton’s pastries (and a nickname). He joined Kansas City the next season as a free agent and promptly led the Kangaroos not once but twice to the NABCL promised land. But like Gerald Stull, to whom he is oft compared, Happy was not able to maintain his excellence for very long, and by season seven, he was no longer an elite slugger in the league. This short run, combined with very good but not great career BA and OBP numbers, leaves him off the first ballot. Still, there is no doubt that the Fritter is a Hall of Famer, both in the NABCL and with the sugar and flour based confection eaters of the world.
Jim Wells, SP/RP, age 40, ML Seasons 1 through now
141 W and 63 L, 25 S, 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP .242 OAV, 1206 Ks, 379 BB
Assessing Jim Wells as a potential HOFer is fraught with challenges. Wells was never blessed with a starter’s stamina and durability numbers, and for that reason, he’s bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation throughout his career. His first two seasons were largely undistinguished, spending most of his Colorado Springs tenure in non-marquee roles. But once Wells was traded to the storied LA franchise, he quickly established himself as a top of the rotation starter, winning Cy Young Award in seasons 5, 7 and 8 and leading the Disasters to world titles in two of those seasons. It was here that he cemented his reputation as a big game pitcher, amassing a 10-5 record in the post-season and with such impressive stats as a .212 OAV, .97 WHIP and a 2.37 ERA. But his run as a starter only lasted seven season, as LA management returned him to the pen before allowing him to leave as a free agent before the start of season 11. He moved further west to Honolulu where he had a stellar relief season as a part-time closer. In recent years, Wells has languished in Memphis, performing ably while riding out the string and collecting checks while he can. Still, two rings, and three Cy Youngs can’t be ignored. Wells may need to wait awhile as other guys with bigger numbers go ahead of him, but there is no doubt that he will get his call to the Hall.
Craig Hooper, OF, age 36, ML Seasons 1 through 12
.277 BA, .345 OBP, .556 SLG, .901 OPS, 505 HRs, 1390 RBIs, 1224 Runs, 1905 hits
To be clear, Craig Hooper doesn’t make the Hall of Fame simply on the basis of his most notable accomplishment: the NABCL record for most home runs in a season (70 in season 5). Hooper was no one hit wonder: he was a four-time All Star, a Gold Glove outfielder and a two-time recipient of the Silver Slugger award. (And he was flat out robbed of an MVP in season 5 when voters inexplicably rallied to support Albert Piper despite Hoop’s monster season.) His career statistics suggest a generally consistent slugger who was an effective scorer and driver of runs; Craig averaged over 100 runs and about 115 RBIs per season. He also topped 500 home runs – barely – while averaging less than 65 Ks per season. Hoop only made it to the World Series once, performing well for the Screwballs throughout the season two playoffs, but he never got a ring. That hole in the resume, combined with some pedestrian batting average and OBP numbers and the lack of an MVP award, suggests that Craig will likely need to wait out a few annual ballots before finally getting the needed votes. But he is certainly a worthwhile member of the Hall.
Felipe Tarasco, 1B, age 36, ML Seasons 1 through now
.291 BA, .362 OBP, .610 SLG, .972 OPS, 503 HRs, 1276 RBIs, 1183 Runs, 1746 hits
Longtime Crawdad and current Colonial Felipe Tarasco is the next ballplayer who will eventually make his way into the Hall of Fame on the basis of what he has already achieved. The latest member of the 500 HR club, Tarasco has been a consistent slugger over 11 ML seasons, hitting no less than 41 dingers in a season over that tenure. Up to this season, he was tied with HOFer Ricardo Johnson for fourth on the career slugging list and he will likely maintain a .600+ SLG career number as his remaining years wind down. His BA and OBP numbers are respectable and, unlike many of his slugging peers, he had some wheels to go with the lumber, stealing 160+ bases through the years. He’s also been a five-time All Star and a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. The main blight on his record: no post-season experience in the Bigs, a hole that is hard to look past and one that will likely keep him waiting a while for the HOF call.