Admittedly, the Baseball Hall of Fame is supposed to be home to the greatest players of all time, but what about the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame?
The process of voting players into Cooperstown has become a little complicated in recent years, largely because of the steroids era. Elite players connected to steroids have been left out while borderline players have been put in, arguably putting them among the worst MLB Hall of Famers.
10 best MLB Players not in the Hall of Fame
It’s gotten to the point where putting together a list of the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame is a little different from players who should be in the Hall of Fame.
For example, Alex Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame chances of Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame case are complicated because of PEDs. Perhaps neither should be in the Hall of Fame, but there is no denying that they are among the best players to be left out of Cooperstown.
As we said, this is getting more complicated every year. But here is our list of the 10 best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame.
10. Keith Hernandez
If only voters paid more attention to defense, Keith Hernandez would be in Cooperstown rather than among the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame.
He revolutionized the game with the way he played defense in addition to winning 11 consecutive Gold Gloves. While he was only a five-time all-star, Hernandez did win MVP honors in 1979 and finished his career with over 2,100 hits and a .296 average. Considering his defensive prowess, those offensive numbers should be more than enough to put Hernandez in Cooperstown.
9. Steve Garvey
Not only is Steve Garvey not in the Hall of Fame but he never got more than 42% of the vote. That’s a terrible injustice for a player who was a 10-time all-star and won MVP in 1974. Garvey’s career totals of 272 home runs and a .294 batting average don’t scream Hall of Fame.
But the guy was a productive player for nearly two decades and also won four Gold Gloves, playing both sides of the ball and earning better than what he got.
8. Don Mattingly
With over 2,100 career hits and an average of .307 over 14 seasons, it’s a shame Don Mattingly isn’t in the Hall of Fame. On top of his prowess as a hitter, including the 1984 batting title and three Silver Slugger awards, Mattingly won nine Gold Gloves.
During the six straight seasons that he was an all-star, Mattingly was one of the elite first basemen in the game and won MVP honors in 1985, making it a crime that he was ignored so much by Hall of Fame voters.
7. Shoeless Joe Jackson
The infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson might have been an easy pick for the Hall of Fame if he wasn’t banned for his connection to the Black Sox scandal.
He once hit .408 during a season and ended his career with an average of .356, which is one of the best all-time batting averages in big league history. Despite the controversy, he’s one of the best pure hitters of all time and one of the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame.
6. Dick Allen
The late Dick Allen has come close to getting into the Hall of Fame but has fallen short despite being one of the best hitters in the majors during the 1960s and 70s. He won Rookie of the Year in 1964 and MVP honors in 1972 while also being a seven-time all-star.
Granted, he’s not a slam-dunk for the Hall of Fame, but his career average of .292 and 351 career home runs give him a decent case.
5. John Donaldson
Multiple committees have given Josh Donaldson consideration, but he’s yet to earn a posthumous ticket to Cooperstown. The problem is that he pitched in the Negro Leagues during the first half of the 20th century, so not enough people got a chance to see him play.
But if you look at the records that existed back then, Donaldson had over 400 wins and 5,000 strikeouts and threw 14 no-hitters. Unfortunately, Donaldson never got a chance to pitch in the majors, so we’ll never know if he could have dominated at that level, helping to keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
4. Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame chances would be good if not for his connection to steroids. During his first year on the ballot, A-Rod received just 34% of the vote, which doesn’t bode well for his chances, even though he did pay for his crimes with a full-season suspension.
Even with three MVP awards, two Gold Gloves, 10 Silver Sluggers, and 14 all-star appearances on his resume, voters aren’t likely to cut A-Rod much slack. To his credit, he has been forthright in admitting his steroid use, but that isn’t likely to get him much forgiveness from Hall of Fame voters. Yet, his 3,115 hits and 696 home runs make him one of the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame.
3. Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens is surely the best pitcher who isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He has 354 career wins, over 4,600 career strikeouts, and a career ERA of 3.12, not to mention seven Cy Young awards on his mantle. He won the pitching Triple Crown twice and even took home MVP honors in 1986.
On two separate occasions, Clemens tied the MLB record for 20 strikeouts in one game. Alas, Clemens has heavy ties to steroids, which has kept him out of the Hall of Fame. In his final year of eligibility, Clemens only managed to receive 65% of the vote, which means he’s destined to remain the best pitcher of all time who’s not in the Hall of Fame.
2. Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds was on the ballot 10 times but only got as high as 66%. It seems that his connection to steroids was too strong for 75% of the voters to ignore. The funny thing about Barry Bonds’ Hall of Fame case is that he probably would have been a Hall of Famer if he had never used PEDs and become the all-time career and single-season home run leader.
He won MVP honors seven times, including three times early in his career with the Pirates before there was any link between him and PEDs. Bonds was also an eight-time Gold Glove winner, including several early in his career, and a 14-time all-star. If he had just kept playing without the help of steroids, Bonds wouldn’t be a controversial figure and he would undoubtedly have a place in Cooperstown.
1. Pete Rose
He’s not one of the best MLB players not in the Hall of Fame, Pete Rose is unequivocally the best player who doesn’t have a place in Cooperstown.
He’s the all-time MLB leader in games played, at-bats, and most importantly hits with 4,256. He was a career .303 hitter who won three batting titles, two Gold Gloves, one MVP, and was named an all-star 17 times. His prolific career spanned more than two decades and also included three World Series victories.
However, Rose also bet on baseball, including games in which he was either a player or a manager, earning him a lifetime ban. It’s possible that one day that suspension will be overturned, but until that happens, Rose will be the best player not in the Hall of Fame.