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Hall of Fame honorable mentions: Position players

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These three Mets had excellent careers, but where do they rank among the all-time greats?

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In the 14th installment of our Hall of Fame series, we profile three position players whose careers probably don’t measure up to those of the others we profiled, but who nonetheless deserve honorable mentions. You can read any of the first 13 parts of the series at the links below.

Mike Piazza

Keith Hernandez

John Olerud

Carlos Delgado

Jeff Kent

Robin Ventura

Carlos Beltran

David Cone

John Franco

Billy Wagner

Gil Hodges

Davey Johnson

Frank Cashen

George Foster

The Mets acquired Foster from the Reds before the 1982 season. Although he wasn’t the MVP-caliber player he was in Cincinnati, Foster was at least somewhat productive in his four full seasons in New York. From 1982 to 1985, the left fielder hit .255/.309/.421 (103 wRC+), averaging 22 home runs, 81 RBIs, 66 runs scored, 22 doubles, and 1.2 fWAR per year. Foster had solid years for the winning 1984-1985 Mets teams, but was released less than three months before New York captured the World Series title in 1986.

The case for: In parts of 18 big league seasons, Foster hit an excellent .274/.338/.480 (126 wRC+), with 348 home runs, 1,239 RBIs, 1,925 hits, 986 runs scored, and 47.1 fWAR. During his seven-year peak, which lasted from 1975 to 1981, the left fielder was, by wRC+, the third-best hitter in baseball, compiling a .297/.369/.543 batting line (149 wRC+), and averaging 32 homers, 107 RBIs, 84 runs scored, 23 doubles, and 5.6 fWAR per year for the Reds. Foster won three pennants and two World Series titles with the Big Red Machine. He was also a five-time All-Star, a one-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a top-six finisher in MVP voting four times, and the 1977 National League MVP. Foster led his league in home runs twice, RBIs three times, and runs scored, slugging percentage, and OPS one time apiece. According to JAWS, Foster is the 30th-best left fielder to ever play the game, ahead of four Hall of Famers—Heinie Manush, Lou Brock, Jim O’Rourke, and Chick Hafey—as well as a number of great players not in the Hall, including Albert Belle, Moises Alou, Pedro Guerrero, and Alfonso Soriano.

The case against: By JAWS, Foster (40.3 JAWS) falls well short of the average Hall of Fame left fielder (53.3 JAWS). In fact, JAWS ranks Foster behind 15 of the 19 left fielders in the Hall, including Jim Rice, Ralph Kiner, Willie Stargell, and Billy Williams, each of whom is below the average Hall of Famer at their position. Foster failed to reach either 400 home runs or 2,000 hits, which seem to be bare minimum landmarks for a Hall of Fame corner outfielder. Outside of his seven-year peak, Foster only had one season of 2.0 or more fWAR, making his entire body of work a bit thin compared to the other left fielders enshrined in Cooperstown.

Prospects for induction: Foster debuted on the Hall of Fame ballot in 1992 and remained on it for four years. His support peaked at 6.9% in 1993, but he fell off the ballot after failing to reach the requisite 5.0% support in 1995. Foster will next be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee in 2017, and every three years after that.

Rusty Staub

Staub, a member of the Mets Hall of Fame, had two memorable stints with the team. The first came from 1972 to 1975, when he was the Mets’ everyday right fielder, helped lead the team to the 1973 National League pennant, and hit a robust .276/.361/.428 (123 wRC+), while averaging 16 home runs, 74 RBIs, 67 runs scored, 25 doubles, and 1.8 fWAR per year. Le Grande Orange returned to the Mets in 1981, and hit .276/.350/.391 (108 wRC+) over the next five years, primarily as a bench player and pinch hitter.

The case for: Staub had an impressive 23-year major league career in which he hit .279/.362/.431 (122 wRC+), with 292 home runs, 1,466 RBIs, 2,716 hits, 1,189 runs scored, 499 doubles, and 47.9 fWAR. His peak lasted from 1967 to 1976, when he hit an exceptional .292/.383/.452 (135 wRC+), and averaged 17 homers, 81 RBIs, 75 runs scored, 29 doubles, and 3.6 fWAR per year for the Expos, Mets, and Tigers. Staub made six All-Star Teams, had one top-five finish in MVP voting, and is the only player in baseball history to collect 500 hits with four different organizations. According to JAWS, Staub ranks 35th all time among right fielders, ahead of four Hall of Famers at the position—Sam Thompson, King Kelly, Ross Youngs, and Tommy McCarthy—and non-Hall-of-Famers like Dave Parker, Darryl Strawberry, David Justice, and Kirk Gibson.

The case against: Staub’s 39.5 JAWS is well below the 58.1 JAWS of the average Hall of Fame right fielder. His JAWS is lower than that of 20 of the 24 right fielders in the Hall, including Chuck Klein, Dave Winfield, and Tony Gwynn. While he came relatively close to 3,000 hits, Staub did not reach the mark, nor did he hit even 300 home runs. Aside from his doubles total in 1967, Staub also never led his league in any major offensive category. Finally, Staub was a poor defensive outfielder who cost his teams 47 total zone runs in right field over the course of his career. That certainly doesn’t help his cause, as his offense alone doesn’t match up to that of most right fielders in the Hall.

Prospects for induction: Staub lasted on the Hall of Fame ballot for the seven years from 1991 to 1997. His support never reached double digits, and peaked at 7.9% in 1994. The Expansion Era Committee considered Staub in 2011, but did not grant him the 75.0% support needed for induction. Although it declined to vote on him in 2014, the Committee’s next opportunity to put Staub on its ballot will be in 2017, and every three years after that.

Darryl Strawberry

The Mets took Strawberry as the first overall pick in the 1980 amateur draft, and the right fielder went on to become one of the best players in franchise history. In his eight years as a Met, Strawberry hit an outstanding .263/.359/.520 (143 wRC+), and averaged 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 83 runs scored, 23 doubles, 24 stolen bases, and 4.4 fWAR per year. He helped lead the Mets to a World Series championship in 1986 and a division title in 1988, and ranks among the franchise’s leaders in virtually every offensive category: Strawberry ranks first in home runs (252), second in RBIs (733), slugging percentage (.520), wRC+ (143), and WAR (35.5), third in runs scored (662), fifth in stolen bases (191), sixth in triples (30), ninth in hits (1,025) and doubles (187), and 13th in on-base percentage (.359). The Mets honored Strawberry for his contributions by inducting him into the team Hall of Fame in 2010.

The case for: In his 17-year career, Strawberry hit .259/.357/.505 (137 wRC+), with 335 home runs, 1,000 RBIs, 1,401 hits, 898 runs scored, 221 stolen bases, and 41.5 fWAR. Among the many accolades he received were eight consecutive All-Star Game selections, two Silver Slugger Awards, the 1983 Rookie of the Year Award, and four top-nine finishes in MVP voting. In 1988, Strawberry led his league in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS, and wRC+. One of the game’s best all-around players, Strawberry is one of 38 members of baseball’s 30-30 club and one of 46 members of its 200-200 club. JAWS ranks him as the 39th-best right fielder to ever play the game, ahead of three Hall of Famers— King Kelly, Ross Youngs, and Tommy McCarthy —and non-Hall-of-Famers like Ken Singleton, Tim Salmon, David Justice, and Kirk Gibson. Finally, Strawberry is a four-time World Series champion with the Mets and the Yankees, and hit a strong .254/.345/.500, with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 40 postseason games.

The case against: JAWS ranks Strawberry lower than 21 of the 24 right fielders in the Hall, including all of those ranked ahead of Staub, plus Sam Thompson. Furthermore, Strawberry’s 38.3 JAWS is well below the average Hall of Fame right fielder’s score of 58.1. Due to a series of substance abuse issues and suspensions, Strawberry played only one full season after leaving the Mets, and therefore did not accumulate enough playing time to reach the 500—or even 400—home runs that most sluggers would need for serious Hall of Fame consideration.

Prospects for induction: Strawberry appeared on the ballot for his first and only time in 2005, when he received just 1.2% of the vote. His next opportunity for consideration will be by the Expansion Era Committee in 2017, and every three years after that.