There were 33 players on the Hall of Fame ballot this winter, including 19 newcomers, and only four were selected for induction: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, and Jim Thome.
Of the 19 first-time candidates, 14 received less than 5 percent of the vote and will drop off the ballot. Among those 14 is Johan Santana. He received 10 votes, or 2.4 percent of the 422 ballots cast. Santana was 12 votes short of staying on the ballot another year.
Santana had a four or five-year stretch in which he was the best pitcher in baseball, winning two Cy Youngs (2004, 2006) and finishing second when he should have won a third (2005)., though injuries sabotaged Santana's career, and he was more of less done as an effective pitcher by age 31. His peak was absolutely Hall of Fame caliber.
Does Santana belong in Cooperstown? Everyone is welcome to feel differently. The BBWAA voting body determined that not only is he not Hall of Fame worthy, he wasn't even worthy of another year on the ballot. He dropped off in their first year of eligibility. That's crazy. Santana deserves better than one year on the ballot.
With Santana in mind, let's look back throughout history at some of the best players who dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot after only one year. The players are listed alphabetically.
Career WAR: 66.1
Hall of Fame vote: 1.7 percent in 1995
Three generations of Bells have played in the big leagues. There's Buddy, his father Gus, and his two sons David and Mike. Bloodlines don't make you a Hall of Famer, but Bell was a five-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glove winner at third base who hit .301/.366/.443 (127 OPS+) while averaging 28 doubles, 13 homers, 53 walks, and just 44 strikeouts per season during his peak from 1980-84. Bell retired with 2,514 hits and was one of the best defensive third basemen in the game at that time.
Career WAR: 68.5
Hall of Fame vote: 2.1 percent in 2011
Brown had a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration at the wrong time. He pitched for six teams from 1986-2005, meaning he was always overshadowed by the other greats of his era, like Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. It was easy to overlook Brown as one of the game's most dominant starters, even though he won 211 games and retired with a 3.28 ERA (127 ERA+) in more than 3,200 career innings. Brown never won a Cy Young, but he finished in the top six of the voting five times, including a second-place finish to Smoltz in 1996.
Career WAR: 56.2
Hall of Fame vote: 4.4 percent in 2006
During his peak from 1987-94, Clark authored a .303/.382/.504 (147 OPS+) batting line while averaging 31 doubles and 22 homers per season. He went to six All-Star Games and finished in the top five of the MVP voting four times, including a second-place finish behind Kevin Mitchell for the 1989 NL award. Clark was a devastating hitter who remained productive until his final day in the big leagues -- his worst offensive season was a 101 OPS+ in 1996.
Career WAR: 61.7
Hall of Fame vote: 3.9 percent in 2009
You name it and Cone did it during his career. Twenty wins? He did it twice (1988, 1998). Cy Young? Won the AL award in 1994. World Series? He has five rings (1992 Blue Jays; 1996 and 1998-2000 Yankees). Perfect game? Cone threw one of those, too. Cone, like Brown, was stuck pitching in the same era as Maddux and Clemens and Johnson and all those guys. Modern starting pitchers are underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, and when you see someone like Cone drop off the ballot in his first year of eligibility, you wonder what it'll take for someone from the current generation of starters to get in.
Career WAR: 60.3
Hall of Fame vote: 2.5 percent in 2016
A career .284/.376/.527 (132 OPS+) batting line with 1,949 hits, 393 homers, six Gold Gloves and a pair of top-five finishes in the NL MVP voting was enough to earn Edmonds exactly 11 Hall of Fame votes last year. Yikes. Edmonds definitely fell victim to the stacked ballot -- voters are limited to 10 players per ballot, and the backlog of players tied to performance-enhancing drugs means many worthy players remain on the ballot year after year -- but that shouldn't take away from his on-field performance. Power-hitting center fielders with this much defensive value are exceedingly rare.
Career WAR: 58.5
Hall of Fame vote: 1.7 percent in 1995
A two-time All-Star who received MVP votes in four seasons, Evans was once called the "most underrated player in baseball history" by noted sabermetrician Bill James. His career .248 batting is an eyesore, but Evans offset it with walks (1,605) and power (414 home runs), not to mention splendid defense. He retired as a career .248/.361/.431 (119 OPS+) hitter with more walks than strikeouts while playing a fine third base. Very few players received this little Hall of Fame support (eight votes!) after hitting more than 400 home runs.
Career WAR: 70.9
Hall of Fame vote: 2.6 percent in 1992
During his peak from 1974-83, his age 25-34 seasons, Grich hit .271/.377/.436 (131 OPS+) while averaging 22 doubles and 16 home runs. That doesn't sound like anything special, but Grich did it as a great fielding second basemen in an era when second basemen weren't expected to contribute a whole lot at the plate. A six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner who received MVP votes in five different seasons fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in the first year? Goodness.
Career WAR: 68.2
Hall of Fame vote: 3.2 percent in 2013
During the first five full seasons of his career, Lofton led his league in stolen bases five times, and he won four Gold Gloves as well. His 325 steals from 1992-96 -- that's an average of 65 steals per year for half-a-decade -- were far and away the most in baseball. (Otis Nixon was second with 234.) Lofton retired as a .299/.372/.423 (107 OPS+) hitter with 622 steals (15th most all-time) and 2,428 hits. He was a dynamic leadoff hitter who remained productive well into his late-30s, and yet, he was one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Career WAR: 58.0
Hall of Fame vote: 0.7 percent
Olerud is one of the very few players who skipped over the minor leagues completely. He was drafted in the third round of the 1989 draft and the Blue Jays brought him right to the big leagues, where he spent the rest of his career. The knock against Olerud was that he was a first baseman without a ton of power. His career high was 24 home runs in 1993, and only five times in his 17 seasons did he reach 20 homers. Still, Olerud was an on-base machine -- his .473 on-base percentage in 1993 is the eighth highest single-season mark by a non-Barry Bonds hitter since the 1961 expansion -- who retired as a career .295/.398/.465 (129 OPS+) hitter with 500 doubles, 255 homers, 1,275 walks, 1,016 strikeouts and three Gold Gloves at first base.
Career WAR: 42.7
Hall of Fame vote: 3.8 percent
Posada was the first member of the Yankees "Core Four" to join the Hall of Fame ballot, but his stint was short. He dropped off the ballot in his first year despite being one of the best hitting catchers of his generation. Posada retired as a career .273/.374/.474 (121 OPS+) hitter with 379 doubles and 275 home runs. Among players with at least 500 games caught, he ranks fifth all-time in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS, and first in walks. Posada won five World Series rings and was a key contributor to four of those five championship teams. No, he was not a good defender, but he was one of the best hitters at his position in baseball history.
Career WAR: 65.5
Hall of Fame vote: 1.1 percent in 1998
The Yankees won two World Series titles and four pennants from 1976-81, and Randolph was part of the supporting cast behind stars like Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Graig Nettles. Randolph retired as a career .276/.373/.351 (104 OPS+) hitter -- I love that Randolph's on-base percentage was greater than his slugging percentage -- with 2,225 hits, 271 steals and far more walks (1,243) than strikeouts (675). Throw in very good defense at second base and you've got an incredibly productive top-of-the-order hitter who spent 18 years in the big leagues.
Career WAR: 68.2
Hall of Fame vote: 0.4 percent in 1997
I present to you two pitchers, one of whom dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility and another who remained on the ballot all 15 years and received fervent support, though ultimately fell short of Cooperstown:
| ||Years||W-L||IP||ERA||ERA+||WHIP||K/BB|| Best CYA Finish|
| Pitcher A||1973-91||214-191|| 3,548 1/3||3.37||114||1.28|| 2.16|| 3rd (1977, 1987)|
| Pitcher B||1977-94||254-186||3,824||3.90||105||1.30||1.78|| 3rd (1981, 1983)|
You're smart. You know one of those guys is Reuschel. He's Pitcher A. Pitcher B? Jack Morris. Are 40 wins and 275 2/3 innings really the difference between getting two Hall of Fame votes like Reuschel and spending 15 years on the ballot like Morris? Of course not. Reuschel and Morris pitched in the same era and the guy who was far better at preventing runs somehow dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year. Perception is everything, I guess.
Career WAR: 59.1
Hall of Fame vote: 1.3 percent in 2007
Saberhagen began his career on the Hall of Fame track. He won the AL Cy Young Award as a 21-year-old in 1985, and four years later he won it again. In the first six seasons of his career, Saberhagen went 92-61 with a 3.23 ERA (128 ERA+) to go with his two Cy Youngs. Injuries sabotaged the end of his career, but he still retired with a career 167-117 record and a 3.34 ERA (126 ERA+) in parts of 16 seasons. Saberhagen's 11.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 1994 stood as baseball's single-season record until 2014.
Career WAR: 50.1
Hall of Fame vote: 3.7 percent in 1994
It's shocking to me Simmons fell off the ballot in his first year of the eligibility. He was one of the most productive catchers in baseball history. Simmons hit .285/.348/.437 (118 OPS+) with 483 doubles, 248 homers, 855 walks, and 694 strikeouts in his 21-year career. He went to eight All-Star Games and received MVP votes in seven different seasons. Simply put, Simmons was one of the best hitting catchers ever, and yet during his one year on the ballot he received fewer Hall of Fame votes (17) than Pete Rose, who was ineligible for election but nonetheless received 19 write-in votes.
Career WAR: 64.5
Hall of Fame vote: 0.7 percent in 1988
A barrage of injuries took the Hall of Fame shine off Smith's career -- he played only 695 games from 1976-82, the final seven seasons of his career -- but goodness could the man hit. He retired as a career .287/.366/.489 (137 OPS+) hitter with 2,020 hits and 314 homers with four teams in parts of 17 seasons. Smith went to seven All-Star Games and received MVP votes in seven seasons, including back-to-back fourth place finishes in the voting in 1977-78.
Career WAR: 74.9
Hall of Fame vote: 2.9 percent in 2001
It was a inexcusable Whitaker dropped off the ballot in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility. It really was. You don't need WAR to tell you he was great. He played 19 seasons in the big leagues, all with the Tigers, and during that time he hit .276/.363/.426 (117 OPS+) with more walks (1,197) than strikeouts (1,099) while playing exquisite defense. Whitaker is one of the best all-around second basemen in baseball history, and personally, I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame. Even if you disagree, he deserved much better than one-and-done.
Other notable one-and-done players: Sal Bando, Bert Campaneris, Norm Cash, Cesar Cedeno, Ron Cey, Jose Cruz, Tony Fernandez, Dwight Gooden, John Hiller, Dan Quisenberry, Dave Stieb, Kent Tekulve, Jimmy Wynn.