Now that wrist-shaker Sheffield has officially announced his retirement, let’s have a look at his Hall of Fame chances. Sheff, always sure of his abilities as a player, may have leaned toward the side of arrogance, but he could back up his boasting. A fine slugger in a slugger’s era, Sheffield won a batting title, made nine All-Star appearances and had ten Top Ten finishes in on-base percentage. Gary was one of the best on-base-plus-slugging players in the game’s history and he’s in the Top 25 in career homeruns, runs batted in and walks drawn. His high ranking in homeruns and RBI will be his strongest case for the Hall of Fame and should carry him to Cooperstown.
But every player has a weakness. Sheff wasn’t the most durable man and it’s a testament to his natural ability that he posted such lofty career numbers despite his many trips to the DL. In only five seasons did Gary player in over 150 games, but he was in the lineup enough to make the once coveted 500 Homerun Club. Perusing the player’s on his similarity scores test you’ll find plenty Hall of Famers, like Mel Ott, Frank Robinson and Mickey Mantle. But similarity scores are misleading. Reggie Jackson is listed as the second most similar player to Sheff in baseball history but comparing the two is an injustice to Sheffield. Gary’s career batting average is a whopping 30 points above the game’s most overrated player and Sheff’s on-base percentage rests 37 points above Jackson’s. Sheff was clearly the better player.
With 509 career homeruns and 1,676 lifetime RBI, I find it hard to make a case against Sheffield. Naysayers will point to the fact that he rarely led the league in any major offensive categories, but his career stats are enviable regardless. Those numbers were obvious Hall of Fame stats just a decade ago but with the steroid era, 500 homeruns, although quite impressive, isn’t nearly as magical as it was in the days of Mantle and Mays.