The Great Hall of Fame Debate – Atlantic League Edition
Welcome back Ducks fans! We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and want to wish you all a Happy New Year. Here’s hoping that 2015 will bring us all many great memories, exciting baseball and our fourth Atlantic League championship.
Today, Major League Baseball unveiled the voting results for this year’s Hall of Fame nominees. Four players were voted in this year by the Baseball Writers Association of America, including Long Island native Craig Biggio and pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. All four are deserving candidates, and we here at “Quack of the Bat” would like to pass along our congratulations to this fine class.
The selections also got us thinking today. Although the Atlantic League does not yet have a Hall of Fame, there have certainly been several great Ducks players from the first 15 seasons in franchise history who would be worthy of selection. Circumstances in this case are a bit different, being that the league has only been around for 17 seasons and that most players do not stick in the league for long stretches. However, a case can be made for several players in Atlantic League history to be voted into a league Hall of Fame, many of whom are Ducks.
The criteria for what would be considered “Hall of Fame worthy” is something that could be heavily debated. From the amount of games played to championships/awards won to home run, win and strikeout totals, the numbers are not as well-defined as in Major League Baseball. So, let us know what you think the criteria should be for an Atlantic Leaguer to be selected to the Hall.
Over the course of the Atlantic League’s 17-year history, there have been many players who have become such strong representatives of the league based on their time spent in it and their play on the field. Some of the sluggers that come to mind immediately are Jeff Nettles, who played for nine seasons with the Somerset Patriots, and Josh Pressley, who donned a Patriots uniform for five years before spending two with Sugar Land. As for hurlers on the mound, guys like Corey Thurman, who has started for seven seasons with the York Revolution, and Ross Peeples, who has played an astounding 10 years with the Lancaster Barnstormers would also garner strong consideration. Which other Atlantic Leaguers, outside of the Ducks, do you feel deserve to be in a league Hall of Fame?
This past summer, the Ducks unveiled their 15th Anniversary Team, as voted on by the fans. The top player at each position was chosen by fans to be a part of this special group. For a quick refresher, here is who was chosen:
Catcher – Francisco Morales
First Base – Doug Jennings
Second Base – Ray Navarrete
Shortstop – Dan Lyons
Third Base – Bryant Nelson
Outfielder – Justin Davies
Outfielder – Lew Ford
Outfielder – Kimera Bartee
Designated Hitter – Patrick Lennon
Left-Handed Starter – Randy Leek
Right-Handed Starter – John Brownell
Reliever – Joe Valentine
Closer – Bill Simas
Manager – Kevin Baez
Final Vote – Mike Loree
Of those 15, who do you feel deserves to be in an Atlantic League Hall of Fame donning a Ducks cap? While you think about you selections, our blog team will give you ours:
His name has become one of the most synonymous with the Atlantic League of any player to have played in the league. He spent eight seasons with the Ducks from 2006-13 (and a brief stint with Somerset in 2005) and put together some of the best seasons in league history. He played in 863 games, amassed 963 hits, launched 137 home runs, drove in 548 runs, scored 599 runs and collected 245 doubles while with the Flock, all team records. He is one of only two players in league history with over 1,000 hits, joining Nettles. He won the Atlantic League Player of the Year Award in 2009, earned five All-Star Game selections and capped off his career with two Atlantic League championships. What more could you want in a Hall of Famer?
Jennings certainly checks off the longevity aspect of Hall of Fame selection. He spent six seasons with the Ducks from 2000-05 and also spent his first season in the Atlantic League with Newark in 1999. In those seven seasons, he played in a total of 405 games and had double digit home run totals in five of them. His bread and butter though was getting on base, and Jennings posted an on-base percentage over .350 in six of his seven seasons, including two over .500! The numbers offensively are there for Jennings, and he has an Atlantic League championship from 2004 to go with it.
Ford’s career in the Atlantic League has not officially come to an end just yet, but his five seasons so far with the Ducks have been extraordinary. He lacks a bit in the games played department, having only played in 341 contests. However, a big reason for that was because he was signed by the Orioles early in 2012 and remained with them until late in 2013. In addition, the fact that he’s among a select group to have made it back to the Major Leagues after playing in the Atlantic League lines up with the ideals for which the league was created. In addition, despite the shortage in games played, he is the only player in league history to appear in each and every one during a 140-game season, and he did so during his most recent season of play. In his 341 games, Ford has been a wrecking force at the plate, compiling a .337 batting average which is a franchise record. In addition, he’s totaled 216 RBI, 261 runs, 439 hits and 95 doubles. As for awards, he was an Atlantic League All-Star and Player of the Year this past season, and he’s got himself a pair of championship rings. Oh, and did we mention his Atlantic League career has not yet officially ended?
Nelson has been a member of the Atlantic League for each of the past nine seasons, so his longevity in the league is near the top. The greater debate might be which team’s cap he would don in the Hall. He’s spent parts of four seasons with the Ducks, two with York, two with Camden, one with Lancaster and one with Bridgeport. His best statistical single season came with Lancaster in 2010, when he batted .288 with 22 homers, 91 RBI, 158 hits and 84 runs, earning an All-Star selection. However, he’s won two championships with the Ducks as well and was an All-Star choice in 2013. His total numbers with the Flock weren’t too shabby either, combining to bat .274 with 32 homers, 197 RBI, 197 runs and 73 doubles in 343 games. For his Atlantic League career, he is one game shy of 800 and 123 hits shy of 1,000. Nelson’s been a consistent contributor in the league and, in this blogger’s opinion, should be considered for a Hall of Fame.
Like Ford, Morales didn’t play in the Atlantic League for long, but he certainly made an impact when he did. The backstop spent three seasons with the Ducks from 2000-02 and a year in Camden. During that four-year stint, he appeared in 478 games, an average of nearly 120 per season. In addition, he hit over 20 homers in each season with the Flock and added 10 with Camden for a grand total of 73 longballs. Among his other stats were 513 hits, 312 RBI, 259 runs and 88 doubles. He was an Atlantic League All-Star twice with the Ducks (2000, 02), but he ultimately never won an Atlantic League title. His offensive prowess was clearly demonstrated while in the Atlantic League, but his shortened length in the league and lack of ring makes his selection less of a guarantee.
What do you think of our selections Ducks fans? Should we include any others? Should we remove any that we have chosen? Where would you put an Atlantic League Hall of Fame? Let us know your thoughts by commenting on this post.
Posted on January 6, 2015, in Feature Articles and tagged 2015, Atlantic League, Baseball, Bryant Nelson, Craig Biggio, Doug Jennings, Francisco Morales, Hall of Fame, Lew Ford, Ray Navarrete. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.