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Top Five MLB Hall of Fame prospects derailed by injury

With Jacob deGrom suffering the second UCL tear in his storied career, we look at players who had the Hall of Fame snatched from them through injury.

With Jacob deGrom suffering the second UCL tear in his storied career, we look at players who had the Hall of Fame snatched from them through injury.

Jacob deGrom should be in the Hall of Fame when he retires. Let me start by just saying that. He should be.

Now, I am not saying that deGrom will be kept out by this latest injury, or that he won’t come back perhaps better than before. Just look at Justin Verlander. But many players have gone before who have had just as much talent, just as glorious a run, and who saw their careers either ended or lessened through injury, keeping them out of Cooperstown.

And with deGrom out for the season, we thought that it might be a good time to look at our (very subjective) top five list of players who should have been in the Hall of Fame, but had their careers skewed by injury.

Dale Murphy

You can’t make a list like this and not start with Dale Murphy. The most electric player of the early 1980s, Murphy looked for a brief time like he could challenge Hank Aaron for the home run crown one day. He was back-to-back MVP, with five Gold Gloves, and hit 310 homers by age 31. And then a knee injury derailed him. He finished his career with 2,111 hits, 398 home runs, 1,266 RBIs and a career slash line of .265/.346/.469.

Murph is still one of the most electrifying players to have ever played the game and there is a vocal group of fans dedicated to seeing him inducted into the Hall of Fame. It is unlikely that he will make it, but for what it is worth, he has my vote.

Will Clark

Will “the Thrill” Clark was perhaps the finest first baseman that I have ever seen play in my lifetime, and that includes Chris Chambliss. The first few years of his career looked to be Cooperstown-bound, but a series of injuries kept him from fulfilling his potential. He set the SEC on fire at Mississippi State and went second overall in the 1985 draft to San Francisco, and put all of baseball on notice when he hit a home run on his first swing during his first major league at-bat.

We saw flashes of brilliance from him and his talent was undeniable, but in the end his injuries kept him out of the Hall, as he finished his 14-year career with a .303 average, managing 2,176 hits, 284 home runs, and 1,205 RBIs.

Roger Maris

It is difficult to believe that Maris isn’t in the Hall of Fame, but apart from his fabulous run in 1961, he had a few injury-laden seasons that shortened his numbers and his career.

As controversial as the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa-Barry Bonds runs were, it is often lost in the noise that Maris’ record was every bit as controversial at the time. The season had expanded to 162 games from 154 when he hit his record-setter on the last game of the season, causing many to say that it was invalid and Babe Ruth was still the record holder.

In any event, Maris’ career lasted only 11 years and without reaching 1,500 career games, many writers simply felt that his sample was not wide enough. Others noted that Maris’ resentment of the media led to antagonism which caused many to not vote for him. He has a career with 1325 hits, 275 home runs, and 850  RBIs, sporting a .260/.345/.821 slash line.

Orel Hershiser

Arguably the best pitcher in baseball through the late 1980s, Orel Hershiser was a top-four Cy Young candidate through the back end of the decade, winning it in 1988. That season, he set a major league record by pitching 59 consecutive innings without allowing a run, as he led the Dodgers to a World Series championship where he was named the National League Championship Series MVP as well as the World Series MVP. He is still the only player to have ever won all three awards in the same season.

The 1989 season saw him tear his labrum in his right shoulder, requiring shoulder reconstruction surgery. When he came back, he was mired in mediocrity and although he managed to find some good stuff through the 1990s, he was never the dominant force that he had been before. He finished his 17-year career with a record of 204-150, an ERA of 3.48 on 3130.1 innings pitched, with 2014 strikeouts and a 1.26 WHIP.

Fernando Valenzuela

Nobody has ever made an MLB entrance like Fernando Valenzuela. At only 19 years old, he blazed into the nation’s conscience with an 8-0 start, throwing five shutouts and posting a 0.50 ERA. Fernandomania swept the land and he was unstoppable, winning Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young that season.

He was perhaps overused by Tommy Lasorda in those early years and was less and less dominant as the years rolled on. Suffering what would today be recognized as arm fatigue, his career lasted only ten thrilling seasons and he finished 173 and 153 with a career 3.54 ERA. He struck out 2074 hitters in 2930.0 innings pitched for a 1.32 WHIP, and while the numbers may not bear it out, Fernando remains the best left-handed pitcher that I have ever seen.


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