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Front Page: Could Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz Make the Hall of Fame?

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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:00 PM

Throughout recent months, fans have been able to track this year’s MLB Hall of Fame election results thanks to Ryan Thibodaux and his HOF Tracker team. Through his work, it’s easy to follow the results as they are released in real time. There are still four more years before Joe Mauer will be eligible for the ballot and there is plenty of time to debate his case, but is there another Hall of Fame player on the current Twins roster?Hall of Fame players are not one-size fits all and, for many, the path to the Hall includes excellence over a long period of time. Nelson Cruz’s play over the last decade is certainly going to warrant some consideration for the Hall, but there could be some obstacle awaiting him on his path to enshrinement.

Obstacles Facing Cruz
Designated hitters have struggled to be elected by the baseball writers and Cruz has been a DH for a large chunk of his career. Entering the 2020 campaign, he has played 970 games in the outfield and he has been a DH for 696 games. Minnesota will likely use him as a DH for over 100 games this season and that could put those numbers even closer together.

Cruz was also a late bloomer in terms of MLB players and that will hurt his career numbers because of his lack of longevity. At the onset of his big-league career, it seemed almost impossible for him to hit over 400 home runs, but he crossed that mark last season. He didn’t debut until age 24, his first home run came at age-26, and he wouldn’t be a full-time player until age 28.

The other elephant in the room is the fact Cruz was part of the largest mass suspension in baseball history. Back in 2013, he was part of the Biogenesis drug case and he was forced to miss 50 games. His excuse for taking a banned substance was an “error in judgment.” He had lost 40 pounds due to a stomach infection and he was trying to get ready for the 2012 season.

JAWS and Peak Performance
One way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness is the scoring system known as JAWS. According to Baseball Reference, a player’s JAWS is their career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. To examine Cruz, one must compare him to other players at his primary position, right field.

There are 26 Hall of Fame players at this position, the most of any non-pitching position, and their averages are a career WAR of 71.5, a seven-year peak WAR of 42.1, and a JAWS of 56.8. Cruz falls well below all those numbers because of his late debut. He has a career WAR of 37.9, a seven-year peak WAR of 30.0, and a JAWS score of 33.9. JAWS ranks him closely to Juan Gonzalez, Kirk Gibson, David Justice and Roger Maris.

During the 2010’s, it’s hard to argue with the numbers compiled by Cruz. MLB.com named him as the DH on the All-Decade Team. Among players over 30, he has the 10th most home runs all-time and the list includes some of the game’s most prolific home runs hitters like Bonds, Ruth, Aaron and Mays.

Cruz was the best player at his position for most of a decade, but his late arrival as a full-time player likely means his Hall of Fame chances are slim. He might continue his late-career renaissance and play well into his 40s and that would still likely leave him on the outside of the Hall.

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#2 Tomj14

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:10 PM

He has no shot, how would they justify putting him in and leaving the other steroid users out?

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#3 IndianaTwin

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 09:23 PM

I tend to be a Bigger Hall guy, and I hate it when people say that someone only belongs in the “Hall of Very Good.” But in those terms, unfortunately, I’d have to say he’s a better fit for the “Hall of Pretty Good.” Even if he played another three years and got to 500 homers, he’d then move into the “played most of his games as a DH” and have that as a strike against him. My hunch is he’ll get 8-10 percent his first year and then fall off the ballot in a couple years. 

 

But don’t get me wrong — I’ll gladly have him bat cleanup for us this year. And thanks for the article. HOF articles are often fun reads. 

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#4 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:14 PM

What am I missing here? "Cruz was also a late bloomer in terms of MLB players and that will hurt his career numbers because of his lack of longevity." Cruz has 401 HRs, which means only 56 other players have more HRs. If he hits 40 HRs in 2020 then he jumps to 43rd place in the all time HR list. How is this a lack of longevity? He's 40 years old and still producing, isn't that the definition of longevity? I guess I agree with the banned substance argument since I don't think Barry Bonds should ever be in the HOF.

#5 Brandon

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:21 PM

He needs 500 HRs and 1525 RBis to be considered a marginal or.fringe HOFer.
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#6 IndianaTwin

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:23 PM

 

What am I missing here? "Cruz was also a late bloomer in terms of MLB players and that will hurt his career numbers because of his lack of longevity." Cruz has 401 HRs, which means only 56 other players have more HRs. If he hits 40 HRs in 2020 then he jumps to 43rd place in the all time HR list. How is this a lack of longevity? He's 40 years old and still producing, isn't that the definition of longevity? I guess I agree with the banned substance argument since I don't think Barry Bonds should ever be in the HOF.

 

I think he’s talking about the lack of longevity on the front end, since his first homer didn’t come until age 26. He’s only had 11 seasons so far where he’s been over 100 games. 

 

To use Andruw Jones as someone on the opposite end of the spectrum, by the time he was 26, he had 226 homers. Give Cruz that kind of a start and we’d be having an entirely different discussion. 

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#7 prouster

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Posted 08 January 2020 - 10:31 PM

If Harold Baines can get in, I suppose a lot of guys can. I don’t think Cruz will, though.
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#8 MMMordabito

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 09:19 AM

For Cruz to get in, I think two of three will need to happen:

 

1) The PED barrier will need to be broken. Bonds or Clemens or both would need to get in.

 

2) Cruz will need to get to 500 HRs. (If this is to happen, I hope they come in a Twins uniform.)

 

3) The Twins win the World Series and Cruz has a dominating performance while winning series MVP.

 

 

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#9 Dome Dogg

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 11:05 AM

In my opinion, speculation about using PEDs without a suspension should not be enough to keep you out of the HOF. 

 

However, as is the case with Cruz, getting caught and suspended should rule you out forever. 

"Kid, don't you think there's a problem when you get that excited over a seeing-eye single?"


#10 Thegrin

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 11:18 AM

In my seldom humble opinion, a Designated Hitter needs to have transcendent stats to gain the HoF.Cruz has been very very good, but not transcendent.:)


#11 Diesel

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 11:45 AM

Paul Konerko will fall off the ballot this year, so there is no way Nelson Cruz is a hall of famer. Joe Mauer is the only Twin for a long time that will be inducted.

#12 MMMordabito

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 11:57 AM

 

Paul Konerko will fall off the ballot this year, so there is no way Nelson Cruz is a hall of famer. Joe Mauer is the only Twin for a long time that will be inducted.

 

Bartolo Colon has a shot. Probably not, but he's sexy enough.


#13 Brandon

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Posted 09 January 2020 - 12:57 PM

Fred McGriff is at 493 career HRs. The strike cost him the shot at 500 and he either barely made it or just missed it. So 500 HRs is required. Also there are very few players with 1525 or more RBI not in the Hall of Fame.

Cruz is a long way from that many RBI so I doubt he gets in. Though if he hits his 500th in a Twins uniform and is a World Series key contributor he could make the Twins Hall of Fame

#14 dex8425

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 09:31 AM

Fun to think about, but he has no chance. He's been very good for the last decade though. I'm a young guy who's in favor of a small HOF and no PED users getting in. Not Bonds. Not Clemens. Not Cruz. But I still love Cruz and think undoubtedly he was the team MVP last season. 


#15 amjgt

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 10:58 AM

It's unrealistic to expect him to repeat last season, but for him to enter the HOF debate I feel like he would need 3 more seasons approaching his 2019 season.

 

That would push him over 500 HR and approaching 1500 RBI, plus have the "can you believe what he's doing in his 40s" angle that everyone loves.

 

Not likely, but also not impossible. 

 

Winning a World Series in MN wouldn't hurt either :)


#16 cardsfan

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 06:17 PM

After being suspended for testing for steroids he has averaged over 40 HRs the last 6 seasons. Huh? Over the age of 33.



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