(Note: This article appears as originally written in 2008. Mark received 22 votes for the Hall of Fame, listed on only 4.1% of all ballots. Since his total fell shy of 5%, his name was removed from future consideration.)
Will Mark Grace make the Baseball Hall of Fame or will he fall short?
Its a question many have pondered since his retirement in 2003. Without question, Mark put together an impressive resume
of hitting and fielding statistics during his 16-year career in the
But is Mark's career HOF caliber? Lets first look at his accomplishments
and then how they stack up to the current HOF inductees that played
his position of first base.
There are 18 first baseman currently enshrined in the HOF who played in the major leagues (three other HOF first baseman—Buck Leonard, Mules Suttles and Ben Taylor—played in the Negro Leagues and due to statistical uncertainties will not be included in this analysis). Of the eight major leaguers, nine were voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), and nine were inducted by the HOF's Veterans Committee. Lets put them on a chart with their career statistics displayed.
Now, lets establish separate averages for all inductees, Veterans
Committee inductees, and BBWAA inductees.
We can now compare Marks career statistics to the averages. Lets
highlight the categories in which Marks statistics exceed the
As we can see, out of the nine categories surveyed, Marks statistics are better than the average in five out of the nine compared to all inductees. They are better in six of the nine when compared to Veterans Committee inductees, but only three of the nine for BBWAA inductees.
Mark will become eligible for Hall of Fame voting five years after his retirement, on the 2009 HOF ballot. He then has 15 years to be voted in by the BBWAA, and must be listed on 75% of ballots cast to be inducted. If he fails to be listed on at least 5% of ballots at any vote, his name will be dropped from future consideration. If after 15 years he has remained on the ballot but not been elected, he must wait another 3 years before being considered by the HOF's Veterans Committee.
In analyzing the statistical comparison to current inductees, it seems unlikely that Mark will be elected to the HOF by the BBWAA, as his statistics are below the average in six of the nine categories surveyed. More importantly, he is below average in the categories that carry the most weight, including Batting Average, Home Runs, Runs, and Runs Batted In. If Grace is not elected by the BBWAA, his HOF chances would rest on the shoulders of a vote by a Veterans Committee, and the soonest he could be elected would be a full 23 years after his retirement.
At first glance, it may appear that Grace compares favorably to HOF inductees at his position. He definitely stacks up against Veterans Committee inductees statistically, but other factors must be considered. Most of the players elected by the Veterans Committee played in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many were deadball era players. Grace compares favorably to these players because he hits for average, not power. However, in todays game, Graces power numbers are well below HOF standards. A Veterans Committee looking back at Marks career will compare it to the careers of his contemporaries, not players from the early 1900s. Therefore, the bar will be raised, and Grace will likely not meet the cut on several categories. It is however interesting to note that although his lack of homers is often cited as the main argument against his enshrinement, Grace would be ranked number 11 of 19 on the career HR list of major league HOF first basemen should he be elected.
There is another unique argument that is often tossed about regarding Marks HOF potential. This is the case of the Decade Hit Leader. As it is well known, Mark led the major leagues in hits during the decade of the 1990s. All other 20th century decade hit leaders have been elected to the Hall of Fame, with the exception of Pete Rose, who was banned from HOF eligibility. This argument is not a logical one, however. No ten year period is any more important than another, so 1990-1999 is no more important than 1985-1994 for example. Not every leader in hits during a ten-year period is guaranteed into the HOF, nor should they be. Besides, HOF induction is based on a players career, not a subsection of it. Of course leading a decade in hits would necessitate a player being good over a sizable amount of time, which makes it more likely for that player to be elected to the hall. In no way, however, is it a free pass into Cooperstown.
Other intangibles may weigh negatively on the minds of HOF voters when considering Grace's credentials. Many voters feel a HOF worthy candidate must have been the dominant player at his position during the majority of his career. Mark doesn't really fit this description. During his career, Grace was overshadowed at first base by Will Clark, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, and Mark McGwire. Recent steroids controversies for some of the players on that list do give Grace, who for his part has never been mentioned as a possible steroids user, more credence for being one of the most naturally talented first basemen of his era. Most voters will be of the opinion that he was never even the most dominant player on his own team, playing second fiddle to Ryne Sandberg then Sammy Sosa during his best years. Voters also look at individual honors, such as awards. Mark was elected a National League All-Star three times, but never as the fan-favorite to start the game at first base. His four gold gloves are impressive, but during their overlapping NL careers, J.T. Snow also had four at first. Grace has never finished in the top 10 of NL MVP balloting, and has appeared in the post-season only three times, although he did win a World Championship in 2001.
All in all, it is highly doubtful Mark Grace will be elected into the Hall of Fame based solely on his career as a player. One must remember that HOF induction is a very select honor. Of all the major league players to ever take the field, only 200 have been enshrined through 2008. Enshrinement has eluded great first basemen like Gil Hodges, Dick Allen, Mark McGwire and Steve Garvey. Mark Grace will likely receive a handful of votes on his first ballot in 2009, but nowhere near the necessary 75% needed to be elected. It will be a small victory if he receives the necessary 5% to be relisted year-to-year. Diehard fans can hold out a slim hope that sometime down the road, a Veterans Committee may enshrine him. Those are long odds, however, and in the end Grace will most likely be a Hall of Famer only in the hearts of his many fans.
Mark Grace's Virtual Hall of Fame Plaque
not affiliated with Mark Grace, his management or Major League Baseball.