MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Offense trumps defense when it comes to Hall of Fame

Offense trumps defense when it comes to Hall of Fame

Offense sells tickets.

And it opens the doors to the Hall of Fame.

Think about it.

When a position player becomes eligible for election to Cooperstown, the discussions center on his offensive production, where he ranks on all-time lists and how his offense compares to those already enshrined.

Over the years, only two players stand out whose induction was as much, if not more, tied to defense -- shortstop Ozzie Smith, who was elected in his first year on the ballot, and second baseman Bill Mazeroski, who after coming close but not being elected in 15 years on the ballot was enshrined by the Veterans Committee.

That's out of 166 position players who have been enshrined.

It is because of a lack of respect for defensive ability or more a product of defense being harder to quantify?

One area of assumed defensive excellence is the annual Gold Glove Awards, voted on over the years by managers and coaches of the Major League teams. In recent years, the selection has been expanded to include a statistical component that accounts for 25 percent of the vote.

Gold Gloves are not golden passports to Cooperstown.

While the Gold Glove has been awarded for only 57 years, there have been 197 players win the award more than once. Only 30 of those players are enshrined in Cooperstown.

Nowhere is the discrepancy more obvious than at first base, where Eddie Murray, a three-time Gold Glove winner, is the only one of the 23 first basemen to win the award more than once to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

Keith Hernandez is the all-time leader among first basemen with 11 Gold Gloves, followed by Don Mattingly (nine) and George Scott (eight).

Hernandez and Ivan Rodriguez, who won 13 Gold Gloves as a catcher, are the only positional leaders not enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Rodriguez, however, is not yet eligible for Hall of Fame consideration.

The leaders at the other positions are pitcher Greg Maddux with 18, third baseman Brooks Robinson with 16, shortstop Smith with 13, outfielders Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays with 12 each and second baseman Roberto Alomar with 10.

The top offensive players, however, are welcomed by the Hall of Fame voters.

Among the players in the top 50 in career batting average since the formation of the Major Leagues in 1901 who played the 10 full seasons required for Hall of Fame eligibility, only eight have not been enshrined.

Five of those eight aren't even eligible yet -- Todd Helton, Ichiro Suzuki, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera.

Among the other three, both Kenny Williams and Riggs Stephenson had only four seasons in which they had the plate appearances necessary to qualify for the batting title, and Joe Jackson, who ranks No. 3 all time at .356, was suspended for his part in the Black Sox scandal, making him ineligible for the Hall of Fame.

Only five of the top 50 on the all-time home run list have been shut out -- Jose Canseco, Darrell Evans, Juan Gonzalez, Dave Kingman and Rafael Palmeiro.

Twenty-six of the 50 have been enshrined. There are eight others on the current ballot -- Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Mike Piazza, Gary Sheffield and Sammy Sosa. There are 11 who are not yet eligible for consideration -- Adam Dunn, Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Paul Konerko, Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano and Jim Thome.

So while defensive gems might make the nightly highlight clips, it's the offensive exploits that hit home with Hall of Fame voters.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.