2. Tommy John
Dodgers pitcher Tommy John should be enshrined in the Hall of Fame for his career accolades — and his legacy.
A recent conversation centered around “baseball lives” pitched Tommy John as a shoo-in candidate for what the experimental surgery he underwent meant for the lives of every pitcher who followed him — and that argument is meritorious.
But he also deserves to be honored for his pitching accolades alone.
In some ways a compiler, John’s 288 victories against 231 losses stand tall — especially when you realize that the lion’s share of his honors came after he missed the entire 1975 season at the age of 32 rehabilitating his arm.
After that inflection point, John finished second in the Cy Young chase in 1977 (20-7, 2.78), then posted three consecutive All-Star appearances and three more top-10 Cy Young placements (eighth, second again, fourth), bouncing between New York and Los Angeles. Though he was largely ineffective in six seasons played after the age of 40 (despite going 13-6, 4.03 ERA in 1987 in New York at the age of 44!), that shouldn’t factor too heavily into this conversation.
On the merits of his remarkable comeback alone and the innovations in medical science his gutsy willingness to experiment ushered in, John deserves a keen second look. The careers he saved by pioneering a surgery that is now commonplace (and almost anticipated!) are too numerous to count.
But John was a pretty exceptional pitcher, too. The double whammy calls for a recount on baseball’s highest honor, without any sort of “pioneer” designation.