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Bobby Abreu and the Hall of Very Good

The former Phillie outfielder would not get my Hall of Fame vote

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants
Bobby Abreu: Good player, not a Hall of Famer

Hall of Fame voting is underway, and as always, there has been a good amount of debate over the worthiness of the candidates. One of the most heavily debated names is former Phillie Bobby Abreu.

I do not have an official vote for the baseball Hall of Fame, nor do I anticipate the BBWAA awarding me a ballot any time soon. But if I had one, I would not put a checkmark next to Bobby Abreu’s name.

I realize that statement is akin to sacrilege at The Good Phight considering one of the founding principles was that Bobby Abreu was criminally underrated and unappreciated. And I know many of his supporters will point to statistics that will show he was one of the game’s best players and deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown.

I still wouldn’t vote for him. Admittedly, I’m somewhat of a snob when it comes to my Hall of Fame standards. I feel that the Hall of Fame has as much to do with narrative as it does with statistics and on-field performance, and a player needs to be undeniably great, carry some sort of “wow” factor, or figure into baseball history in some manner. And I don’t think Abreu qualifies on any of those counts.

I watched Abreu’s entire career with the Phillies, and I never got the sense that I was watching a future Hall of Famer. Maybe some of the criticisms (not enough home runs, poor defense) were overblown, but he always felt like more of a “Hall of Very Good” player to me.

I clearly wasn’t the only one who felt that way. All-Star Game appearances, MVP voting, and other awards are subject to the whims of the voting public, and shouldn’t be the only guideline, but Abreu didn’t merit much consideration when they were decided. He only made it to two All-Star games, won a single Silver Slugger Award, and the highest he ever finished in MVP voting was 12th.

It might be unfair to judge a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness by their playoff success or lack thereof, but Abreu is severely lacking in this department as well. He only made the playoffs in four seasons and won just a single playoff series in his 18-year career. I don’t want to hold all the sins of the late 90s/early 00s Phillies against him, but there was also a sentiment that trading Abreu in 2006 helped spark the Phillies to return to the playoffs the following year.

Sadly, the signature moment of Abreu’s career was winning the 2005 All-Star Home Run Derby, and his subsequent lack of home run production in the second half is one of the reasons the myth of the “Home Run Derby” curse exists.

Look at players with the highest similarity score on Baseball Reference:

That’s a list of “Hall of Very Good” players. Those were all fine players who had solid careers, but (bizarre 57 home run season aside) do you hear the name Luis Gonzalez and think “Hall of Famer?”

If Abreu does indeed earn enshrinement, I will be happy for him and for the Phillies to have another player represented. But if it was up to me, he would just have to settle for being regarded as a very good player, a level below baseball immortality.