With the induction of Jason Taylor into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Miami Dolphins got their 10th Hall of Famer.
This also provides South Florida with their 15th Hall of Famer counting all four professional franchises amongst players, coaches, and personnel that were with the team for at least three seasons.
In honor of JT’s induction, I decided it would be fun to predict Miami’s next Hall of Famer. There are both many active and retired players that are worthy of that honor, and I have decided to rank them because I like ranking things.
Some quick ground rules. To be considered for the list, a player had to have played in South Florida for at least three seasons. Active players and retired players are also ranked slightly differently. Active players have been ranked according to their probability of being inducted, whereas retired players are ranked according to who I believe should be inducted.
T1. Dwyane Wade
T1. LeBron James
T1. Jaromir Jagr
I would bet the lives of my unborn children that all three are first-ballot Hall of Famers. Each one has a different relationship to South Florida, but each spent enough time here to deserve mention.
2. Miguel Cabrera
He should be a first-ballot shoe-in as well, but baseball writers are weird and I love my hypothetical unborn children too much to bet their lives based on the whims of the BBWAA voters.
3. Chris Bosh
Only making one All-NBA team is usually not enough for Hall of Fame consideration, but Bosh’s 11 All-Star appearances make up for that. Bosh was one of the best big men of his era, and the Basketball Hall of Fame has traditionally been the “easiest” to be inducted into.
4. Roberto Luongo
Luongo is probably one of the 10 best goalies of the post-expansion (1967) era. He should be a lock for the Hall, but he’s never won a Vezina Trophy or a Stanley Cup.
Curtis Joseph, like Luongo, put up big numbers but also never won a Vezina or Stanley Cup and he’s not in the Hall of Fame. Now I would argue: 1.) Curtis Joseph should be in the Hall of Fame and 2.) Luongo is a better goalie than Joseph, but who knows how the voters will behave.
5. Ndamukong Suh
At the age of 29, Suh has made five Pro Bowls and was named a First-Team All-Pro three times. At the age of 29, Warren Sapp made five Pro Bowl teams and was named a First-Team All-Pro three times.
Suh just needs to keep pace to get a shot at Canton.
6. Cameron Wake
If Wake decided to retire tomorrow, his Hall of Fame chances would be near nonexistent. He does have a lot of things going for him if he can play for the next three-to-four years. He’s been named to five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams (Taylor has six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections).
He is tied for the second most sacks by an undrafted player in NFL history. If Wake can hang in there and get to 100 sacks in his career (not particularly likely, but anything is possible with Wake) with Miami, he would have as many sacks as Hall of Famers Charles Haley and Andre Tippett.
Perhaps the Hall of Fame committee will consider his time in Canada and that his prime was shortened because of it. While rare, the Hall has rewarded exceptional players with shorter careers (see Gale Sayers and Dwight Stephenson). It’s certainly a stretch, but it is no longer the impossibility I thought it was only a year ago.
7. Giancarlo Stanton
Currently, Stanton is nowhere near Hall of Fame consideration, he is only 27 after all, but despite his injury history he’s pacing well compared to other Hall of Fame right fielders. Entering his age-27 season,
Stanton has accrued 27.0 fWAR, more than Reggie Jackson (26.9), Tony Gwynn (19.2), and Vladimir Guerrero (23.7) had accrued by that point in their careers. It’s extremely important to note that WAR is not an end-all statistic and that Stanton needs to have some healthy MVP-caliber seasons (as he did in 2014) to have any real shot at the Hall, but the fact he’s on the right track despite his setbacks is very promising.
Currently Eligible Hall of Famers
1. Zach Thomas
Derrick Brooks, Junior Seau, Lawrence Taylor, Mike Singletary, Jack Ham, Nick Buoniconti, Jack Lambert, Bobby Bell, Dick Butkus, Bill George, Joe Schmidt, Chuck Bednarik, Ray Lewis Patrick Willis, and Zach Thomas.
These 25 star linebackers have one thing in common: All made at least seven Pro Bowls and were named First-Team All-Pros at least five times. The first 12 are already in the Hall of Fame, Ray Lewis is without question a Hall of Famer, and Patrick Willis – despite a relatively short career – will also most likely enter Canton.
And then there’s Zach Thomas.
Here’s the argument for Thomas: From 1996-2008, the length of Thomas’ career, he had the most tackles in the NFL (Lewis was also drafted in 1996), was one of three total linebackers to have at least 20 sacks and 15 interceptions, and had more Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections than any linebacker besides Ray Lewis and Derrick Brooks – two of the guys who appeared on my earlier list.
In Barry Jackson’s recent obituary of the late, great Edwin Pope, Jackson mentions that Pope, a Hall of Fame voter, campaigned for Thomas’ induction more than any other player. Zach Thomas is a Hall of Famer. Someone needs to tell the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters that.
2. Bob Kuechenberg
Kuechenberg is and was infamous for being a crotchety, stubborn, and all around unpleasant individual to be around. I suppose you would be too if you, like Kuechenberg, were a Hall of Fame finalist eight straight times and failed to make it each of those eight times.
Kuechenberg’s candidacy is hurt by the fact that throughout his career he was nearly always second (or third) fiddle on an offensive line with multiple Hall of Famers — Larry Little, Jim Langer, and Dwight Stephenson.
The Hall is probably tired of putting 70s Dolphins in, yet a Hall of Famer is still a Hall of Famer. It is likely he gets in via the Hall of Fame’s Senior Committee, but ask Ken Stabler about the Senior Committee’s timeliness.
3. Gary Sheffield
Player A: .292/.393/.514, 509 HR, 1676 RBI, 253 SB, 141 wRC+, 62.1 fWAR
Player B: .318/.379/.553, 449 HR, 1496 RBI, 181 SB, 136 wRC+, 54.3 fWAR
Neither of these players are currently in the Hall of Fame, but one of the two came within fifteen votes of entering it (and will almost certainly make it next year). The other received less than 15 percent of the total vote. You can probably see where I am going with this.
Player A is Gary Sheffield and Player B is Vladimir Guerrero.
I think Guerrero is a Hall of Famer, and it is because of that that I also believe Sheffield is a Hall of Famer.
I have flip-flopped on Sheffield recently. When he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame three years ago I believed that, despite his overall brilliance, he was ultimately just shy of getting in, much like Jeff Kent or Fred McGriff. Many voters, indeed most voters, agree with my original position. Here’s why:
- His defense: By Fangraphs’ offensive measurements, Sheffield is the seventh most offensively proficient right fielder of all time. Conversely, Fangraphs’ rates him as the worst defensive right fielder of all time. Honestly it’s kind of impressive how high his WAR is considering how abysmal his defense was. It is ironic that Sheffield’s most memorable play during the 1997 World Series was a defensive play: robbing Jim Thome of a home run during Game 3 of the Series.
- Steroids: Honestly, not much to say here. He admitted to using a substance before it was banned by MLB. The anti-steroid fervor is dying down, and that will certainly help Sheffield.
- His personality: Sheffield was famously ornery as a player; sports writers are notoriously thin-skinned. Sports writers vote players into the Hall of Fame. This is why Terrell Owens is still not in the Hall of Fame, and this is certainly why some people refuse to vote for Sheffield.
I won’t belabor my point anymore. Two of the three reasons to not vote for Sheffield are stupid, and while his defense is infamously bad the metrics still say he had a finer overall career than defensive-minded right fielders like Andre Dawson and Ichiro Suzuki. Sadly, if guys like Larry Walker can’t get in, then Sheffield, like Kuechenberg, must depend on a committee to put him in after the writers fail him.
4. Tim Hardaway
Hardaway’s career began spectacularly. He was the second-fastest player to reach 5,000 points and 2,500 assists in NBA history, made three straight All-Star teams and averaged 21 points, 10 assists, and 2 steals over his first four years in the league. Disaster struck in 1993 when a knee injury forced him to miss the whole season.
After Hardaway was traded to the Heat he had a resurgence. Although his numbers were not as good as before he still averaged 18 points and 8 assists over his first three and a half years in Miami. He made three All-NBA teams with the Heat before injuries and age rather quickly reduced his effectiveness.
Hardaway was a five-time All-Star and was named to five All-NBA teams. That’s usually a good enough career to get you into the Hall of Fame, but Hardaway’s total numbers pale in comparison to other point guards in the Hall of Fame. Despite this, Hardaway was the best player on the famous “Run TMC” Warriors teams and was probably the best player on the Heat between 1996-1998. Basketball-Reference puts his Hall of Fame chances at 79.2%, better than current Hall of Famers Mitch Richmond and Joe Dumars. He’s a borderline case, but if we want to reward players based on peak than Hardaway belongs.
5. John Vanbiesbrouck
Vanbiesbrouck had one of the weirdest careers of any goalie in NHL history. He began his career with the New York Rangers in an era where scoring was abundant. Vanbiesbrouck won a Vezina Trophy in 1986 with a .887 save percentage – abysmal by today’s standards but a Top 10 save percentage that year.
After several middling years in New York he came to the Panthers in the expansion draft and put up the best season of his career – posting a 72 goals against percentage (top 10 in league history) and 55.6 goals saved above average (the second best in NHL history). He followed that up with three more great seasons before suddenly and precipitously falling off a cliff. He spent his last four years in the league on three different teams.
Over a twenty-year stretch (1980-2000), which encompasses most of Vanbiesbrouck’s career, he was fifth in the NHL in wins, fifth in shutouts, sixth in goals against percentage, and second in goalie point shares. In terms of all-time stats, Vanbiesbrouck is in the top 15 in wins and goalie point shares, and is in the top 10 in goals saved above average.
Unfortunately for Vanbiesbrouck, most of these great numbers are a testament to his longevity rather than his greatness. To be sure, Vanbiesbrouck is one of the great goalies of his era, but is one spectacular season and 5-6 great seasons enough for Hall of Fame consideration? I think so, but I can certainly see why Vanbiesbrouck has been a borderline candidate for so long.
6. Richmond Webb
Richmond Webb protected Dan Marino’s blind side for a decade and was named to seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. The Pro Football Hall of Fame subsequently named Webb to its 1990s All-Decade Team along with Gary Zimmerman, Willie Roaf, and Tony Boselli. Zimmerman and Roaf are in the Hall of Fame, and, despite the brevity of his career, Boselli is often a Hall of Fame finalist based on his sheer dominance at the position.
Webb was hurt by playing on a team that never had resounding postseason success and was never considered the absolute pinnacle at his position during his playing days. Despite his tremendous accolades, there has never been a serious push for Webb to enter the Hall, and, if he ever does make it, it will likely because of a committee several years from now.
7. Bob Baumhower
I’ve said before that Baumhower is the most underrated Dolphins player of all-time. He was the lynchpin of the Killer B’s defense of the late 1970s and early 1980s; a nose tackle that could both stuff the run and pressure the quarterback. Imagine if Paul Soliai had 90 tackles and 8 sacks in a season. It would be unthinkable! But that’s exactly what Bob Baumhower did in 1983, getting him named to one of his five All-Pro teams.
To further accentuate Bob Baumhower’s prowess, let’s compare his stats to an active nose tackle who made five Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams, University of Miami great Vince Wilfork:
Wilfork: 189 games played, 565 tackles, 16.0 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 24 passes defensed
Baumhower: 130 games played, 888 tackles, 39.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed
You should take tackle numbers with a grain of salt because before the late-1990s, teams kept track of tackles themselves and often overinflated them, yet the other numbers stand out. Many think Wilfork is a Hall of Famer, myself included, and Baumhower stands tall next to him.
Baumhower’s main obstacle to Hall of Fame consideration is that very few defensive tackles are in the Hall of Fame. Other defensive tackles from Baumhower’s era like Fred Smerlas and Joe Klecko have also been shut out of the Hall of Fame. With the voters seemingly content to have Randy White and Dan Hampton be the only 80s defensive tackles it the Hall, it seems exceedingly unlikely that Baumhower will ever get in.