2nd version of this post: first one was done after the 2014 Hall of Fame class was announced and the voting results made public.
On 1/6/15, the BBWAA announced the results of the 2015 Hall of Fame class. Sadly, we go another year without any player with Nationals ties going into the hall.
Here’s a review of every player who has Nationals ties who has appeared on a Hall of Fame ballot, along with their voting results. This post will let you answer the trivia question, “What former Nats player has come the closest to Hall of Fame enshrinement?” (Answer at the bottom)
We’ll work from most recent to oldest.
- Aaron Boone, who signed a 1yr/$1M FA contract to be a backup corner infielder with the abhorrent 2008 Nationals team. Boone’s crowning baseball achievement was his extra innings walk-off homer that ended one of the best games in MLB history (Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS between Boston and the Yankees, ranked #6 by MLB’s panel a few years back when ranking the best 20 games of the last half century). Ironically one of his lowest moments was just a couple months later, blowing out his ACL that subsequent winter while playing pickup basketball, costing him the entirety of the 2004 season and the trust of the Yankees organization. He missed 2/3rds of the 2007 season after another left knee injury and the Nats were probably his last gasp shot at extending his career at the age of 35. He got a decent amount of playing time thanks to the fragility of Ryan Zimmerman and Nick Johnson, somehow got another guaranteed MLB deal the following year, went 0-14 for Houston and was released. He’s now an analyst with ESPN. Received 2 votes on the 2015 ballot.
- Ron Villone signed a minor league deal in 2009 and was quickly added to the Nats active roster, where he appeared in 63 games as our primary one-out lefty. He pitched the entirety of 2010 on another minor league contract with Syracuse, posting a 6.59 ERA as a 40-year old and never earning a call-up. In 2011 he was invited to spring training again (perhaps with the hope that he’d join the organization as a coach) but he got cut, then pitched a handful of indy league games for his home-town New Jersey indy league team, got hammered, and hung them up. He retired having played in 15 seasons for no less than 12 different teams. In 2012 he took a pitching coach job with the Cubs organization (one of the teams he managed NOT to play for during his career) and has been moving up their organization in that capacity since. Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.
- Julian Tavarez signed a one-year deal in the beginning of 2009, started out decently but had an awful stretch that resulted in his DFA in mid July 2009. He never threw another pitch in organized ball, abruptly retiring considering his mid-season release. He ended a 17-year career spanning 11 different franchises. Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot. According to his wiki page, he now resides in a suburb of Cleveland (his original professional team) but does not list any post-career activities, baseball-related or otherwise. Received Zero Hall-of-Fame votes by virtue of not appearing on the BBWAA ballot.
Both Tavarez and Villone belong to the infamous “From Nationals to Oblivion” club, a topic we revisit on an annual basis.
Note: it is not entirely clear to me why Villone and Tavarez were not actually ON the 2015 ballot; both seem to have the qualifications (10 years of experience and 5 years retired) and both were on previous versions of the “anticipated ballot” at baseball-reference.com, but neither showed up on BBWAA’s official ballot for this year. Pete Kerzel did a post reviewing “Nats connected” 2015 ballot members when the ballot came out in Nov 2014 and only mentioned Boone. I include them here since it seems to me they *should* be on the ballot and I’m not sure why they were not (unless someone is passing judgement on the “quality” of HoFame ballot members). Are they pushed to subsequent ballots for some reason? If anyone has insight i’d love to know.
- Paul Lo Duca: one of Bowden’s more infamous signings; he went from our opening day catcher in the 2008 season to being released by August 1st. The highlight of his tenure here was having his name being revealed in the Mitchell Report just a couple days after signing with us. After his release, he signed on to finish out the season with Florida, took a year off and attempted a come back in 2010 (signing a ML contract with Colorado but never appearing above AAA). Hard to believe this guy was a 4-time all-star. Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
- Royce Clayton; signed a contract to be the Nats shortstop during the lean Jim Bowden years, and then was included in the Mega swap of players that headed to Cincinnati in the 2006 season. He hung around for one more season in 2007 as a backup short stop and retired afterwards. Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
- Mike Stanton was picked up in mid 2005 after being released by the Yankees, and he pitched well enough for the Nats that he was able to fetch a couple of low-level prospects in a late September move to Boston (who was looking for some late season bullpen cover). The team then re-signed Stanton for 2006, and flipped him again mid-season, this time to the Giants for Shairon Martis. Stanton toiled a one more season before hanging them up after 2007. Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
- Vinny Castilla: signed a two year deal to join the Nats, timed with their inaugural season in Washington, but was traded to Colorado for SP Brian Lawrence when it became apparent that Ryan Zimmerman was set to man the hot corner in DC for the next decade or so. Played one more season and retired after 2006. Received Six (6) Hall-of-fame votes.
- Carlos Baerga: signed a one year deal as a 36-yr old to join the Nats in their inaugural season and serve as a backup infielder. Hit .253 in part-time duty and hung ‘em up after a 14-year career that can be well described as “journey-man.” He was an integral part of the early 90s Cleveland Indians as their starting 2nd baseman and a 3-time all-star, and ended up playing on 6 major league teams and spent parts one season in Korea. Received Zero hall-of-fame votes.
So, thus far the Nats greatest Hall of Fame achievement is Vinny Castilla receiving 6 sympathy votes. I’m sure this will change when Pudge hits the ballot in a couple years.