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The Cooperstown case for Keith Hernandez


A five-time All-Star, a two-time World Series champion, and one-time National League MVP.

Yet, the following gentleman is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Welcome to another weekly edition of “The Cooperstown case”, where today we’ll be looking at former Cardinals and Mets first baseman, Keith Hernandez.

This is quite possibly the hardest case to go through, because with every pro in his favor, there is a con to go against him. Either way, we’re here to find out why he isn’t in Cooperstown, and if he deserves to be or not.

First, let’s take a look at his success, or lack thereof, on the Hall of Fame ballots. Hernandez spent a total of nine years on the Hall of Fame ballot, peaking in 1998 at 10.8 percent of the votes. 75% of the votes are required for induction. More recently, he’s be included on the Veteran’s Committee ballots, but has been unsuccessful.

Now, let’s look at his stats to see if his career was truly Hall of Fame worthy.

Over the course of his 17 year career, he hit 162 home runs, 2182 hits, 1071 RBIs, 426 doubles and a .436 SLG. However, Hernandez never hit more than 18 home runs in any season. He had a batting average over .300 seven times, finished with an .820 OPS (on base plus slugging) and a 57.1 WAR. Sometime to note: the “WAR” stat is better than 12 first basemen in the Hall of Fame.

His 162 career home runs are also almost twice as much as another first baseman, Rod Carew. And Carew is in the Hall of Fame.

During his 10-year career with the Cardinals, Hernandez hit 81 home runs, 1217 hits, 265 doubles, and a batting average of .299. In addition, he won a Gold Glove, the 1979 MVP (tied with Willie Stargell), and played a key role in the Cardinals’ 1982 World Series season.

In 1983, Hernandez was traded to the New York Mets and spent seven years with the team. He helped win the 1986 World Series, and nearly notched an additional 1000 hits with the team (939 to be exact).

So with all of these stats and accomplishments, why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?

Two words could very well have played a huge role in the reasoning: drug usage.

“I consider cocaine the devil on this earth,” Hernandez once said.

That’s right, there was a period where Hernandez was on drugs, notably cocaine. Starting in 1980, following the separation of him and his wife, he began to use large amounts of cocaine, but once after seeing Cardinals teammate Lonnie Smith have a bad experience with it, the first baseman knew he had to quit.

“I had the shakes and I wound up throwing a gram down the toilet,” he testified during the trial of alleged cocaine dealer Curtis Strong, who had been the Philadelphia Phillies’ clubhouse caterer. During that famous trial, Smith testified that he had purchased cocaine from the Strong for himself, Joaquin Andujar and Hernandez.

However, he has been clean for decades, and is a popular announcer for the New York Mets.

Is the drug usage that once plagued Hernandez for a few years diminish all that he accomplished over 17 years?

Maybe it does, or maybe it doesn’t. It’s hard to say.

Only time will tell.

Be sure to check back next week, as yet another edition of “The Cooperstown case” takes place!

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