The Hall of Fame case for Tuffy Rhodes

Outfielder Tuffy Rhodes, who in 2001 tied Sadaharu Oh’s single-season home run record with 55–and unlike Oh hit his while his team was fighting for a championship, saw his vote percentage drop last year from 39.6 percent to 22.8.

In the vote for this year’s class, Rhodes’ total rebounded slightly, improving to 29.6 percent of the votes, but four players shot ahead of him in the voting leaderboard, two ballot newcomers, Shinya Miyamoto and Alex Ramirez, and two guys who had trailed him a year ago, Hiroki Kokubo and Masumi Kuwata. One newcomer, Tomonori Maeda, pulled even with Rhodes.

Below are the position players who were named on at least 25 percent of the ballots cast for 2019. The categories are: Votes, Career Win Shares, MVPs, Best Nine awards, Golden Gloves, Hits, Home Runs and Stolen Bases.

2019 Hall of Fame Ballot: position players on 25 percent of ballots

NameVotesWSMVPsBest 9GGOff titlesHitsHRsSBs
Tuffy Rhodes110298170181,79246487
Hiroki Kokubo11929603262,04141358
Tomonori Maeda11024304422,11929568
Alex Ramirez150230240122,01738020
Kenjiro Nomura138227031102,020169250
Shinya Miyamoto153187011002,13362111
Masahiro Kawai18813701601,1994347

Rhodes is–by the standards of Hall of Famers enshrined for their playing–a decent candidate for the Hall. His career was long when compared to most foreign players, but short in comparison with many Japanese Hall of Famers, who became regulars a few years younger. His case poses an interesting comparison with Masahiro Doi, the best outfielder not in the Hall of Fame.

I am uncertain why Doi is not in the Hall. I’ve been told he slipped through the cracks created by the old rules that required a candidate to have been out of uniform for five years before being eligible. Since his retirement in 1981, Doi has been a perpetual and ubiquitous coach. He recently said he has finished coaching for good. Whether that means he will be eligible for selection through the expert’s division or not.

Rhodes is often held up as an example of NPB’s inferiority. How could a player whose only MLB credentials are three home runs against Dwight Gooden on Opening Day in 1994 and a .224 batting average in 590 at-bats spread over six seasons before moving to the Pacific League’s Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1996.

Rhodes had a .996 OPS on April 30, but went 0-for-10 in the first three games of May with three walks, came off the bench the next. On May 6, he was back in the lineup but went 1-for-5 with three strikeouts and the struggles got worse and worse. He failed to hit the next year, but in a half season at pitcher-friendly Triple-A Pawtucket, Rhodes hit about what he had over his 1,761 AAA at-bats.

Given regular playing time with the Buffaloes, Rhodes made adjustments he was unable to make in his lone extended time in the majors. NPB is not MLB. It is not Triple-A. It’s a combination of players who could star in MLB, players who would be borderline MLB regulars, guys who would struggle to succeed in AAA or get out of AA. But the NPB adjustments are made complex by the cultural differences and style of play.



In NPB the only outfielder who has been eligible for induction, and isn’t in the Hall with more career win shares than Rhodes is Doi with 355. Rhodes with 298, is 12th all time. Below him are two similar players, Shoichi Busujima and Tsutomu Wakamatsu. Busujima (285 win shares) is out, while Wakamatsu (281) is in.

Below is a pdf file of the win shares leaders among NPB’s outfielders who have been eligible for selection to the Hall of Fame:

Top NPB OF ranked by win shares

That being said, Wakamatsu won nine Best Nine Awards, and no player with more than seven has been excluded from the Hall of Fame. Five players have seven, including Rhodes, and two of them are in the Hall.



Every outfielder who has 16 times led his league in an offensive category is in–with the exception of Rhodes.

Every outfielder with 390 or more home runs is in, except for Rhodes (464) and the aformentioned Doi (465).

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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