The Hall of Fame voters have caught a ton of flack as of late, and that’s because they don’t know how to properly vote the best players in baseball history into the Hall of Fame – which is meant to commemorate the best players in baseball history. HOWEVER, baseball fans everywhere got caught up in the top end of guys who fell off the ballot this year (as they should have), so nobody is talking about the guys who fell off because they couldn’t reach that five percent needed to stay on the ballot.
Most of these guys were one and done, but it’s impressive to even make it onto the Hall of Fame ballot, so I want to recognize those guys and remember their careers a bit so they aren’t completely forgotten. Were these six guys ever going to make it into the Hall? Probably not, since they fell off so quickly, but it’s still cool to look at their careers and see what got them onto the ballot in the first place.
This will be a short series of articles so each guy gets his due diligence he deserves. In this first article, we are looking at Joe Nathan, who only got 4.3% of votes (17 votes total) and fell off the ballot after his first year.
Joe Nathan didn’t have the star story of someone who you expect to end up on a Hall of Fame ballot, but here he is. Nathan didn’t exactly amaze in high school as a prospect, as he wasn’t receiving Division-1 offers from any schools. Nathan ended up going to Stony Brook in New York, then a Division-III school, where he started his college career as a shortstop before transitioning to a pitcher because of his great arm. The San Francisco Giants ended up taking a chance on him in the 1995 draft, making him a 6th round selection.
This would just be the beginning of a long and great career for Nathan, who debuted with the San Francisco Giants in 1999 and played until 2016. He would also end his career with the Giants, but he spent most of his years in the big leagues away from San Francisco. Nathan spent his first four seasons in San Francisco where he amassed a single save, a 24-10 record, a 4.12 ERA, a 104 ERA+, and a 5.05 FIP in 266.1 innings pitched. He spent the first two years primarily as a starter and then moved to the bullpen where most people remember him as a fantastic closer.
Nathan was traded to the Minnesota Twins before the 2004 season. With the Twins, he spent seven seasons to the tune of 260 saves, a 24-13 record, a 2.16 ERA, a 204 ERA+, and a 2.58 FIP in 463.1 innings pitched. His time in Minnesota was fantastic and probably what most fans remember, as he also finished his time there with 4 All-Star appearances and 2 top-5 Cy Young finishes. He then signed with the Texas Rangers on a two-year deal where he was also pretty great in two All-Star seasons. In Texas, he collected 80 saves, a 9-7 record, a 2.09 ERA, a 204 ERA+, and a 2.52 FIP in 129 innings pitched.
After his time in Texas, he moved on to Detroit, signing a two year deal to close in the Motor City. In his time in Detroit, he was able to gather 36 saves, a 5-4 record, a 4.78 ERA, a 82 ERA+, and a 3.90 FIP in 58.1 innings pitched. His totals may seem a bit off for two seasons, and that’s because his second season was really lost due to an elbow injury that would ultimately lead to him needing the dreaded Tommy John surgery after just one save and 0.1 inning. His stint in Detroit wasn’t exactly fantastic, but this is where he would have his final full season, as his last season after Detroit was split between the Cubs and the Giants. That season came in 2016 where he only pitched a total of 6.1 innings.
His final game came in a 12-3 win against the Colorado Rockies in game 787 of his career. He faced one batter in this game and struck him out on 5 pitches. Nathan’s final strikeout, number 976, came against a 25-year-old Nolan Arenado.
All of this led to the final career numbers for Joe Nathan to look like the following in 16 seasons: 377 saves, a 64-34 record, a 2.87 ERA, a 151 ERA+, a 3.36 FIP, and 923.1 innings pitched. He also finished with 6 All-Star appearances and 976 career strikeouts.
Nathan would finally call it a career on September 3rd, 2017, when he signed a one day contract so he could retire as a Minnesota Twin. His career is remembered fondly by Twins fans, and as a Giants fan myself, I think it’s pretty cool to see a guy who spent some time in San Francisco end up on the ballot, no matter how long it may have been.
Joe Nathan, congrats on the awesome career and having it be good enough to end up on the Hall of Fame ballot.
Feature Image: @Twins on Twitter