The season-ending injury to Rangers ace Jacob deGrom already sent us down the path of . The overarching fear is he ends up on the same list of so many before him who had Hall of Fame talent but were derailed by injuries.
In fact, let's take a look at some players on that list. I've compiled 20 who could well already be in Cooperstown or would otherwise be a lock to make it in the future if not for injuries.
Now, this isn't an exhaustive list. You won't find every single player who meets the subjective criteria, nor will you find players who either should be in the Hall (hello, Kenny Lofton and Bobby Grich), are out due to PED ties (what up, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) or are all-time Hall of the Very Good types (hey, Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins). This is just a collection of players with whom it feels like deGrom will end up forever tied. Some have better cases than others, obviously, as no two players are ever the same.
Also, this will skew modern. There's one player who goes back to the '50s and we'll see a few from the '70s, but it's mostly more recent than that. There are reasons for it, most significantly that a much larger percentage of players from further back in history made the Hall of Fame and also injury data from further back is much harder to come by. Plus, the majority of the readership here will have memories of the players listed while no one actually remembers watching the 1920s.
Anywho, here are 20 players who fell short of the Hall of Fame directly due to injury issues.
*Joe Mauer - I threw the asterisk on there because I think Mauer is going to get in. We'll start finding out this coming offseason. If he doesn't make it, though, his issues with concussions will be mostly to blame. Through his age-27 season, he was a .327/.407/.481 hitter and had won an MVP. I think he's going to make it anyway, but the concussion issues have made it a discussion when it otherwise wouldn't have been.
Thurman Munson - Here's the lone case on the list where it wasn't an injury but a tragic death. The seven-time All-Star won an MVP and finished a career .292 hitter with a 116 OPS+ and two rings. He sits 12th in catcher JAWS all-time. Munson spent 15 years on the Hall of Fame ballot, never getting above 15.5 percent of the vote.
Don Mattingly - Donnie Baseball was ruined by back injuries. Through his age-28 season, he was a .323 hitter with a 144 OPS+. He had an MVP and a runner-up and two other top-seven finishes. He led the league in doubles three times, hits twice, RBI once and won a batting title. He spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballot and has been in vet committees since then, but hasn't gotten in.
Will Clark - Through his age-28 season, Will the Thrill was a career .302/.374/.507 (149 OPS+) hitter with four top-five finishes in MVP voting. A series of injuries held him back the rest of the way. He still finished above .300 (by three points) in average while compiling 2,176 hits and over 1,200 RBI, but a fully healthy career likely has him in the Hall.
Dustin Pedroia - His first two full seasons with the Red Sox resulted in a Rookie of the Year, World Series title and MVP. He would tack on another ring and two more top-10 MVP finishes, but Pedroia also finished his career with just eight seasons of more than 105 games. He hasn't been on the Hall of Fame ballot yet, but I seriously doubt he makes it in. Given how relatively close he is, we can blame the litany of injury woes he faced.
David Wright - Wright ended his career a .296/.376/.491 (133 OPS+) hitter with an average of 5.0 WAR per 162 games. Those types of rate stats at the still-underrepresented position of third base would play in Cooperstown discussions. Unfortunately, what was left of his career after his age-29 season was injury-marred. He finished with 1,777 hits, 390 doubles, 242 homers, 970 RBI and 949 runs.
Nomar Garciaparra - Through his age-29 season, "Nomah" was a .323 hitter while averaging 48 doubles, 30 homers, 117 RBI and 120 runs per 162 games. The rest of his career, he only averaged 84 games played per season. He got 5.5 percent of the vote his first try in the ballot, but fell to just 1.8 percent the next cycle.
Troy Tulowitzki - With Larry Walker in and Todd Helton headed that way, a path could've been cleared away from the Coors Field stigma to make room for Tulo, but he just couldn't stay on the field enough. He played in at least 140 games just three times and only played in 100-plus games eight times. He still finished a .290 hitter with a 118 OPS+ and outstanding defense at short.
Albert Belle - For various reasons, Belle has actually turned into an underrated slugger. A degenerative hip injury forced him into retirement after his age-33 season and ended his career with 1,726 hits, 389 doubles, 381 homers, 1,239 RBI and 974 runs. Those won't cut it for a corner outfielder/designated hitter. But man, Belle could rake. He slashed .295/.369/.564 (144 OPS+) and led the league in RBI three times, slugging twice and total bases three times. He went over 100 RBI in every single season in which he qualified for the batting title and even drove home 95 in just 461 at-bats in 1991.
Roger Maris - Yes, there were injuries (namely impacting 1963 and 1965), but it's also difficult to tell what kind of toll the stress from the '61 home run chase took on Maris. The two-time MVP had a great peak but didn't make 1,500 career games. That left all his counting stats short.
Dale Murphy - Murphy won back-to-back MVPs in the early '80s. He was an icon and through his age-31 season looked like he was en route to Cooperstown. He already had 1,555 hits, 310 homers and 927 RBI with a 132 OPS+ and five Gold Gloves. Then, a knee injury ruined him. He finished with 2,111 hits, 398 homers, 1,266 RBI and a .265/.346/.469 slash.
Fred Lynn - It wasn't really one thing in particular with Lynn. He was just banged up, seemingly all the time. He played in at least 140 games just four times in his 17 years. He was a nine-time All-Star with an MVP and some other huge seasons, but finished with 1,960 hits, 388 doubles, 1,111 RBI and 1,063 runs.
Johan Santana - How amazing was Prime Johan? Man, he just felt like a Hall of Famer, you know? He won two Cy Youngs and finished third in voting twice. He led the league in ERA three times, innings twice, strikeouts three times and WHIP four times. I think he should be in the Hall regardless, but he only made 21 starts (all in one season) after his age-31 season. He fell 12 strikeouts shy of 2,000 and ended with just 139 wins.
Dave Stieb - Back and shoulder injuries did Stieb in, but he was an ace through the mid-'80s. From 1980-85, he had a 3.07 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (139 ERA+) and finished in the top seven of Cy Young voting three times. The workhorse led the league in innings twice and complete games once. He shows decently in JAWS, to the point that getting those 176 wins over 200 and the 1,669 strikeouts over 2,000 could've gone a long way in his Hall of Fame case.
Bret Saberhagan - The two-time Cy Young winner came up in 1984 and was still pitching in the majors in 2001. He only had five seasons at least 30 starts, though. He finished with 167 wins and 1,715 strikeouts to go with his 3.34 ERA (126 ERA+) and 1.14 WHIP. Again, imagine him with at least 200 wins and over 2,000 strikeouts and there could've been different discussions. Beyond that, though, more full seasons instead of partial could've meant more All-Star Game and hardware.
Orel Hershisher - Hershiser was arguably the best pitcher in baseball in the late '80s, finishing in the top four of Cy Young voting four times from 1985-89. He led the league innings in the last three seasons in there and that took a toll on him. He lost a good portion of the next two seasons to injury and was never the same.
Fernando Valenzuela - Not so much injury as overuse as a youngster, Fernando Mania was incredible in 1981. He won Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young. Through his age-25 season, he had 99 wins, 1,274 strikeouts and a 2.94 ERA (119 ERA+). He also already had over 1,500 innings and 84 complete games. The rest of his career was riddled with injuries and mediocrity.
Brandon Webb - Webb was good from the start. Then he was exceptional. Then it was over. He won the 2006 Cy Young, finished second in each of the next two seasons, got hurt in his first start in 2009 and that was it. He was never in the majors again. In 198 career starts (with one appearance in relief), he was 87-62 with a 3.27 ERA (142 ERA+).
JR Richard - Richard had basically five full seasons and then a half season of excellence. He went over 300 strikeouts twice. He finished in the top seven of Cy Young voting three times. He led the majors in ERA in 1979 and had a 1.90 ERA in 1980 before having a stroke that ended his career at age 30.
Stephen Strasburg - We don't really need to review this one, right? As talented as anyone we've seen, his MLB career . He's made 247 starts. He's gone 113-62 with 1,723 strikeouts in 1,470 innings. He's a three-time All-Star with a World Series title (and World Series MVP).