Dwight Evans has a legitimate Hall of Fame case, but the 2022 Contemporary Ballot left him off in favor of weaker candidates.
Dwight Evans had an excellent Major League career, one worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. Unfortunately, he is once again being ignored by said Hall for unclear reasons out of his control. This year, the Hall of Fame reorganized their era committees that elect candidates turned away by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Evans is eligible for this year’s Contemporary Era Ballot, which includes notables who played much of their careers since 1980. But he does not show up on the current ballot of eight players even though lesser candidates do appear.
Here is the ballot, with results coming on Sunday at the Winter Meetings: Fred McGriff, Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, Albert Belle, and Rafael Palmeiro
Dwight Evans has a legitimate case for the Hall of Fame, with 67.2 career WAR, well within the range of a reasonable candidate. Baseball Reference helpfully including Hall of Fame comparisons on player pages. According to JAWS, Jay Jaffe’s essential system balancing career WAR and peak WAR, Evans is 16th among right fielders, sandwiched between future Hall-of-Famers Mookie Betts and Ichiro Suzuki. He is also above 14 current members and a number of active players well on their way to Cooperstown. In one of the most stacked positions in baseball, Evans ranks quite well.
Among traditional stats and awards, Evans is still within a puncher’s chance. 2446 hits and 385 home runs are both solid but not outstanding. He racked up eight Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and made three All-Star teams. He received MVP votes in five different seasons and finished as high as third. All those Gold Gloves show that much of his value came on defense, which many voters overlook. He lost a few steps in his final years, but Evans was an elite defender in his prime.
One of the best draft picks in Red Sox history, the fifth rounder was a stalwart in Boston and played 19 of his 20 seasons there. Players tend to benefit from associations with one specific team, and Dewey still frequents Sox games today. Evans, of course, never won the World Series, but he was a key member of the 1975 and 1986 teams that won the pennant. He is arguably the best right fielder to roam the grass at Fenway.
Comparison to Current Candidates
Where Evans falls short is in some other Hall of Fame metrics that benefit players on the ballot. Evans is far below average Hall-of-Famers in black ink and gray ink, which sum up how often a player leads the league in a category or finishes in the top ten. He is also far below a “likely Hall-of-Famer” in the monitor, which measures the chances of someone making the Hall.
The monitor is based strongly off of traditional stats and awards voting, so the candidates on the ballot look better. Evans has a score of 70, while “likely” is 100 and “virtual cinch” is 130. Belle, Murphy, and Mattingly have almost no chance of election, but they have scores of 135, 116, and 134, respectively. Jaffe theorizes that weaker candidates might purposely be on the ballot to give stronger candidates a better chance. Since there are limited votes, many strong candidates would spread out the votes and no one would get in. But with only four or five worthy candidates, one of them has a shot at election. Perhaps the Hall is waiting for the next cycle to give Evans and Lou Whitaker better chances.
Regarding the other candidates, Palmeiro, Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling all have clear credentials based on their on-field performance. But the first three infamously took steroids, and the latter has ruined his own candidacy through many offensive comments. McGriff seems to have the best chances of anyone as someone with 493 home runs and a spotless record.
Dwight Evans fell off the writers’ ballot after just three years. I can understand why Evans is not in the Hall of Fame, but he absolutely deserves another chance via committee. Hopefully more worthy candidates will be on future ballots.