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Not in the Hall: Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown is the best player of the current era whose Hall of Fame case may never be properly heard.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Kevin Brown was not a great Yankee. At 39 and 40 in '04 and '05, in the final seasons of his career, he was a band-aid on a rotation that needed sutures. But Kevin Brown was an overwhelming opponent. He was the best pitcher in Texas throughout the early '90s when they were a lousy team, and he was their best pitcher when they won AL West in the strike-shortened '94 season. He pitched Miami to a World Series title in '97. In '98, he took the San Diego Padres from fourth to first. They were steamrolled by one of the greatest teams in baseball history in the World Series, but when the Los Angeles Dodgers made Brown the first $100 million dollar man in baseball history, the Padres fell right back into the basement.

Of the thousands of starters in baseball since 1968, Brown ranks 15th in WAR. For a pitcher many Yankee fans remember as "fragile," Brown pitched over 3200 innings, 25th since '68 (Andy Pettitte ranks 24th all time- 3256 vs 3316) , and Brown cleared 230IP in seven different seasons. Despite playing in the middle of the easiest era to hit home runs in baseball history, Brown's HR/9 is #13 since 1968.

What frustrates me most about Brown's aborted candidacy is that given a different path, he would have been regarded entirely differently. What if he hadn't followed free agency to Baltimore then Florida then Los Angeles? Subconsciously or not, the baseball writers still punish great players for chasing the highest dollar. But why should a player take less than the most he can make? As best I can tell, in the history of modern North American sports, ten franchises have files for bankruptcy, and six of those ten have been in the NHL (the Penguins seem to have done it twice).

But because Brown was a "mercenary," that means he doesn't have a fan base really pulling for him. Kirby Puckett is a Hall of Famer (it seems) because the Twins needed to have a Hall of Famer to represent their championship runs in '87 and '91. Jim Rice is a Hall of Famer (it seems) because a generation of Red Sox fans spent 20 years insisting that he was "the most feared hitter of his era."

In a different context, I always thought Brown could have been beloved by a fan base the way Yankee fans of a certain age will always love Paul O'Neill. Maybe if Brown had stayed in Miami or in San Diego, and had the exact same career that followed - the All Star appearances, the 2000 ERA title, the 1.10 WHIP and the 147 ERA+ from 1999-2003 - maybe the exact same career inspires works like "competitor" and "professional" and "passionate."

It's one things for the fans to have never truly embraced Kevin Brown. I don't look back on the careers of Gary Sheffield or Randy Johnson with any particular nostalgia as a Yankee fan, but as a sports fan, I can recognize their place in baseball history. And that's what the writers should have done. Now we're left to wait and hope that the Veteran's Committee can correct the BBWAA's mistake because Kevin Brown belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame.