On August 7th, 2010 former Indian great Kenny Lofton entered Progressive Field from the center field bullpen and strolled his way to the podium where he would put on his Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame jacket. His plaque was placed next to the names of Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller, Addie Joss, Bob Lemon, and others. But could Kenny be voted into another legendary venue where his legacy could be surrounded by those of Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Ty Cobb?
Let's review Lofton's resume.
He played seventeen seasons in the big leagues, and helped a lot of teams compete at a high level. Lofton does not have a World Series ring to his credit, but was a key contributor on a number of teams. These would include the 1995 Indians, the 2002 San Francisco Giants, the 2003 Chicago Cubs, and the 2007 Indians; all of which made it either to the Fall Classic, or came up just short in the LCS's. Lofton did play a large role on these teams, but his career post season average is less then remarkable at .247.
Lofton falls far short of 3,000 hits, by a little more then 500 at 2,428. All though it is not a requirement to have this many base knocks, having this sacred amount of hits usually ups the nominee's chances of getting into the Hall of Fame by a ton. Not many legendary hitters that are in Cooperstown have fewer then 3,000 hits; and if they don't, they did something else even greater.
Another good stat to have, for a hitter of Lofton's type, is 500 doubles. He falls way short of this at 383. Kenny was always more of a singles hitter, but most Hall of Famer's have a surfeit of two baggers.
Kenny does however have 1,500 plus runs. During his career, he also compiled and 622 stolen bases, which ranks 15th all time. But one thing that pops out at you is that there are several "un-household" like names that are ahead of Kenny, such as Bert Campaneris, Tom Brown, Max Carey, and Arlie Latham. Although MLB Hall of Famers such as Ozzie Smith and Paul Molitor rank below Lofton in steals, swiping bags was the key to Kenny's game. Whereas with The Wizard, he could get base knocks, and play stunning defense. Lofton won four straight gold gloves from 1993-1996. However, compared to other Hall of Famer's, four gold gloves really does not compare to Ozzie Smith's thirteen, or Andre Dawon's eight.
Lofton represented his team in the Mid-Summer classic six times; which is impressive and not easy to do. The durability requirement to put up healthy and solid season after healthy and solid season is quite a challenge. But Andre Dawson went eight times, George Brett went thirteen times, Wade Boggs went a dozen times, Carlton Fisk went eleven times, Rich "Goose" Gossage went nine times, and so on.
An extra bonus feat that most Hall of Famer's have that Kenny Lofton does not own, is a long tenure with one team. He did spend five years with the Indians from 1992-1996, returned for a second stint from 1998-2001, and then a third stint for a few months after the trade deadline in 2007. But Lofton's track record, especially in the prime of his career, was like that of a journeyman. From 2002 to 2007, Lofton played for nine different teams in less than six seasons. Not that this would keep Kenny out of the Hall, but it certainly impresses fans a bit more with longer tenures with one team. Strong relationships between a player and a city are usually what can get a Hall of Fame nominee over the top. Kenny has great love for the city of Cleveland, but is as strong as the connection Tribe fans feel towards Omar Vizquel or Jim Thome? Perhaps not.
So is Kenny "Love" Lofton bound for Cooperstown? Only the voters can tell.