top of page
  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Graig Nettles Belongs in the Hall of Fame

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

by Paul Semendinger

February 6, 2023


NOTE - I made some of these points on the Dr. Sem's Saturday Yankees Show, but I also wanted to get this in print.


It is time for baseball to recognize that Graig Nettles is a worthy Hall of Famer.

What follows is the case for Graig Nettles to be admitted to the Hall of Fame the next time a committee that looks at players from the 1970s meets.

The preponderance of evidence shared here makes it abundantly clear that Graig Nettles was a Hall of Fame baseball player/

(All stats from baseball-reference.)


The general Hall of Fame standard is 60 WAR. If a player reaches 60 WAR, that player is considered Hall of Fame worthy.

A lifetime WAR of 68.0 is clearly and comfortably above that Hall of Fame threshold.

Graig Nettles' lifetime WAR is 68.0.


There have been over 20,000 players in the history of Major League baseball. I would think that even people in favor of a small Hall of Fame would agree that if a player is among the top 200 players of all time (the top 1% of all who ever played the game, an exclusive company indeed) he is deserving of the Hall of Fame.

Graig Nettles ranks well above that threshold. He is the 122nd best player in history (as measured by WAR). Nettles is in the top 0.6% of all players in the history of the game. In other words, he ranks above 99.4% of all players in the history of the game.

Absenting pitchers from the all-time WAR list, Graig Nettles ranks 83rd all-time among position players. For his career he was a Top 100 position player all-time.

That has to be considered Hall of Fame worthy.


Some people say a Hall of Famer should be a winner.

Graig Nettles reached 5 World Series, with his team winning two of them. It was Graig Nettles' exceptional defense, in fact, that turned the 1978 World Series in the Yankees' favor. In addition, Nettles was the MVP of the ALCS in 1981.

After he left the Yankees, Nettles was a key contributor to the NL Champion San Diego Padres in 1984.

Nettles was clearly a winner.


An argument can be made that a Hall of Famer should be the best player in the league at least once.

Graig Nettles led all position players in the American league in WAR on two separate occasions: 1971 and 1976. He was a top-10 player six times in his career.


A Hall of Famer should be at or near the top of leader boards.

When Graig Nettles retired, he was the all-time leader in home runs among third baseman in American League history.

Nettles led the league in home runs in 1976.

Also, only Reggie Jackson hit more homers in the 1970s than Graig Nettles in the entire American League.

Nettles also won two Gold Glove awards (As I demonstrated here, it should have been more).

Graig Nettles led the American League in assists at third base in 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1976.

Graig Nettles led the league in double plays at third base in 1971, 1976, and 1978.

Graig Nettles led the league in putouts at third base in 1971 and 1974.


Only two players in the history of Major League Baseball played more games at third base than Graig Nettles: Brooks Robinson and Adrian Beltre. (When he retired, Nettles was in second place all-time.)

No active player is even within 600 games of reaching Nettles' total. Evan Longoria is closest. He is 627 games behind. Nolan Arenado is 1,057 games behind Nettles. Nettles will be third all-time for decades more.


A Hall of Famer should be considered a star in his era.

Graig Nettles was an All-Star on six occasions.


A Hall of Famer should be a leader.

Graig Nettles was the captain of the Yankees - in fact, he was the first player to be named captain after Thurman Munson.


Graig Nettles is the 10th greatest third baseman in history.* (More on this below.)

I would think that a top 10 player at a position has to be considered Hall of Fame worthy. How much more exclusive can the Hall of Fame be?


A Hall of Famer should rank on par with other Hall of Famers. Nettles' 68.0 WAR ranks very similarly to Al Simmons (68.2), Pee Wee Reese (68.4), Edgar Martinez (68.4), Eddie Murray (68.7), and many others. Most noteably, his 68.0 WAR is tied with Ryne Sandberg.

For third base, Scott Rolen (70.1) and Ron Santo (70.5) have lifetime WARs very similar to Nettles'

But Nettles doesn't just rank among the greatest players, his career was appreciable better than many players already in the Hall of Fame, a host of who are considered among the legends of the sport.

The following is a list of many Hall of Famers all of whom have a lifetime WAR below that of Graig Nettles.

Note - because their positions are so different, I did not include pitchers or catchers on this list. I also excluded players from the 1800s and players whose MLB careers were shortened due to the color line broken by Jackie Robinson in 1947. As such, this is an incomplete lists, but it still roves the point clearly. Graig Nettles' career ranks among the greatest players in baseball history:

  • Ernie Banks

  • Roberto Alomar

  • Goose Goslin

  • Duke Snider

  • Craig Biggio

  • Andre Dawson

  • Joe Cronin

  • Willie McCovey

  • Richie Ashburn

  • Dave Winfield

  • Billy Williams

  • Lou Boudreau

  • Home Run Baker

  • Zack Wheat

  • Harmon Killebrew

  • Enos Slaughter

  • Willie Stargell

  • Billy Herman

  • George Sisler

  • Bill Terry

  • Luis Aparacio

  • Joe Gordon

  • Max Carey

  • David Ortiz

  • Joe Sewell

  • Joe Medwick

  • Sam Rice

  • Tony Perez

  • Fred McGriff

  • Earl Averill

  • Bobby Doer

  • Kirby Puckett

  • Orlando Cepeda

  • Nellie Fox

  • Ralph KIner

  • Heinie Manush

  • Kiki Cuyler

  • Jim Rice

  • Tony Lazzeri

  • Chuck Klein

  • Ed Roush

  • Lou Brock

  • Earle Combs

  • Red Schoendiest

  • Gil Hodges

  • Tony Oliva

  • Phil Rizzuto

  • Hack Wilson

  • Harold Baines

  • Pie Traynor

  • George Kell

  • Bill Mazeroski

  • Chick Hafey

  • Jim Bottomley

  • Lloyd Waner

Graig Nettles has a lifetime WAR better than each of those players.


CONCLUSION: Graig Nettles has a lifetime WAR of 68.0. He was the best player in the American League in 1971 and 1976. He was a Word Champion two times who played in five total World Series.

Nettles was the captain of the Yankees. Nettles is the 10th greatest third baseman in history*, and is ranked #122 all-time by WAR (83rd among position players). This all, and so much more, speaks very clearly to the fact that he belongs in the Hall of Fame.


*NOTE - On the all-time position rankings for third base, Graig Nettles ranks 12th, not 10th. But I take issue with that list.

Ranked above Graig Nettles at third base are Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez. Neither should be considered a third baseman.

Graig Nettles played 2,412 games at third base.

Paul Molitor played 791 games at third base. Molitor was a designated hitter for 1,174 games. He should be listed as a designated hitter, not a third baseman.

Edgar Martinez played only 564 games at third base. Martinez was a designated hitter for 1,403 games. He, too, should be listed as a designated hitter, not as a third baseman.

Neither Molitor or Martinez rank in the top 100 players in games played at third base in their careers. They played third base for a time, but for the purposes of determining the greatest at that position, they do not deserve to be on the list.


Also, the following graphic was posted on Twitter after the article was published. It's pretty difficult to argue that a Top-5 player from an entire decade doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame:

26 comentarios

Steve Sailer
Steve Sailer
13 dic 2023

For some reason, Graig Nettles never much excited baseball journalists. I can recall listening to the radio broadcast of the 2nd game of the 1980 AL Championship Series, Yankees vs. Royals, when 36 year old Nettles hit an inside the park home run. I thought that was amazing, but it hardly raised the pulse of announcer Curt Gowdy.

Nettles didn't have much opportunity to shine in the post season in his best younger years, but as an oldtimer from 1976-1985, he was a fixture deep into October.

Me gusta

Sunny Guy
Sunny Guy
27 feb 2023


Me gusta

Chris Spencer
Chris Spencer
09 feb 2023

If you rank in the top 0.6%, you are not better than 99.994% you are better than 99.4% of players. still pretty good though!

Me gusta
Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
10 feb 2023
Contestando a

Yes, my bad. I'll correct it! :)

Thank you.

Me gusta

06 feb 2023

Thanks for the overiew ...Of course Nettles belongs in the Hall..... thankfully Fuster won't be on the 70's committee!

Me gusta
06 feb 2023
Contestando a

Randolph was better than Nettles

Me gusta

Mike Whiteman
06 feb 2023

I’d vote for him.

I suspect his .248 lifetime batting average and .421 lifetime slugging turned off the “old school” voters. Plus, the fact that he was pretty bad the last three years of his career may have given a bad taste. He probably should have quit after 1986. It tarnishes the fact that he had a really good fifteen year run from 1970-1984 when he averaged over four WAR per season.

Here is an instance that new stats sheds light on his real value, and hopefully he’ll be considered and elected at the next opportunity.

Me gusta
Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
06 feb 2023
Contestando a

Right on, my friend.

Me gusta
dr sem.png

Start Spreading the News is the place for some of the very best analysis and insight focusing primarily on the New York Yankees.

(Please note that we are not affiliated with the Yankees and that the news, perspectives, and ideas are entirely our own.)


Have a question for the Weekly Mailbag?

Click below or e-mail:

SSTN is proudly affiliated with Wilson Sporting Goods! Check out our press release here, and support us by using the affiliate links below:

Scattering the Ashes.jpeg

"Scattering The Ashes has all the feels. Paul Russell Semendinger's debut novel taps into every emotion. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll reexamine those relationships that give your life meaning." — Don Burke, writer at The New York Post

The Least Among Them.png

"This charming and meticulously researched book will remind you of baseball’s power to change and enrich lives far beyond the diamond."

—Jonathan Eig, New York Times best-selling author of Luckiest Man, Opening Day, and Ali: A Life

From Compton to the Bronx.jpg

"A young man from Compton rises to the highest levels of baseball greatness.

Considered one of the classiest baseball players ever, this is Roy White's story, but it's also the story of a unique period in baseball history when the Yankees fell from grace and regained glory and the country dealt with societal changes in many ways."


We are excited to announce our new sponsorship with FOCO for all officially licensed goods!

FOCO Featured:
carlos rodon bobblehead foco.jpg
bottom of page