Andres Galarraga probably isn’t a hall of fame player. The Big Cat as he was called during his playing time played for the Montreal Expos (1985–1991 and 2002), St. Louis Cardinals (1992), Colorado Rockies (1993–1997), Atlanta Braves (1998–2000), Texas Rangers (2001), San Francisco Giants (2001 and 2003) and Anaheim Angels (2004).
A five time All-Star who won two Gold Glove awards and two Silver Sluggers he may be best known for his big smile. A smile that when coupled with his power provided a display that sometimes seems lacking in today’s game.
I’m not saying Andres was a hall of fame player but considering that Harold Baines got 33 votes or 6.1% with similar numbers and he played 1644 of his 2830 career games at DH I have to admit I am a little disappointed that Andres won’t appear on the ballot a second time.
Galarraga played 19 seasons in the majors finishing with a .288/.347/.499 career line. He hit 399 homers, drove in 1425 and provided an inspirational story when he returned in 2000 to claim the Comeback Player of the Year Award following treatment for cancer.
Despite being a starter for much of seven seasons in Montreal (1985-1991) Galarraga had only a 1988 season in which he led the league in hits and doubles that suggested he even deserved to be playing regularly. After spending a season in St. Louis following a trade he was signed as a free agent by Colorado in November of 1992.
Things seemed to change almost overnight. Aided by Coors Field “The Big Cat” went on to produce and produce big. In his five seasons in Colorado he compiled a .316/.367/.577 line with 172 homers and 579 RBI. In his previous 8 seasons Galarraga had a .267/.322/.432 line with 116 homers and 472 RBI in 942 games. In each of his five seasons with the Rockies he finished in the top 10 in MVP voting.
The following year he signed with the Braves where he went on to rake in 121 RBI and bop 44 homers on a team that went on to win 106 games. Almost overnight though baseball appeared to be taken away from Galarraga as he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer. He missed the entire 1999 season while undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
Returning from cancer and being 39 didn’t seem to effect Galarraga as he was selected to the All Star game in-front of the Atlanta faithful and finished with what would be his fifth and final 100 RBI season.
For financial reasons the Braves didn’t resign Andres and he headed to Texas, while Rico Brogna took over the position he once commanded in Atlanta. A switch to the AL took it’s toll as did a relegation to a backup role behind Rafael Palmeiro. Eventually he was traded to San Fransisco where he showed that there was still life in his bat, unfortunately for him time was not on his side. With little interest in a 41 year old first basemen Galaragga played in Montreal in 2002 where he struggled, the following season he had a productive run as a part time player with the Giants.
Cancer again struck him in 2004 but for a second time El Gran Gato beat it and after a stint with the Triple-A Sale Lake Bees, he was called up to the Anaheim Angels where he hit career home run 399. He entered spring training of 2005 with an outside chance to make the New York Mets but retired in late March citing it was the time for him to step aside for younger players.
A late bloomer coupled with his best seasons coming in Colorado it’s clear Galarraga falls short of the hall of fame. Even our own Jim Cheney was not kind to Galarraga in his recent review of the players on the ballot this year stating the following.
Andres Galarraga – Galarrage, the former Braves’ first baseman, is the prime example of a late 90s power hitter who may not be getting as much respect as he deserves. That being said, Galarraga was just not quite good enough offensively or defensively to get my vote. His 398 career home runs fall just short of the 400 home run milestone and he only once hitting 30 or more home runs outside of the launching pad that is Coors Field in Denver. Furthermore, he also had a batting average under .290 for his career and was, at best, an average fielder. As more things come to light regarding the steroid era, I might reconsider Galarraga’s candidacy, but for now, it’s a no.
The chance to reconsider Galarraga’s candidacy will never come. He was selected on just 22 of the 539 ballots to receive 4.1% of the vote. A player must reach 5% to remain on the ballot.