There are many roads to Cooperstown.
Players are signed and drafted from all over the world. Some have the opportunity to become the face of a franchise and make their way from one organization straight to the Hall of Fame ballot. Others walk a completely different path thanks to trades, free agency, and the hunt for a World Series ring.
When a player is immortalized at the Baseball Hall of Fame, every team is mentioned all the same. For example, right between the Dodgers and Mets on Mike Piazza’s plaque you’ll find the Florida Marlins, one of three teams Piazza played for during the 1998 season.
With the 2022 Hall of Fame results set to be announced live on MLB Network on Jan. 25, let’s look back at 12 forgotten teams from the 30 players on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.
Note: Players had to make at least one Major League appearance for their “forgotten team” in order to be considered for this list.
Bobby Abreu — Houston Astros
Signed as an amateur free agent by the Astros in 1990, Abreu made his MLB debut with the club in late 1996 and slashed just .248/.325/.362 through 74 games as a 22- and 23-year-old before being left unprotected in the 1997 expansion draft.
The Venezuelan outfielder was selected by Tampa Bay before being immediately traded to Philadelphia in what would become a very lopsided deal very soon. Abreu would slash .312/.409/.497 across 151 games in his first season with the Phillies, and the rest is history.
Roger Clemens — Toronto Blue Jays
Depending on your age, Clemens is likely remembered as a member of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees or Houston Astros. But this ignores the fact that he delivered two of his best seasons — capturing a pair of Cy Young Awards, recording his 3,000th career strikeout, and crafting a 41-13 record — while with Toronto in 1997 and 1998. Clemens and the Blue Jays missed the postseason both years.
The “Rocket” would pitch into October for seven consecutive seasons from 1999-2005, producing an 11-6 record with a 3.57 ERA in the playoffs during that span. All in all, Clemens’ 67 appearances north of the border represent just nine percent of his 744 career games (including the postseason).
Andruw Jones — Texas Rangers
While Jones did also have another pair of cameos with the Dodgers and White Sox during the latter stage of his illustrious career, the defensive stalwart’s one-year run with the Rangers in 2009 stands out for a few reasons.
Namely, it marked the first season as a Major Leaguer that he did not play in center field. He also made eight appearances at first base (the only eight of his career) and 55 as a designated hitter while being limited to only 17 starts in the outfield despite being just two years removed from winning the last of his 10 Gold Glove awards.
Jeff Kent — Cleveland
Kent was traded three times in less than seven years to start his career before settling in with San Francisco and establishing himself as one of the best second basemen the game has ever seen.
That includes a 1996 Trade Deadline deal which sent the talented infielder from New York to Cleveland, after which he hit .265 with three home runs and 16 RBIs across 39 games. Cleveland’s 99-win team was surprisingly bounced in the ALDS by the Orioles and Kent was sent to the Giants that offseason.
Tim Lincecum — Los Angeles Angels
After two Cy Young Awards and a quartet of All-Star Game appearances, Lincecum left the Giants organization and signed with the Angels in May of 2016. He spent a month in the Minor Leagues getting into shape before firing six stellar frames in his first start with the Halos on June 18.
Things unfortunately went downhill after that though, and the 32-year-old was released after just nine starts with a 9.16 ERA. He attempted a comeback in 2018 with the Texas Rangers, but did not appear on the Major League roster.
Justin Morneau — Pittsburgh Pirates
Morneau was traded by the Twins to the Pirates late in the 2013 season as Pittsburgh geared up for a playoff push. The Canadian first baseman posted a .370 OBP through his first 25 games outside of the American League and went 7-for-25 across six postseason tilts with the Pirates that year, but it was not enough as Pittsburgh fell to the Cardinals in the NLDS.
Joe Nathan — Chicago Cubs
Tommy John surgery shelved the 40-year-old Nathan after just one-third of an inning in 2015, but the Cubs signed the hard-throwing righty to a Major League contract the following year hoping the veteran would supply reinforcement out of the bullpen down the stretch and into October.
Plans changed for Nathan and the Cubs when Chicago acquired bullpen help through a pair of Trade Deadline deals. Nathan was released despite registering three scoreless outings for the club in July. He ended his season back with the Giants and made seven appearances for the same club with which he started his career.
David Ortiz — Minnesota Twins
Before he become known to baseball fans across the country as “Big Papi,” Ortiz spent six seasons in Minnesota from 1997-2002. The Dominican slugger was released following the ‘02 season despite logging a 108 OPS+ during his time in the Twin Cities and signed with the Red Sox a month later. He went on to win seven Silver Slugger Awards plus a trio of World Series with Boston.
Curt Schilling — Houston Astros
The Astros acquired Schilling from the Orioles in advance of the 1991 season and dropped the 24-year-old into their bullpen. He converted eight of Houston’s 36 saves that season and went 3-5 with a 3.81 ERA across 56 total outings, but was traded – this time to the Phillies – prior to the start of his 1992 campaign.
After a brief stint in the bullpen Philadelphia elected to stretch Schilling out and move him into the rotation. The durable right-hander rewarded them with 10 complete games and four shutouts across his first 26 starts before becoming the staff’s ace in 1993.
Sammy Sosa — Baltimore Orioles
The Cubs traded Sosa to the Orioles prior to the 2005 season, ending a stellar tenure in “The Windy City” which featured six Silver Slugger Awards and seven All-Star selections. The 36-year-old Sosa struggled during his brief stint at Camden Yards, clubbing only 14 home runs throughout his 102 games in Baltimore.
Mark Teixeira — Los Angeles Angels
Teixeira was traded to the Angels less than a year after he was acquired by Atlanta as part of a blockbuster seven-player Trade Deadline deal during the 2007 season.
The hard-hitting first baseman feasted on AL West pitching down the stretch that year, producing a 1.081 OPS in 54 games for the 100-win Angels.
After entering free agency, the Maryland native signed an eight-year deal with the Yankees in January 2009.
Billy Wagner — Boston Red Sox
Wagner waived his no-trade clause to join the Red Sox late in the 2009 season, just 11 months into his recovery from Tommy John surgery. The 37-year-old southpaw acted as the setup man for reliever Jonathan Papelbon but his stint in Boston proved to be brief as the Red Sox were bounced in the ALDS by the Angels.
The Virginia native closed his career with the Atlanta Braves in 2010 despite being named an All-Star and recording 37 saves that year.