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D-backs on the Hall of Fame ballot, #1: Tony Clark

As we head towards the announcement of the Cooperstown 2015 class early next month, we'll look at the men on the ballot who have a connection - from tangential to massive - with Arizona.

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Career: 15 years, 1,559 games, 1,188 hits, 251 HR, 824 RBI, .262/.339/.485, 12.5 bWAR
Arizona: 5 years, 396 games, 212 hits, 59 HR, 178 RBI, .255/.330/.520, 1.7 bWAR

"Anybody, anytime..." I'm sure most Diamondbacks fans who remember the 2007 season will also recall that catchphrase for the season, spawned as the team surged to a 40-24 record down the stretch and rode that into the National League Championship Series for the second time in franchise history.. Clark was a significant part of that, clubbing 17 home-runs in only 221 at-bats in his role as backup first-baseman and pinch-hitter, including a sparkling .896 OPS in the latter role. Though he sputtered in the playoffs (as throughout his career - he hit .135 over his dozen post-season appearances), his "veteran presence" did seem a positive influence on the young team.

But Arizona was just the last stop in Clark's career, which began with the second overall pick in the 1990 draft, when the Detroit Tigers took him, just after some guy called Chipper Jones. [Whatever happened to him?] Clark made it to the majors with them in 1995 [playing alongside some guys called Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson - whatever happened to them?], and flourished the following season, hitting 27 homers in 100 games, and finishing third in the Rookie of the Year voting for 1996, losing out to the unanimous selection by the voters of some guy called Derek Jeter. [Whatever happened to him?]

He received MVP mention the next year, and between 1997-1999 enjoyed considerable success, averaging 32 home-runs, 153 games and putting up a total of 9.5 bWAR. [The 1998 season saw him team with another future D-back, Luis Gonzalez; whatever happ... DeadHorse.png] Though selected as an All-Star in 2001, he struggled consistently to reach those heights again: over the following decade that represented the rest of Clark's career, he managed only 3.1 bWAR, with that and more (3.3 bWAR) coming during his first season with the Diamondbacks in 2005, after he signed with us as a free-agent in January that year.

It was an epic slugging performance, as Clark reached the 30 home-run mark in less than 350 AB - no other player has done that since Mark McGwire in 2000. But it wasn't all power for Tony, as he hit over .300 for the season, putting up a line of .304/.366/.636 for an OPS of 1.003. That mark for a season trails only one D-back (min200 PAs), and if you come second to Luis Gonzalez's 2001, you're not doing too badly. However, he wasn't able to build on that the following season, as a shoulder injury required surgery, limiting him to only 147 plate-appearances. But he did have perhaps his best game in Arizona going 4-for-5 with two homers against the Braves on June 4.

In 2007, he split playing time at first-base with Conor Jackson, and was particularly clutch over the last month of the season. In September, he hit .315 with six home-runs for an OPS of 1.107, but his importance probably went beyond mere numbers. Said manager Bob Melvin, "If ever there was a guy that's kind of between coach and player - even though he's very productive for us on the field, he's a stabilizing force for everybody in that clubhouse... Some of the guys feel like they can go to and talk to him maybe a little bit more on a personal basis, where (they) might be a little more guarded talking to me or one of the coaches"

Perhaps surprisingly, however, Clark's contract was not renewed at the end of the year, and he signed with the San Diego Padres instead. However, it was just a brief sojourn by the Pacific, as a mid-season deal - which included Clark waiving a $500,000 trade bonus - brought him back to Arizona. But now at the age of 36, he was unable to capture the spark and hit 194 in 74 games over the rest of his time with the Diamondbacks in 2008-09. He was released by the team on July 13, 2009, as the team opted to go younger at first-base, being replaced at the position by Josh Whitesell. After no other team signed him, Clark announced his retirement.

There was, at the time, speculation he might have joined the Diamondbacks in some role, either in the front office or perhaps in the broadcast booth - he did some analysis work for the MLB Network. However, Clark's post-game career took a different turn, as he took over a role in the player's union, working as the director of player relations under union chief Michael Weiner. When Weiner was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2012, Clark became part of the succession plan, and took over the reins of the union - the first player to do so - after Weiner passed away in November 2013.

Clark was a resident of Arizona for 18 years - he had a home in Glendale - until his new position forced him to move to the East coast at the start of this year. By all accounts, he was a super nice guy, and even if his last couple of years as a Diamondback were more endured than enjoyed, his positive impact on the team from 2005-2007 should also be appreciated. But a Hall of Famer? No - and I think the humble Clark would be one of the first to agree. If he does make it to Cooperstown, it's more likely going to be for what he does over the rest of his career, as the head of the player's union. He has big shoes to fill, replacing Weiner - but then again. Tony does have some pretty big feet!