Earlier tonight, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced the newest members of the Hall of Fame. Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman will all head to Cooperstown this summer. Whereas last year’s class featured players who had lengthy stays on the ballot, tonight’s group mostly consisted of relative newcomers.
Jones sailed into the Hall of Fame with 97.2% of the total votes. There was no doubt that the Braves third baseman would get in on the first ballot. Hitting .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs across 19 seasons will do that. The real question here was how close he would get to a unanimous induction. Like Greg Maddux and Ken Griffey Jr. before him, Jones fell just short. I suspect that it will be a long time before that happens — if ever.
He’s not the only first ballot inductee, however, as Thome also punched his ticket to Cooperstown. The slugger appeared on 89.8% of ballots. As a member of the 600 home run club without connections to performance enhancing drugs, his candidacy went without questions. Although he played for a number of different clubs, one has to imagine Thome will be wearing a Cleveland cap on his plaque.
Guerrero just narrowly missed the mark on his first try, but he made it over the threshold this year. The outfielder rode his batting talents and rocket arm to induction. Hoffman, meanwhile, gained entry on his third try. While some have contested the merits of having relievers in the Hall of Fame, the right-hander gained enough momentum to push him over the threshold.
Having addressed the Class of 2018, the near-misses this year prove quite fascinating. Edgar Martinez fell just 4.6% shy of induction. The long-time Mariners designated hitter figures to make it over the hump next year, and rightfully so. It would be neat to see Martinez on the dais with Mariano Rivera, who once described him as the toughest batter he ever faced.
The BBWAA also continues to soften its stance on PED users, as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds slowly gain support. They received 57.3% and 56.4% of the votes, respectively. The gradual upward trend could bode well for their future. With four years left on the ballot, it’s possible that Bonds and Clemens make it into the Hall of Fame.
One of the most exciting developments of the night, however, features Mike Mussina’s trajectory. He appeared on 63.5% of the total ballots, up from last year’s 51.8%. Given his trend, it figures to just be another year or two before Moose achieves baseball immortality.
Other former Yankees weren’t as lucky, however. Hideki Matsui fell off the ballot after one try, receiving less than 5%. Chin up, though. He joins Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams as other Bombers who had short shelf-lives on the ballot. Johnny Damon suffered a similar fate, but his stay in pinstripes was not as significant as Matsui’s.
With the big stories covered, it makes sense to look around the rest of the results for interesting trends:
- I am enjoying the increased support for Larry Walker. As one of the era’s top outfielders, he was unfairly dinged because of Coors Field. Does he have a Tim Raines-esque late eligibility push in him? Maybe! If not, though, his momentum could carry him through the Veterans’ Committee.
- The lack of support for Manny Ramirez is interesting, as he polled at just 22%. Could that be the benchmark for a failed test? While that seems like bad news for Alex Rodriguez’s eventual candidacy, one can hope his image rehabilitation efforts have smoothed over some of the character concerns. This will be worth monitoring over the long haul.
- Curt Schilling’s overall stock has completely cratered, despite a small increase in ballots. His outlandish comments seem to have sunk his candidacy, despite his worthy credentials. Time is running out for Schilling.
- Omar Vizquel is the new Jack Morris, isn’t he? His case relies on the eye test and cumulative numbers. His defense was superb but not Ozzie Smith good. He also never had a dominant stretch at the plate. I expect Vizquel to hang on until the bitter end and torment the SABR community.
- Next year’s ballot will be significant for Yankees fans. Rivera and Andy Pettitte will make their first appearance, while Mussina makes the push for induction. The 2019 class has potential to be a dream one for the Bombers.
The Hall of Fame is in the books for now, but we still want to hear your thoughts. Let us know how you feel in the comment section.