Here we go. Every year we do the same dance, and every year we never learn all the steps (although to be fair, this is the least Pete Rose chatter I’ve heard in a long time, which is pleasant). As the ballots come in for the 2018 HOF class, there are some obvious standouts, some egregious omissions, and some surprising surges. Let’s examine those as they stand at the time of this writing…
OBVIOUS STAND OUTS
Chipper Jones: 99%
The only surprise here would be if he in fact got a unanimous election, with darling Derek Jeter just two years away from that possibility. This is pretty open and shut, as Chipper is almost universally regarded as one of the two or three best switch hitters to ever play the game (and I think a decent case could be made for THE most complete). His part in the Atlanta Braves dynasty only cements his legacy.
Jim Thome: 93%
This seems about right for Thome, a member of the elite 600 home run club who is free of the PED stigma that surrounds most hitters of his era. He was quietly consistent over his career, amassing 612 home runs for Cleveland, Chicago, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, though only leading the league in home runs once. He was universally liked and respected, and if I had to pick a modern day Hank Aaron, he would probably be my pick.
Vlad Guerrero: 93%
It was fairly accepted, at one point, that Vlad would probably not make it this year, but would—easily—next year. But from the looks of things, not only could he make his first ballot, but emphatically so. Vlad might be one of the two or three best “bad ball” hitters the game has ever known, and he backs it up with one of the greatest arms to patrol the outfield (second only to Bo Jackson, in my opinion). He has a pretty solid HOF case, with a .931 OPS and a respectable 449 home runs to go with it. The fielding metrics don’t help him at all, which makes an election of such emphasis more surprising, but hey—good for him.
Fred McGriff: 17%
The Crime Dawg is truly a victim here. He has all the credentials but apparently not a compelling enough case. He boasts a higher OPS than Eddie Murray (.886/.836) and more home runs than Jeff Bagwell (493/449), and is free of any PED accusations (unlike David Ortiz, a sure first or second ballot inductee). So why not? He at least deserves a better look than a measly 17%. Unfortunately, McGriff seems destined to rot away on the ballot and to hope for the Hail Mary of the vets committee, if that’s still even a thing when his time comes.
Larry Walker: 40%
Larry Walker is the best all-around player you’ve never heard of. He boasts an OPS that betters that of shoo-in candidate Chipper Jones (.965/.930), has three batting titles (to Chipper’s one), an MVP, and seven Gold Gloves. He, too, is free of PED accusations. I can’t totally explain this one, but I think that he has a better shot at getting in than McGriff, so I’m willing to let this one go on the assumption that he will get in sooner or later.
WHAT TO DO WITH THE STEROID GUYS
You know who I’m talking about. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Ramirez, primarily. Let them wait a bit longer. What you would need is the perfect storm of aging out the older writers, and a weaker induction class. At that point, whomever we’re going to let in: do it all at once. 2021 is shaping up nicely to be such a year, where the strongest first ballot candidate is the less-than-obvious Torii Hunter. This would give baseball a sort of win-win: they’d punish these players by making them wait, but ultimately make right by voting them in. Until then, let Chipper, Derek, and Mo have their spotlight free of the sideshow that follows the aforementioned names. That said, Bonds and Clemens get my vote simply for historic reasons. They were undeniably the all-time best—or some of the all-time best—at their respective crafts, and they deserve to be preserved as such. This is an incredibly nuanced subject that I have written about previously, but for the sake of not going down that rabbit hole, I will say only that they get my ‘vote.’ However, in short:
Let’s be real. The Hall of Fame is a historic place, not a place of extreme distinction. If we were concerned about preserving the integrity of “the greatest ever” in its purest form, we would be removing players whose records had surpassed obsolescence. We would also not be electing such borderline candidates as Jack Morris or Bruce Sutter. It’s a living, breathing place of history, so let’s put aside our sense of self importance and be more concerned with documenting the players that mattered in the times in which they mattered.
That being said, here’s my annual “no one asked for it” HOF ballot:
- Chipper Jones
- Jim Thome
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Vlad Guerrero
- Fred McGriff
- Larry Walker
- Trevor Hoffman
- Andruw Jones
- Edgar Martinez