Every year at this time, former Major League Baseball players anxiously await, hoping to receive a call from the chairman of the board of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Last week, four former players received that phone call; Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman.
Last month, the Hall of Fame Veterans’ Committee elected Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. The six new members will be inducted in a ceremony held at the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29, in Cooperstown, New York.
Jones and Thome were both elected in their first year of eligibility. This is only the fourth time that the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) has elected four players in a year (1947, 1955, 2015).
Jones received the most votes, 97.2 percent. He was selected on 410 of 422 ballots.
The rules state that a player must receive 75 percent, or 317 votes, to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Falling just short of that number this year was former designated hitter Edgar Martinez. He was 20 votes shy of election.
An eight-time All-Star, Jones played all 19 seasons for the Atlanta Braves, and ranks third all-time for home runs by a switch-hitter. The former third baseman had a career .303 batting average with 468 home runs.
Thome spent 22 seasons in the majors, playing with the Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Dodgers, and Orioles. He hit 612 home runs, ranking him eighth on the all-time list. Known as a clutch hitter, Thome has more walk-off homers than any other player; 13.
Hoffman received 79.9 percent of the votes to become only the sixth reliever elected to the Hall of Fame. He compiled 601 career saves, which ranks him second on the all-time list behind Mariano Rivera. Hoffman had nine seasons with 40 or more saves, which puts him tied with Rivera in that category.
A seven-time All-Star, Hoffman played for the Marlins, Padres and Brewers, and totaled 1,133 strike outs in an 18-year career.
Roger Clemens, who was picked on 57.3 percent of the ballots, and Barry Bonds (56.4), both tainted by the steroids scandal, received more votes this year than in the past, but again fell far short. I don’t think either one will be voted in by the Baseball Writers, however, there is a chance that eventually they will be elected by the veterans committee.
Do I think either should be in the Hall of Fame, or should anyone with a link to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)? I really don’t know. I usually have an opinion about everything, but I honestly haven’t made up my mind on this. I understand they broke the rules, and tested positive, and for that served suspensions. However, is it a case of, well once they paid for their crime they have been forgiven and should be eligible?
Maybe we should ask Pete Rose. He bet on baseball, and allegedly on his own team, and for that received a lifetime ban from baseball. Will he ever get in the Hall of Fame? Probably not. Does he deserve to be? His numbers would certainly indicate that he deserves to be there. However, because he broke the cardinal sin of baseball, which is posted in the entryway of every minor league and major league clubhouse. He will never get in the Hall of Fame unless he buys a ticket, and I’m in agreement with that.
GUERRERO IN – WALKER NOT
As a life-long Montreal Expos fan, I am thrilled that another former Expos player, Vladimir Guerrero, is going into the Hall of Fame. Guerrero also spent six seasons with the Angels, and one season each with the Rangers and Orioles. Although he spent the bulk of his career with Montreal (eight seasons – 1004 games), and came up through the Expos minor league system, he has decided to have his Hall of Fame plaque depict him wearing an Angels cap; disappointing.
Guerrero was elected in his second year of eligibility, receiving 92.9 percent of the votes. He is the third Dominican Republic native to make it to the Hall of Fame, and the first position player from the D.R. to be elected.
Larry Walker played 17 seasons in MLB (1989-2005), with Montreal (six years), Colorado (10 years), and St. Louis (two years). Although his career was marred by injuries, he was still able to put up impressive numbers in the 1,988 games he played. His career batting average was .313, with a .400 on base percentage, .565 slugging percentage, and 383 home runs. That means Walker averaged a home run every 5.19 games. Walker is one of only 19 hitters with a batting line of .300/.400/.500 or better, in at least 5000 career plate appearances.
Walker played in five All-Star games, won seven Gold Gloves, and was named the 1997 National League MVP.
In comparison, Dave Winfield, a hall of famer, played in almost 1000 more games (2973), batting .283 with 465 home runs, or a home run every 6.39 games.
The argument against Walker is fueled by thoughts that playing in Coors Field, in Denver, gave him (and all hitters) an advantage. Yes, he played the bulk of his career in a Rockies uniform, but the voters need to keep in mind that only 2,501 of Walker’s 8,030 career plate appearances (or 31.1 percent) came at Coors Field. The other 69 percent of his at bats were in stadiums all over the majors, and he still had impressive numbers away from Coors Field; .282 batting average, .375 on base percentage and .501 slugging percentage.
Walker has two more years left on the ballot. Hopefully the BBWAA does the right thing and votes Walker into the Hall of Fame in 2019.