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Baseball's Hall of Fame welcomes four

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Jones, Thome, Guerrero and Hoffman headed to Cooperstown

Another historic Hall of Fame class is going to be inducted in Cooperstown this summer.

Four players were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) according to the ballot results announced on Jan. 24. Third baseman Chipper Jones and first baseman Jim Thome made it on their first time on the ballot; outfielder Vladimir Guerrero made it in on his second try and pitcher Trevor Hoffman on his third.

Jones led the way with 97.2 percent of the vote. Fellow first-timer Thome was named on 89.8 percent of the ballots. Guerrero made a massive jump from last year’s near miss, going from 71.7 percent all the way to 92.9. And Hoffman, after just missing by a handful of votes, made it with a percentage of 79.9.

No matter how you look at the numbers, Jones is an all-time great. He spent almost 20 years at third base for a single team, the Atlanta Braves – a rarity in the free agency era. His career slash line was .303/.401/.529; he’s one of only a handful to manage that level of performance. His counting numbers are plenty impressive as well – 468 home runs, 2,726 hits, 1,623 RBI and 1,619 runs scored; throw in nearly 500 doubles, over 1,500 walks and 150 steals and you’ve got one hell of a career line. Jones also won a batting title, a pair of Silver Sluggers and the 1999 NL MVP. An elite performer for well over a decade, he strolled into the Hall with one of the best vote percentages ever.

When looking at the stats for Thome, you have to start with the homers. 612 of them, in fact – eighth on the all-time list. He scored nearly 1,600 runs, drove in just one shy of 1,700 and walked 1,747 times – seventh most in MLB history. His career on-base percentage of .402 and slugging percentage of .554 are both exceptional. However, his .276 batting average and 2,328 hits are less imposing. And of course, there are the strikeouts – 2,548 of them, the second-most all time. In addition, while he was usually in the mix, Thome rarely led the league in any offensive categories (walks three times, homers once) and never got higher than fourth in an MVP race. Still – more than enough.

Next up is Guerrero. In 16 seasons, he hit .318/.379/.553; his raw totals (2,580 hits, 449 homers, 1,496 RBI, 1,328 runs scored) are impressive, but perhaps not impressive enough considering his era. This despite his receiving MVP votes in all but one of his full seasons in the majors (including a 2004 win) and being generally considered the best bad-ball hitter of his time. He also had a cannon for an arm, racking up 126 career outfield assists. He also has a reputation as one of the most fun to watch players of his generation and a phenomenal clubhouse leader. It’s no wonder he had such a massive bump in percentage of the vote.

Last but not least, we have Hoffman. The longtime closer is one of just two pitchers in the history of the game to save at least 600 games; his 601 saves were the all-time record until Mariano Rivera passed him. In just shy of 1,100 career innings, Hoffman put up a 2.87 ERA – a phenomenal number considering the era in which he pitched – and struck out better than a batter per inning. His WHIP of 1.058 is one of the best in post-Deadball history. And his changeup is considered to be one of the best-ever, a generationally devastating pitch. While there are those who question Hoffman’s Hall worthiness, there was never any doubt he’d get to Cooperstown.

But there are some near-misses that warrant discussion. The biggest is Edgar Martinez, who has made huge leaps in support over the past couple of years. Despite the perception of him as somehow incomplete due to his time spent at DH, Martinez is undeniably a Hall of Fame hitter – his .312/.418/.515 slash line is elite and his reputation among his peers is outstanding. He got up over 70 percent this cycle – 70.4 to be exact – missing the 75 percent threshold by just 20 votes. He’s got a real shot next year.

In other news, Mike Mussina pulled 63.5 percent of the vote, a marked improvement that bodes well for him in the next couple of years. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens continue to spin their wheels in the mid-50s, while Curt Schilling topped 50 percent. Omar Vizquel and Larry Walker were the only other players above 30 percent.

With this year’s quartet, this marks the highest number of inductees over any five-year span, with 16 players voted in by the writers since 2014. And there’s no reason to think it’s going to slow down, considering that the average ballot had 8.46 names on it. The induction ceremony is set to take place the last weekend in July in Cooperstown.

As for what’s next, the biggest new name on next year’s ballot is Mariano Rivera, who will likely cruise in at the head of the Class of 2019. Roy Halladay, Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte are among the other notables. 

Last modified on Thursday, 25 January 2018 17:02

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