Baseball’s newest class of Hall of Famers was revealed Wednesday, with the BBWAA announcing Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman as its 2018 entrants. They’ll join old-timers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in giving long-winded speeches to the baseball-consuming public at Cooperstown this summer.
Now, I obviously don’t have a HOF vote. I’m not a member of the BBWAA. I never will be. But I did grow up watching these players.
The era of baseball represented by this class (the early-to-mid 1990s and later) feels like my MLB. I have next to no clue who Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were as players excepting what I’ve been told or read. But guys like Chipper and Vlad? I grew up with them on my TV — especially Chipper early on, as Braves games were always shown on TBS — and on my fantasy baseball teams. So it’s pretty cool to see more and more those players starting to find their way into the Hall.
But let’s say I did have a BBWAA vote. Maybe I beat up noted blogger Murray Chass and took his. I think people could get behind that. Anyway, here’s what my hypothetical ballot might have looked like:
Jones played 18 full seasons and slashed .303/.401/.529. He mashed 468 homers as a switch-hitter and won the NL MVP in 1999. One of the best ever. Easy-peasy.
Thome escaped any and all PED speculation in the ’90s and ’00s, no doubt in part because of his reputation as one of the nicest, most well-liked players in the game. I can’t even think of a writer who doesn’t love Jim Thome for one reason or another. Oh, and he hit the eighth-most home runs in baseball history. Another no-doubter.
It’s insane to me that Vladdy didn’t get in on his first ballot last year. He’s Vlad Guerrero for cripes’ sake! Yes, it’s tough to take off nostalgia goggles, but everything about Vlad just oozes baseball in my mind. The cannon arm. The non-existent strike-zone. The ridiculous swings. Even the old-school lack of batting gloves. I only wish he was going into the Hall with a cool Expos hat. Sad!
I don’t really care for how the HOF short-changes modern-day closers, but I understand it. Outside of Mariano Rivera’s dominance, the position and its limited innings just don’t generate the same kind of value of starting pitchers. So, while Hoffman may be one of best closers of all-time, he doesn’t really compare historically to some of the SPs coming up on my ballot. Should that be a knock on Hoffman, who pitched for 18 years and saved 601 games, but finished with just 26.1 fWAR (Rivera had 39.7 for comparison’s sake)? Maybe, maybe not. I’m obviously leaning toward no. More importantly, I think it’s an argument for finding a way to increase the ballot beyond 10 selections so guys like Hoffman aren’t competing for spots against more valuable positions.
Long-live the DH! Long-live the DH! Long-live the DH!
Some personal bias here — Mussina is one of my top-five favorite Yankees of all-time. For whatever reason, I appreciated the quiet, serious demeanor with which he approached the games. But his career and candidacy (which very possibly will get him elected in 2019) are really good, if never flashy: 270 wins, 82.2 fWAR (17th all-time for pitchers), and a career 123 ERA+. I only wish he had stuck it out for that 2009 season to claim a long-earned ring.
Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens
It feels impossible to separate these two these days. Voters apparently feel the same way, as Clemens and Bonds finished with 242 and 238 votes, respectively. I don’t know if an infusion of newer, younger voters will actually help these two in the coming years. But I know that I, personally, have a hard time getting worked up over steroids in baseball. I just can’t do it, especially not in the face of 14 combined MVPs and Cy Young awards. I’m not sure what that says about me as a baseball fan and sports fan in general, but I’d like to see these two get in. And then I’d like to see Bob Costas’ head explode on induction day.
Yes, he’s an awful person. A truly detestable piece of human garbage who stands for nothing good or worthwhile in this world. I wish he would go away forever. But… he could pitch. In real life, that doesn’t make up for being a bigoted monster, but in the fairy tale land that is professional baseball, you can’t really tell the story of the game without Schilling and that godawful bloody sock. Ugh.
Again, I’m not getting worked up about steroids, but even I have to admit Manny’s Hall of Fame case might be the toughest one there is. He’s another one of the rarified group that slashed .300/.400/.500 or better (and Manny was considerably better at .312/.411/.585). But, not only was he tied to PEDs, he actually got caught cheating multiple times. Plus, I imagine some cranky voters can’t stand the whole “Manny Being Manny” thing. Yes, the end was ugly, but his career was something else. How many right-handed batters were better than Manny? Not too many.