This is part one of a two-part series.
I refuse to let Hall of Fame season be over as soon as the guys get inducted. Of course, I must give credit where credit is due, so I want to congratulate Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez on getting inducted to the Hall of Fame.
Now that that’s out of the way, I want to introduce what I hope to be a very fun read. I’m going to try to predict how the next five Hall of Fame elections are going to turn out. It’s very unlikely that I get any of these correct, but it will be a fun exercise, and it will give you a better idea of who’s going to be on the upcoming Hall of Fame ballots. Let’s get started.
Yes, four names is a lot for a single year of Hall of Fame voting. But if you think about it, I think it’s not just plausible that the four gentlemen below get inducted, it’s likely. Vlad only needs to pick up 15 votes and Hoffman only needs to pick up five. With Raines, Pudge, and Bagwell getting inducted this past season, and Lee Smith falling off the ballot, Vlad and Hoffman should have no trouble getting inducted. Chipper should be an easy first-balloter; it’s Thome I have reservations about.
Vladimir Guerrero, RF, Montreal Expos (Second ballot)
I talked about Vlad in my 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot, so you already know that I feel Vlad is a surefire HOFer. He made me look good by finishing a mere 15 votes shy of induction this past year (71.7%), and with Bagwell, Pudge, and Rock off the ballot for next year, I think he should have no trouble getting into the Hall next year. Triple slash: .318/.379/.553; 449 HR, 2590 Hits in 16 seasons.
Trevor Hoffman, RHP, San Diego Padres (Third ballot)
I also included Hoffman on my 2017 Hall of Fame ballot. Unfortunately for Hoffman, he missed induction by five votes this past year. Fortunately for him, nobody has ever garnered a percentage of the vote as high as his (74%) and not finished the job. Again, Bagwell, Pudge, and Rock are off the ballot now, and Mariano won’t get on the ballot until 2019, so Hoffman should have no trouble making it to Cooperstown in the next election cycle. ERA: 2.87; WHIP: 1.058; K/9: 9.4; 601 Saves, 1089 IP in 18 seasons. Second all-time in saves.
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (First ballot)
Chipper Jones and I have a love-hate relationship. Technically, we don’t have a relationship at all, since we have never met, but my feelings towards Chipper have been love-hate. I hated him while he played; he triple-slashed .309/.406/.543 and smacked 49 HR against the Mets in his career. Once he retired, I not only loved the fact that Mets pitchers no longer had to be menaced by Chipper, but also the fact that he named his son Shea because he loved playing there so much. He’s also had nothing but nice things to say to today’s Mets; the Amazin’s were his World Series pick in 2016 due to their pitching rotation.
Personal feelings towards Chipper aside, he was outright dominant over his career. He ranks sixth all-time in fWAR for third basemen (84.6), sandwiched between Hall of Famer George Brett and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre. He will waltz into Cooperstown next year with probably around 85% of the vote. Triple slash: .303/.401/.529; 468 HR, 2726 Hits in 19 seasons.
Jim Thome, 1B, Cle (First ballot)
I had trouble placing Thome on this list, and I have gone back and forth between first, second, and third ballot for Thome to get in. Aside from his very good career (he ranks 14th among 3B in fWAR), he is one of the nicest baseball players to ever play the game. I’m not just saying that without any basis, Thome was voted the second-friendliest active MLB player in a poll of 434 major leaguers conducted by Sports Illustrated in 2007. He won the Roberto Clemente Award, given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.” In 2002 Michael Cuddyer said the following of Thome when they were teammates: “He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest guy you will ever meet to everything except the baseball, he still hits that really hard.”
It’s not as though Thome will get only on his personality; he was the epitome of a “three true outcomes player.” Of his 10313 plate appearances, 4907 ended in a walk, strikeout, or home run (47.5%). He ranks seventh all-time in both walks and homers. He also struck out a lot (second all-time), but that shouldn’t prevent him from getting into the Hall. If he doesn’t end up getting in on his first try, which I expect he will, he should have no trouble making it in 2019. Triple slash: .276/.402/.554; 612 HR, 2328 Hits in 22 seasons. Seventh all-time in walks and HR.
Notable 2018 newcomers: Andruw Jones (CF, Atl); Scott Rolen (3B, StL); Omar Vizquel (SS, Cle); Johnny Damon (CF, Blank Cap).
2018 “Why are you on the ballot?” guys: Guillermo Mota, Adam Kennedy, Carl Pavano, Jeff Suppan, Jack Wilson.
Two names isn’t that out of the ordinary, I just want to point out the fact that Edgar was the one hitter Mariano never wanted to face, and in 2019 I predict they will be going into the Hall together.
Edgar Martinez, DH, Sea (Tenth ballot)
If Edgar doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame in the next two years, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that he will get in by the veterans’ committee. But even that would be a travesty.
Martinez was primarily a DH. He gets a lot of flak for this from the voters, some of whom are of the opinion that you must have played defense in order to play get into the Hall. There are so many stats to say just how good of a hitter Edgar was, but this is my person favorite: Edgar Martinez has a 147 career wRC+ (wRC+ is a sabermetric stat which attempts to compare a player’s offensive production to all other players. It adjusts for the era and the ballpark you play in. 100 is average, so every 1 point above 100 you are, you are 1% better than a league-average player. More here.) Forget entire careers, here are some of players who have only had a single season in which they produced a 147 career wRC+: Chase Utley, Bryce Harper, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano.
I don’t want to give out all my good Edgar stats here, because I’m going to write a separate article about why Edgar needs to be in the Hall, but in short, I firmly believe that Edgar Martinez was the greatest DH to ever play baseball. I mentioned on my 2017 Hall of Fame ballot that Mariano Rivera, one of the greatest closers of all-time, never wanted to pitch to Edgar. He’s already in a better spot than Tim Raines was after 8 years on the ballot; Edgar garnered 58.6% of the vote this past year, Raines only got 55% of the vote in his eighth year. Martinez also had the largest vote jump of any player on the ballot: 15.2%. Raines’ last three year on the ballot were 55%-69.8%-86%, so we should see Edgar make a healthy jump in votes next year and then get inducted in 2019. More on Edgar to come. Triple slash: .312/.418/.515; 309 HR, 2247 Hits in 18 seasons.
Mariano Rivera, RHP, NYY (First ballot)
There really isn’t much to say about The Sandman. I actually don’t think he was the best reliever of all-time, but he was certainly one of them. Aside from being extremely humble and an all-around fantastic guy (seriously, you should read his book) he is the all-time leader in saves. There’s no questions about whether Mo will get into the Hall of Fame first ballot, the questions are more about what percentage of the vote he’ll get. I think he’ll probably be be somewhere in the low-to-mid nineties, mostly because there are some voters who aren’t keen on letting relievers into the Hall of Fame. ERA: 2.21; WHIP: 1.000; K/9: 8.2; 652 Saves, 1115 IP in 19 seasons. All-time leader in saves, ERA+ and games finished.
Notable 2019 newcomers: Roy Halladay (RHP, Tor); Todd Helton (1B, Col); Andy Pettite (LHP, NYY); Lance Berkman (1B, Hou); Miguel Tejada (SS, Oak).
2019 “Why are you on the ballot?” guys: Yorvit Torrealba, Jose Contreras, Ramon Hernandez, Darren Oliver, John Garland.
Stay tuned for part two, coming within the next few days.
(Image Credit: David I. Andersen/The Plain Dealer via cleveland.com)