Currently, voters are making their selections for the upcoming National Baseball Hall of Fame class. So far, Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome look like they will be enshrined while Edgar Martinez also has a good chance to make it in. On the other side, Johan Santana and Johnny Damon are in danger of being one-and-done candidates. While I do not have an official vote for the Hall of Fame, here is who I would have nominated:
As maybe the second greatest switch hitter in the history of baseball, Jones is a slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer. The eight-time All-Star has MVP hardware to go along with a World Series ring. He was the best player on a team that made the playoffs 11 straight years. Jones had five seasons with an OPS over 1.000 and hit over .300 on 10 occasions.
This is Guerrero’s second year on the ballot, falling 15 votes shy of induction last year. If this award were based on talent alone, Guerrero would have been a unanimous first ballot as no player in recent history has combined all five tools with such dominance. Guerrero took home eight Silver Sluggers and made nine All-Star appearances. He finished in the top 10 in batting average seven times, with a career mark of .318, putting him in company with Roberto Clemente and Kirby Puckett.
Thome should make the Hall in his first year on ballot. It is very difficult to ignore 600-plus home runs without any steroid allegations. Thome ranks 26th all-time in runs batted in and fifth in at bats per home run, at 13.8. He had six seasons with an OPS over 1.000.
Rolen is on his first ballot, though I think it may take a few years for him to get the recognition he deserves. A defensive wizard, Rolen won eight Gold Gloves while also being a major offensive contributor. Along with winning NL Rookie of the Year, Rolen won a World Series with St. Louis in 2006, where he hit .421 with an OPS of 1.213.
Schilling is on his sixth year of eligibility and his case is interesting. A strong, but not spectacular beginning to his career included three All-Star appearances and two strikeout titles as the ace of the Phillies for nine seasons. Over the next seven seasons, Schilling put up incredible performances including three second place finishes in Cy Young voting, finishing behind teammate and Hall of Famer Randy Johnson both times, three World Series titles, including clutch performances during the curse-breaking Red Sox title. Schilling always seemed to excel under the most strenuous of circumstances and dominated in the postseason with a 11-2 record, 2.23 ERA, 120 strikeouts and a 0.968 WHIP across 19 starts.
Hoffman should get in on his third year of eligibility, and he finished just five votes shy last year. The Padres stalwart may not have the most sabermetrically appealing career, but 600 saves is an accomplishment that will be honored. The seven-time All-Star finished second in the Cy Young in 2006.
Notes on Omissions
The most glaring omissions will be Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. There is no doubt that these players are all-time talents, but the PED scandals are too staining to reward. I personally am in the boat that Commissioner Robert Manfred should open up a wing in the Hall for the known violators. It doesn’t seem right to not even acknowledge guys like Bonds, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero and Mark McGwire, among others.
As for Edgar Martinez, while he was a prolific hitter, his stats simply aren’t dominant enough to warrant a spot in the Hall of Fame since he didn’t play on the field.
Omar Vizquel is a difficult case, as his defensive prowess is unrivaled. But his offensive limitations make him slightly below the cusp. This may be a case that needs to be re-examined over the next few years.
Strong proponents of advanced metrics will be upset I didn’t include Mike Mussina. While “The Moose” was always a top-level starter, especially during his tenure with the Orioles, he only threw to an ERA under 3.00 once, has no defining playoff successes, no MLB records, and didn’t bring home any hardware besides some Gold Gloves.