The BBWAA and the Baseball Hall of Fame revealed the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot on Monday morning, and once again, writers will be looking at a ballot loaded with worthy candidates, but only two, or three, or four of those candidates will earn induction this year.
The new first-time names on this year’s ballot are highlighted by a pair of players that seem likely to earn induction, if not in 2018 then in 2019 – Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. Jones finished his career with a .303/.401/.529 slash line and 468 home runs, the third-highest total ever for a third baseman (behind Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews). He won the 1995 World Series with the Atlanta Braves, was named the 1999 NL MVP, made eight NL All-Star Teams, and even led the NL in batting average in 2008. He’s one of the best switch hitters of all-time, and unarguably one of the top ten third basemen in MLB history. He should coast to induction.
Long-time Cleveland Indian Jim Thome is a more difficult case, though he should also be earning induction sooner rather than later. Over his 22 season career, Thome hit .276/.402/.554 with 612 home runs. He was a five-time All-Star, but only finished in the top five of MVP voting once. Also, Thome led the league in home runs just once, never won a World Series (and never even won a pennant after 1997), and has the second-highest strikeout total of all-time. That could be held against him, but it really shouldn’t. The glut of talented players on this year’s ballot means that Thome may get caught in a numbers crunch this year, and his eventual induction will be delayed.
Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero both return to the ballot this year after coming just shy of induction last year – Hoffman drew 74.0% of the votes in his second year on the ballot, while Guerrero drew 71.7% in his debut season. Both will likely coast in this year.
After a huge jump from 27.0% in 2015 to 58.6% in 2017, Edgar Martinez returns for his ninth (out of a maximum ten) year on the ballot, and it’ll take another huge jump this year for him to earn induction on his final year, like Tim Raines did a year ago.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the more polarizing cases on the ballot, return for their sixth year on the ballot after cracking 50% for the first time each in 2017. Mike Mussina will be back for his fifth year on the ballot after more than doubling his percentage over the last two years up to an impressive 51.8% in 2017.
The rest of the returning players on the ballot are Curt Schilling (whose percentage actually dropped in 2017), Manny Ramirez, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, and Sammy Sosa. None of them are in their final year on the ballot, but Sheffield, Wagner, and Sosa are in danger of falling off the ballot, having received less than 15% of the votes in 2017.
There are also a number of first-time inductees that will gain some level of support, and will likely live to fight another day, including Andruw Jones, Hideki Matsui, Johan Santana, and Omar Vizquel.
The list of players that will likely be one and done on this year’s ballot includes some names that shouldn’t be, like Johnny Damon and Scott Rolen, and some that absolutely should be, like Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, and Carlos Zambrano. The rest of the first year players are Chris Carpenter, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Kevin Millwood, Jamie Moyer, and Kerry Wood.
My hypothetical ballot would look something like this: Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Hoffman, Andruw Jones, Chipper Jones, Martinez, Mussina, Schilling, Thome. You’ll probably disagree, as I would expect you to.
The results of the voting will be announced in two months, on January 24th. They’ll join the “Modern Era” inductees, which will be announced at MLB’s Winter Meetings in December. That ballot is highlighted by long-time MLBPA chief Marvin Miller, who should have been inducted two decades ago.