Monday, the BBWAA released the 33 names eligible for the upcoming 2018 class and, like in recent years, the ballot is stacked both with credible hold overs (Vlad Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, for example) as well as some high profile first ballot inclusions.
All in all, there are 19 new names on the ballot and 14 holdovers
So, without further hyperbole…let’s get to those first ballot nominees!
CHIPPER JONES. A quick glance at Jones’ numbers scream Hall of Fame. A career batting average of .303 with 2726 hits, 468 home runs and 1623 RBI…what’s not to love? He’s also the only switch hitter with both a career batting average of at least .300 and 400 or more home runs. Fun fact. When Jones gets inducted (and he will), he will also be just the second Number One draft pick to make it into the Hall of Fame. The first? Ken Griffey Jr.
JIM THOME. Years ago, I got in some trouble online when I said Jim Thome wouldn’t be a first round Hall of Famer. Years later, I’m still not sure if I believe that or not. The BBWAA has been unpredictable and if that last few years have taught us anything, it’s this…Thome’s 612 home runs might make him a shoe-in or his lack of substantial black ink might mean he waits an extra year or two on the ballot.
OMAR VIZQUEL. The case for (and against) Omar Vizquel begins (and ends) with his fielding and longevity. His eleven Gold Gloves should account for something as only Ozzie Smith has more at shortstop. But, if we’re making that comparison…let’s not stop at postseason hardware. Among shortstops, Vizquel is the all-time leader in fielding percentage, games played and doubles. He’s also third all-time in hits as a shortstop. His 2877 hits also make him the all-time leader among Venezuelan-born players.
ON THE BUBBLE.
JOHNNY DAMON. My heart says “yes” whereas my brain says “not a chance”. If history has taught us anything, Damon’s career batting average of .284, 2769 hits and two World Series rings means he’ll either be on the ballot for ten years or one and done. I’m hoping for the former.
JAMIE MOYER. Moyer is an enigma. While there’s virtually no reason to vote for him (outside of his 269 wins…only five Hall-eligible pitchers have more), he’ll get some votes.
SCOTT ROLEN. It’s possible Rolen’s chances of getting enshrined might be better if he wasn’t on the same ballot as Chipper Jones. Seriously. On their own merit, eight Gold Glove awards (third most among all third baseman) and 316 home runs while holding down the hot corner might mean something. But, yeah…Chipper’s bat trumps all.
ANDRUW JONES. Before he turned 30, Jones had already won nine of his ten-straight Golden Glove awards, 1556 hits, 342 home runs (he was the 12th player in history to hit 300 home runs before his 30th birthday) and 1023 RBI. After that…not so much.
HIDEKI MATSUI. If the National Baseball Hall of Fame lived up to its name and recognized all players and not just those who had success in the Major Leagues, Matsui doesn’t even need to go to a vote. He’d be in. Unfortunately, the BBWAA won’t look at his combined stats (.293 batting average, 508 home runs and 1654 RBI) is a travesty.
THE OTHER ELIGIBLES. Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Kevin Millwood, Johan Santana, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano.