Ace reliever Lee Smith and six-time All-Star Harold Baines are Cooperstown-bound via the Today's Game Era ballot. Mariano Rivera leads a star-studded list of players who will try to join them in the Hall of Fame's Class of 2019. The results of the BBWAA's vote will be revealed on Jan. 22, live on MLB Network. More »
Harold Baines and Lee Smith each discuss how they felt when they learned that they will enter the Hall of Fame in 2019
MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre joins MLB Now to talk about the pace of the game, eliminating dead time and Hall of Fame voting
Don Mattingly shares his reaction to the latest Hall of Fame election and reiterates his contentment with his outstanding playing career
Mariners legend Edgar Martinez discusses his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame in his final year on the ballot
Peter Gammons reacts to the news of Lee Smith and Harold Baines being elected into the Hall of Fame
2019 Hall of Fame inductee Harold Baines discusses his election via the Today's Game Era ballot
Lee Smith joins MLB Tonight to discuss his election to the 2019 Hall of Fame via the Today's Game Era ballot
White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf talks about his excitement regarding Harold Baines' election into the Hall of Fame
Harold Baines joins MLB Tonight on the phone to discuss being named a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee via the Today's Game Era ballot
The MLB Tonight panel discusses Harold Baines being elected to Cooperstown on the Today's Game Era ballot
The MLB Tonight panel discusses former closer Lee Smith being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2019 via the Today's Game Era ballot
Roy Halladay has been named to the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot after a stellar career with both the Blue Jays and Phillies
Jim Thome is inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Chipper Jones is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Jack Morris is inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Trevor Hoffman is inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Vladimir Guerrero is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Alan Trammell is inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Commissioner Rob Manfred reads Chipper Jones' Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Commissioner Rob Manfred reads Jack Morris' Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Commissioner Rob Manfred reads Jim Thome's Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Commissioner Rob Manfred reads Alan Trammell's Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Commissioner Rob Manfred reads Vladimir Guerrero's Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Rob Manfred reads Trevor Hoffman's Hall of Fame plaque at the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Jack Morris talks about the magical place of Cooperstown after being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Jim Thome talks about the emotions he felt while watching his daughter perform the national anthem before the Hall of Fame induction
Chipper Jones talks about meeting Mickey Mantle in 1992 after his Double-A season had finished up
Jack Morris talks about how Sparky Anderson helped him fight through adversity toward the end of games early in his career
Chipper Jones offers his congratulations to Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman during his induction speech
New Hall of Famer Chipper Jones discusses playing with former teammate and fellow Hall member John Smoltz
MLB Network gives you a behind the scenes look at the sights and sounds from the 2018 Hall of Fame Parade in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Jim Thome talks about what went behind the choice to sport a pink tie during his Hall of Fame induction speech
Trevor Hoffman talks about playing with the Padres from 1993 to 2008 as he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Chipper Jones tells a story about the first time he met Jim Thome in 1993 in Richmond, Virginia
Vladimir Guerrero talks about his relationship with fellow countryman and friend Pedro Martinez after being inducted to the Hall of Fame
Chipper Jones talks about why he tried to avoid looking at his family while giving his speech at the National Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony
Jim Thome talks about the time spent in Philadelphia over the course of his career and his admiration for the fans and former coaches
Alan Trammell talks about the support and love he has received from Tigers fans throughout his career
Alan Trammell talks about playing with Lou Whitaker during his career with the Tigers
Jim Thome takes time to thank Charlie Manuel for having an impact on his career as he is inducted to the Hall of Fame
Jack Morris reflects on his season with the Twins and talks about the team's run to winning the 1991 World Series
Vladimir Guerrero thanks all of his supporters and talks about his time with the Expos and Angels at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Alan Trammell talks about his emotions upon getting the call to the Hall of Fame and thanks everyone for his selection
Jack Morris and Alan Trammell join MLB Tonight to talk about being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame together
Jim Thome relives the first 12 seasons of his career in Cleveland and talks about the teammates he played with along the way
Lila Thome, daughter of new Hall of Famer Jim Thome, sings the national anthem at the 2018 Hall of Fame induction ceremony
The 2018 Hall of Fame class reflects on what it means to be inducted, and talks about the players and coaches who helped them get there
Jim Thome talks about the experience of Hall of Fame weekend and what it's like to be around the game's greats
Chipper Jones talks about the impact of Mickey Mantle on his career and joining the best switch-hitters of all time in the Hall of Fame
Trevor Hoffman discusses the meaning of his Hall of Fame induction in the city of San Diego and the impact of the Padres in the community
Alan Trammell talks about being inducted with 1984 Detroit Tigers teammate Jack Morris and reflects on former manager Sparky Anderson
Broadcaster Bob Costas accepts the 2018 Ford C. Frick Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown
Sheldon Ocker wins the 2018 J.G. Taylor Soink Award at the National Baseball Hall of Fame
Jack Morris talks about being inducted to the Hall of Fame with teammate Alan Trammell and the welcome he's gotten from his fellow inductees
Trevor Hoffman recall his brother Glenn's time with the Red Sox, and growing up around Hall of Fame players Jim Rice and Carl Yastrzemski
Bruce Bochy reminisces about the career of Trevor Hoffman leading up to his Hall of Fame induction this weekend
The MLB Now panel sits down to discuss the 2018 Hall of Fame class and their contributions to the game
2018 Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Costas joins Matt Vasgersian to preview the Hall of Fame ceremony on Sunday
MLB Network features Chipper Jones for the 2018 Hall of Fame. Tune in to MLB Network at 11:00 am EST on July 29
Trevor Hoffman joins High Heat to discuss his Hall of Fame induction and the change of position that altered his career for the better
Jim Thome talks about being inducted into the Hall of Fame and how much he is looking forward to it
Angels manager Mike Scioscia joins High Heat to discuss what made Vladimir Guerrero special, both on and off the field
Former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell talks about getting ready for his Hall of Fame induction
Jack Morris talks about preparing his speech as he gets ready to be inducted into the Hall of Fame
Matt Vasgersian sit down with Bob Costas to discuss the significance of being inducted into the Major League Baseball the Hall of Fame
Alan Trammell takes a special tour through the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, taking a look at baseball's amazing history
Jim Thome joins the White Sox booth to discuss his induction into the Hall of Fame and the favorite moments of his career
Alan Trammell discusses what it means to him to be elected to the Hall of Fame alongside fellow Tiger Jack Morris
2018 Hall of Fame inductee Jim Thome takes a tour of Cooperstown before his enshrinement
Hall of Fame electee Jim Thome discusses how life has been since learning he would be inducted in 2018
Jack Morris enjoys a tour of the Hall of Fame and relishes how he's joining such a prestigious group when he gets inducted this summer
Longtime baseball writer Jayson Stark has been honored as the 2019 J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner, the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Tuesday.
The Spink Award annually recognizes a sportswriter who has made "meritorious contributions to baseball writing." Stark, who currently writes for The Athletic and works as an MLB Network studio analyst, will be recognized during Hall of Fame induction weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., this coming July.
Stark is the 70th winner of the Spink Award, which is voted on by BBWAA members who have been in the organization for at least 10 consecutive years. He received 270 votes out of the 463 ballots cast this year.
Stark has covered baseball for more than four decades, both as a beat writer and a national writer. He wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer for more than two decades from 1979-99, covering the Phillies and serving as a national baseball columnist. Stark then spent 2000-17 at ESPN as a senior national baseball writer before joining The Athletic.
This year's runner-up for the award was Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist and baseball writer Jim Reeves. Minnesota baseball writer Patrick Reusse finished third in the voting.
The Spink Award was first given in 1962 and is named for its inaugural recipient, Spink, the publisher of The Sporting News from 1914 until his death in '62, upon which the award was established. Last year's winner was Sheldon Ocker, who covered the Indians for the Akron Beacon Journal from 1981-2013.More »
LAS VEGAS -- While early returns are most promising for Edgar Martinez in his final push for being elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this winter, the Mariners aren't taking anything for granted.
So it was that Martinez, not one for self-promotion, found himself making the rounds Monday at the Winter Meetings with appearances on MLB Network, ESPN, MLB radio and other media outlets gathered at the Mandalay Bay Casino & Resort.
At the urging of Mariners vice president of communications Tim Hevly, the unassuming Martinez made himself available to do something he normally avoids, which is talking about himself.
"It's something that is not in my nature," Martinez acknowledged between broadcast sessions. "I don't think that will ever change. But I'm here, and we might as well try it and see if it helps. Tim has recommended it, and it's good to be able to come out and just see if it can help at the end over the next few weeks."
Martinez appears to have momentum on his side in his 10th and final year of eligibility in the Baseball Writers' Association of America election process. Last year he was named on 70.3 percent of the ballots, falling just shy of the needed 75 percent.
But he's been named on all 32 ballots made public this year through Ryan Thibodaux's Hall of Fame tracker, including six voters who did not include him last season.
Clearly Martinez won't maintain that 100 percent approval rate, and it's still a very small sample out of the expected 400-plus voters, but the trend is certainly positive. Martinez said he's not following too closely but has gotten updates from his wife, Holli.
"So far, it's looking good," Martinez said. "Votes are coming in, and they're very positive. Hopefully it keeps going that way. Some people have changed their mind and now are voting for me. That is the exciting part."
It all could get very exciting for the low-key 55-year-old by the time the results are announced on Jan. 22, prior to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 21.
If Martinez gets in, he'll join Ken Griffey Jr. as the only Hall of Famers who spent the majority of their careers with the Mariners. But Martinez insists he's maintaining his normal approach to the whole affair.
"The whole time, I tell myself I don't have any control and that's very helpful," he said. "As it gets closer, obviously you start thinking about the possibility that it could happen, or it might not. At this point, I'm ready for either case.
"I have plenty of time to prepare for that, so at this point, so far, I feel pretty at ease with it. Votes are coming in, but it's still early. I don't know how it's going to feel later, but so far, no change in the way I feel. I'm looking forward to seeing what is going to happen."
Another positive, in Martinez's mind, was the election of former designated hitter Harold Baines by the Veteran's Committee, which is another way for players and executives to reach the Hall of Fame after not being elected by BBWAA voters.
Baines never reached more than 6.1 percent on the BBWAA ballot after a career in which he posted a .289/.356/.465 line with six All-Star selections and a 38.7 bWAR, with 1,643 of his career 2,830 games coming at designated hitter.
Martinez played 1,403 of his 2,055 career games at DH, which some voters have held against him, but he had far superior numbers to Baines with a career .312/.418/.515 line with a 68.4 bWAR and seven All-Star appearances.
Martinez was pleased for Baines and doesn't figure it hurts his cause, either.
"That is cool," he said. "Harold Baines is well deserved. He was a great hitter for many years. He was one of the players that we feared late in the game, one of the best clutch hitters I've ever seen. That should help my case, as well."
Not so cool, for Martinez, was learning this his former manager, Lou Piniella, came up one vote shy of getting elected by the same committee when he earned 11 of the 16 votes. Piniella won't get another shot until the same Today's Game Era Committee votes again in 2021.
"That was sad to hear that he missed it by one vote," Martinez said. "But for his next year, it looks pretty good, I think. He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and I believe he's going to be there."More »
Is the Hall of Fame ballot "logjam" almost at an end?
With the Baseball Writers' Association of America electing a record 16 candidates over the past five years, including at least two per year, Cooperstown has been plenty busy in recent summers. While plenty of holdovers remain on the ballot, the clock continues to tick on their candidacies, and this year's voting figures to say a lot about their ultimate chances of being elected.
In the meantime, a host of name-brand stars have entered the fray, headlined by one legend who figures to get Yankees fans flocking upstate in July. Below is a look at the players on the 2019 BBWAA ballot, announced Monday by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with an early guess on their Cooperstown fates. The election results will be announced on Jan. 22, live on MLB Network.
Closers typically face a divisive electorate when it comes to the Hall, but with a record 652 saves and an incredible 0.70 postseason ERA, Rivera is really in a class of his own. Rivera's induction could challenge the record crowd of 82,000 that saw Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. receive their plaques in 2007, with Derek Jeter's certain election in 2020 figuring to do the same.
A pair of Cy Youngs and a pair of no-hitters (including one in the postseason) would figure to get the late Halladay over the hump. But his 203 wins may seem paltry to more traditional voters, and we just saw another ace from Halladay's era, Johan Santana, go one-and-done with just 2.4 percent of the vote. The guess here is that Halladay gets in, however, and perhaps even squeaks through on his first ballot.
Only 19 players since 1900 have accrued 5,000 plate appearances and put up a .300/.400/.500 slash line, and Helton is one of them. But so is Helton's former teammate Larry Walker, who's entering his ninth year on the ballot as a longshot. Voters are still wrapping their heads around the Coors Field factor, so Helton's candidacy could be debated for a while.
Postseason moments are strong boosters for election, and no pitcher has more wins in October than Pettitte. But the lefty's 3.85 career ERA and his admission to using human growth hormone might ultimately leave him just shy of the Plaque Gallery.
Martinez's candidacy has a full head of steam, jumping from 58.6 percent to 70.4 percent last year. Will 2019 finally be Edgar's time? Last year, the Tacoma News Tribune pointed out that each of the past 10 players who received between 70-74 percent of the BBWAA vote gained election the very next year, and every candidate who's crossed the 70-percent threshold has eventually gotten into Cooperstown via either the BBWAA or a Veterans Committee.
With Rivera being the only first-ballot lock, the guess here is that a little more room on the ballot, coupled with the urgency of Martinez's final-year push, convinces a final few voters to check off the Seattle slugger's name.
McGriff's Cooperstown case, which includes a 134 adjusted OPS+ and 493 home runs, might be better than you think. But the Crime Dog would need a miraculous jump after his name appeared on only 23.2 percent of ballots last year.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
More voters are beginning to look past performance-enhancing drug allegations and choosing to view Bonds and Clemens as indispensable legends of the game. But there's still a large block of voters that will never vote for this pair, and they still have about 20 percent more ground to make up in next four years.
Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling
Their career lines are similar, but Mussina has jumped ahead, arguably due to Schilling's off-field transgressions. After languishing below 25 percent as recently as 2015, Mussina's 63.5-percent total last year has him on the doorstep with five years to go.
Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa
Ramirez's multiple suspensions for PEDs has left him with a long uphill climb to election. Sosa debuted alongside Bonds on the ballot with 609 home runs, but his relatively low average and on-base percentage -- plus PED suspicions -- have kept him from getting sufficient support.
As mentioned, the Coors factor has held back Walker -- though he was a better road hitter than you might remember. He'll likely run out of time on the BBWAA ballot, but could be viewed more favorably by a Veterans Committee down the road.
Vizquel made a solid start at 37 percent in his ballot debut last winter. He compares well to defense-first Hall of Fame shortstops Luis Aparicio and Ozzie Smith, but his career 82 OPS+ will keep many voters away.
Andruw Jones and Scott Rolen
These two defined their positions defensively and brought plenty of power in their primes. Their candidacies stayed alive in Year 1, but each player needs momentum in the voting.
Jeff Kent, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner
All three of these players have their mainstay voters, but have had trouble building momentum. Their best-case scenarios are to get somewhere within 20 percent before their 10th year on the ballot and hope for a massive final-year push.
FIRST-TIMERS WHO COULD GET A SECOND CHANCE
Berkman's career line has some gaudy numbers, including a 144 OPS+ that ranks among the top 30 in history. But longevity will be an issue -- Berkman logged only eight seasons in which he played in at least 140 games.
The former Astros ace posted two 20-win seasons and placed within the top five in Cy Young Award voting five times. But Oswalt's 163 wins and 2,245 1/3 innings will have trouble convincing even new-school voters to write down his name.
LIKELY ONE AND DONE (less than 5 percent of vote)
Rick Ankiel (13 wins and 51 appearances as a pitcher, 462 hits as an outfielder)More »
Jason Bay (2004 NL Rookie of the Year, 121 OPS+)
Freddy Garcia (156 wins, 2001 AL ERA title)
Jon Garland (136 wins, 2005 World Series champion)
Travis Hafner (213 HR, tied MLB record with six grand slams in 2006)
Ted Lilly (130 wins, 1,681 SO)
Derek Lowe (176 wins and 86 saves)
Darren Oliver (766 appearances)
Juan Pierre (2,217 hits, 614 SB)
Placido Polanco (.297 BA, 2006 ALCS MVP)
Miguel Tejada (816 XBH, 2002 AL MVP)
Vernon Wells (270 HR, 2003 AL hit crown)
Kevin Youkilis (.382 OBP, 123 OPS+)
Michael Young (.300 BA, 2,375 hits)
LAS VEGAS -- Harold Baines was surrounded by two of the men who'd guided, managed and mentored him: White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa.
"Our friendship goes further than the game of baseball," Baines said.
That La Russa and Reinsdorf were members of the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee, which elected Baines to the Hall of Fame on Sunday, made the moment that much more special. Both of them sat nearby during a news conference Monday that officially introduced Baines and reliever Lee Smith as members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.
Baines then spoke of how much the Hall of Fame meant to his family, and the one regret -- that his late father could not have shared in the joy -- was when the usually stoic Baines wept.
"He was my hero," he said. "That's the only thing I miss, is him not being here."
The moment was so sweet and so touching on a day that was awash in joy and laughter as both men slipped into Hall of Fame jerseys for the first time.
"You see what it means to them," said Hall of Famer John Schuerholz, a member of the committee. "This is the highest honor in our business. I know how proud they feel to receive that honor. They deserve it. They distinguished themselves."
Smith, 61, missed on 15 attempts to get the required 75 percent of the vote while on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot. He went 16 for 16 on Sunday for an 18-season career in which he saved 478 games, the third-most in history.
One of the men in front of him on that list is Mariano Rivera, who is on the BBWAA ballot for the first time this year. Thanks to 652 saves and being part of five World Series championship teams, Rivera is expected to join Smith in Cooperstown next summer.
"I'm short for words right now, but I love just being able to be up here, because all the guys that I've seen and played with and seen come up here on this podium, it is unbelievable," Smith said. "I'm at a loss for words."
Among the calls he received was one from Hall of Famer Goose Gossage.
"He had me almost in tears talking about how long he's been waiting and hoping I would get in," Smith said. "But like I said earlier, it hadn't sunk in yet for me."
As for Baines, 59, his induction generated lots of debate. During 22 seasons, he collected 2,866 hits and six All-Star appearances. He dropped off the BBWAA ballot in 2011 after his fifth time on the ballot failed to get the required 5 percent vote.
He's 46th on the all-time hits list, 43rd in total bases, 65th in home runs, 34th in RBIs, 60th in extra-base hits and 24th in intentional walks. His 38.7 Wins Above Replacement is 351st among position players, just below that of Hall of Famer Hack Wilson.
"I'm very honored to be here," Baines said. "It's a very special day. A lot of my friends are here. I'm honored to be part of this great fraternity I'm joining."
To members of the committee, especially his former manager, Baines was not a tough call.
"To me, it's a little bit -- or a lot -- like Alan Trammell," said La Russa of the longtime Tigers shortstop, who was passed over by the BBWAA but inducted by a veterans committee last summer. "You ask the guys in uniform. You ask the people upstairs, the general managers. When you look at his record, like Alan's, it can't be denied. Three thousand hits was right there -- he was 130 short. Harold always had the ability to drive in a big run. If it wasn't for the [labor] strikes, he'd have had 3,000 hits."More »
LAS VEGAS -- Even before Harold Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by receiving 12 of 16 votes from the Today's Game Era Committee on Sunday, Paul Konerko held strong opinions on the excellence shown by his White Sox teammate, coach and friend.
"I've told people a lot of times, there are a lot of great hitters in the Hall of Fame, but Harold Baines is better than a lot of them," said Konerko, the accomplished one-time White Sox captain during a Monday morning conference call. "So the fact he wasn't in there...
"It's nice to see him get in and it's nice to see somebody that is just a good person and a good guy that just played the game. I'm glad there are these other vehicles to get into the Hall of Fame because he's just one of those guys, does the guy's name have a Hall of Fame ring to it? I feel like his name always did."
Baines had three stints with the White Sox and crossed paths with Konerko during the 2000 American League Central championship season and the '01 campaign. The designated hitter/outfielder, who finished with 2,866 hits, 1,628 RBIs and an .820 OPS over 22 seasons, retired after '01. He was 42, only two years removed from driving in 103 runs with Baltimore and Cleveland in 1999.
That RBI total, especially in timely situations, was what set Baines apart, according to Konerko.
"He was just so clutch," Konerko said. "You're going to get a lot of great comments about Harold, but the No. 1 thing is you're going to hear over and over, he's the guy you wanted up with the game on the line, and that's what most middle-of-the-order guys want to be. He was just great at it. It was always about driving runs in because that's what we had to do."
Konerko hopes Baines' induction continues to open the Hall of Fame doors for individuals who played a large part of their game as a designated hitter, adding people don't understand how tough and how mentally challenging it is and how special you must be to be good at that position. Baines compiled an .837 OPS and 981 RBIs in 5,806 at-bats as a DH.
There also was an interesting Hall of Fame idea presented by Konerko in relation to Baines' longevity.
"I personally think anybody who plays over 20 years should be in the Hall of Fame," Konerko said. "It's just that much of a grind. If you get 20 years of service time or beyond, I feel like they should have a special wing for you anyways."More »
LAS VEGAS -- Lee Smith was perhaps the most feared reliever of his generation and helped define the closer's role in the modern game during 18 seasons in the Majors. Harold Baines was far different, stoic and shy, a craftsman who produced 2,866 hits with one of the sweetest swings of his day.
These two very different men will be forever linked after learning on Sunday that they'll be members of the Baseball Hall of Fame induction class of 2019.
Smith and Baines were selected by the Today's Game Era Committee, a 16-member panel appointed by the Hall of Fame to review players retired for at least 15 seasons who were passed over by the Baseball Writers' Association of America as well as managers, umpires and executives.
Smith was a unanimous selection, while Baines got 12 of 16 votes to clear the 75 percent threshold for induction. Meanwhile, Lou Piniella, who managed five teams to 1,835 wins, the 16th most in history, fell one vote short with 11. Seven finalists received fewer than five votes.
Neither Smith nor Baines came close to being inducted by the BBWAA during their time on the ballot. Smith was named on more than 50 percent of ballots just once in 15 years (2012, 50.6 percent). Baines topped out at 6.1 percent in his fourth year and fell off the ballot after receiving fewer than the required 5 percent in 2011.
Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, who made the announcement on MLB Network, said such committees "were established as a sort of a court of appeals or an opportunity in the event over time it was felt somebody slipped through the cracks."
Smith and Baines didn't seem to mind the long wait. Smith, 61, retired after the 1997 season with more saves than any player before him. His 478 saves are third all-time behind Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman.
"I never, never, never gave up hope," Smith said, "and then when they started the second-chance ballot, I thought my chances got a little better. Today was probably the most nervous I've been with this Hall of Fame voting thing."
Baines, 59, played 14 of his 22 seasons for the White Sox, who selected him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1977 Draft. He played for five teams in all and finished with 488 doubles and 384 home runs.
"Wasn't really expecting it, but very grateful that it happened," Baines said. "I have four wonderful kids who are very proud of their dad today."
Smith was joined by Rivera and Hoffman as the only closers with at least 10 seasons of 30-plus saves. Hoffman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018, and Rivera, in his first year on the ballot, is expected to be part of Smith's induction class.
Smith pitched in an era when closers routinely pitched more than an inning. He got at least four outs for 169 of his 478 saves and had 12 straight seasons of at least 60 appearances, a Major League record. He's also the only reliever with 13 straight seasons of 25-plus saves and 10 straight of at least 30. He finished top five in Cy Young voting three times.
Smith initially resisted efforts by the Cubs to move him to the bullpen, but it cleared his path to the Majors and eventually the Hall of Fame.
"You gotta have really thick skin," Smith said of the role. "But you know the one thing I learned really myself, was like when you're going good, don't get too high, and when you're struggling a little bit, don't beat yourself up.
"If I could go home and put my head on the pillow and say, 'I did the best I can that day.' If you go out there and you make quality pitches day in and day out, good things are going to happen."
Baines served as a designated hitter for 1,643 of his 2,830 career games, and his entrance into the Hall of Fame could help the case of Edgar Martinez, who fell just short of BBWAA induction (70.4 percent) in 2018.
"Everything I hear or read, DH is really not part of the game, I guess," Baines said. "But I disagree. It's part of the game. You should recognize the DH as a part of the game until they get rid of it. Maybe this will open up doors for some more DHs."
The Today's Game Era Committee is one of four Eras Committees -- along with Modern Baseball, Golden Days and Early Baseball -- that provide an avenue outside BBWAA voting to make the Hall. Others on this year's ballot were Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, George Steinbrenner and Piniella.More »
SEATTLE -- For one last time, Edgar Martinez's name was on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot sent out to Baseball Writers' Association of America voters on Monday. This will be Martinez's 10th and final opportunity to earn baseball's most coveted honor.
His reaction? For Martinez, patience paid off in the late stages of his Major League career. He's not about to change now, at age 55. And so Martinez will quietly wait and see how things play out when the voting is announced on Jan. 20 on MLB Network.
Martinez's chances rose considerably -- along with his vote total -- when he was named on 70.4 percent of the ballots last year, just shy of the required 75 percent for induction. But he's taking nothing for granted.
"At this point, I'm not thinking too much about it," Martinez said. "I have no control of it. There's not much I can do but wait, and hopefully it goes in the right direction. But I'm realistic and know there is a chance it never happens.
"For the last few years, I've been of that mind and so far, I'm still thinking the same way. There's a chance it can happen, but if not, there's not much I can do about it. So we just have to wait and see."
Momentum clearly is on Martinez's side. After being named on 36.2 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility in 2010, those numbers hovered at 32.9, 36.5, 35.9, 25.2 and 27.0 until trending upward to 43.4, 58.6 and 70.4 in the previous three voting years.
History also appears to be in Martinez's favor. In the past 22 years, all 13 players who received 68.3 percent or more of the vote without being elected wound up being inducted the following year.
Overall, since Hall of Fame voting began in 1936, there have been 29 players who fell between 70-74.9 percent, and all of them eventually wound up in Cooperstown. Of that group, 24 were elected the next year, including Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero in 2018.
Jim Bunning took two years to get in after first reaching 70 percent in 1987. Orlando Cepeda (1994) and Nellie Fox (1985) were in their final year of eligibility when they reached 70-plus percent, but they wound up being added later by the Veterans Committee.
Red Ruffing twice hit the 70-plus percent mark, in 1964 and '67. But he took the unusual path of getting into the Hall via a "runoff election" in '67, when a since-abandoned rule called for BBWAA voters to hold a second election between the top two finishers in any year when no one reached 75 percent.
Frank Chance also cracked the 70-percent mark in 1945, then he dropped below it in his final year on the ballot in '46 before being added later by the Veterans Committee.
What it all adds up to is the fact that every player in Major League history who reached 70 percent voting at some point is in the Hall except for Martinez, and his path should be clearer now that the BBWAA has elected a record 16 players over the past five years.
Among this year's newcomers to the ballot, Mariano Rivera figures as a strong first-ballot inductee, while Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte, and the late Roy Halladay, all should draw considerable support. But Martinez now has elevated to the top returner and is riding considerable momentum.
Rivera, widely regarded as the greatest closer in MLB history, certainly won't argue if he's elected alongside Martinez. The longtime Mariners designated hitter went 11-for-19 with three walks, three doubles and two home runs in 23 plate appearances against Rivera during his career.
"The only guy that I didn't want to face, in a tough situation, was Edgar Martínez," Rivera said after his retirement from the Yankees in 2013. "It didn't matter how I threw the ball. I couldn't get him out. He had more than my number. He had my breakfast, lunch and dinner."
Martinez spent his entire 18-year playing career with the Mariners, and he served as their hitting coach the past 3 1/2 seasons before announcing last month that he was stepping down from that post to serve as an organizational hitting advisor in 2019.
Other players with Mariners ties on the 2019 ballot are pitchers Freddy Garcia and Derek Lowe, shortstop Omar Vizquel and outfielder Jason Bay. Vizquel was named on 37 percent of the ballots last year in his first year of eligibility, while the others are on the ballot for the first time.More »
LAS VEGAS -- The tears swelled in Harold Baines' eyes, the often stoic, intimidating slugger overcome with emotion he rarely displayed on the field. He paused as they fell from his face, silencing those gathered at the ballroom press conference staged to celebrate two careers now set for immortality.
They are tears that have come for Baines often in the past 24 hours, since he and Lee Smith were selected as the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baines cites his family when asked who was proudest of the call he received Sunday night from the Today's Game Era Committee, referencing his wife, Maria Henry, and four children. That's also why he also can't help but reflect on who won't be in attendance to see him inducted to Cooperstown this summer: his late father, Linwood Baines Jr.
"He's my hero," Baines said at last, collecting himself. "That's the thing I miss the most."
Speaking after the Hall's initial announcement Sunday, Baines called Linwood's presence at his 1980 MLB debut the most important moment of his career. Their relationship was formed long before, as Baines developed into a top prospect in the shadow of Memorial Stadium. A native of Easton, Md., Baines was drafted No.1 overall out of St. Michaels High School in '77. He went on to become one of the premier hitters of his era, an elite designated hitter who made six All-Star teams, won a Silver Slugger Award and amassed 2,866 hits and 384 home runs across 22 seasons.
Parts of seven of those seasons came in Baltimore, where Baines was perhaps his most productive. He ranks among the club's all-time leaders in batting (.301), on-base percentage (.379) and slugging (.502), and still resides in nearby St. Michaels.
"Baltimore is home for me, so it was a very special moment," Baines said. "Any player playing in his home town would enjoy it. I was there seven years, and I enjoyed every minute."
During the second year of his first stint with the O's, in 1994, Baines' path intersected with Smith's. Then 35, Baines hit .294 with an .840 OPS that year as an anchor of a lineup that also featured Cal Ripken, Rafael Palmeiro and Brady Anderson. Smith saved an American League-best 33 games and finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting before finishing his career with the Angels, Reds and Expos. Though both will likely be inducted into the Hall wearing Chicago hats -- Baines' with a White Sox logo and Smith wearing Cubs colors -- the two are now forever linked, as they also are to the city of Baltimore.
"I wish I could've played there longer," Smith said. "I really enjoyed playing there. It was like every day you would come out of the house so you can get tickets to the game. That's a good feeling as a player. A sellout crowd for the rest of the season, with people trying to get to the ballpark. That's how you know the product the organization was putting on the field that year."More »
BALTIMORE -- Could this finally be Mike Mussina's time? The former Orioles pitcher, who split his career between Baltimore and New York, was among the returnees on the 2019 ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which was unvelied on Monday.
The election results will be announced live on MLB Network on Jan. 22. Mussina needs a vote on 75 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballots to be enshrined into baseball history. His voting percentage has ticked up every year since he was first eligible in '14, and he appears to be knocking on Cooperstown's door in his sixth year on the ballot (of the maximum 10 years).
Mussina joins an intriguing group of candidates headlined by newcomers Mariano Rivera and the late Roy Halladay. It also includes former Oriole Miguel Tejada.
Mussina's substance was his style, never winning the Cy Young Award or the ERA title. For 18 years (1991-2008) in the American League East, during a hitter-dominated era, Mussina compiled 270 wins, 2,813 strikeouts, a 3.68 ERA and 83 career bWAR.
The Orioles' first-round pick in the 1990 Draft, Mussina quickly ascended to the big leagues and became a mainstay in the rotation. He went 147-81 with a 3.53 ERA with Baltimore and finished in the top six of Cy Young Award voting nine times in his 18 seasons.
Mussina, who signed with New York when he hit free agency before the 2000 season, retired after a 20-win season with the Yankees in 2008 at age 39. His 5.2 bWAR that year is second only to Sandy Koufax for the highest mark in a final season over the past 100 years. Had Mussina continued his career, he would have needed 30 wins to get to 300 and 187 strikeouts to get to 3,000.
A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mussina placed in the AL's top 10 in pitcher bWAR in 11 seasons, WHIP in 12 seasons, strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings in 10 seasons and walks per nine and strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 seasons. Since 1969, he is one of eight pitchers to put together at least eight seasons of 200 innings and a 125 ERA+.
Here are Mussina's voting totals over the past five years:
2014: 20.3 percent
2015: 24.6 percent
2016: 43.0 percent
2017: 51.8 percent
2018: 63.5 percent
Tejada, who will need a vote in at least five percent of the ballots to stay on it beyond this year, played five of his 16 seasons with Baltimore. He also spent time with Oakland, Houston, Kansas City, San Francisco and San Diego. This will be his first year on the Hall of Fame ballot.More »
LAS VEGAS -- There was a sense of euphoria emanating from the White Sox after Sunday night's announcement of Harold Baines being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Today's Game Era Committee along with closer Lee Smith, a friend of Baines'.
It was euphoria along the lines of World Series championship excitement, with smiles and high-fives across the White Sox crew in Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings. That feeling makes perfect sense, with Baines having played 14 of his 22 Major League seasons with the South Siders, as well as being part of the White Sox coaching staff from 2004-15.
But White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf spoke Sunday night for the Orioles, A's, Rangers and Indians, Baines' four other teams on his vast resume, when extolling the virtues of the soft-spoken designated hitter/outfielder who played until he was 42.
"He just deserved it. It was just a shame he didn't get in sooner than this," Reinsdorf said. "Harold is a great player. You look at the numbers he put up in the '80s and the '90s and played in the Majors for 22 years. I don't think he ever had a bad year. Of course, there's no finer person than Harold Baines. So, I'm just ecstatic. This is great. He was a great player. He's a great human being. I'm so happy for Harold."
"I'm very humbled and honored for this good news today," said Baines during a conference call following the announcement. "I'm very grateful to the [Today's Game] committee for thinking I'm worthy of this Hall of Fame honor. I'm very shocked today."
Reinsdorf was part of the 16-member Today's Game Era Committee commissioned with the review of the 10-name ballot, joined by Hall of Fame members Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre; Major League executives Al Avila, Paul Beeston and Andy MacPhail; and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith. Hall of Fame chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark served as the non-voting chairman of the Today's Baseball Era Committee.
Twelve votes were needed to be elected, and Baines received exactly 12 or 75 percent. Smith was a unanimous 16-vote selection. Lou Piniella missed by one vote with 11, and Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel and George Steinbrenner each received fewer than five votes.
When Baines' election was announced live on MLB Network, marking the first time Reinsdorf heard the news, Reinsdorf's reaction was a celebratory fist pump, as he described to the media.
"I looked up at Tony La Russa and I thought he was going to cry," Reinsdorf said. "I think it was a great discussion. There was no arm twisting. It was a secret ballot, so people could vote the way they wanted. Whoever voted for him must have believed he deserved to get in."
"It's hard not to think about. It's an honor just to be nominated," Baines said. "It's always been tough for DHs to get in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully this will open it for more guys to get in."
Of Baines' 2,830 games played, 1,643 came as a designated hitter and 1,024 came in right field. He finished with 2,866 hits, 384 home runs and 1,628 RBIs. The six-time All-Star also won the American League top designated hitter award, now called the Edgar Martinez Award, in 1987 and 1988. He hit .324 with four doubles, five home runs, 16 RBIs, a .378 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage over 31 postseason games.
Baines' numbers are scattered across the White Sox all-time leaders, ranking third in home runs (221), fourth in RBIs (981) and sixth in hits (1,773) among the 10 categories where he sits in the Top 10, not to mention having his jersey No. 3 retired and a statue in his honor on the Guaranteed Rate Field concourse. He ranks sixth in the American League since 1974 with 197 game-winning RBIs and 401 go-ahead RBIs.
"Steady," said Reinsdorf when asked to describe Baines. "When the game was on the line in the eighth or ninth inning, and you can pick somebody who you wanted up, it was Harold Baines.
"I think the people with the White Sox might be happier than Harold because we all love Harold so much. But he deserved it. He got in because he deserved to get in -- not because he's a great guy. He is a great guy."More »
NEW YORK -- The lethal cutter that Mariano Rivera refers to as "a gift from God" appeared unexpectedly one afternoon during the 1997 season, as the Yankees hurler played catch with Ramiro Mendoza. Each toss across the outfield cut hard and late with wicked movement, mystifying the teammates.
Rivera's grip, arm angle and release point had not changed, so no one could explain why his throws no longer traveled in a straight line. That miracle frustrated hitters for nearly two decades, promising to clear Rivera's path for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this coming summer.
"Right now, I don't know what to expect," Rivera said. "It's something that brings me back home when I was just a little one there in Puerto Camaito, Panama, and now being considered on the Hall of Fame ballot, it's amazing."
The regular-season saves leader with 652, plus a Major League record 42 more in the postseason, Rivera is among the most prominent names on a ballot that was announced on Monday. Rivera's fellow "Core Four" member, Andy Pettitte, is also in his first year of eligibility.
Nominees are required to receive 75 percent of votes cast by selected members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America for induction. Results will be announced on Jan. 22.
A 13-time All-Star, Rivera spent all 19 of his big league seasons with the Yankees and was a key figure in five championships, establishing career records in games finished (952) while sharing a mark with Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman for most seasons with 40 or more saves (nine).
Known to teammates and fans as "Mo," Rivera holds postseason records for lowest ERA (0.70), games pitched (96), and World Series records for games pitched (24) and saves (11). Rivera was the MVP of the 1999 World Series and the 2003 American League Championship Series.
"Mo is going to obviously be a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Hoffman said. "It reminds me of when [Tony] Gwynn was on the ballot the first time. He was super humble about it. It goes to show you the type of person Mo is. I'm looking forward to embracing Mo being there this summer."
Rivera's 2.21 ERA ranks 13th among pitchers whose careers started after 1910. The AL award for relievers is named for Rivera, the last player to wear uniform No. 42, which was retired in perpetuity for Jackie Robinson in 1997.
Pettitte was a 256-game winner with a 3.85 ERA over 18 seasons with the Yankees and the Astros, pitching in 32 postseason series, including eight World Series. The left-hander posted a 19-11 record with a 3.81 ERA in 44 postseason starts and was the MVP of the 2001 ALCS.
In addition to victories, Pettitte holds postseason records for innings pitched (276 2/3) and games started (44), ranking second in strikeouts (183). Pettitte and Rivera combined for a staggering 72 win/saves, having shattered a previous record of 58 held by Bob Welch and Dennis Eckersley.
"I played with guys who are no-doubt Hall of Famers," Pettitte said during a recent visit to Cooperstown. "I myself don't feel like one, but it would be truly amazing. There's so much history here, and just being on the ballot is an honor. Most guys feel like that. Yeah, I played in the big leagues, but I did it because I loved it."
Two other pitchers with Yankees ties will continue to seek enshrinment, as Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina are listed for the seventh and sixth times, respectively.
A seven-time Cy Young Award winner and 11-time All-Star who recorded 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts in a 24-year career, Clemens' candidacy has been clouded by his inclusion in the 2007 Mitchell Report. Pettitte was also listed in that report. Clemens was listed on 57.3 percent of ballots last year. He pitched for the Yankees from 1999-2003 and again in 2007.
Compiling 270 wins with a 3.68 ERA, Mussina worked 18 seasons in the AL East during an era of explosive offense. A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mussina enjoyed six top-five finishes for the AL Cy Young Award. A Yankee from 2001-08, Mussina appeared on 63.5 percent of ballots cast last year.
Other candidates on the ballot with Yankees ties include:
Lance Berkman (first year), Freddy Garcia (first year), Travis Hafner (first year), Andruw Jones (second year, 7.3%), Ted Lilly (first year), Derek Lowe (first year), Gary Sheffield (fifth year, 11.1%), Vernon Wells (first year) and Kevin Youkilis (first year).More »
PHILADELPHIA -- A strong argument can be made that Roy Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball for most of his career. His decade of dominance and 16 years in the sport could put him in the National Baseball Hall of Fame next summer.
The Hall of Fame announced its 2019 ballot on Monday. Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Nov. 7, 2017, is one of 20 candidates appearing on the ballot for the first time. If he appears on 75 percent of ballots cast, he will be enshrined next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y. More than 400 ballots will be sent to qualified members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Results will be announced on Jan. 22, 2019, on MLB Network.
Halladay had a stellar career with the Blue Jays (1998-2009) and Phillies ('10-'13). He won the American League Cy Young Award in '03 and the National League Cy Young Award in '10. He was the runner-up for the award in '08 and '11, and he finished in the top five in '06, '07 and '09.
Halladay threw a perfect game against the Marlins on May 29, 2010, and just a few months later, a no-hitter on Oct. 6 in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Reds -- one of only two postseason no-nos in baseball history.
Halladay finished his career with a 203-105 record and a 3.38 ERA. He led his league in wins twice, complete games seven times and innings four times. He is one of six pitchers in baseball who began his career in 1900 or later with 200-plus victories and at least a .650 winning percentage.
Halladay pitched at his peak from 2002-11. In that time, he ranked first in baseball in wins (170), winning percentage (.694), shutouts (18) and complete games (63 -- 30 more than second-ranked CC Sabathia); second in innings (2,194 2/3), ERA (2.97), FIP (3.07) and strikeout-to walk ratio (4.57); third in opponents' OPS (.644) and WHIP (1.11); and fourth in strikeouts (1,699).
In that span, Halladay ranked first in FanGraphs WAR (58.7) and first in Baseball Refernece WAR (62.6).
Baseball Reference's Hall of Fame Monitor tries to assess a player's chances at enshrinement. A score of 100 means the player has a good possibility of getting a plaque in Cooperstown. A score of 130 or better means the player is a virtual lock. Halladay scored a 126.
Baseball Reference's Hall of Fame Career Standards test gives a score of 50 for an average Hall of Famer. Halladay scored a 46 there.More »
The 2019 Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday, and on it is a former Cardinal looking to pitch his way off it in the months to come.
If all goes to Rick Ankiel's plan, the current Cards broadcaster will complete his attempted comeback to Major League Baseball following left elbow surgery. But for now, Ankiel finds himself in an unusual spot: five years since officially retiring (for the second time) and in some rare company.
Should he appear on even one ballot this winter, Ankiel would join former Reds pitcher Jose Rijo, White Sox legend Minnie Minoso, Brooklyn Dodgers slugger Babe Herman and Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean as players who appeared in the Majors after receiving a BBWAA vote. If Ankiel were to make it back to the big leagues, his Hall of Fame eligibility would be reset until five years after his next retirement.
Ankiel, 39, is 14 years removed from his most recent appearance on the big league mound. His last MLB appearance came in 2004, four years after anxiety issues famously derailed the first half of his career. The NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2000, Ankiel lost his command that October, throwing nine wild pitches and walking 11 batters in three postseason outings. He later reinvented himself as a power-hitting outfielder and hit 74 home runs across seven MLB seasons, including 49 in three seasons for the Cardinals.
Both Ankiel and the Cardinals have expressed interest in a potential reunion in St. Louis. A former second-round Draft pick of the Cardinals in 1997, Ankiel resides in Jupiter, Fla., where he has access to the club's spring complex. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier this month that the Cardinals have a Minor League offer waiting for Ankiel when he is able to resume pitching.
"Expectations are that he still wants to give it a try," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak told Goold at this month's General Managers Meetings.
This summer, Ankiel returned to the mound for the first time in a brief relief appearance at the Bluegrass World Series in Kentucky, where his team of former big leaguers faced off against college teams. That rekindled his desire to pitch professionally.
Ankiel was among 20 newcomers named to the 2019 BBWAA ballot. Other first-year candidates with Cardinals ties include former outfielder/first baseman Lance Berkman (2011-12), left-hander Darren Oliver (1998-99), and second-baseman Placido Polanco (1998-02). They join holdovers from last year's ballot in former third baseman Scott Rolen (10.2 percent of the vote in 2017) and outfielder Larry Walker (34 percent of the vote).
Minor League signings
The Cardinals added to their farm system Monday, announcing nine signings. Among those new to the organization are left-handed pitcher Hunter Cervenka, right-handers Mike Hauschild, Williams Perez, Harold Arauz and Ramos Santos and catcher Joe Hudson. The club also re-signed left-hander Tommy Layne, catcher Jose Codoy and first baseman/outfielder Rangel Ravelo.
Ravelo could be a candidate to crack the 40-man roster come Tuesday, when teams face a deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. The 26-year-old is considered one of the top fielding first basemen in the Minors, and hit .308/.392/.487 with 13 home runs in 100 games for Triple-A Memphis in 2017. A six-year veteran, Layne last appeared in the Majors in 2017 for the Yankees. He could factor into the bullpen mix that currently features left-handers Brett Cecil, Tyler Webb and Chasen Shreve, though the Cardinals expect to add to those options further this winter. The same applies to Cervenka, who made 73 appearances for the Braves and Marlins from 2016-17.
Perez, 27, made 34 starts for Atlanta from 2015-16. Hauschild (two games for Toronto) and Hudson (eight games for the Angels) were the only two players from Monday's crop to see big league action in 2018.More »
ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones may spend most of the next decade hearing why his Hall of Fame credentials are not quite Cooperstown worthy. Fred McGriff will have to endure this frustrating process just one more time.
Jones, McGriff, Billy Wagner and Gary Sheffield stand as the most notable former Braves on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot, which was released Monday. Each built a strong resume throughout his career, and balloting results will be announced Jan. 22, live on MLB Network.
This will be McGriff's 10th and final year on the ballot. He received a vote on 23.2 percent of the 422 ballots that were cast by qualified members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America last year. This stood as the second-highest percentage received by the former first baseman, who garnered his highest percentage (23.9) in 2012, well short of the 75 percent needed to be elected.
McGriff finished his 19-season career with a .284 batting average, a .377 on-base percentage, a .509 slugging percentage and 493 home runs. The five-time All-Star would have likely reached the 500-homer plateau had portions of the 1994 and '95 seasons not been erased by a work stoppage.
While the homer total stands as a significant element in his evaluation, it's still noteworthy that McGriff stands as just one of 16 players to hit .280 with a .375 OBP, .500 SLG and at least 490 home runs. The 15 others on the list are Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Mel Ott, Sheffield, Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, David Ortiz, Mickey Mantle, Frank Thomas, Jimmie Foxx, Manny Ramirez, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds.
Jones batted .254, tallied 434 home runs and constructed an .823 OPS over a 17-season career that included 10 Gold Glove Awards, five All-Star appearances and the National League Hank Aaron Award he captured in 2005 when he finished second to Pujols in balloting for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. The only other players to win at least 10 Gold Gloves are Ichiro Suzuki and four Hall of Famers -- Mays, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey Jr.
The former Braves center fielder was the author of an uneven career that started with a bang and ended with a steep decline late in his career. He produced MLB's third-best Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, from 1998-2007. The two men who ranked ahead of him within this span were Bonds and Rodriguez. The man ranked immediately behind him was Chipper Jones, his longtime Braves teammate who was a first-ballot Hall of Fame electee last year.
Once considered a likely Hall of Famer, Andruw Jones' candidacy nearly died last year when he received just 7.3 percent of the votes. A candidate needs to gain at least five percent of the votes to extend his candidacy.
Wagner shares the ballot with another storied closer: Mariano Rivera. From 1995 (the rookie season for Wagner and Rivera) through 2010 (Wagner's final season), Rivera led all relievers with 34.9 fWAR (Fangraphs' WAR Model). Wagner ranked second with 24.1 and Trevor Hoffman ranked third with 24.0. Rivera is baseball's all-time saves leader with 652, while Hoffman is second with 601. Wagner ranks sixth with 422.
Hoffman was elected to the Hall of Fame last year, and Rivera will likely be a near-unanimous selection as he is now on the ballot for the first time. Wagner has never received more than 11.1 percent of the votes during any of his first three years on the ballot.
Sheffield stands as one of 19 players to ever produce at least 500 homers and a .900 career OPS. The only other members of this group not yet elected to the Hall of Fame are Rodriguez, Pujols, Ramirez, Ortiz and Mark McGwire. Pujols is still active and Ortiz is not yet eligible to be placed on the ballot.More »
HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt, two of the greatest players in Astros history who led the team to its first World Series in 2005, joined another key member of the '05 team, pitcher Andy Pettitte, among the 20 new candidates on the '19 Hall of Fame ballot.
Berkman, Oswalt and Pettitte are on the ballot for the first time along with former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, former Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay, former Rockies slugger Todd Helton and former Astros shortstop and 2002 American League Most Valuable Player, Miguel Tejada.
Candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots cast by selected members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who have 10 or more consecutive years of MLB coverage. The 2019 Hall of Fame class will be announced Jan. 22. Players may remain on the ballot for up to 10 years provided they receive at least five percent of the vote.
Former Astros who are returning to the ballot are Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Darren Oliver, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner.
Berkman spent 12 of his 15 big league seasons with the Astros, hitting. 293 with a .943 OPS, 366 homers, 422 doubles and 1,234 RBIs in his career. A six-time All-Star, he's regarded as one of the greatest switch-hitters in MLB history.
Oswalt spent 10 of his 13 seasons in the Majors in an Astros uniform, going 163-102 in 365 games, including 341 starts (20 complete games). He played for the Phillies, Rockies and Rangers after leaving Houston, but made his mark with the Astros, where his 143 wins are second-most in club history.
Pettitte, whose signing with the Astros prior to the '04 season prompted Clemens to come out of retirement and join him, won 256 games and posted a 3.85 ERA in 18 seasons -- 15 with the Yankees and three in Houston. He went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 44 playoff starts and holds career postseason records for innings pitched (276 2/3) and games started (44) and is second in strikeouts (183).
Tejada, the AL MVP with the Athletics in 2002, is a six-time All-Star who played for six teams in 16 seasons, including the Astros ('08-09). He had three seasons of 200 or more hits and six years of 100 or more RBIs, including a career-high 150 in '04, his first season in Baltimore.
Last year, Clemens appeared on 57.3 percent of the ballots in his sixth year on the ballot, Schilling was on 51.2 percent of the ballots in his sixth year, Kent was on 14.5 percent of the ballots in his fifth year, Wagner was on 11.1 percent in his third year.More »
Rockies fans have spent the better part of this decade hoping that Larry Walker would become the first Hall of Famer to have a Rockies cap on his plaque. Now, those fans have another candidate in their corner.
Former Rockies star Todd Helton was among the 20 newcomers named to the 2019 Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday, along with a host of other players who donned a Colorado uniform during their playing days, including Juan Pierre, Roy Oswalt, Darren Oliver, Octavio Dotel and Jon Garland.
Helton, who spent his entire career playing at the intersection of Blake and 20th Streets in Denver, finished his career with a .316/.414/.539 slash line, 369 homers, 1,406 RBIs and a 133 adjusted OPS+. He placed as high as fifth in National League MVP Award voting in 2000, a monster season in which he led the Majors in batting average (.372), slugging percentage (.698), OPS (1.162), doubles (59), RBIs (147) and total bases (405), while also pacing the NL in hits (216) and on-base percentage (.463).
Taken at face value, Helton's career numbers jump off the page. He is one of only 19 hitters since 1900 to post a .300/.400/.500 slash line in a career spanning at least 5,000 plate appearances, and one of only four to compile 400 total bases in back-to-back seasons, alongside Hall of Famers Jimmie Foxx (1932-33), Lou Gehrig (1930-31) and Chuck Klein (1929-30). The six players who own a .316 batting average, .414 OBP and .539 slugging percentage over 1,000 career games besides Helton constitute some inner-circle Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Foxx and Gehrig. Helton was also a stalwart on defense, claiming three Gold Glove Awards at first base.
There's no question that Helton was among the NL's most prolific hitters during his era, but his Hall candidacy will likely run into the same roadblock that Walker has faced in his nine years on the ballot: Coors Field. Fair or not, Rockies players have historically seen their statistics discounted by way of playing half their games in the Majors' most favorable hitters' park. Helton's splits are no exception: He posted a .345/.441/.607 slash line and hit 227 of his 369 career homers in Denver's mile-high altitude. But his road numbers were still plenty competent, including a .287 average and a .386 OBP. Helton's career .855 OPS away from Coors Field is higher than the road marks of many Hall of Fame players, including Dave Winfield (.841), Eddie Murray (.838), Rickey Henderson (.836), Tony Gwynn (.835), Al Kaline (.827) and George Brett (.825).
Helton finished his career with a 53.9 JAWS rating, a system created by writer Jay Jaffe that evaluates a player's worthiness for enshrinement by comparing him to the Hall of Famers at his position, compared to the average of 54.7 for first basemen already in Cooperstown. He retired with a 175 Hall of Fame monitor score, a metric created by sabermetrician Bill James where a score over 100 means a player is more likely to be voted in. But even if Helton's case eventually sways voters, it will likely take time. His chances could be influenced by the progress Walker makes when the ballot results are announced Jan. 22 (live on MLB Network).
Walker, who is entering his penultimate year on the BBWAA ballot, peaked at 34.1 percent last year after languishing below 25 percent in years prior.
Helton brings a strong case to the feet of Hall voters, but his ultimate Cooperstown fate may take years to sort out.More »
Among the tens of thousands of players, managers, owners, executives and other personnel that have made their marks on baseball, only a select 323 are enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 226 of them players. And among that elite group, 54 players have been granted an even more selective honor: being named to the Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility. With Yankees legend Mariano Rivera almost certain to join them when the Class of 2019 is announced on Jan. 22, here's a look at every first-ballot Hall of Famer in baseball history.
Class of 2018
Arguably the most decorated player in Braves history, and one who rivals Mickey Mantle as arguably the best switch-hitter ever, Jones became just the second No. 1 Draft choice in history to reach the Hall of Fame. Jones, who spent his entire 19-year career in Atlanta, was the cornerstone player in its run to a record 14 straight division titles. He was an eight-time All-Star, a 1995 World Series champion, the '08 National League batting champion and the '99 NL MVP Award winner.
Class of 2018
The blue-collar slugger from Peoria, Ill., was drafted in the 13th round by the Indians in 1989 and went on to headline an era defined by power with 612 home runs, the eighth-most all-time. Thome, who was enshrined as an Indian, is one of just three hitters -- along with Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth -- to have amassed at least 600 home runs and 1,500 walks in his career.
Class of 2017
"Pudge," as he became iconically known, was a 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, both benchmarks for catchers in MLB history. He went into the Hall as a Ranger after spending his first 12 seasons as the Texas backstop, and he would go on to play in two World Series, in '03 for the Marlins and '06 with the Tigers. Despite it being a position that takes such a pounding, Rodriguez played almost exclusively at catcher throughout his 21-year career.
Ken Griffey Jr.
Class of 2016
As the son of a successful 19-year big leaguer, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 Draft and perhaps one of the most touted prospects ever, "The Kid" lived up to the hype and more. A 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and seven-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Griffey is considered among the greatest two-way players of all-time. His 99.3 percent vote on the '16 ballot is the highest in Hall of Fame history.
Class of 2015
Over his 22-year career, Johnson utilized his lanky, 6-foot-10 frame and wipeout stuff to become arguably the most dominating pitcher of his era. Johnson registered 300 strikeouts in six separate seasons, tied with Nolan Ryan for the most ever. No other player had more than three. Johnson enjoyed Hall of Fame-worthy success over stints with both the Mariners (with whom he played 10 seasons) and D-backs (with whom he won four straight NL Cy Young Awards). He pitched his last game on Oct. 4, 2009, less than a month shy of his 46th birthday.
Class of 2015
If it wasn't Johnson, then Martinez was the most dominating pitcher of their era. With high-90s velocity and a baffling changeup, Martinez won the Cy Young Award in both leagues -- one of just six pitchers to do so -- over a career headlined mostly by his time in Montreal and Boston. Martinez's .687 winning percentage trails Whitey Ford for the highest in the Modern Era (since 1900). But perhaps his most prominent milestone was helping the Red Sox snap the 86-year Curse of the Bambino with their 2004 World Series title.
Class of 2015
Smoltz became arguably his era's most versatile pitcher. After injuries forced him to the bullpen midway through his career, the 1996 NL Cy Young Award winner -- who twice led the NL in innings pitched -- went on to wow as Atlanta's closer for three and a half seasons, setting an NL record with 55 saves in 2002. Smoltz is the only player in MLB history with at least 200 wins and 150 saves.
Class of 2014
A jokester in the clubhouse but an assassin on the mound, Maddux is widely considered the game's most cerebral pitcher ever. A winner of four straight Cy Young Awards and finalist three other times, Maddux was the No. 1 ace for a Braves rotation that housed two other Cy Young Award winners in the 1990s and is considered the greatest starting staff of all time. His 555 Hall of Fame votes in '14 remain the most ever.
Class of 2014
Like Maddux, Glavine made his mark through command. Glavine helped kickstart the 1990s Braves dynasty as the anchor to its rotation in 1991, when the club became the first team in NL history to go from worst to first in consecutive seasons. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner's 305 wins are the fourth-most ever by a left-hander.
Class of 2014
For all of his power, "The Big Hurt" honed it with precision. He is the only player in MLB history to compile seven straight seasons with at least 20 homers, 100 RBIs, 100 walks and a .300 batting average. Thomas was a back-to-back AL MVP Award winner from 1993-94 for the White Sox, with whom he played for 16 of his 19 big league seasons.
Class of 2009
"Transcendent" would be one of the few words aptly used to describe Henderson, whose 1,406 career stolen bases are a Major League record likely to never be broken. Henderson also owns MLB's all-time record for runs scored (2,295) and is second in walks (2,190) over his 25-year career and in 1990 was the AL MVP Award winner after swiping 65 bases and posting a 1.016 OPS -- the type of season that will almost assuredly never be matched again.
Class of 2007
In terms of pure hitting acumen and ability, Gwynn is recognized as perhaps the greatest ever. "Mr. Padre" was a lifetime .338 hitter over 10,232 plate appearances in a 20-year career, all with San Diego. An eight-time NL batting champion, Gwynn is one of few to sniff the .400 batting average mark since Ted Williams in 1941, clipping .394 in 1994. This is all from a player who picked up baseball as a summertime hobby, and who nearly opted for a career in basketball.
Cal Ripken Jr.
Class of 2007
Ripken was revered as the bridge between the schools of old and new. He played super defense, hit for power and average and played every day. His streak of 2,632 consecutive games played is likely one that won't ever be matched. Ripken was enshrined to the Hall with a 98.5 percent vote, the fourth-highest of all time.
Class of 2005
Boggs wasn't the most athletic, didn't have the strongest arm and was never a threat on the basepaths, but during his peak, a 12-year stretch from 1985-96 during which he was an All-Star 12 times, Boggs was arguably the game's best hitter. Over his 18 seasons, he posted a .328/.415/.443 slash line. His 240 hits in 1985 were the most by a Red Sox player in 55 years, and have been matched by only Ichiro Suzuki (2001, '04) since.
Class of 2004
Eckersley is one of just three relievers in MLB history to win the MVP Award -- and he did so in his 18th season after transitioning from a starting role over his first 12 seasons. He was widely regarded for revolutionizing the closer's role.
Class of 2004
Molitor had multiple monikers -- "Molly" and "The Ignitor" to name a few -- over a remarkable 21-year career. Defensively versatile and offensively adept, Molitor hit .306 over 12,167 plate appearances and logged 50 or more games at designated hitter, third base, second, first, shortstop and in the outfield. In 2017 as the Twins' skipper, Molitor joined Frank Robinson as the only Hall of Famers to be elected as players and go on to win the Manager of the Year Award.
Class of 2003
Murray embarked on his 21-year career by winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award with the Orioles in 1977. He went on to play more games at first base (2,413) than any player in history, winning three Gold Glove Awards there. After 12 successful seasons in Baltimore, Murray helped the Indians to their first World Series in 41 years in '95, then returned to the Orioles for a postseason run in '96. He was enshrined with an 85.2 percent vote.
Class of 2002
Smith's acrobatics at shortstop made him arguably the greatest at the position that requires such skill. He won 13 straight Gold Glove Awards from 1980-92 and was an All-Star in all but one season in that stretch. He helped the Cardinals win the '82 World Series title.
Class of 2001
A favorite among his teammates for his personality and play, Puckett truly made the most of his injury-shortened Major League career. Over his 12 seasons, all with the Twins, Puckett was a 10-time All-Star and a six-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field. He also was particularly critical during the Twins' World Series championship runs in 1987 and '91, hitting .309/.361/.536 over 24 playoff games.
Class of 2001
Regardless of baseball, Winfield might be one of the greatest athletes ever -- he was drafted in four major sports leagues, according to Hall of Fame archives. And he never played a day in the Minors, going straight to the big leagues in 1973 after he was drafted by the Padres. A 12-time All-Star, Winfield hit 465 home runs and is a member of the 3,000-hit club.
Class of 1999
Brett, a Kansas City legend, enjoyed a run of sustained success that included batting titles in three different decades (1976, '80, '90). He won the AL MVP Award in 1980 and was part of the Royals' first championship team in '85.
Class of 1999
Ryan played a record 27 years in the Majors, pitching for the Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers, and is baseball's all-time leader in no-hitters (seven) and strikeouts (5,714). He won a World Series with the Mets in 1969. Ryan received 98.8 percent of the votes during his first year on the ballot, the third-most all-time.
Class of 1999
Yount spent only a few months in the Minors before reaching the big leagues as a teenager. The two-time NL MVP would remain there for two decades, playing shortstop and center field for the Brewers.
Class of 1995
Schmidt excelled with both his bat -- he led the NL in home runs eight times -- and his glove -- he won 10 Gold Glove Awards -- during his Hall of Fame career. The longtime Phillie won a World Series with the club in 1980.
Class of 1994
Carlton, one of baseball's most decorated southpaws, won four Cy Young Awards, a pitching Triple Crown and two World Series titles. During his remarkable 1972 campaign, he compiled a 1.97 ERA and struck out 310 batters over 346 1/3 innings and remains the last pitcher to exceed 300 innings in a single season (1980).
Class of 1993
Dubbed "Mr. October" for his postseason heroics, Jackson not only enjoyed immense personal success -- he's a 14-time All-Star, the 1973 AL MVP and a four-time home run leader -- but contributed to some stellar A's, Yankees and Angels teams, including five World Series champions and 10 first-place finishers.
Class of 1992
Seaver played 20 seasons in the big leagues, with his most notable turn coming with the Mets from 1967-77, during which he won NL Rookie of the Year, three Cy Young Awards and a World Series title (1969). Seaver's 98.8 percent Hall vote is the highest ever for a pitcher.
Class of 1991
Carew split his 19-year career between the Angels and Twins -- both of which have retired his No. 29 -- and made the AL All-Star team in all but his final season. The 1977 AL MVP was a seven-time batting champion.
Class of 1990
Palmer became destined for greatness early on. He became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to throw a complete-game shutout in the World Series, doing so days before his 21st birthday. Palmer became the premier pitcher of the 1970s, compiling the most wins (186) and lowest ERA (2.58) of anyone in that decade. He spent his entire 19-year career with the Orioles and won the AL Cy Young Award three times.
Class of 1990
Morgan won his first MVP Award in '75 after hitting .327 with 17 homers, 67 steals and 132 walks -- and only got better the following season, when he won MVP again. The "Big Red Machine" won the World Series in both of those seasons, keyed by the 10-time All-Star second baseman and all-time hit king Pete Rose atop the lineup.
Class of 1989
Bench anchored Cincinnati's "Big Red Machine" of the '70s behind the plate en route to back-to-back World Series titles, winning NL Rookie of the Year in '68 and a pair of NL MVP Awards in '70 and '72 after leading the Senior Circuit in homers both years. That's not to mention his stellar defense as a backstop, for which he won 10 Gold Glove Awards.
Class of 1989
A young Yastrzemski had huge shoes to fill, stepping into left field as a 21-year-old rookie the season after Ted Williams' retirement. Three batting titles, a Triple Crown, an AL MVP Award and 18 All-Star appearances helped Yaz earn a place beside Williams in Red Sox lore.
Class of 1988
Stargell spent his entire 21-year career in Pittsburgh, topping 20 homers in 13 straight seasons and winning a pair of home run crowns after the Pirates moved to Three Rivers Stadium in 1971. The seven-time All-Star and 1979 NL MVP Award winner won a pair of World Series titles in '71 and '79.
Class of 1986
McCovey terrorized the NL for the majority of 22 seasons, leading the Senior Circuit in homers three times and winning the 1969 MVP Award. His 521 homers are tied for 20th on the all-time list, and his 18 grand slams were second only to Lou Gehrig's 23 at the time.
Class of 1985
A gifted hitter and one of the game's premier threats on the basepaths, Brock stole at least 50 bases in 12 straight seasons from 1965-76, leading the NL in steals in all but four of those years and breaking Ty Cobb's all-time stolen bases mark in 1977. The six-time All-Star has since been topped in steals by only Rickey Henderson.
Class of 1983
Robinson won an AL MVP Award in 1964 and was an 18-time All-Star, but was best known for setting the defensive standard at third base, where he became known as "The Human Vacuum Cleaner" and won 16 consecutive Gold Glove Awards.
Class of 1982
Hammerin' Hank hit 30 homers in a season 15 times and topped the .300 mark 14 times in a consistent career that the 25-time All-Star selection capped by breaking Babe Ruth's homerun record in 1974 to seize the title of baseball's home run king until 2007.
Class of 1982
Robinson tied a rookie record with 38 homers as he won the 1956 NL Rookie of the Year Award and became the first player to win an MVP Award in both leagues -- for the Reds and Orioles -- before he later became the first African-American manager in MLB history.
Class of 1981
Gibson's legendary 1968, during which he recorded a 1.12 ERA and struck out 268 batters, is often cited as one of the reasons why MLB lowered the mound and reduced the size of the strike zone before the following season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner and '68 NL MVP quite literally changed the game.
Class of 1980
After not spending a day in the Minor Leagues, Kaline established himself as one of the league's best as the AL batting champion in 1955 at age 20, the youngest to ever win the crown, and retired after 22 years in Detroit spanning a World Series, 10 Gold Glove Awards and 18 All-Star Games.
Class of 1979
Perhaps the greatest five-tool player in the history of baseball, the Say Hey Kid dazzled with his personality and excelled in every facet of the game, hitting 660 homers (fifth all-time), stealing 338 bases, hitting .302 for his career and playing in a record-tying 24 All-Star Games. Oh, and don't forget about "the catch."
Class of 1977
As the nickname suggests, "Mr. Cub" holds a special place in Cubs history, finishing as the NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in 1954 before playing in 11 straight All-Star Games, winning back-to-back NL MVP Awards and the Cubs' first Gold Glove Award.
Class of 1974
The longtime center fielder set a high bar for switch-hitters, winning three AL MVP Awards, a Triple Crown and seven World Series during the Yankees' dynasty in the 1950s and '60s. His .977 career OPS is second to Mike Trout among center fielders, and his 536 homers are third among center fielders behind Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr.
Class of 1973
The majority of Spahn's career came after his service in World War II, for which he was awarded a Purple Heart. Had it not been for the three seasons he spent overseas, Spahn, the winningest left-handed pitcher of all time (363), 17-time All-Star and 13-time 20-game winner, might have joined Cy Young and Walter Johnson in the 400-win club.
Class of 1972
Before the left-hander's career was cut short after his age-30 season due to his arthritic elbow, Koufax posted one of the most dominant four-year stretches ever from 1963-66 for the Dodgers, winning three Cy Young Awards, an NL MVP Award, three Triple Crowns and two World Series MVP Awards.
Class of 1969
Not only did Stan "The Man" win three NL MVP Awards, three World Series championships and seven batting titles, but he did it all in St. Louis, where he spent his entire 22-year career and became the face of the franchise. His 24 All-Star Game appearances are tied for the MLB record.
Class of 1966
The Red Sox legend remains the last player to hit over .400 in a full season, and his .344 career average remains tied for seventh in MLB history. The two-time AL MVP Award winner, two-time Triple Crown winner and six-time batting champion also served in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps for three years of his prime and later served in the Korean War.
Class of 1962
Feller blew Major League hitters away starting at the young age of 17, threw a no-hitter and tallied three 20-win seasons and a Triple Crown before giving up nearly four years of his prime to enlist in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon his return, he had three more 20-win seasons and finished with a 3.25 career ERA.
Class of 1962
Robinson's place in baseball history was already secure after he broke MLB's color barrier in 1947, but he also excelled on the diamond, winning Rookie of the Year and an MVP Award and earning six All-Star nods through a 10-year Major League career.
Class of 1936
Often described as the greatest hitter of all time, the ferociously competitive Cobb received the most Hall of Fame votes of the five enshrined in the inaugural ballot after winning 12 batting titles and hitting .366 in his career -- both still Major League records. He and Pete Rose are the only members of the 4,000-hit club, and Cobb's 897 steals are fourth in MLB history. Cobb's 98.2 percent vote was the Hall's highest until Tom Seaver eclipsed him in 1992.
Class of 1936
Baseball's all-time leader in shutouts (110) and runner-up in wins (417), Johnson was the only member of the 3,000-strikeout club for nearly 51 years after amassing a then-record 3,508 during his 21-year career, winning three Triple Crowns and two MVP Awards.
Class of 1936
The two-time Triple Crown winner and his famous "fadeaway" screwball baffled hitters throughout a 17-year career that set the standard for pitching excellence, during which he won at least 30 games four times and collected 373 career wins -- still the NL record in the modern era.
Class of 1936
The Bambino's powerful left-handed swing and 714 homers ushered baseball out of the dead-ball era, and the former ace pitcher and home run king's larger-than-life persona transcended the limits of the baseball field and cemented his place not only in baseball lore, but also in American legend.
Honus WagnerMore »
Class of 1936
Considered by many to be the greatest shortstop in baseball history, Wagner won eight batting titles in his 21-year career, primarily for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, and was not only one of the best hitters and baserunners of the era, but also an able defender at virtually every position.
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There is no real mystery to the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The votes have long since been cast. The names have long since been announced. Between the time they get the official call and the time they board the bus that takes them to the induction site, those fortunate few welcomed into the hallowed Hall have ample opportunity to craft their speeches, calm their nerves, gather their emotions.
But then something happens. The bus actually arrives.
And reality arrives with it.
"You come through that cornfield and then you see that stage, that space, that tent and all those people who came out to see you go into the Hall of Fame," Chipper Jones said Sunday. "You think, 'I don't know if I'm ready for this.'"
Ready or not, the day arrived for Jones, for Jim Thome, for Vladimir Guerrero, for Trevor Hoffman, for Jack Morris and for Alan Trammell. One of the largest classes in Hall history generated, appropriately enough, one of the largest crowds in Hall history. An estimated 53,000 fans and family members packed the grass field outside the Clark Sports Center -- the second-largest attendance on record. And the 57 Hall of Famers in attendance were the most ever.
All these people showed on an idyllic, sun-splashed day that betrayed earlier forecasts threatening rain. They sat under pillowy clouds so still it was as if the clouds themselves wanted to pause to appreciate the great players below. And they listened to the six new inductees express their gratitude for what this game has given them and their utter amazement to be in this fraternity of men.
"We stand here at the doorstep at one of the great shrines in all of sports," Hoffman said. "And each member of the Hall of Fame has a unique story."
The speeches were their opportunity to share those stories and to thank the many people who helped pave their path. Remarkably, there was no crying in baseball on this day. Not outright, at least. All six men managed to get through their prepared remarks without weeping. But there were still plenty of choked-back tears and plenty of moments that reminded you just how many people it truly takes to make a Hall of Famer.
Here were the highlights of the day:
Jones had more than just his speech to be nervous about. His wife, Taylor, was due to give birth to the couple's second child together literally any minute, which is why the Hall had him in the day's leadoff spot. The little boy had not yet arrived by the time the ceremony was over, but his name had already been decided -- Cooper.
"In honor of this occasion," Jones said.
Jones recognized his growing family and his baseball family with the Braves, whose great teams of the 1990s and 2000s have been rightly and roundly recognized in four of the last five induction ceremonies. Jones expressed enormous gratitude toward Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox, who put Jones in the No. 3 hole as a rookie and watched him become an instant impact player on a World Series winner.
"You believed in me before I truly believed I belonged in the big leagues," Jones said. "Bobby, next to my parents, you had the biggest influence on my career than anybody. Thank you for drafting me, thank you for never hesitating to put the bat in my hands with the game on the line and thank you for never hesitating to believe in me."
And to the huge assemblage of Braves fans in attendance, doing the "Tomahawk Chop" as his name was called, Jones had a special message.
"You were the reason I never wanted to play anywhere else," he said. "I couldn't be prouder to go into the Hall of Fame today with an Atlanta 'A' on my cap."
Trammell's induction alongside Morris finally gave that great 1984 Tigers team its Hall of Fame recognition, but the man Trammell is most often associated with -- second baseman Lou Whitaker, who was his double-play partner for 19 years -- is still hoping to get his Hall call. Trammell did not let Whitaker -- or some incredible trivia -- go unnoticed.
"Lou and I were called up to the big leagues from Double-A on the same day," Trammell said. "We both played our first big league ballgame at Fenway Park on the same day. We both got hits in our first MLB at-bats, off the same pitcher, Reggie Cleveland. And we both got our last hits of our careers off the same pitcher, Mike Fetters. Can you believe that? Truly amazing.
"For all those years, it was Lou and Tram. Lou, it was an honor and a pleasure to play alongside you for all those years. It is my hope that someday, you'll be up here as well."
Trammell and Morris famously had to wait a long time to get up there. They both spent 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot without getting voted in. Their invitation finally arrived via the Modern Era Committee vote in December.
"When people ask me, 'Where were you when you received your phone call from the Hall of Fame?' I tell them I was standing in the aisle, deplaning my flight from the Winter Meetings," said Trammell, a special assistant to Tigers general manager Al Avila. "How can you describe your emotions in a time like that? I wanted to jump up and down and run and scream, but I didn't think that was appropriate in an aisle of a plane."
Trammell, a six-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner, didn't jump and run and scream on this day, either. He simply delivered his speech with the same grace and dignity with which he played.
"I honestly didn't think this day would ever come," he said.
On a day that was so big -- the size of the class, the size of the crowd, the enormity of the occasion -- Guerrero's speech was quite a contrast. He was quick and to the point, spending less than four minutes at the podium, with half of that time reserved for broadcaster Jose Mota's translation of his remarks from Spanish.
Guerrero, the first player to be inducted as an Angel, said that when he was a player he "wanted my bat to do the talking," and not much has changed there.
"I know I don't speak a whole lot," he said through Mota. "But let me tell you that I am so happy to be part of this group, because some of them I saw and watched play and I witnessed it, but also I got to play against a lot of them and it means a lot to me."
The first position player from the Dominican Republic to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Guerrero capped his induction speech by honoring his hometown of Nizao, D.R., where he first showed the tools that would make him one of the most talented outfielders of all time. His impact on the attendance figure was obvious, for there were many people waving the Dominican flag or the Canadian flag (in recognition of his time with the Montreal Expos). Air horns blared when his name was announced.
"Even more special today is that today we celebrate Father's Day in the Dominican Republic," he said. "Happy Father's Day to all the Dominican fathers."
Guerrero himself is a proud pop. His 19-year-old son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Blue Jays' organization, is the No. 1 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline. The younger Guerrero was in the crowd and, after the ceremony, was due to head north to Triple-A Buffalo following a weekend promotion.
Hoffman, one of the all-time great closers, was the master of the changeup. And his career required a change of a different sort, as he was taken in the 11th round of the 1989 Draft as a shortstop before switching to pitching in 1993.
That was the background of what might have been the line of the day.
"It's an honor being up here with the other great shortstops of the game," he said. "Wink wink."
In addressing what it meant to make such an adjustment, Hoffman borrowed a line from a Hall of Famer of a different sort -- John Wooden.
"'Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out,'" Hoffman said, quoting the legendary basketball coach.
Hoffman's circuitous route to this day made him all the more grateful for his enshrinement. When his professional career began, he might not have imagined he'd ever save a single game, much less 601. But once he became the Padres' closer, he was a constant.
"Wow, 15 years in one spot, and that spot's San Diego," he said. "Jackpot."
With, as Hoffman noted, "San Diego weather" at the scene of the induction, Hoffman felt like he hit the jackpot again.
As with Trammell, Morris had an agonizing wait to get to this day, but that only amplified his appreciation for every moment of Hall of Fame week.
"It is extra special for me to be selected by my peers, the people I played with and competed against," Morris said. "And yes, thank you to the sportswriters. Whether you voted for me or not, thank you for keeping my name alive."
A respected workhorse, Morris won four World Series titles over his 18-year career and more games (162) than any other pitcher in the 1980s. He called being inducted with Trammell "a dream come true."
As he said, "1984 was an incredible year. I owe a huge thank you to Detroit."
Morris didn't spend nearly as long in his native Minnesota, but his one year there was memorable. And his 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the Twins' 1991 World Series victory over the Braves was his seminal moment. Morris even thanked those Braves, noting that "it takes two teams to make a great World Series."
"The game has always been a part of what I am and who I have become," Morris said. "Many say that baseball is known as a game of failure. I had plenty of challenges and failures, but it only made me work harder to find a path to success. It also didn't hurt to have a short memory."
Morris might have had a short memory, but he had a long wait. It proved to be another learning experience given to him by baseball.
"Winning and losing are facts of life," he said, "but it's how you deal with both that defines you. I believe in the human heart and the human spirit and no analytics can define them."
Nobody -- not in this class and not in the history of this event -- invested himself more in the acceptance speech than Thome. How committed was he to the cause? When practicing it in front of his backyard hedges proved insufficient, Thome traveled to Cooperstown earlier this month. They set up a podium in the empty, open field, and he had a dress rehearsal the likes of which Hall employees had never seen.
"I felt like I wanted to do it," Thome had said before the event. "We did a lot of things to prepare."
And for Thome, induction day was a family affair. His 15-year-old daughter, Lila Grace Thome, a student of the arts, performed a beautiful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the start of the event. Thome, therefore, was feeling emotional long before he closed things out with an eloquent speech that touched on growing up in Peoria, Ill., his love affair with Cleveland, his time in Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore, his teammates and his family. But the first person he thanked was his mentor, Charlie Manuel.
"Charlie took a scrappy young kid who was anxious to hit a million home runs and actually encouraged those crazy dreams," Thome said. He told me I can hit as many home runs as I wanted to. ... I wouldn't be standing here if it wasn't for you. Thank you for everything, but most of all, thank you for your loyalty."
It was Manuel's suggestion that Thome replicate Roy Hobbs' pre-pitch stance from "The Natural" that helped launch a career in which Thome, a 13th-round Draft pick out of community college, hit 612 homers.
"For a kid who grew up in Peoria, Ill., hitting rocks in our gravel driveway on Southwest Drive with an aluminum bat until our neighbors couldn't take it anymore," Thome said, "this is the ultimate dream come true."
What truly came across -- both in Thome's speech and his preparation for it -- was his respect for the institution of the Hall of Fame and the city of Cooperstown. And the final words of the day, from a man commonly known as one of the nicest guys in the game, hit home most.
"My experience has taught me that, if you try to conduct yourself with authenticity and honesty, the end result is one of the most natural highs any human being can have," Thome said. "I'm so honored to be a part of something so special, something greater than the individual. It's been my great privilege to have played the game for as long as I did. And I can say this with certainty: the possibilities are just as important as the outcome. In living the dream that is MLB, the best part is not the result, but taking the journey with the people whose contributions make it all possible. Baseball is beautiful, and I am forever in its service.More »
COOPERSTOWN, NY -- Along with being somewhat of a baseball savant, Chipper Jones is a romantic who wants to believe the old wives tale that the plaques speak to each other whenever they turn off the lights at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Now that he's officially a Hall of Famer, the immortalized version of Jones may soon have some of those "lights out" conversations with many former Braves teammates, one of his child favorites Eddie Murray and his father's idol Mickey Mantle, whose spirit was felt as Cooperstown celebrated the arrival of yet another legendary switch-hitter.
"I know if my plaque is going to speak he shouldn't," Jones said. "We're the rookie in the locker room now. It's time to be quiet and speak when spoken to. If Mickey and Eddie get into it, I'll throw my two cents in there."
Speaking as cool and smooth as he had throughout his storied playing career, Jones entertained the Braves-heavy crowd that assembled as he was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon. His speech was filled with heartfelt emotion and gratitude aimed toward the countless individuals who paved the way for him to share a stage with baseball's elite.
"It's a big relief now," Jones said. "It was pretty awe-inspiring to look out and see 40 or 50 thousand people. I've spoken in front of that many people before. But I was more nervous about who was behind me [fellow Hall of Famers] critiquing the speech."
Attempting to fend off any tears, Jones resolutely avoided making eye contact with his mother Lynn and father Larry Wayne Jones Sr. His nerves were enhanced that the crowd included his pregnant wife, Taylor, who is less than 24 hours from being due to deliver their latest son -- Cooper, who will be appropriately named in relation to this Hall of Fame celebration.
"[Taylor] changed my life forever," Jones said. "It took 40 years and some major imperfections in me to find my true perfection. We've taken our two families, blended them together, and it's given me what I've been searching for my entire life. The last six years have been the best of my entire life. Tay, you made me believe in love again and changed me forever."
Since the time he was an 18-year-old shortstop taken with the first overall selection in the 1990 Draft, Jones has stood as one of the most revered and beloved figures in the Braves organization. Atlanta fans flocked to Cooperstown to see John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz get inducted to the Hall of Fame within the past four years. But this seemed to be Braves Country's top showing in Cooperstown.
"You're why I loved coming to the plate with the game on the line, Crazy Train blaring in the background," Jones said to Braves fans. "I wanted to so badly to come through for you. You believed in me since I was an 18-year-old kid, and you were still there for me during my swan song in 2012. You cheered me through the career highs and stuck by me through life's lows. I'll never forget that. You're the reason I never wanted to play anywhere else. I couldn't be prouder to go into the Hall of Fame today with an Atlanta A on my cap."
Jones thanked his parents by describing him as the greatest support team he could have ever wanted. They created the young man who Cox helped further mold as he drafted, managed and mentored this legendary figure over two decades.
While Cox might have been the most influential force throughout Jones' career, the former third baseman did not forget to mention the impact made by late Hall of Famer Willie Stargell, who demanded the use of a heavier bat after Jones struggled during his first professional season.
"[Stargell] said, 'Son, I've picked my teeth with bigger pieces of wood than this.'" Jones said. "He also suggested I swing the biggest bat I could get around against 90-mph pitches and start letting the pitcher supply the power. He looked me dead in the eye and said: 'We'll have you hitting 30 homers in no time.' I thought he was crazy, but I'll be damned if he wasn't right.'"
Jones' first 30-homer season occurred in 1996, a year after he became a mainstay in Atlanta's lineup. But his power truly blossomed after he was introduced to the late Don Baylor, who served as the Braves hitting coach during the switch-hitter's 1999 MVP season. Baylor's mission before that season was to convince Jones he needed to be more aggressive with his attempt to produce more power from the right side. The result, a career-high 45 homers by the end of that year.
"I miss you buddy," Jones said of Baylor. "Not a day goes by that I don't miss our rigorous cage sessions."
Jones shared the stage with former teammates Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. Each of these players have expressed hope they will one day be joined by Fred McGriff and Andruw Jones, who along with Jeff Francoeur were among those who traveled to Cooperstown to enjoy this weekend and celebrate what was the greatest era in Braves history.
"For me, it all started in a little town of Pierson, Fla.," Jones said. "I was just a country kid from a town with two caution lights. The self-proclaimed, fern capital of the world. How do I, of all people, end up on a stage with my childhood heroes, the greatest players in baseball history? For me, it came down to being focused on a goal, never losing sight of that goal, and being surrounded by people who believed in me. That belief started at home."More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Jim Thome might be the first player in baseball history whose Hall of Fame speech preparation says even more about him than the speech itself.
Oh, was Thome's speech Sunday wonderful. Before he even began, his daughter, Lila -- a high school student hoping to become a performer -- sang the Star-Spangled Banner. That obviously overwhelmed him. Jim then took the crowd on his remarkable journey, from "hitting rocks in our gravel driveway … until family and neighbors couldn't take it anymore," through his remarkable 612-home run big league career all the way to the Hall of Fame stage where he stood before his heroes.
"The Hall," he said, "is also a place where players and fans come together to celebrate the game that has no borders, no boundaries, and will forever be defined by its timeless nature. Even though the cell phone may have replaced the transistor radio, and iPads are more common now than the sports page, baseball is still played the same way: between the lines."
As beautiful as it was, though, to understand what makes Thome go, it helps to understand what he did to get here. I don't mean what he did to earn induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame, though that is obviously related. Nobody worked harder than Thome. "He hit so much," his mentor, hitting coach and dear friend Charlie Manuel says, "I don't think I can explain to you how much he hit."
But in this case, no, I'm talking about what he actually did to get to the Hall of Fame stage.
Every single day, for weeks, for months, Thome would go to the backyard of his home. There are hedges back there that he would use those as a lectern. He put down his Hall of Fame speech. And he would practice it in the Chicago wind.
"He would tell me, 'I need to do it outside because I'm going to give the speech outside,'" his wife Andrea said. "He would say, 'I want to be prepared to hear what it's like outside, you know. Your voice sounds different outside."
He did this everyday?
"Oh yeah," she says. "Sometimes he would do it twice a day."
Here's how committed Jim was to practicing the speech: A couple of weeks ago, he came to Cooperstown, asked the Hall of Fame folks if he could take a lectern out to the field where he would be giving the speech. And then, he gave it to an empty field.
"He's such a student of baseball," Andrea says. "But he's really a student of life. Whatever he does, he wants to do well, especially something like this."
She looks over at him, this a couple of days before the speech.
"Look at how relaxed he is," she said. "That's how you know. He's ready. He's put in the work. If he didn't feel like he'd prepared enough, you'd see it. He'd be nervous. He'd be jumpy. I've seen that when things get sprung on him at the last minute, and he doesn't have time to prepare. But now, he's prepared."
She smiles: "That's how you hit 612 home runs."
That's exactly right. When people talk about Thome, the first thing they talk about is how nice he is. I've been fortunate enough to know Jim for more than 20 years, and I can't count the number of times I've seen him blow people away with his kindness, his interest and his overall friendliness. Back in the early days of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, when the place was desperate for Major League players to come by and show their support, who was the most reliable player? Jim Thome.
And you know what he said about it? "Oh man, it's my honor."
"Ask people about themselves," Thome said to those kids watching who hope to become Hall of Famers one day, "you might learn something."
Thome does this all the time. Just this week, I saw Thome run into a man he didn't know. After they talked for just a moment, Thome suddenly said "You want to take a picture together?"
"He has an energy about him," film director Jon Hock said as he watched Thome from across the room, "where you can just tell he's a great guy."
Thome's kindness might be what defines him as a person. but it is that work ethic -- the part that makes him practice his speech time and time again over a hedge -- that defined him as a baseball player. He grew up in Peoria, Ill., a Cubs fan who adored Dave Kingman. Looking back, Kong wasn't always the easiest player to love -- he spent a baseball life as perpetual trade bait -- but Thome was smitten by the home runs Kong hit. He wanted to do that -- hit an unlimited number of homers. Thome's infatuation for Kingman was such that as an eight-year-old he wandered into the Cubs dugout looking for his favorite player's autograph.
"Is this yours?" Cubs catcher Barry Foote asked Thome's parents as he carried the young boy out of the dugout.
Yes, Thome always wanted to hit with power. But how? He was a non-prospect at the start, a 13th-round Draft pick. He was tall and country strong, but early in his career, the baseball just didn't carry for him.
"Well you gotta open up your hips," Manuel told him while they were together in Scranton, Pa., but Thome couldn't figure out how to get those hips opened up, no matter how hard he tried. And then one day, Manuel moved Thome closer to the plate and told him to point his bat at the pitcher, the way Robert Redford did in "The Natural." Thome remembered the electricity he felt when he pulled his first home run.
"Charlie took a scrappy young kid who was anxious to hit a million home runs," Thome said, "and he actually encouraged those crazy dreams. He told me I can hit as many home runs as I wanted to."
Once Thome got the feeling, he chased it obsessively. That's what marked his career. He lived in the cage. He hit between at-bats. He thought about hitting constantly. He played for six teams, and every one of those teams, everyone of his teammates was in awe of how dedicated he was to the craft. I did a story on him near the end, when he was in Minnesota for a short while, and even then, Twins players would say, "He's the best teammate I think I've ever had."
On Sunday, Thome shows the sensitive side that everybody knows. He talks about how, in his imagination, he'd long been "in his Little League uniform playing alongside Musial, Mays, Ernie Banks and Ruth, and every game went into extra innings. … I never forgot that dream, even as I became a Major League player, because I could always see the dream's reflection in the faces of the kids in the stands, or whenever a child would come up and say hello."
He looks out into the stands for some of those kids.
"I still can't believe this has happened to me, a 13th-round Draft pick out of Central Illinois," Thome said. "To every kid who is dreaming of standing here one day: Take it one moment at a time. Don't sail too high or sink too low. Learn to be good at handling failure. Be the first one to the ballpark, be the last one to leave, work hard, don't complain, be a great teammate, and above all, treat people with respect."
He'd said those exact words dozens and dozens of times before Sunday. He had to say them right. It was important. Excellence is always important to Jim Thome.More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- One of the joys of baseball is that in every generation a great player comes along who is different from anyone who played in the Major Leagues before. They are made for their time. Think of Ichiro Suzuki, who brought with him a Japanese style of play the game had not known before. Think of Fernando Valenzuela, with his odd windup and the way he looked at the heavens. Think of Aaron Judge, who is simply bigger than any player before him.
Trevor Hoffman was such a special player.
Hoffman was a lightly regarded shortstop coming out of the University of Arizona; the Reds took him in the 11th round of the 1989 Draft, perhaps because he came from such a great baseball family. Trevor's father, Ed, gained some fame for being the singing usher at Angels games. His brother Glenn had played in the Majors for a few years, primarily for the Red Sox in the 1980s. Trevor remembered being a little kid in the clubhouse at Fenway.
"Mr. Rice reminded my kids that he would slap me on the back of the head for being in the wrong place at the wrong time," Hoffman said of Red Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice. Notice, he still calls Rice, Mister.
So maybe the Reds took a chance on some genetics or Hoffman's obvious baseball intelligence, but it took only a couple of years to see that Hoffman wasn't going to be a big league hitter. He was a good fielder. He had a rocket arm. But he slugged .289 his first year in Billings, Mont., then he went to Charleston, W.V., where he slugged .277. That's not getting anybody to the big leagues.
But, yes, he did have that live arm. A one-time light-hitting infielder named Jim Lett was managing the Charleston team, and along with pitching coach Mike Griffin, they told Hoffman that his best bet was to move to the mound. He agreed, and they began working Hoffman out in side pitching sessions a couple of times a week, just to see.
"Things turn out best," Hoffman said Sunday, quoting UCLA's great basketball coach John Wooden, "for the people who make the best of the way things turn out."
Let's pause here to say that Hoffman quoted Wooden several times in his Hall of Fame speech, which was fitting because Wooden's entire philosophy was about getting the best out of yourself. This is Hoffman's philosophy, too. The way Hoffman figured it, Wooden's words spoke for him.
"Talent is God-given," Hoffman said, again quoting Wooden. "Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."
Back to the Minors: Hoffman went to the mound. It wasn't easy. He had a little success, but then ran into real trouble in Triple-A. A lot of position players try to pitch as way to save lost careers, and almost all of them hit the wall at some point in the Minors. The Reds liked Hoffman, but they suspected that he had hit that wall. They left him unprotected in the Expansion Draft. The Florida Marlins took Hoffman and put him in their bullpen.
Then, almost immediately, the Marlins traded him to San Diego for Gary Sheffield. It was not a great trade to be involved in. The Padres had decided to have a full-fledged fire sale, and unsurprisingly, Padres fans weren't too happy to lose Sheffield and get back a former shortstop turned pitcher. There were some boos in the early days. They quickly dissipated.
Hoffman pitched well in 1994 all the way up to the strike, but he wasn't the pitcher that he would become. He was all fastball, all the time. Then, during the strike, Hoffman was playing beach volleyball and messed up his shoulder. The next year, 1995, was a real struggle with pain and performance. Hoffman knew that he needed to do something.
That's when Hoffman asked a teammate named Donnie Elliott to show him how to throw a changeup. Hoffman already had a changeup, but it wasn't particularly effective. Elliott showed him a new grip; to Hoffman it almost felt like throwing an old-fashioned palm ball. It felt really good. Hoffman found that no matter how hard he threw the ball, it came out of his hand slow.
In baseball, the greatest compliment you can give to the pitch is to call it a Bugs Bunny changeup. That's the ultimate. Almost overnight, Trevor Hoffman had a Bugs Bunny changeup. Almost overnight, Hoffman became the greatest one-inning closer in National League history.
"When I was a struggling shortstop," he said Sunday, "I could have never imagined being here. That transformation -- from infielder to pitcher to closer -- is just amazing."
It is amazing, and it's unique. No one else had a journey quite like this -- from position player to pitcher, from non-prospect to Expansion Draft pick, to the guy coming over in an unpopular trade to legendary closer. It is a story that simply could not have have happened in a different time. Just think, if Hoffman had gone through a similar scenario a generation earlier, well, he might not have had a coach who encouraged him to pitch. He might have been buried in the Minors. Also, there were no one-inning closers back then.
"I look back," Hoffman said, "and I cannot even believe my luck."
Of course, you cannot tell Hoffman's Hall of Fame story without at least about "Hells Bells," the AC/DC song that brought him out of the bullpen. He mentioned it in his speech and made the powerful point that, "It was the San Diego fans' enthusiasm -- the way you would start cheering on that first bell -- that made it special, that made every home game amazing."
That's right. The song was good. But it was the crowd's reaction that brought the goosebumps.
Hoffman's career -- the 601 saves, the 856 games finished, both National League records -- was a testament to his perseverance. He is one of the most unlikely stories of the Hall of Fame. My favorite moment in the speech was how he began because it pretty much put his distinct career in perspective.
"It's an honor," he said, "being up here with the other great shortstops of the game," Hoffman said.More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Some held the flag of the Dominican Republic. Some held the Canadian flag. Some wore Angels red. Some wore vintage Expos gear.
The breadth of Vladimir Guerrero's reach was always evident in his playing days, because nobody could hit the so-called "bad ball" like Vlad Guerrero. But it was also evident here Sunday afternoon at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
The first player to be inducted as an Angel, Guerrero smiled when he looked out to that field and saw so many family members and supporters within the large throng that had gathered to celebrate him, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell -- one of the largest player classes in the Hall's history.
But while Guerrero was always known as a big swinger, he maintained a reputation here for not being a big talker.
"I know I don't speak a whole lot," he said through interpreter Jose Mota, "but let me tell you that I am so happy to be part of this group. Because some of them I saw and watched play and I witnessed it, but also I got to play against a lot of them and it means a lot to me."
As Guerrero said, he was always best at letting his bat, which produced 449 homers, 477 doubles and 1,496 RBIs, do the talking. And so he delivered by far the shortest of the six speeches delivered on this day. He stood at the podium for less than four minutes -- and that included the time it took Mota to translate his words.
But don't mistake lack of words -- or, for that matter, tears -- for lack of feeling. Guerrero made it a point to note that Sunday was Father's Day in the D.R., and that occasion has an added layer of meaning for Guerrero right now, because his 19-year-old son, Vlad Jr., who was in attendance for induction day, is now headed north to Buffalo following his promotion to Triple-A over the weekend.
"It means a lot," Guerrero said after his speech. "In fact, Vladdy Jr. surprised me with a video he made for me. My family thought my reaction was that I was going to cry. It did mean a lot."
And it meant a lot to fans of the Angels, who finally have that halo-toped "A" emblazoned in bronze. And to Expos fans, who were, quite possibly, celebrating the franchise's final Hall of Fame entrant. And, yes, to Rangers and Orioles fans, who got that brief, late-career window into Guerrero's greatness. And even to Guerrero's former host family from his days at Double-A Harrisburg, who were on hand for the festivities.
"She gave me M&M's," Guerrero remembered about his host "mother" when a reporter asked him about that family. "My body did not respond very well."
Mostly, though, to witness this day was to understand what it means to the Dominican people. Their passion and their exuberance for baseball and for No. 27, in particular, was abundantly evident on the streets of this little slice of baseball heaven and certainly at the ceremony, where their air horns blared and their voices cheered for the man simply and affectionately known as "Vladdy."
Guerrero is one of just three Dominican-born players to be inducted into the Hall, joining former teammate Pedro Martinez and the great Juan Marichal. When Martinez was inducted in 2015, he made specific mention of Guerrero in his speech, accurately assuming that Guerrero would soon have his own day on the dais. And in a similar spirit, Guerrero said he expects his entrance as the first Dominican-born position player to pave the way for David Ortiz, who is eligible to be inducted in '22, and the many great Dominican-born bats in the game today.
"I know this could open the door for other players," he said.
He didn't say a great deal more than that, and maybe he doesn't need to. Guerrero was right to insist in his playing days that his bat does plenty of talking and even now, years later, the memories of those out-of-the-zone, up-in-the-zone and even bouncing pitches he somehow connected with to make his magic stand out more than any words he could have prepared for that podium. He leaves here with his plaque intact, and his legacy secure. He'll continue his charity work in his tiny hometown of Nizao, and he'll continue to let others put his great career into words.
"I'm going to be the same Vladdy as always," he promised.
That's plenty good enough.More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Alan Trammell was sitting on the dais at Doubleday Field on Saturday, listening to Bob Costas give his Ford C. Frick Award acceptance speech. At one point, Costas made mention of the great radio broadcasters he listened to as a kid, including a fella named Ernie Harwell on WJR.
Just then, a roar went up in the crowd. At first, Trammell couldn't believe his ears, because it didn't really occur to him that so many Tigers fans would be in attendance.
But when reflecting on the experience later that night, clarity arrived.
"I really shouldn't have been surprised," Trammell said. "Tigers fans have always been that way."
Tigers fans drove and came out in droves to support Trammell and Jack Morris during their long-awaited inductions into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. It's not just that Trammell and Morris, who got in via the Modern Era committee ballot after spending 15 fruitless years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, finally got in. It's that for the first time since Hal Newhouser was enshrined in 1992, the Old English "D" was put on a plaque.
That it was put on two plaques -- for two members of the 1984 World Series-winning team, no less -- just made it all the more sweet.
"Today, all Tigers fans can celebrate," Trammell told the crowd of roughly 53,000 that attended the event at the Clark Sports Center. "As Ernie Harwell used to say, when the Tigers turned a double play, you get two for the price of one, with Jack and I going in together."
Morris and Trammell were joined at the hip for much of this experience and loving every minute of it. They both agreed that the long wait that had preceded their inductions made them all the more appreciative of the experience, and that going in together made the wait worth it.
"We were never going to be able to throw all the words out there that grasp the reality of it," Morris said after his speech. "But [Trammell] is like a brother to me. We've been around each other forever. We're friends. We get to share something that's so unique and so special that now we're going to live the rest of our lives with the same memory."
But of course, when it came time to step up to the podium and put their careers in perspective, Morris and Trammell were on their own.
Trammell batted first, and he made note of two great bits of trivia.
The first is that not only did the Tigers select both Trammell and Morris in the 1976 Draft, making them the first members of the same team's Draft class to reach Cooperstown. They also took a shortstop by the name of Ozzie Smith.
"Ozzie didn't sign, he went back to school," Trammell said. "My point is, the Tigers had one heck of a Draft that year."
The other trivia involved Lou Whitaker, Trammell's double-play partner of 19 years who many people -- including Tigers fans, of course -- believe ought to be inducted into Cooperstown, too.
"Lou and I were called up from the big leagues from Double-A on the same day," Trammell said. "We both played our first big league ballgame at Fenway Park on the same day. We both got hits in our first MLB at-bats, off the same pitcher, Reggie Cleveland. And we both got our last hits of our careers off the same pitcher, Mike Fetters. Can you believe that? Truly amazing.
"For all those years, it was Lou and Tram. Lou, it was an honor and a pleasure to play alongside you for all those years. It is my hope that someday, you'll be up here as well."
Trammell also had special words for another special member of that '84 squad: manager Sparky Anderson, who had been dismissed by the Reds in 1978 after his Big Red Machine run and the Tigers quickly pounced.
"Little did we know," Trammell said, "our lives were about to change. We thought we were good ballplayers, but we found out we didn't know squat. Sparky turned a team of young, talented players, into fundamentally sound baseball players."
When Morris' turn arrived, he also had loving words for Sparky, who passed away in 2010.
"He taught me so many things, especially to respect this great game," Morris said. "In 1980, I was struggling late in games, Sparky told me he had confidence in me but that I needed to finish games to help the bullpen. He taught me a valuable lesson by allowing me to fail and fight through adversity. Our conversation had a huge impact on my role in baseball."
No doubt. It was Morris' workhorse style, which led to 176 complete games, that ultimately got him into the Hall.
"Many say that baseball is known as a game of failure," Morris said. "I had plenty of challenges and failures, but it only made me work harder to find a path to success. It also didn't hurt to have a short memory."
Morris' most lasting memory in baseball came not with the Tigers but with the Twins, for whom he threw a 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series against the Braves. But while that signature moment with his hometown team certainly stands out, his affiliation with the Detroit "D" after 14 seasons in the Motor City couldn't be more clear.
"I will always cherish the friendships I made there," Morris said. "My teammates, coaches and managers in my Detroit years taught me what winning was all about."
This day was a victory for the Tigers' franchise, with whom Trammell is still affiliated as a special assistant to general manager Al Avila. In the year 2018, those Tigers victories can be frustratingly few and far between. But in Morris and Trammell, two Draft dandies turned Hall of Famers, there is a lesson to be learned.
"For Tiger fans, who are going through a rebuilding year, there is hope," Trammell said. "We did it back then through the Draft and signings, and we'll do it again now."More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Many baseball fans may know Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. are the only Hall of Famers who were taken with the first pick in the MLB Draft. But few may realize the Braves didn't even have a scouting report on Jones a few months before taking a chance on the man who now stands as one of the most influential and revered players in franchise history.
"I think we did the right thing," Braves scouting legend Paul Snyder said. "It's certainly easy to say that as we sit here right now at the Hall of Fame."
When Jones is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame during this afternoon's ceremonies (coverage begins on MLB.com and MLB Network starting at 11 a.m. ET), he'll take time to thank his parents, Snyder, Bobby Cox and the many others who guided him toward immortality in the game.
But serving as further proof of the anonymity of the scouting world, he will not mention Hep Cronin, the longtime scout who might be best recognized as the father of University of Cincinnati's men's basketball coach Mick Cronin.
As the Braves prepared for the 1990 Draft, with Cox serving as the general manager and Snyder as the scouting director, Todd Van Poppel appeared to be the best available prospect. Jones was not even on Atlanta's radar until February, when Cronin opted to drive to Jacksonville, Fla., simply because a fellow scout he regarded as wise said he planned to spend the next day watching a young shortstop from The Bolles School.
Cronin's initial report led to a visit from Snyder, who then prompted Cox and many of the organization's top evaluators to come see this switch-hitting shortstop who had previously eluded their attention.
"The Braves were close to the vest," Jones said. "I never had a meeting with the Atlanta Braves. I heard rumblings they were at some games, but I never met Paul Snyder. I never met Bobby Cox. I never saw Jimy Williams. I know he came and saw me play. They even said Hank Aaron came to watch me play. It wasn't until two nights before the Draft that I got the famous phone call."
Long before the famous call was the savvy scouting evaluation Snyder made while sitting in a car parked near a field at the Tigers' Spring Training complex in Lakeland, Fla.
The Braves heard the Tigers had invited Jones for a workout and wanted to take advantage of the chance to see or, in this case, hear, what he could do with a wood bat. So, an undetected Snyder put himself within ear shot and was introduced to the melodious sounds produced by the swing of the kid who would become one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history.
"They say if you can't see, you can scout if you can hear," Snyder said. "We sat in the car and listened for the wood bat to ring. There were a lot of things that had to happen quickly that year -- because we didn't have a lot of advanced scouting reports on him from his early years."
After Jones impressed enough to quickly establish himself as a potential top overall pick, he enhanced the difficulty of the Braves' decision when he broke his right hand after he punched a teammate who was jealous of the extra attention Jones was receiving.
But thoughts of selecting Van Poppel continued to evaporate, when he and his parents made it clear they didn't want to talk to the Braves. They stood Snyder up twice and did not show up for a scheduled meeting with Cox two days before the Draft.
When Cox reacted by immediately telling Snyder to focus on Jones, a call was placed to Larry Wayne Jones Sr., who had to make approximately five different calls before reaching his son to tell him he needed to immediately leave his senior prom to return home for a conversation with the Braves.
"There was one [furious] lady," Jones said. "But I dropped everything and left. Up until that point, that was going to be the most important thing that happened to me."
Jones made his Major League debut in 1993, returned from the first of two torn left anterior cruciate ligaments to begin his reign as Atlanta's third baseman in '95 and then proudly retired as a Brave at the conclusion of the 2012 season. His final two seasons were the only ones he spent without his big league manager being Cox, a fellow Hall of Famer who will be seated behind Jones during Sunday's induction speech.
"I hope I don't see him shed a tear, because I will lose it if Bobby does," Jones said. "He's the man. He's the guy who drafted me. I spent 23 years in this organization trying to make him proud and trying to make him look good. He went out on a limb and drafted me with the first pick over Todd Van Poppel. It might not have been the popular pick at the time. But I spent the past two decades trying to make him look good."More »
CHICAGO -- There have been times over the past five years where Jim Thome walked into the White Sox clubhouse, sat down next to a random player and started talking about baseball and life.
"It's like, 'Don't you have a lot of things to do and you are talking to me?'" said a smiling Matt Davidson, the White Sox designated hitter, of Thome's influence. "It's very special and really cool to have.
"He makes it really easy. He talks to you like a friend. It's almost like you could forget who he is because he's so nice. He can talk to anybody."
Davidson is one of the countless players positively affected by Thome, who serves as special assistant to White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. His playing days earned him a bit more notoriety, as Thome was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon along with Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Jack Morris and Alan Trammell after launching 612 homers over 22 seasons. He also had 1,747 walks, 1,699 RBIs, 1,583 runs scored, 2,328 hits and a .956 OPS.
Thome was a great player. He's an even greater person, a characterization unanimous among his friends, peers and even those who only met him briefly.
"He shares a lot of great information and just talks hitting and loves the game of baseball," Davidson said. "It's a great asset that the White Sox are able to have and give to their players, especially his caliber.
"Obviously it's really cool to receive this honor for his great career and everything he's done. It really couldn't happen to a better person. It's really cool he can talk to guys who just got drafted and he's a Hall of Famer and he can talk to them like a friend."
White Sox stay strong in Top 100
The updated top 100 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, released this past week, features seven White Sox prospects topped by outfielder Eloy Jimenez at No. 3. The list also includes RHP Michael Kopech (13), OF Luis Robert (26), INF Nick Madrigal (33), RHP Dylan Cease (45), RHP Dane Dunning (66) and OF Blake Rutherford (91).
There were eight White Sox prospects in the previous top 100, with RHP Alec Hansen and C Zack Collins dropping out and Madrigal, the team's top pick and the fourth overall selection in the 2018 MLB Draft, coming aboard. Madrigal is hitting .389 over 10 games since joining Class A Kannapolis and has yet to strike out in 58 total plate appearances this season.
"He's acclimated himself very nicely to pro ball, and you're seeing examples with his ability to barrel up the pitches all over the zone, a lot of the attraction to that player for us," said Hahn of Madrigal. "I don't want to quite put a number grade on his hit tool, but you're starting to see in action what a plus or a plus-plus hit tool looks like."
Anderson benefits from veteran guidance
White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had a chance to work out with Toronto outfielder Curtis Granderson for about one week during this past offseason. The meeting was facilitated by White Sox pregame instructor Mike Kashirsky and took place at Curtis Granderson Field at UIC in Chicago.
It was a beneficial experience for Anderson beyond baseball knowledge gained from the 15-year veteran and native of the South Suburbs of Chicago.
"I was kind of picking his brain a little bit: Try not to ask too many questions, but still get our work in," Anderson said. "I had a great time being around him and tried to soak up as much information as I could.
"We talked about life and talked about baseball and more stuff off the field, too. Definitely, it was worth it, and it was good to hear what he had to say and learn from it."
Third to first
Outfielder Jacob May was released Saturday by the White Sox organization. May, 26, began the 2017 season as the team's starting center fielder, but he produced only two hits in 36 at-bats. He hit .255 with 15 stolen bases over 81 games for Triple-A Charlotte this season.More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Before Jim Thome steps up to the podium on that big lawn outside the Clark Sports Center today and delivers, in that folksy and earnest voice of his, the speech he's spent months crafting, considering and rehearsing, the voice of a different Thome will be heard by the thousands in attendance for the 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
His daughter, Lila Grace.
The Hall of Fame tapped the 15-year-old girl to be the event's leadoff hitter, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in talking with reporters on Saturday, Thome seemed as excited for her special moment as he was for his own.
"She's worked really hard to get an opportunity like this," Thome said. "So when you think about it, this is a great honor. My daughter doesn't play sports and she's been in theater for the last six or seven years. What an incredible moment, to get a chance to be on stage and do that."
We know Thome for his power, not his pipes. And he made it abundantly clear that his daughter's singing talent, which she has put on display before multiple Major League games, was not a trait handed down from him.
"You wait," he said. "I'm a little biased, because she's my daughter, but her voice is breathtakingly beautiful."
Among Thome's many career accomplishments, he hit 13 walk-off home runs -- the most all time. So he knows about performing under pressure, and he's given his daughter some advice in that regard.
"Relax, be in the moment," Thome said. "When big situations happen and you're emotional, just breathe and slow down."
Thome's anticipation for Sunday's national anthem was a highlight of his session with reporters on Saturday. Here are some other highlights from the interviews with the five additional members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, who will be inducted on today at 1:30 p.m. ET. MLB.com will carry a live simulcast of MLB Network's coverage of the festivities starting at 11 a.m. ET.
Trevor Hoffman: Ring the bell
AC/DC's music is a, uh, slightly different sonic experience than Lila Grace Thome's "breathtakingly beautiful" anthem treatment. But it's a decent bet that AC/DC will make an appearance -- audibly, not physically -- at Sunday's ceremony, because the introduction of Hoffman simply would not be complete without the sound of "Hells Bells" ringing aloud.
That sound became Hoffman's signature, an electric entrance that fired up Padres fans and left opponents -- to borrow another AC/DC line -- thunderstruck. Even fellow closer Jason Isringhausen once admitted to Baseball Digest that when you went to San Diego back in the day "you want to win two out of three, so you can hear it once." The association between Hoffman and "Hells Bells" is basically Pavlovian at this point.
And to think, Hoffman used to come out to something totally different.
"The Fabulous Thunderbirds' 'Wrap It Up,'" he said. "It wasn't really exciting our crowd."
Hoffman credited Chip Bowers (who at the time worked in corporate sales for the Padres and is now director of business operations for the Marlins), Erik Meyer (the Padres' director of entertainment and production) and former team executive Dr. Charles Steinberg for putting the pieces together to make "Hells Bells" a more popular and marketable music selection. Hoffman, who once met and hand-delivered a Padres jersey to the members of AC/DC when they played a show in San Diego, said the song still gives him "chills" when he hears it.
"But now I can listen to it in public," he said. "When I was playing and driving into the park, there was no chance I was going to let somebody hear me in the car listening to 'Hells Bells' on my drive into the yard. Especially not a teammate!"
Vladimir Guerrero: Halo again
Guerrero is the only one of this year's entrants who had a bit of a cap conundrum on his hands when he was elected into the Hall. And even though he ultimately selected the Angels -- becoming the first player to officially represent that franchise in the Hall -- when walking the streets of Cooperstown this weekend, one can find quite a few fans in Guerrero Expos jerseys and shirts (Montreal sits about 250 miles to the north).
When Guerrero's Twitter account posted a poll in 2016 asking who he should represent should he be elected, 81 percent of respondents voted Expos.
"I didn't see the Twitter results, but it was still a tough decision all the way to the end because of what Montreal meant to me and coming to the big leagues as an Expo for the first time," Guerrero said through interpreter Jose Mota. "I'm going to say some things about Montreal in my speech, yes. But I've been saying for the last year or so that because the Expos don't [still] exist, that made my decision easier."
In eight seasons with the Expos, he slashed .323/.390/.588 with 234 homers and 702 RBIs in 1,004 games. In six seasons with the Angels, he had a .319/.381/.546 slash line with 173 homers and 616 RBIs in 846 games. Guerrero was a four-time All-Star for both clubs, but never reached the postseason with the Expos, who signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1993.
"The significance is that my six years with the Angels, we went to the playoffs five times," Guerrero said. "To me, that kind of sealed it, because of the importance winning played in that role and because of my teammates from that period. It was very special."
But Guerrero still holds a special place in his heart for his Expos mates. He said he was particularly pleased to be here alongside fellow Hall of Famer and former roommate Pedro Martinez.
Alan Trammell: The Spark behind the flame
Trammell's team association is obviously much more clear-cut. As Jim Leyland recently said, "When your kid started the first grade, Alan Trammell was the shortstop for the Tigers. When your kid graduated from college, he was still the ... shortstop for the Tigers. That's pretty good, you know?"
But Trammell wanted to make something clear: Sparky Anderson, though depicted in a Cincinnati cap on his plaque, spent his fair share of time in Detroit, too.
"He was with us for 17 years and with Cincinnati for nine," Trammell said. "The reason I say that is I just want people to know he was with us for that long. People remember him for the Big Red Machine. I get it, I understand it. But I want people to know that he was with us longer."
Trammell imagined what Anderson, who passed away in 2010, would have thought about two members of his '84 World Series title team represented in this year's Hall class. He could close his eyes and see the exuberant Anderson wagging his finger at him and Jack Morris -- "in a good way."
"As you get older, you appreciate things a little differently," Trammell said. "He knew exactly what he was doing and was just trying to mold us the right way."
They molded, all right. And Trammell is pleased that one of the great Tiger teams of all time is finally represented in the Hall by not only the manager with that "C" on his plaque, but also by two Detroit "D's".
"I think it solidifies our era, especially '84," Trammell said. "That was our year. It was our dream year."
Jack Morris: Finish what you start
Anderson was known as "Captain Hook" for his aggressive use of the bullpen, but that moniker didn't apply to his handling of Morris, whose road to 175 complete games in 527 career starts was paved by Sparky.
"I could go on for hours about our conversations," Morris said. "But he certainly demanded me to learn how to go deep because that was my role. He left me out there to rot twice one year, and it took me all year to get my ERA under 4. But it taught me an unbelievable lesson. There's nowhere to hide. Getting your butt beat on a mound in front of 35,000 people is the worst thing in the world. So figure it out."
The "things were different in my day" axiom is often trotted out by the old-timers. But the game's current adaptation to the so-called "third time through the order penalty" and the revolutionary use of relievers as "openers" by the Rays this season certainly differentiates the modern game from Morris' time. And Morris, as you might imagine, takes issue with young pitchers not getting as much opportunity to take their lumps later in games.
"Pitchers have to go through a failure wall in order to know what success is," he said. "If you don't allow them to fail, they're never going to get through that wall. You've got to let them bang into it a little bit to figure out if they're going to make it or not. Sparky forced me to make it."
Morris made 515 consecutive starts -- an American League record at the time of his retirement. His 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, when he refused to leave the mound, is his seminal moment, but it was part of his larger body of work as a workhorse.
"All the guys I admired -- guys who are literally going to be sitting behind me on the stage [Sunday] -- I wanted to emulate," Morris said. "I wanted to be in that group. You look at the complete games most of those guys had, and I look like a little kid. Cy Young had 750 complete games. I didn't even throw that many games!"
Chipper Jones: Oh, baby
The old war stories are always enthralling. But there's a real-life story taking shape at this year's festivities that is pretty interesting in its own right. Jones' wife, Taylor, is due to give birth to the couple's second child (a boy who will appropriately be named Cooper) on Monday.
Something like that makes even a Hall of Fame speech secondary.
"I'm more nervous about the baby," Jones said. "I'm more nervous about Taylor, trust me. ... I'm a nervous wreck that she is here. I tried to keep her at home just because I was worried about the travel. I'm happy to say she is still with child and hopefully can hold out a couple more days."
The boy will be named Cooper regardless of where he's born. But what if he's born during the speech?
"They asked me if I wanted to record my speech prior," Jones said. "I said, 'She is going to be in labor for a while.' If she's in the hospital, I can shoot right over, get it over and then get back. I'm hitting leadoff [at the ceremony]. They want to get me on the stage and get me off."More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- The Hall of Fame never rests. Here we are, just hours after an emotional ceremony in which six players were inducted in Cooperstown, and already it's time to talk about what might happen next year. Well, maybe it isn't quite time to talk about it yet but, well, I can't resist.
Here are 10 Hall of Fame topics about the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot.
No. 1: One sure thing: Mariano
We know that on the next ballot, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will get elected to the Hall of Fame. He won't get elected unanimously, because nobody gets elected unanimously, and there might be a handful of members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who do not think relievers belong in the Hall. But expect Rivera to be much closer to 100 percent than the 75 percent necessary for election.
Rivera's career is unmatched. Not only does he have the saves record (652), and not only is his 205 adjusted ERA+ the highest for any pitcher with 1,000 innings, but he is also the most dominant postseason closer by miles. Rivera is 8-1 with an 0.70 ERA and 42 saves in the postseason. He will be here next year, and he's likely to bring an enormous, perhaps even record-setting crowd to Cooperstown.
No. 2: Finally the year for Edgar?
Things do look promising for Edgar Martinez. He got 70.4 percent of the vote last time -- an enormous jump from the year before -- and this will be his last year on the ballot. Players always get a nice boost in their last year. Martinez's Hall of Fame journey has been slowed by his relatively short career and the fact that he spent most of his time as a designated hitter, but his extraordinary hitting talent seems to finally be breaking through. He finished 20 votes shy of election in 2018. It's a good bet that Martinez will get those 20 votes and a few more for comfort.
No. 3: Halladay?
The late Roy Halladay was one of the most dominant pitchers -- at times, he was the dominant pitcher -- of his era. My gut tells me that he will get into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot, and that it won't be all that close. But I might be overconfident; we just saw another dominant pitcher of the 2000s, Johan Santana, get almost no support. So we will have to wait and see. Halladay did pitch quite a bit longer than Santana -- he won 203 games and struck out more than 2,000 batters. Those aren't exactly traditional Hall of Fame numbers, but the game has changed. Halladay will be an interesting case to watch.
No. 4: What happens with Mussina and Schilling?
Mike Mussina is on the rise. After a very sluggish start in his first couple of years on the ballot, Mussina rose to 63.5 percent of the vote in January, which suggests it's only a matter of time before he gets elected. Will it be next year? Probably not; it is very rare that a player would jump 12 points in the voting, especially with it not being Mussina's last year on the ballot. But if we're guessing, you can look for him to get to the 70-percent threshold, sort of where Martinez is now.
Schilling's Hall of Fame future is a mystery. From a pitching standpoint, it's hard to see how Mussina's case is better. Schilling has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of the Modern Era (not counting active players), and he was undeniably one of the best postseason pitchers ever. But since his retirement, Schilling has alienated a lot of people, and his Hall of Fame chances spin in the mud.
No. 5: Bonds? Clemens?
Last year, Hall of Fame vice chairman Joe Morgan sent out a letter to the BBWAA essentially asking writers not to vote for Clemens and Bonds. It's hard to judge the impact that request had, but neither player made any real progress in 2018. They will each be on their seventh ballot, which means time is running out -- players only stay on the ballot now for 10 years. If they don't make much progress this time around, it will be tough for them to ever get to 75 percent.
No. 6: Helton and the Coors factor
Larry Walker (who will be on his ninth ballot) has a viable Hall of Fame case, but he has mostly been ignored by voters. The big reason is probably Coors Field. Nobody really knows what to make of the monster numbers he put up at Coors Field before the humidor was employed. So far, they have not been impressed.
Now, here comes Todd Helton. He's a lifetime .316 hitter, and he's a rare .300 average, .400 on-base, .500 slugging player. Helton is in the Top 20 all-time in doubles and OPS, and 40th all-time in extra-base hits. These are overwhelming Hall of Fame numbers. But, alas, he too played at Coors Field. We shall see how the voters react.
No. 7: Omar
Every Hall of Fame ballot, it seems, needs a contentious candidate, and this generation's version is Omar Vizquel. He was a breathtaking defensive shortstop. Vizquel also had almost 2,900 hits in his career. His supporters compare him to Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio, two Hall of Famers. But Vizquel also has an 82 adjusted OPS+, which is well below average, and his non-supporters claim that there are numerous other shortstops -- like Bert Campaneris, Dave Concepcion and Tony Fernandez -- who are at least as worthy. The argument got a bit ugly, but Vizquel showed well with 37 percent of the vote on his first ballot.
No. 8: One final push for McGriff?
This will be Fred McGriff's last year on the ballot, which is probably good for his Hall of Fame chances. It is clear that he will not get 75 percent of the BBWAA vote -- he got only 23.2 percent last time. Falling off the ballot is the best thing now; he has a much better chance of getting support from the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee. But it will be interesting to see if McGriff takes a huge jump forward, the way Alan Trammell did in his last year on the BBWAA ballot. That could be a harbinger of good things; Trammell was elected to the Class of 2018 by the Modern Era Committee.
No. 9: Anyone from Today's Game?
This year, the Hall of Fame's Today's Game Committee will look at players who played the bulk of their careers from 1988 on and who have fallen off the BBWAA ballot. Two years ago, the Today's Game Committee voted in general manager John Schuerholz and Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig, but none of the players on the ballot came close.
This could be where we see candidates like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, who fell off the ballot because of PED use. It's also possible that some players who controversially fell off the ballot -- like Kenny Lofton, Jorge Posada, Kevin Brown and Bernie Williams -- will get a look here. Also look for George Steinbrenner and manager Lou Piniella to be considered.
No. 10: Some minor things to watchMore »
Well, maybe "minor" is not the right word, but it will be interesting to see what kind of support Andy Pettitte gets. He will likely not make too big of a splash, but with 256 wins, a distinguished postseason career and a popular presence in the game, he could surprise. Pettitte did admit to using human growth hormone. … Scott Rolen has a small but strong Hall of Fame support group. We will see if he can improve on his 10-percent showing. … Does Manny Ramirez go up or down? I suppose this was the question many asked during Ramirez's career. He certainly had a Hall of Fame-caliber career. But Ramirez's multiple positive PED tests seem to guarantee that he will remain in limbo.
The Baseball Writers' Association of America can be a stingy bunch. Though we've seen a major upswing in BBWAA-elected Hall of Famers in recent years, classes like the four-member group (Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman) officially getting enshrined in Cooperstown this weekend (Jack Morris and Alan Trammell will also be inducted after their selection on the non-BBWAA Modern Era ballot) are rare.
Just five years ago, there was much public bemoaning the fact that the BBWAA had a ballot loaded with what many would consider to be quality candidates and came up with … nobody. Indeed, that has happened a few times in this voting body's long history, and it's a bummer to those of us who like our Hall of Fame to have, well, Hall of Famers.
But there are years that help make up for lost time. Let's look back and see which BBWAA-inducted Hall classes had the most star power.
There are a number of ways to evaluate this, but I opted to use the Hall of Fame Career Standards monitor available at Baseball Reference. Basically, a player who scores 50 on the test is considered your "average, run-of-the-mill" Hall of Famer, with 100 as the max (Babe Ruth, by virtue of acquiring both batting and pitching stats of note, breaks this scale with a grand total of 113).
If you add up the total Hall of Fame Career Standards for all players voted in by the BBWAA* in a given year, these were the heftiest Hall hauls.
*This list is strictly limited to the BBWAA entries, not players or managers or executives voted in by committee.
1. 1936: Babe Ruth (113), Christy Mathewson (84), Walter Johnson (82), Ty Cobb (75) and Honus Wagner (75)
Well, of course the inaugural class would have the most meat on the bone. But this election was actually kind of a mess. There was not an official ballot to work with, just a list of 40 suggested names. Voters had the option of writing in candidates, including -- bizarrely -- active players. Furthermore, there was a simultaneous Veterans Committee vote taking place as a means of recognizing players from the 19th century, but there was nothing stopping a BBWAA member from using one of his 10 slots for such a player.
In the end, these five legends got in via the BBWAA vote, but an additional 35 players who would eventually be inducted into the Hall fell short of the 75-percent mark. There were also seven players who received votes in this election but never got in, including "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Hal Chase, who had been banned from baseball for consorting with gamblers.
2. 1947: Lefty Grove (62), Frankie Frisch (60), Mickey Cochrane (54) and Carl Hubbell (51)
This was the deluge after a drought. No elections were held in 1940, '41, '43 and '44, and no players had reached the 75-percent mark in '45 and '46 and only one guy -- Rogers Hornsby -- gained entry in '42. Something had to give.
The problem wasn't a lack of candidates but a wealth of them, with no clear consensus on what, exactly, a true Hall of Fame career was. Until 1946, BBWAA members could vote for literally any player -- living or dead, active or retired -- from 1900 on, and the only change in '46 was that a player must have been retired one year to receive votes.
Not only did this chaos create a backlog of deserving candidates, but it almost cost the BBWAA the vote altogether. In 1946, the Hall of Fame Committee voted in 11 popular players from the early 1900s (including, regrettably, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance, only because they happened to be lionized in a poem), and there was some thought to stripping the BBWAA of its privilege as the Hall's gatekeeper.
That ultimately didn't happen. But in 1947, the Committee did create a rule that a player may not be on the ballot after 25 years from his retirement, and it also instituted the rule that a person must be in the BBWAA for 10 years before becoming eligible to vote. This reduced the number of ballots cast by a whopping 39 percent and created greater clarity in '47, when only 39 players received votes and these four got in.
3. 2015: Randy Johnson (65), Pedro Martinez (60), Craig Biggio (57) and John Smoltz (44)
This recent group marked just the third time -- and the first in 60 years -- that a four-man class was inducted. Combined with the three-man class in 2014, this was a welcome change of pace from that aforementioned emptiness of '13.
This 2015 vote was the first in which BBWAA members were required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct before receiving their ballots, and their names (though not their individual votes) were made public at the time of the election announcement.
Maybe that helped create greater accountability, but the bottom line is that the stars who helped rescue the sport after the 1994-95 labor stoppage -- including Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz, who all got in on their first ballot -- were rightly recognized.
4. 1937: Cy Young (82), Tris Speaker (73) and Nap Lajoie (66)
Looking to address some flaws from the 1936 process, the Veterans Committee election was scrapped in favor of a smaller Centennial Commission entrusted with choosing inductees from the 19th century. And though active players weren't ruled ineligible, voters were encouraged to lean toward retired candidates. With the procedure tweaked and five guys having graduated from the '36 ballot, the end result was that Lajoie (64.6 percent in '36), Speaker (58.8) and Young (49.1) moved up the ranks and past the 75-percent mark.
In 1936, Young, comically, ended up fourth on the Veterans Committee vote and eighth in the BBWAA vote. Nobody knew to which era he ought to be assigned. This time, that issue was straightened out, and the guy with 511 career wins got in. Viva democracy.
5. 2018: Jones (70), Guerrero (59), Thome (57) and Hoffman (19)
Obviously, a four-man class has an inherent advantage toward getting on this list, but the metric we're utilizing doesn't ascribe much value to relievers (even slam-dunk Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, who will be on the ballot next year, gets just 30 points). So Hoffman doesn't add a great deal to this tally. Edgar Martinez (50 points) missed induction by just 20 votes this year, so this could have been a truly monster class. But as it stands, it's still pretty good. In fact, with Morris and Trammell also involved, this marks just the second time since the aforementioned inaugural class of 1936 that six living players are going in at the same time (the other year was 1955, which we'll get to in a minute).
The BBWAA went from electing nobody in 2013 to electing 16 guys over the last five years.
6. 2014: Greg Maddux (70), Frank Thomas (60) and Tom Glavine (52)
Were we able to assign bonus points here, this class would get them because of the inclusion of Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre from the Expansion Era Committee vote. The 2014 class was a marked improvement from the previous year, when the only inductees were three dudes who died in the 1930s (player Deacon White, umpire Hank O'Day and executive Jacob Ruppert).
Even without the bonus points, the 2014 class stands as a strong one. All three guys deservedly got in on their first try, and Biggio fell just two votes shy of joining them.
7. 1955: Joe DiMaggio (58), Gabby Hartnett (48), Dazzy Vance (35) and Ted Lyons (30)
As you can see from the Vance and Lyons point totals, quantity is what got this class on this list. Vance had an interesting case, not becoming a regular in a rotation until he was 31, winning only 197 games and pitching mostly for bad teams. He spent 16 years on the ballot (or list of suggested players, as it were) and received just 7.3 percent of the vote a decade before his eventual induction. Lyons, who only pitched on Sundays, walked more batters than he struck out and had a 3.67 ERA. He isn't exactly the best the Hall has to offer. But he was another slow-burner, climbing from 1.6 percent in 1945 all the way to 86.5 percent in his induction year.
The main takeaway from 1955 is that there was still a serious backlog going on. DiMaggio finally got in on his third appearance on the ballot, and Hank Greenberg finished 32 votes shy on his eighth ballot. Greenberg was one of 31 eventual Hall of Famers who got votes in this election but didn't get in. The other two inductees this year, via the Veterans Committee, were "Home Run" Frank Baker and Ray Schalk.
For what it's worth, this was the second year in which the five-year waiting period was in place for retired players.
8. 1999: George Brett (61), Nolan Ryan (55) and Robin Yount (52)
This was one of the more special modern-day classes. Brett, Ryan and Yount were all newly eligible -- the first time the BBWAA inducted more than two first-ballot entries since the inaugural class in 1936. Carlton Fisk came reasonably close to making it four first-timers, as he appeared on 66.4 percent of ballots. He'd wind up getting in the following year.
One factor that worked in the first-timers' favor was the relatively small ballot, on which only 28 players appeared. The Hall had long since begun dropping players who received less than 5 percent of ballots cast and cut off players more than 20 years from retirement.
9. and 10. 1939: Eddie Collins (72), Willie Keeler (49) and George Sisler (44); 1991: Gaylord Perry (57), Rod Carew (55) and Fergie Jenkins (53)
165 points (tie)
This might have ranked higher on the list since 1939 was also the year Lou Gehrig (72 points) was inducted, but that was in a special election in December (months after the formal induction of the three players listed above) because of his illness. Gehrig never had a formal induction ceremony.
As far as the "proper" 1939 class was concerned, it combined with the nine BBWAA-elected players from 1936-38 and the various Veterans Committee selections to make for a 25-person Hall when the building opened in the summer of '39 (and leading to that iconic image of the 11 living inductees).
The 1939 class could have been even more loaded, but many voters put their focus on the '00s and '10s, evidently fearing those decades were underrepresented. Players who had been retired more than 20 years received 60 percent of the votes. This explains how an obvious Hall of Famer like Rogers Hornsby (64.2 percent in '39) was unable to get in.
By 1991, it was much more straightforward. Carew appeared on 90.5 percent of ballots as a first-timer, while Perry and Jenkins both got in on their third try. Jim Bunning missed out on his final ballot try but would later get in via the Veterans Committee.More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Bob Costas was the first to arrive in Cooperstown. He came a week before accepting the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting excellence. He walked along Main Street before the madness, before the celebration, before the parade. He toured the National Baseball Hall of Fame before the crowds arrived. Costas has lived a life of extraordinary moments, of Olympic Opening Ceremonies and Super Bowl craziness and interviews with United States presidents.
But this, well, this was even bigger. He wanted to crawl inside this moment and experience it in the fullest color and vividness.
"I've been here many times before," he said, "but, obviously, this time is different."
Costas readily admits he's different from any of the other winners of the Frick Award, the highest award for any baseball announcer. Announcing baseball was just one thing he did as America's most versatile sports broadcaster. For years, because of various circumstances, he did not even get to broadcast baseball at all.
"I was never the voice of a local team," he said. "I never did Minor League baseball, though I happily would have. I added it up; I've done somewhere around 500 baseball games, which is -- think about this -- that's three seasons for a guy who is the voice of the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals or whatever team you like. Basically three seasons."
But his baseball broadcasting was never about quantity. As Hall of Famer Joe Morgan said in his introduction, Costas broadcast at the heyday of network television, when there was often just one game on television a week, when "a single baseball broadcast thrilled fans and created legends."
Baseball always inspired Costas, whether it was in the booth or simply in conversation when he could always, off the top of his head, go back to almost any moment in baseball history and relive it play by play. He wrote a book about baseball. He gave the famous and moving eulogies for Mickey Mantle and Stan Musial. He appeared in virtually every baseball documentary, blurbed a huge percentage of baseball books. Costas was the baseball voice for a generation even when he wasn't broadcasting.
"I was so lucky because I always had people around me who knew of my love of baseball," he said. "Don Ohlmeyer, when he was running NBC Sports, he was a little bit like Dick Ebersol, kind of a television genius, and he just put me on network television to do baseball. I'd only been there a year, and he said, 'You're going to do the backup game.'
"And so I get to do baseball with Tony Kubek, who has won this award. And the first team is Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola, who have both won the award. So NBC does a pretty good job with baseball. And then NBC loses baseball in the late 1980s, and Dick Ebersol takes over. And Dick said to me, 'If we ever get baseball, you'll do the World Series.'
"Of all the people, Dick Ebersol had the greatest impact. We got baseball back, and those are the only World Series that I've ever done. With Dick, it goes so far beyond baseball. He created [the interview show] 'Later' for me. He made me prime-time host on the Olympics. He makes me NBA play-by-play man in the Michael Jordan era. So it's much more than baseball, but he always knew and appreciated my love of the game. … I've been so fortunate that way."
There is a funny thing about the Frick Award. It is given by the Hall of Fame, and its winners are often called "Hall of Famers." In technical terms, though, they are not. Hall of Famers are voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America or one of the Hall's various veteran's committees; they are honored in the plaque room. Frick and J.G. Taylor Spink (for sportswriters) Award winners do not get a plaque.
But the winners tend to be treated like Hall of Famers and introduced as Hall of Famers, and most of the Hall of Famers graciously welcome them into the club.
"Bob Costas is a genius," said Jim Thome, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday after 22 seasons in the big leagues. "He's just so incredible at what he does. Now that I'm doing television [for MLB Network], I'm in awe of how good he is, how smart he is, how prepared. I mean, he's truly great. It's an honor to go into the Hall of Fame with him."
Costas said it has been like this all week.
"Technically, broadcasters and writers are not in the same category," he said. "But hearing from Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson, Ozzie Smith, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin -- I'm leaving out so many -- it's like they are saying, 'Welcome to the club.'"
As Costas said that, Hall of Famer Tim Raines walked over.
"Can't wait to see that speech, man," Raines said.
"I better not screw it up," Costas said.
"No, I'm sure you won't. … I'm sure you won't," Raines said.
"I don't get another time at bat," Costas said, laughing.
It goes without saying that Costas didn't screw it up. Nobody in the history of sports television has been asked to rise to so many big moments. His speech was beautiful and moving as he spoke about being a child sitting behind the wheel of his father's 1962 Ford Galaxy while it was parked in the driveway.
"I turned the ignition to the right, just enough to light up the dashboard," he said. And he turned the radio dial going "from city to city, ballpark to ballpark."
And that's when he fell in love -- not just with the game, but with the voices of the game. "It wasn't just what was said," he told the crowd, "it was how they said it that gave the game a melody."
Costas never lost that feeling for baseball, that yearning to be one of those voices, the sort who can give a baseball game its melody. Even now, he talks about going back to the Minors, broadcasting a week in, say, Asheville, N.C., a week in Chattanooga, Tenn., a week in Norfolk, Va.
"You know," he said, "if they would let me."
"With baseball, you like the fact that there's enough time to go off on a tangent, or toss in something parenthetical and still get back in time," he said. "You like that the history matters more than it matters in other sports, and also the audience is more conversant with the history than they are with other sports.
"And you love the pace and rhythm of the season; until you get right down to the crunch of the pennant race, or if a guy is pitching a no-hitter, every game is not a spectacle, like a football game, or a once in a lifetime, like an Olympic event. It's one of 162, which allows for a little more whimsy and a little more lightheartedness and a little more goofiness, not at the expense of the game, but as part of the game's natural charms and joys."
In his acceptance speech, Costas told his favorite story about broadcasting partner Bob Uecker. At the 1995 World Series, Costas was in the booth with Morgan, famous for his greatness as a second baseman, and Uecker, famous for his .200 lifetime batting average, and for once leading the league in passed balls. Morgan talked about his World Series experience as a star of the Big Red Machine in the 1970s.
"Were you ever in a World Series?" Costas asked Uecker, who said that he was on the roster for the 1964 Cardinals, but was on the disabled list.
"Why were you on the disabled list?" Costas asked.
"I contracted hepatitis," Uecker said.
"What?" Costas asked. "How did you get that?"
Uecker explained: "The trainer injected me with it."
Costas never tires of that story, not just because it's funny, but because it represents what he has always wanted to bring to baseball: Irreverent reverence or reverent irreverence, some combination of treating baseball with respect and delight.
"I stand here as excited and thrilled as a kid going to his first big league game," he said.
With Costas, you know that's exactly right.More »
The Jim Thome Story will not be written by Jim Thome. Not here, not now. Thome is still having a hard time processing the baseball life that led him to Cleveland and to Cooperstown. The corn-fed, Midwest-bred ballplayer with the broad shoulders and big swing arose out of obscurity to become not just one of the most productive players in Indians history, but surely one of the most beloved. Now he's headed into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and words escape him.
"I'm going to need to find a dictionary," the 47-year-old Thome said. "I don't know enough words to describe my feelings."
So we'll provide the words for Thome. We'll tell the story of this humble hero -- a gentleman who graced the game not just with his prodigious power, but with his pleasant personality and pure heart -- who can now call himself a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The childhood story
Hall of Fame hitting wasn't just the hallmark of Thome's Major League career. It was rooted deep into the Peoria, Ill., native's DNA.
Let the record show that long before Big Jim got his Cooperstown call, his grandpa Chuck, his uncle Art and his aunt Carolyn were all inducted into the fast-pitch softball wing of the Peoria Sports Hall of Fame. And Carolyn is also a member of the Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame and the Illinois State Softball Hall of Fame.
"Jimmy's a good young player," a Peoria native named Chuck Siebel told Sports Illustrated in 1998. "But his aunt could rip it!"
Thome's emergence in the Majors was like some predestined family feat finally realized. Perhaps his grandpa would have preceded him as a pro had he not taken a job at a distillery to support his family. And Thome himself likely never would have made it if not for the input, advice and never-ending support of his father Chuck Jr., himself a star in Peoria's Sunday morning semipro softball league.
With bat and ball firmly embedded in his background, it's no surprise that Thome shined on the diamond, though it was his brother Randy's urging that he move from the right-hand side of the plate to the left-hand side around the age of 5 or 6 that really sprung him there.
But Thome was actually a two-sport star, earning of all-state honors in baseball and basketball at Limestone High School.
"I was so fortunate and so proud that I grew up where I did," he said. "Peoria was such a special place. The people there are so special. All my high school coaches, youth coaches, my dad, my brothers who motivated and pushed me, my buddies, our high school team … all those players through high school that we were fortunate to be around and have fun with and play the game, it was just so special. I love Peoria. It's where it all started."
But Major League teams didn't catch on to Thome in Peoria. He went undrafted out of high school. It took a scout's intuition in an unlikely place to get him the opportunity he needed -- and that opportunity would appropriately come in a Midwest market that fit Thome's unassuming style so well.
The scout story
The Illinois Central College Cougars were between games of a doubleheader in the spring of 1989 when Tom Couston approached the club's gangly shortstop from behind.
"Stand right there and don't turn around," Couston told Thome. "Act like you're not talking to me."
Couston was a scout for the Indians, and he didn't want any of the other scouts on hand to know he was interested in Thome.
"If we draft you," Couston asked Thome, "will you sign?" Thome was stunned for a second. Then he answered.
And that's how it happened. That's how the Indians officially began their relationship with the man who would become the most prolific slugger in franchise history.
In a story that mirrors the folkloric tale of Cy Slapnicka finding Bob Feller in the Iowa corn fields, Couston plucked Thome virtually out of nowhere. Thome had just struck out in a crucial situation when Couston approached him. But the scout loved the way the kid hustled, saw something in his swing, had that gut feeling that those in search of the Next Big Thing sometimes have to ride for all it's worth. Even in the smallest of samples and low-profile of settings, Couston thought Thome might amount to something, and that June he implored the Indians to take Thome with the 333rd overall pick in the Draft.
It was the 13th round and, well, we can safely say now that it was a lucky 13. There were 26 players taken in that round. To say that Thome was the only one of the 26 to reach the Hall of Fame is to state the obvious. But only one other guy -- right-hander Mike Oquist, who went No. 323 overall -- even reached the big leagues. Heck, the only other Draft pick in the 13th round in 1989 who went on to have a sustained career at the highest level of his sport was Oakland A's draftee Rodney Peete … the eventual NFL quarterback.
Thome himself had some visions of grandeur in another athletic avenue. He still loved the hardwood. But the Indians' opportunity proved too good to pass up. And with the help of one very specific coach in the Indians' system, he would maximize that opportunity.
The coach story
On the morning of the announcement, before all the hubbub associated with getting into the Hall was about to swallow up his schedule, Thome had a warm, emotion-packed phone call with the man whose impact on his career was outsized.
Charlie Manuel was on the other end of the line, and that's not atypical for these two. Formerly pupil and student, Thome and Manuel have become, in Thome's wife Andrea's words, "like father and son," and they talk at least a couple times a month.
This call was a little bit different than the rest. With Thome, at that moment, on the cusp of selection into baseball's most prestigious place, Manuel was very much a proud "father."
"It's just so special," Thome said about their relationship. "I would not be [in the Hall] if it wasn't for him. I can truly and honestly say that. What he meant to my career, what he meant to me personally, the changes that we made. Yes, I think I had to do it, but I think what he did so well is he made every player feel like they were a great player. I reaped the rewards of his thought process with that."
The process occurred in the spring of 1990. Thome, who shifted from short to third, had had an uninspiring start to his professional career, batting .237 with zero homers in 55 games at the Tribe's Gulf Coast League affiliate in '89. Manuel was a hitting coach in the organization, and after watching the kid in the cage, he proposed that Thome open up his stance.
"I wanted to put him close to the plate, yet I didn't want to lose his strength to the opposite field," Manuel said. "Therefore, I opened him up, put him a little bit so his back foot was close to the plate. I told him I wanted him to keep his rear end under him, and instead of stepping right toward the pitcher, he would be stepping right there where the corner of the grass is on the right. It was very important that he stayed in a good, strong hitting position. Once we did that, he started hitting balls all over the yard. Started pulling the ball strong and hitting the ball hard the other way, too."
There was one other element to all this: the Roy Hobbs pose. The Thome mystique is incomplete without it.
Manuel and Thome liked the way Robert Redford, in the movie "The Natural," holds the bat out in front of himself with his right hand, shoulder high, in his setup. So they tried it, and from that point forward, basically, Thome was, himself, a natural. He hit .340 with 16 homers across two levels in 1990 and began to find his way onto top prospects lists. Thome split the 1991 season between Double-A and at Triple-A, where Manuel was the manager.
It was in September of that year, just two years and a few months removed from playing for Illinois Central, that a 20-year-old Thome reached the big leagues for the first time. The Indians won just 57 games that year, but one of those victories was clinched when the baby-faced infielder from Peoria smacked a two-run shot off Steve Farr on Oct. 4.
That was the first time a Jim Thome homer impacted the Indians. It was far from the last.
The stats story
When Thome was growing up, he knelt at the throne of a king … or a Kingman, rather. Dave Kingman, he of the 442 career homers and 1,816 career strikeouts, was his baseball hero, and Thome would do a pretty good job in his own career of following the Kingman model of power and punchouts (in baseball history, only Reggie Jackson struck out more than Thome).
But the comparison to Kingman ends there. Because Thome added another "p" to the equation: patience. Indeed, his career on-base percentage of .402 was a full 100 points higher than Kingman.
All of which is to say, Thome put himself in some extremely rare statistical terrain. We're talking about a player who notched an at-bats-per-home-run rate (13.76) bested only by Mark McGwire (10.61), Babe Ruth (11.76) and Barry Bonds (12.92) and put up an OBP one point higher than that of Hall of Fame leadoff man Rickey Henderson.
It's what made Thome so special, and it's what made comparisons to Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew -- another slugger with Paul Bunyan-like strength and a heart of gold -- far more apt than any comparison to Kingman.
Thome's career will primarily be noted for his inclusion in the exclusive 600-home run club, which holds just nine men. But simply because Thome, through no fault of his own, played at a time when the 600 mark became watered down slightly by the game's power surge, it's his 1,747 walks (seventh all-time) that add weight to that waypost.
To strike out at least 2,000 times with an OBP of .400 is unheard of. Quite literally, nobody else in baseball has done it. You want to know Thome's batting average in plate appearances in which he didn't walk or strike out? It's .396. Craziness.
There's one other Thome stat that requires recognition: 13. No, that's not another reference to his Draft round. That's how many walk-off home runs Thome hit in his career; the most all-time.
"As a young player, you go through this phase of anxiety," he said. "As you evolve as a player, you want to take that pressure off of yourself. As my career evolved, I wanted to be in a situation where you have a chance to win a game."
All of this is to say Thome gave his team a chance to win many games -- in Cleveland and elsewhere. With the Indians, he compiled franchise records in homers (337) and walks (1,008) and win probability added (32.1). Thome also hit the most prodigious blast in Progressive nee Jacobs Field history -- a 511-footer in 1999. That's all impressive stuff.
But in Cleveland, they don't remember the numbers. They remember the man.
The legacy story
Jim Thome caught the out that sent the Indians to their first postseason appearance in 41 years. It was a lazy popup, an easy play, and by that point in early September 1995, in the midst of a strike-shortened 144-game season in which the Indians somehow won 100 games, it was a foregone conclusion that the American League Central was in hand. Thome's catch just made it official.
But that didn't make the play any less special for a franchise and for a city that for too long endured bad baseball in a bad ballpark while serving as the butt of bad jokes. Thome was one of many homegrown products and wily pickups that made the Indians such a devastatingly dominant ballclub upon arrival to the sparkling new stadium at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. But his induction into the Hall of Fame makes him the official face of the Tribe's mid-'90s renaissance.
"It means everything," he said. "When a team drafts you and you're able to wear that hat and go in, I don't think it gets any better. With our teams in the '90s and all those early stages in the Minor Leagues with Dave Keller, Johnny Goryl, Brian Graham, Mark Shapiro, Dan O'Dowd … I could name the names all day long. But it's so great, too, what it did for that city. How we transcended from moving from the old ballpark to The Jake and to watch that city become what it is now. There was so much electricity, and we brought so much excitement. To go in as an Indian, I feel so honored. You're talking a storied franchise that's been around forever. It's an honor to do it."
Only 12 other players have been immortalized in Cooperstown's gallery wearing a Cleveland Indians cap. The last such player voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America was Bob Lemon, way back in 1976. So Thome's Hall call represents something bigger than just Thome.
There was a time when this was all a little more complicated. With the Indians' ballpark-opening run of greatness wound down, Thome left Cleveland -- the place where he made his mark and met his wife -- bound for Philadelphia in free agency before the 2003 season. It hurt. It was a move governed by money, and there's always a sense of bitterness when fiscal finality overtakes the concept of constancy. Looking back, it's pretty easy to assert that the divorce might have been necessary, and that an Indians team in dire need of a rebuild on the farm would have had a cumbersome contract on its hands and, perhaps, not done the fun things it did in that run to the 2007 AL Championship Series.
But yeah, Thome was persona non grata among Indians fans for a while there. He logged three years with Philadelphia before getting dealt to the White Sox, and that meant multiple trips to his old park and multiple choruses from the boo birds each year. His 500th and 600th home runs would come not in a Tribe uniform, but in the colors of division rivals in Chicago and in Minnesota. Through it all, Thome was on a nomadic quest for a World Series title that would never materialize, and the folks in the Indians' front office were rooting him on from afar, until or unless their goals came into direct conflict. It was all pretty weird.
Until 2011. That August, the Indians found themselves on the fringes of contention, and Thome, in the final year of his deal with the Twins, had just notched No. 600. There was nothing tying him to Minnesota anymore, and the Indians and Twins found a way to make it work on the waiver wire, even as Thome himself was worried about how he'd be perceived.
"Jimmy was so nervous about coming back," Sandy Alomar Jr. said. "He wanted to come back so bad. We'd talked on the phone a few times, and he was so nervous about it, about peoples' reaction. And rightfully so. He had a huge contract in Philly, but that's baseball. Our fans are going to get mad, because they don't want to lose people of that caliber. It's a natural reaction from fans. They get upset about teams stealing our players and stuff like that. I told Jimmy, 'They love you here, man. You're one of the most prolific players who has played this game. The people here, they love you. They're going to give you a standing ovation.' He was like, ' I don't know about that.' He was nervous."
Thome had nothing to be nervous about. The response to his brief-but-uplifting return was rapturous. And if you were in attendance at Progressive Field on Sept. 23, 2011, when Thome homered one last time as a member of the Indians on the night the team honored his legacy, well, if you didn't gain goosebumps you must have required extensive medical attention. For that was a magic moment -- the kind Thome specialized in.
Now, there is no more awkwardness when it comes to the Indians and Thome. He has a statue at Progressive Field. He has the one-day contract he signed with the Tribe when he officially hung up his big league cleats for good. And quite soon, the aw-shucks slugger plucked out of Peoria will have a plaque in Cooperstown bearing his name and the logo of his "hometown" team.
It's a pretty good story, don't you think?More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Chipper hit like Mickey, played a few rounds with Tiger and proved wise enough to gain intellectual praise from Mad Dog, the legendary pitcher who understood the art of pitching much like Einstein understood physics.
"When we would play cards before games, we would always talk baseball," Greg Maddux, aka Mad Dog. said.
"I wish I remembered the name of this pitcher, but anyhow, Chipper said, 'If this guy throws me a 1-0 changeup tonight, I'm going to take him deep.' A couple hours later, he drilled a 1-0 changeup over the left-center-field wall. Not many hitters can do that. I think I waited five more years before I saw it again, when I was playing for the Dodgers with Manny Ramirez."
Many former teammates and now fellow Hall of Famers have stories to tell about Chipper Jones, who will realize his sport's greatest honor on Sunday afternoon, when he becomes the latest product of the greatest era in the Braves' storied history to be inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Live coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network, and the program will be simulcast on MLB.com.
With Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz and Jones, the Braves stand as the only team in MLB history to have four teammates who were elected to the Hall of Fame after playing at least 10 years together for the same club. This will be the foursome that everyone will remember when reminiscing about Atlanta's record-setting 14 consecutive division titles, five National League pennants and World Series championship between 1991-2005.
"We appreciated what we accomplished during that time, but in a strange way, [these inductions] have served as validation," Glavine said. "When you think about what we did together, it puts a smile on my face and gives you a sense of pride."
This weekend will provide time to celebrate the accomplishments of Jones, who stands with Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth as the only players in MLB history to hit .300, compile a .400 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage, 2,700 hits, 500 doubles, 450 home runs and 1,600 RBIs.
Hall of Famer George Brett marveled at Jones' career from afar, and he wondered what might have happened had he taken his father's advice to become a switch-hitter at a young age. Jones heeded the urging of his father, Larry Wayne Jones Sr., who idolized Mantle and then watched his son earn his place with Mickey as one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history.
"It didn't matter who was pitching. He looked very, very comfortable in the batter's box," Brett said. "[Highly regarded former hitting coach] Charley Lau and I used to have a word -- even when I made an out or even if I struck out, he'd say, 'George, you looked hitterish, it looked like you were going to hit the dog snot out of the baseball.' Chipper Jones in my mind always looked hitterish."
Jones' ability to crush a ball extended beyond those made of rawhide and stitches. His power caught the attention of Annika Sorenstam, back when she and Tiger Woods easily stood as the world's top golfers.
Smoltz's friendship with Woods created opportunities for him and some of his teammates to play with the golfing legend during Spring Training. One afternoon, the foresome consisted of Smoltz, Jones, Woods and Sorenstam.
"I remember Annika saying she had never seen somebody hit a ball that far, but she also had never seen someone hit it to so many places," Smoltz said. "We used to marvel at how he could hit so many balls [out of bounds] and never run out of balls. It was like he had an endless supply in his bag."
This weekend will provide more opportunities to reminisce about off-the-field exploits and nearly disastrous moments like the one Jones experienced as he made his first career start at third base for the Braves on Opening Day in 1995.
Maddux was making the first start of what would become his fourth consecutive NL Cy Young Award-winning season. He ended the first inning by getting Barry Bonds to hit a popup that would have seemed quite routine had an eager Jones not collided with the veteran pitcher as first baseman Fred McGriff was securing the catch on the right side of the mound.
"I think I called him a piece of [expletive] rookie and said something like, 'You know, we have 161 more of these to play, so relax,'" Maddux said.
Fortunately, the two celebrated a World Series title at the end of that season, and they had the honor of calling each other teammates through the end of the 2003 season, when Maddux last wore an Atlanta uniform.
Now, the two can call each other fellow Hall of Famers.
"It's just cool to have another teammate go in," Maddux said. "Just to have had a chance to watch him be that steady hitter every day during the first decade of his career was pretty special."More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Sheldon Ocker's 33 seasons covering the Cleveland Indians for the Akron Beacon Journal earned him the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. And so the Baseball Writers' Association of America held a reception for Ocker as part of the annual Hall of Fame festivities.
That's not uncommon.
What was uncommon was that one of the attendees of that reception was a Hall of Famer himself -- Jim Thome, one of the hundreds of players Ocker covered in his time tracking the Tribe.
"To show my respect," Thome said of his rationale for stopping by. "Working in the media to a degree [with MLB Network], you really respect all the hard work that these people put in and that relationship with Cleveland and his family. He always treated me with respect."
It was mere coincidence that brought Thome and Ocker together here this weekend. But it was definitely a happy coincidence, because taking the Cleveland connection to Cooperstown had deep meaning for both men, who were voted in by writers who appreciated their lengthy and productive careers.
"I guess I've known [Thome] since he was about 20," Ocker said. "He's a genuine person. There's never any reason to believe anything he says is just flattery or part of an agenda. He's just a nice guy. It's an honor for me to go into the Hall of Fame in my way the same year he is inducted. I know it doesn't happen every so often that a writer that has this honor is inducted the same year as a player he covered extensively. I'm very happy it turned out this way."
Ocker, who was honored alongside Ford C. Frick Award winner Bob Costas, never imagined it would turn out this way when he somewhat reluctantly took on the baseball beat in 1981. In his acceptance speech at Doubleday Field on Saturday, he said his knowledge of baseball at that time was about on par with his knowledge of "quantum electromagnetics."
"Maybe there's a message in there," Ocker said. "If you don't know squat about something, it doesn't mean you can't learn, if you have a good reason. Mine was to keep up with reporters and columnists on the A-list."
Ocker cited the likes of Peter Gammons, Tracy Ringolsby, Claire Smith, Bill Madden and Dan Shaughnessy -- media members with whom he now shares a spot in the Hall's Scribes and Mikemen exhibit -- for being guideposts in his career. But Ocker carved out his own place in that wing by basically never taking a day off. For 33 years. And those who worked with or alongside Ocker can attest to the way his wit was a welcomed companion on long nights in the press box.
That wit was, of course, on display Saturday.
"I've voted for people for this award for 33 years now," he told his fellow reporters. "I actually voted for myself 41 times just to make sure."
Ocker, who retired following the 2013 season, was named the Ohio Sports Writer of the Year in 1997 and 2000 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association, and he served as the president of the BBWAA in 1985 and as chair of the Cleveland chapter 11 times. He said the most memorable game he covered was the one that prominently involved another member of the 2018 Hall class -- Jack Morris' 10-inning triumph in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
"Fortitude and guts and toughness," he said. "All the things that you want to see in a sporting event."
Ocker certainly saw his share of sporting events over the years, and he chronicled the Indians' rise to two American League pennants in the 1990s. So he was there for Thome's coming of age as an elite power producer. He was also there for the rise of another power hitter with a slightly different disposition -- Albert Belle.
"You always had these nightmares you were going to get woken up in the middle of the night because Albert hit somebody or threw something at somebody or his car hit some kids on Halloween," Ocker said. "It was always like walking on eggshells."
When asked about Belle's Hall of Fame candidacy, Ocker said he ultimately did not have the longevity to truly qualify. And if anybody knows about longevity, it's Ocker, whose indefatigable tenure led him to this day on the dais and this coincidental, special alignment with Thome.
"Covering baseball, I felt like a kid in a candy store," Ocker said. "I never dreamed a tiny corner of that candy store would be reserved for me."More »
ATLANTA -- Nearly 15 years after last playing for Atlanta, Greg Maddux is still that fun-loving prankster who takes great joy in stirring the pot, often at the playful expense of some of his former Braves teammates.
When Maddux and Tom Glavine were inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame in 2014, they aimed some bald jokes in the direction of John Smoltz, who responded the following year by wearing a wig during his induction speech, which poked fun at Chipper Jones' Twitter usage.
Now it's Jones' turn to retaliate. As the former Braves third baseman has prepared to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 29, he has shared a few conversations with Maddux, who predictably wants a portion of Jones' speech to create a laugh at the expense of Smoltz.
"I would say [Smoltz] deserves a lot more than I am going to give him," Jones said. "He makes himself such an easy target. Doggie and I have talked, and trust me, Doggie wants me to bury him. But I think there's some good to taking the high road every once in a while. But I'm going to get him."
Less than three weeks away from traveling to Cooperstown to receive baseball's greatest honor, Jones is looking forward to the chance to reunite with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, who will once again take delight in hazing the rookie that they welcomed to Atlanta's everyday lineup at the start of the Braves' 1995 World Series season.
Having seen these former teammates, his former manager Bobby Cox and his former general manager John Schuerholz all inducted into the Hall of Fame within the past four years, Jones has had a chance to at least get a feel for what he might like to say when he delivers his speech. But he says his speech will be modeled more to the one delivered in 2010 by Andre Dawson, who essentially said if you love the game of baseball, it will love you back.
"I'm really not that nervous right now," Jones said. "I think when I sit down and start messing with my speech, the butterflies hit a little bit. It's not going to hit me until I get up there. Last time I was up there in April [for a private tour], there was snow on the ground and nobody walking around. The next time I go up there, there's going to be 40,000 people there to watch us get inducted. Yeah, it's going to hit me. It's going to be crazy."
Jones will forever stand as an iconic figure within a fan base that continues to appreciate all that he provided during what was the greatest era in franchise history. The Braves made 14 trips to the postseason, won 13 division titles, captured three National League pennants and won a World Series while he was a member of the roster from 1993-2012.
"I get a lot of attention here around Atlanta," Jones said. "People just coming up and saying thanks for the memories and all of that. Now people come up, they shake my hand, put their hand on my shoulder and say, 'Congrats dude. Way to go. You deserve it.' That always makes you feel better. People are more touchy feely than they should be."
How else has Jones' life changed since he received the call in January, informing him he would be a Hall of Famer?
"That's easy," Jones said. "The signature takes longer. [Adding] 'HOF '18' takes a little longer, but it's a hell of a lot of fun to write."More »
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Fans who have flocked to Cooperstown for this year's Induction Weekend will have an opportunity to enjoy the Baseball Hall of Fame's renovated Grandstand Theater and a short film that stirs emotions as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr. and other legends comment on great moments that link baseball's beautiful history.
"Baseball fans come to the Hall of Fame looking for that 'wow' moment, and the new 'Generations of the Game' introductory film, shown in the beautifully renovated and state-of-the-art Grandstand Theater sets the stage and delivers an emotional foundation for a memorable Museum experience," National Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said.
Idelson, Hall of Fame chairperson Jane Forbes Clark, George Brett, Rickey Henderson, Carlton Fisk, Juan Marichal and Rod Carew were among the dignitaries who gathered in the new theater Friday morning for the release of "Generations of the Game." Live coverage of the induction ceremony begins Sunday at 11 a.m. ET on MLB Network, and the program will be simulcast on MLB.com.
"[The film] really gets fans ready to experience the museum," Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith said. "It does everything you want it to do as far as creating excitement for people coming to the museum."
A Dolby Atmos sound system (donated by Dolby Laboratories), state-of-the-art projectors (donated by Christie projectors) and 16-foot vertical videoboards along the theater's side walls provide a cutting-edge, fan-friendly experience. The wooden ballpark seating that previously existed within the theater has been replaced by cushioned seats.
"Generations of the Game" is the creation of Hall of Fame board member Thomas Tull, who has served as the executive producer for many hit films, including the "Dark Knight" trilogy. He contacted acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Hock to direct the film, which was written by MLB.com's Joe Posnanski.
"Thomas is a big superhero guy, with the 'Dark Knight' and 'Superman' movies," Hock said. "He believes in superheroes, and these guys are superheroes. It's a superhero film. It shows someone can be forever linked to somebody they have never met. Baseball does that."
The film includes footage of Lou Gehrig's famous farewell speech, which is followed by narrative from Ripken, who will forever be linked to the Yankees' Iron Man. Footage of Willie Mays' great catch in the World Series is followed with commentary provided by Ken Griffey Jr., who also made jaw-dropping over-the-shoulder catches.
Tom Seaver speaks about his visits to the Hall and how he touches his plaque along with those of Sandy Koufax, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and other pitchers who helped pave the way and create the inspiration for him to perform his craft.
"That's the theme we went with, that under this one roof, all these generations of fans and players should have that moment," Hock said. "Baseball gives you that moment."More »
For the second time in four years but just the fifth time in a voting process that dates back to 1936, the Baseball Writers' Association of America is welcoming four players into Cooperstown's hallowed Hall all at once.
Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman compose the BBWAA's 2018 National Baseball Hall of Fame class, which was announced on Wednesday night on MLB Network and MLB.com. Jones and Thome were inducted in their first year of eligibility, marking the third time this decade that a BBWAA class includes multiple first-ballot Hall of Famers.
As always, players had to be included on 75 percent of the ballots submitted by voting members of the BBWAA, who had a maximum of 10 slots to fill. Jones and Thome became just the 53rd and 54th players in history to be voted in on their first ballot. For Guerrero and Hoffman, the 2018 result was a natural conclusion after both men finished tantalizingly close to entry in '17. Last year, Hoffman fell five votes shy of induction, while Guerrero fell 15 short.
Though this year's BBWAA class is equal in size to that of 2015 (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio), it marks just the second time since 1955 (Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance) that the writers have chosen a group of four.
The other years with a class at least this large were 1947 (Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch) and the inaugural, immortal class of '36, which had five members (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson).
When combined with the Modern Baseball Era Committee's selection of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in December, the total 2018 group of six ties '14 (Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox) for the largest this decade.
It was nearly larger. A recent surge in support for Edgar Martinez's candidacy led to the former Mariners designated hitter appearing on 70.4 percent of ballots -- just 20 votes shy of induction -- in his ninth and penultimate year of eligibility. Martinez will have one last chance at the BBWAA honor in 2019, when he'll be joined on the ballot by newcomer and veritable lock Mariano Rivera, among others.
In the wake of a 2013 vote that resulted in zero writer-elected Hall of Famers, the BBWAA has now welcomed 16 inductees over the past five years. That is the most in any five-year stretch in the history of the writer voting.
Now, Martinez finds himself in "next in line" territory, hoping the dramatic uptick from 2014, when he had a low watermark of 25.2 percent in his fifth year on the ballot, can continue in one final try. Right-hander Mike Mussina is also trending in the right direction, appearing on 63.5 percent of ballots in his fifth year of eligibility.
In their sixth year of eligibility, Roger Clemens (57.3), Barry Bonds (56.4) and Curt Schilling (51.2) all appeared on more than half of the 422 ballots submitted. For all three men, that was a slight increase over their 2017 totals.
As has been the case in every year of the BBWAA voting, there were no unanimous selections in 2018. But here's more on this year's fantastic foursome.
Jones (97.2 percent of ballots)
Defining stats: 1,623 RBIs are most all-time among third basemen; one of only nine players with at least 400 homers, a .300 average, a .400 on-base percentage and a .500 slugging percentage
The Braves got it right with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1990 Draft. Jones becomes just the second No. 1 overall selection to reach the Hall of Fame, joining 2016 inductee Ken Griffey Jr.
Jones' entry follows a trend of the election of iconic members of Braves clubs that won a record 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. Jones follows in the recent footsteps of first-ballot BBWAA inductees Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Smoltz, as well as manager Bobby Cox and team architect John Schuerholz, who were selected via small committee voting.
According to the research of longtime baseball scribe Jayson Stark, the Braves are the first team in history with four first-ballot teammates who spent 10 or more years with the same club.
"For us to have that little fraternity in a little piece of heaven up there in Cooperstown, New York, it's something that we can and should be very proud of," said Jones, "because we did an awful lot of winning during the '90s and early 2000s in Atlanta."
Having amassed a 19-year career in which he was a model of consistency and success, Jones was such a clear-cut Hall of Fame candidate that he wound up tied with Maddux for the 10th-highest percentage in BBWAA voting history.
"It blows my mind that 97 percent of [the writers] voted for me," Jones said.
Jones won a World Series as a rookie in 1995, won the National League MVP Award in 1999, was selected to eight NL All-Star squads, won a batting title (.364) at age 36, finished with 468 home runs and completed nine seasons of 100 RBIs or more.
Guerrero (92.9 percent)
Teams: MON, LAA, TEX, BAL
Defining stat: One of only six players in history (Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial) with at least 449 home runs and a career batting average of .318 or higher
Guerrero will either be the first player to wear an Angels cap on his plaque or, perhaps, the last to wear a Montreal Expos cap, depending on his preference. Guerrero said he will announce that decision on Thursday in New York at the Hall of Fame news conference, which will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com starting at 3 p.m. ET. His 16-year career included eight seasons in Montreal, where he emerged as an All-Star, and six in Anaheim, where he won the 2004 American League MVP Award.
One of the most purely entertaining players of his era, with a cannon for an arm and a bat that could reach just about any pitch, Guerrero hit .300 or better 13 times, drove in 100 or more runs 10 times and hit 30 or more homers eight times. He never struck out more than 95 times in a season, and only Musial, Williams, Gehrig and Mel Ott struck out less frequently while hitting as many career home runs as Guerrero did.
How did Guerrero become such a great "bad-ball hitter"?
"It really came down to a game we played back home called Plaquita," he said through interpreter Jose Mota. "You have four people; it's a little bit like cricket in a way, where you have a broomstick as a bat and you throw a ball -- rubber ball, soft ball, anything -- and you try to knock down the ... We actually played with folded license plates. Because of that, the ball had to be bounced as we tried to knock down the license plate that was standing right by you at home plate. That actually opened up my hitting zone."
Though Guerrero came close to induction last year, he saw a seismic surge in support on this ballot. His percentage climbed 21.7 points.
Thome (89.8 percent)
Teams: CLE, PHI, CWS, LAD, MIN, BAL
Defining stats: Ranks eighth all-time with 612 home runs and seventh all-time with 1,747 walks
Becoming one of only nine members of the 600 home run club is impressive on its own. But Thome possessed the rare combination of power and patience. In addition to posting the fifth-best at-bats-per-home run mark in history (13.76), Thome also finished with a career on-base percentage (.402) one point higher than that of Hall of Fame leadoff man Rickey Henderson.
A country-strong slugger plucked out of Illinois Central College in the 13th round of the 1989 Draft, Thome opened his stance under the tutelage of Charlie Manuel, began pointing his bat a la Roy Hobbs in "The Natural" and joined Bonds, Ott, Ruth and Williams as the only players in history with at least 500 homers, 1,500 runs scored, 1,600 RBIs and 1,700 walks. Being roundly regarded as one of the nicest men in baseball certainly didn't hurt his cause, either.
Thome has already hand-delivered the baseballs from his 500th and 600th home runs to the Hall of Fame. Now his plaque will join those mementos.
"I think the Hall of Fame is just so magical if you're a baseball fan and you truly understand it and want to understand it," Thome said. "I think that was the driving force to take the 500th and 600th baseballs there -- because it's where it should have been, it's where it should be. You've got all these great artifacts. It's the greatest place there is."
With Jones and Thome aboard, both third basemen from the 1995 World Series are accounted for in this class. Thome represents the Cleveland Indians teams that won six division titles and two AL pennants in a seven-year stretch from 1995-2001.
Having spent 13 of his 22 seasons with Cleveland, Thome will become the first player inducted as a member of the Indians since Larry Doby in 1998.
Hoffman (79.9 percent)
Teams: SD, FLA, MIL
Defining stats: Second only to Rivera in saves (601) and games finished (856)
Hoffman finished agonizingly close to induction a year ago. No surprise that one of the greatest closers of all-time finished the job. Hoffman becomes just the sixth reliever to enter the Hall, but his career began as a light-hitting shortstop in the Reds system. He was traded twice before settling in with San Diego, where he served as the Padres' closer from 1994-2009, with the sound of AC/DC's "Hells Bells" famously preceding his appearances.
Over the course of 1,089 1/3 career innings, Hoffman posted a 1.058 WHIP that ranks ninth all-time and fifth all-time among pitchers whose careers started after 1920. Hoffman also ranks first among relievers in hits allowed per nine innings (6.989). He saved 40 or more games nine times, tying Rivera for the most such seasons. Hoffman was a seven-time All-Star and -- especially impressive for a reliever -- a four-time top-10 finalist in NL Cy Young Award voting.
"It's hard to describe the emotions that flood you right away," Hoffman said. "I know it's a very standard line, but so many things go through you. You think of your early days in the game, you think of parts of your career that you understand what you put into on a daily basis. To be sitting there at this stage seven years after you retire, it just comes full circle. It's kind of the cherry on top of a sundae."
The Hall of Fame now has 323 elected members, including 226 players, 128 of whom have come through the BBWAA ballot.More »
Below are the results of the Baseball Writers' Association of America vote to elect the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018, with vote totals and percentages. A total of 422 ballots were cast, with 317 required for election.
Chipper Jones: 410 votes (97.2%)
Vladimir Guerrero: 392 votes (92.9%)
Jim Thome: 379 votes (89.8%)
Trevor Hoffman: 337 votes (79.9%)
Edgar Martinez: 297 votes (70.4%)
Mike Mussina: 268 votes (63.5%)
Roger Clemens: 242 votes (57.3%)
Barry Bonds: 238 votes (56.4%)
Curt Schilling: 216 votes (51.2%)
Omar Vizquel: 156 votes (37.0%)
Larry Walker: 144 votes (34.1%)
Fred McGriff: 98 votes (23.2%)
Manny Ramirez: 93 votes (22.0%)
Jeff Kent: 61 votes (14.5%)
Gary Sheffield: 47 votes (11.1%)
Billy Wagner: 47 votes (11.1%)
Scott Rolen: 43 votes (10.2%)
Sammy Sosa: 33 votes (7.8%)
Andruw Jones: 31 votes (7.3%)
Jamie Moyer: 10 votes (2.4%)
Johan Santana: 10 votes (2.4%)
Johnny Damon: 8 votes (1.9%)
Hideki Matsui: 4 votes (0.9%)
Chris Carpenter: 2 votes (0.5%)
Kerry Wood: 2 votes (0.5%)
Livan Hernandez: 1 vote (0.2%)
Carlos Lee: 1 vote (0.2%)
Orlando Hudson: 0 votes
Aubrey Huff: 0 votes
Jason Isringhausen: 0 votes
Brad Lidge: 0 votes
Kevin Millwood: 0 votes
Carlos Zambrano: 0 votes
All candidates who received less than 5 percent of the vote on ballots cast will be removed from future BBWAA consideration.More »
Thirteen MLB.com writers were among those eligible to cast ballots in the 2018 Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
The results of the 74th BBWAA Hall of Fame election were revealed Wednesday on MLB Network, with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman earning places in Cooperstown.
As many as five candidates -- and possibly more -- could be elected, according to the public ballots amassed online. Here's a look at how the 13 voted, and at the bottom you can see what the totals look like among this group:
Barry M. Bloom
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Trevor Hoffman, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker
I've been voting since 1992, and this was my easiest and least controversial ballot. I knew this was going to be my group of 10 immediately after the 2017 election. Bonds and Clemens are gaining. Jones and Thome are first-ballot no-brainers. And I'm confident enough that Guerrero and Hoffman will make up the scant amount of votes they needed last year to get in. Martinez may make it as well. If not, he'll be right on the cusp for '19, his 10th and final year on the ballot. If we elect a record-tying five this year, it will go a long way to empty the ballot. It means that we will have elected 17 very worthy players to the Hall since '14. I'm very good with that.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome
I returned Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Mussina, Ramirez and Sheffield from last year's ballot, while Jones and Thome got my vote in their first year of eligibility. I voted for Martinez after leaving him off last year, not because I didn't feel he was worthy, but because of the 10-vote limit.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Larry Walker
I pledged last year that I would revisit the Walker debate, and even with some concerns about his road splits and the Colorado effect, I think as an all-around player (defense, baserunning, etc.), he is a worthy candidate. I also continue to vote for Martinez, which may seem like a contradiction because he was mostly a specialist (as a DH). But he was a dominant specialist, as was closer Hoffman, whose 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera. If I had a Pro Football Hall of Fame vote, I'd vote for kickers, too.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jeff Kent, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel
Guerrero confounded pitching staffs by hitting any pitch in any location. Thome and Jones were formidable as rookies and never changed. Covering Vizquel during his National League stint with the Giants prompted my vote for him. I still can't fathom Kent's lack of support, and I jumped to supporting Bonds and Clemens last year; their conviction in the court of public opinion isn't enough.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker, Billy Wagner
There were some tough decisions filling out the last four spots on this ballot. And I hope Vizquel gets at least the 5 percent he needs to remain under consideration in 2019. But for me, the two first-time eligibles (Thome and Jones) and the two near-misses from last year (Hoffman and Guerrero) were no-brainers. And as I've said before, since nobody knows for sure who did or didn't use PEDs, that can't be used as a factor in voting.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Billy Wagner
These 10 were an easy call, but there are at least four other deserving players on the ballot. Bonds and Clemens were the best of their generation. Mussina and Schilling were dominant at a time when ballparks and strike zones got smaller and hitters got bigger. Guerrero, Martinez, Jones and Thome were good enough to be above the usual debate. Do closers belong in the Hall? That's the question with Hoffman and Wagner. If they belong, then these two should be in. My struggle was submitting a ballot without Walker, Rolen, Andruw Jones and Ramirez.
Jon Paul Morosi
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker
The Hall ought to honor the greatest players of every generation, judged within the unique context of each era. And so I voted for Bonds and Clemens, just as I did in each of the previous two years. Walker vs. Vizquel was my major dilemma. Vizquel is a Hall of Famer, especially if one compares his career to that of Ozzie Smith, but he's early enough in his eligibility timeline that I wanted to prioritize Walker. Walker's seven Gold Glove Awards and 141 OPS+ (tied with Jones, ahead of Guerrero) show that there is little doubt as to his Cooperstown worthiness. And while the right-handers have different career profiles, Mussina and Schilling are Hall of Famers by virtue of their consistent excellence in a hitter-friendly era.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel
Jones, Thome and Vizquel were easy selections. I didn't want to miss Jones' or Thome's at-bats. Vizquel was so gifted athletically, he was someone I never wanted to miss playing shortstop. Guerrero is an add to my ballot after re-evaluating his numbers, while Bonds and Clemens are carryovers. To those who object, I feel my responsibility is to judge players in the context of their era and vote for the best players. Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game in May 1998 is my favorite of all time, but that wasn't enough for me to check his name.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker
Rolen ranks 10th all-time among third basemen with 70.0 career WAR. Walker ranks 12th in WAR (72.6) among all-time right fielders. Those two candidates had to be on my ballot, and for the first time I omitted Hoffman, who is No. 11 on my top 20. His case is not heavily supported by newer analytics -- in stark contrast to next year's newly eligible candidate, Rivera. Saves mean less today, although they mattered when Hoffman closed. I would expand the ballot beyond the maximum 10 votes, and I also would tweak the 5 percent rule to prevent mistaken one-and-dones like Kenny Lofton, Jorge Posada and likely, Johan Santana.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Larry Walker
I voted for first-timers Jones and Thome without hesitation. I voted for Bonds and Clemens because I believe that they're two of the 25 greatest players in the game's history. I voted for Mussina and Schilling; their careers are massively underappreciated, and they both should have been first-ballot picks. Martinez is an all-time great hitter, Walker is one of the best all-around players and Guerrero was obviously great and might have been the most fun player of my lifetime. That left one spot, and numerous good choices for it. I went with Rolen, who is one of the 10 best third basemen ever, in large part because I believe strongly he should stay on the ballot.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jim Thome, Larry Walker
Walker won't make it into the Hall of Fame, but he should. Too much is made about Coors Field, but he only had 31 percent of his career plate appearances at Coors Field, and his career road average is higher than 233 players in the Hall of Fame. He was the most complete player of his generation. I can't ignore Bonds and Clemens. They were dominant even before the suspected steroid era.
Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Mike Mussina, Curt Schilling, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Larry Walker
Voting for Thome was a pleasure, as was covering him. I did it long enough to remember him as the Indians' third baseman. He wasn't bad, either, and was really good at first base when he moved across the diamond. He hit a Major League-record 13 walk-off home runs in his career and delivered an eighth-inning shot that allowed the White Sox to beat the Twins, 1-0, in the 2008 division tiebreaker. Thome and Jones may have been the least discussed candidates over the last couple of months, but we'll have plenty of time to dissect their legacies between now and the induction ceremony.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Larry Walker
This is going to be a big class, but it is more troubling who won't get in. Mussina belongs in the Hall of Fame, Fred McGriff deserved more consideration and Wagner was Hoffman's equal as a closer.
Vote totals of the 13 MLB.com writers
With 75 percent of the vote needed for entry to the Hall, Bonds, Clemens, Guerrero, Jones, Thome, Martinez and Mussina received enough support -- appearing on a minimum of 10 of the 13 ballots -- from MLB.com writers, with Walker and Hoffman knocking at the door.
1. (tie) Vladimir Guerrero: 13More »
1. (tie) Chipper Jones: 13
1. (tie) Jim Thome: 13
4. (tie) Barry Bonds: 12
4. (tie) Roger Clemens: 12
6. (tie) Edgar Martinez: 10
6. (tie) Mike Mussina: 10
8. Larry Walker: 9
9. Trevor Hoffman: 8
10. Curt Schilling: 7
11. (tie) Scott Rolen: 4
11. (tie) Omar Vizquel: 4
13. (tie) Manny Ramirez: 2
13. (tie) Billy Wagner: 2
15. (tie) Jeff Kent: 1
15. (tie) Gary Sheffield: 1
Vladimir Guerrero wouldn't be denied for a second time after falling just short of Hall of Fame induction in his first year on the ballot.
Guerrero, one of the most electrifying and unconventional hitters of his generation, was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday after appearing on 92.9 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America electorate, clearing the 75-percent threshold required for election. He debuted on the ballot with 71.1 percent last year.
"I feel very happy, thanks to God," Guerrero said in Spanish during a conference call. "I want to thank everyone who voted for me. Last year I was happy when I came close, and this year I feel even happier for making it into the Hall of Fame."
Guerrero will join Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in the Class of 2018, which will be formally inducted on July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Guerrero, 42, is the third player from the Dominican Republic to enter the Hall of Fame -- the first position player -- joining countrymen Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez.
"I'm so proud to have influenced his life and also his career in baseball," Martinez, Guerrero's former Expos teammate, said on MLB Network. "I'm just like an older brother that feels really proud to have given a younger brother some advice, and the advice pretty much paid off big time. I'm extremely proud. I'm celebrating over here. The entire country is celebrating."
Guerrero played most of his 16 Major League seasons as a right fielder for the Expos and the Angels, though he also had stints with the Rangers and Orioles at the end of his career. Guerrero, who spent eight seasons in Montreal and six in Anaheim, said he will wait until Thursday to reveal which team he will represent in the Hall of Fame.
"It's hard, because I enjoyed all four teams that I played for," Guerrero said. "I think sometimes it's hard to pick a cap. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
The Expos have three players -- Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines -- who are enshrined in the Hall of Fame with their cap. The Angels have none.
A five-tool talent, Guerrero finished his career with a .318/.379/.553 slash line, 449 home runs, 1,496 RBIs, 2,590 hits and 1,328 runs scored. He had a cannon for an arm and was a significant basestealing threat early in his career, swiping 181 bags -- 40 in 2002 and 37 in '01. Guerrero's resume includes nine All-Star selections and eight Silver Slugger Awards.
After leaving Montreal to sign a free-agent deal with the Angels, Guerrero captured the 2004 American League Most Valuable Player Award, batting .337/.391/.598 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, 39 doubles and 15 stolen bases. Over the final month of that season, Guerrero hit .363/.424/.726 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs, propelling the Halos past the A's in the race for the AL West title.
"We are so excited for Vladdy and his family with today's announcement," Angels owner Arte Moreno said in a statement. "I think that sentiment is not only from our organization, but is shared with his many teammates through the years, and perhaps more importantly, his countrymen in the Dominican Republic. His six years with the Angels was arguably the most impressive stretch of team success in club history. Vlad's contributions to that performance will forever make him one of the more popular men to ever wear an Angels uniform."
Gifted with elite hand-eye coordination and the temerity to swing at any pitch, Guerrero forged a reputation as the best bad-ball hitter in the game, even collecting hits on balls that had bounced in the dirt.
Mike Scioscia, who managed Guerrero during his tenure in Anaheim, described the Dominican slugger's strike zone as extending from his "nose to his toes, literally."
"I've never been around a player that took his 'A' swing so often and swung the bat so hard, but yet squared the ball up so consistently more than Vlad," Scioscia said Tuesday in an interview with MLB Network Radio. "This guy was a machine at home plate."
Born in Nizao, a town about 45 minutes outside of Santo Domingo, Guerrero grew up in extreme poverty, drinking from puddles as a child while living in a shack that lacked electricity and running water. He stopped going to school after the fifth grade and instead harvested vegetables in the fields. In his spare time, Guerrero played baseball.
In 1991, his older brother, Wilton, was signed by the Dodgers. Vladimir Guerrero also got a look at the Dodgers' academy, though the club ultimately passed. Still, his break came two years later, when he caught the eye of Expos scout Fred Ferreira, who decided to sign the 18-year-old for $2,000.
"I'm happy that they were the team that signed me out of the Dominican," Guerrero said of the Expos. "They gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues."
Despite his free-swinging tendencies, Guerrero rose quickly through the Expos' farm system and reached the Majors in September 1996. He was joined in Montreal by his mother, Altagracia Alvino, who lived with Guerrero at each of his Major League stops and prepared home-cooked Dominican meals for her son and scores of other ballplayers.
After finishing sixth on the 1997 National League Rookie of the Year Award ballot, Guerrero broke out the following season, batting .324/.371/.589 with 38 home runs, 109 RBIs and 37 doubles for the 97-loss Expos. He was rewarded with a five-year, $28 million extension and continued to deliver for Montreal, batting a combined .326/.400/.602 and averaging 37 homers and 22 steals from 1999-2003.
Still, the Expos never made the playoffs in any of Guerrero's eight seasons in Montreal, and when the slugger hit free agency, he decided to sign a five-year, $70 million contract with the Angels. Guerrero's arrival helped spark a memorable run of success for the Halos, who reached the postseason in five of his six years in Anaheim. Over that stretch, Guerrero hit .319/.381/.546 with 173 homers. He remains the franchise's leader in batting average and ranks second in slugging percentage and sixth in home runs. Last summer, the Angels inducted Guerrero into their team's Hall of Fame.
"Vladdy was the most talented and exciting player of his generation. He was a fantastic teammate and a joy to play alongside," former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon said.
In 2010, Guerrero signed a one-year deal with the Rangers and became the club's designated hitter. He went on to hit .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBIs, helping to spur Texas to its first World Series appearance.
"We didn't win the championship, but I was very happy with the year that I had there," Guerrero said. "In that moment, I was so happy that I threw a party in my hometown."
Guerrero capped his career with a final season in Baltimore, where he batted .290 with 13 home runs in 2011 before announcing his retirement from baseball.
While Guerrero will make history as the first Dominican hitter to enter the Hall of Fame, he doesn't expect to be the last.
"You always think that someone is going to enter before you, but I'm happy that I'm the third [Dominican] and the first position player," Guerrero said. "There have been so many Dominicans who have played in the big leagues, so I hope the number keeps growing soon with David Ortiz, [Adrian] Beltre and [Albert] Pujols. I'm happy that we can keep making our country proud."More »
ATLANTA -- Though he was certain he was going to receive the hallowed call, Chipper Jones tossed and turned as he experienced a restless night and attempted to calm the excitement he felt when he received confirmation he now has the distinction of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
"I knew today was going to be a day that could possibly change my life forever," Jones said. "You have a handful of instances where something happens that will change your life, with marriages and kids. But professionally, being drafted No. 1 overall in 1990 changed my life forever. Today was another instance where my life will never be the same."
As he was surrounded by friends and family members at his suburban Atlanta home, Jones received a call early Wednesday morning that informed him he had been elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame. He proudly shared the moment with his mom, Lynne, who provided him his inner strength, and his father, Larry Wayne Sr., a devout Mickey Mantle fan who taught Chipper how to switch-hit at a young age and now has the honor of knowing his only son will forever be immortalized with Mantle and the game's other legends in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Shortly after receiving the call, Jones signed a pair of baseballs for Blondie (his mother's nickname) and Hawk (his father's nickname).
"I put their nicknames on it and said we did it and signed it 'HOF '18,'" Jones said. "It was a pretty special feeling."
Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman were elected via the ballots cast by qualified Baseball Writers' Association of America members. The quartet will join Modern Baseball Era Committee electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell to form the Hall of Fame Class of 2018, which will be officially inducted during a July 29 ceremony in Cooperstown.
The only question about Jones' candidacy leading up to the announcement focused on how his vote total would relate to the highest in balloting history. He was included on 97.2 percent of the ballots, matching what his former Braves teammate Greg Maddux received in 2014. The only players to receive a higher percentage were Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3 percent), Tom Seaver (98.8), Nolan Ryan (98.8), Cal Ripken Jr. (98.5), George Brett (98.2), Ty Cobb (98.2), Hank Aaron (97.8), Tony Gwynn (97.6) and Randy Johnson (97.3).
Having worn No. 10 throughout the bulk of his career, Jones thought it was appropriate to now own the 10th-highest percentage in balloting history.
Jones' election extends what has recently been a nearly annual late July pilgrimage to Cooperstown for the Braves organization. He now shares the honor that within the past four years was bestowed upon some of his former teammates -- Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz -- his former manager Bobby Cox and his former general manager John Schuerholz.
Like Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, Jones was elected in his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, making the Braves the first team in history with four first-ballot teammates who spent 10-plus years with the same club.
"For us to have that little fraternity in a little piece of heaven up there in Cooperstown, New York, it's something that we can and should be very proud of, because we did an awful lot of winning during the '90s and early 2000s in Atlanta," Jones said.
While playing the entirety of his professional career with the Braves, Jones had a .303 batting average with a .401 on-base percentage, a .529 slugging percentage, 468 home runs, 1,623 RBIs and 1,619 runs. He earned eight All-Star selections, garnered the 1999 National League MVP Award and proudly retired having struck out fewer times (1,409) than he walked (1,512).
Jones joins Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott and Ted Williams as one of only six players in MLB history to record a .300 batting average, a .400 on-base percentage, a .500 slugging percentage, 450 home runs, 1,500 walks, 1,600 RBIs and 1,600 runs.
As a young child, Jones used to sneak into his father's closet and grab a Mantle bat. Though he didn't have the strength to swing it, the presence in his hand provided him a sense of what he wanted and needed to do to realize that dream of becoming a Major Leaguer.
Selected by the Braves to begin the 1990 MLB Draft, Jones joins Griffey as the Hall of Famers who were a first overall Draft pick. He debuted during the final month of the 1993 season and missed the following season with the first of two torn left anterior cruciate ligaments that would interrupt his career. Jones began his reign as the Braves' starting third baseman at the start of the '95 season, which culminated with Atlanta capturing its only World Series title.
With Jones as a regular in their lineup, the Braves won 11 consecutive division titles from 1995-2005, three NL pennants and that lone World Series championship. He homered twice during his postseason debut (Game 1 of the 1995 NL Division Series against the Rockies) and ended up producing an .864 OPS over 93 postseason games.
While playing at the Double-A level, Jones was asked to be present at an autograph signing event that featured Mantle. He nervously rehearsed what he would say and then found himself literally speechless when he was introduced to the switch-hitting Yankees legend.
Twenty-five years later, Jones proudly holds the honor of ranking third all-time among switch-hitters in home runs, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. He epitomized consistency as he slashed .304/.391/.498 against left-handed pitchers and .303/.405/.541 against right-handers.
"Today has just been a blur," Jones said. "I still can't believe that it's happened."More »
NEW YORK -- He will be the first Angel in baseball heaven. He will be the first Dominican Republic-born position player to enter the hallowed Hall of Cooperstown. Vladimir Guerrero's induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29 will mean so much to so many, but first and foremost it will mean the wildest dreams of that young boy who played "plaquita" on the streets of Nizao has had his wildest dreams come true.
"I'm forever thankful," Guerrero said through interpreter Jose Mota, "for this beautiful moment."
Guerrero made it clear at Thursday's Hall of Fame news conference at the St. Regis New York -- the first public appearance of the Baseball Writers' Association of America's loaded 2018 class that also features Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman -- that he shares this moment with each of the four teams he played with during his magnificent Major League career. The Angels, Expos, Rangers and Orioles are forever a part of him.
But there can be just one team on Guerrero's bronze cap, and the only unsettled intrigue surrounding this setting was whether that cap would be that of the Expos or that of the Halos.
Having come up as a member of the Expos, established himself as an All-Star with the Expos and logged more games with Montreal than any of the four clubs he played for, this was no easy decision for the 42-year-old Guerrero. But the opportunity to be the first to represent the Angels team where he experienced tremendous personal and team success was one Guerrero could not turn down.
"I know what it represented," Guerrero said. "What it represents now and all the winning that happened while I was with the Angels."
In six seasons with the Angels after signing as a free agent before the 2004 season, Guerrero was a part of five American League West title clubs, including the '09 team that reached the AL Championship Series against the Yankees. He also had the greatest individual honor of his playing career -- the 2004 AL Most Valuable Player Award.
Guerrero had a .319/.381/.546 line with 173 homers and 616 RBIs in 846 games with the Halos. In eight seasons with the Expos, he slashed .323/.390/.588 with 234 homers and 702 RBIs in 1,004 games. He was a four-time All-Star for both clubs, but never reached the postseason with the Expos, who signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1993.
"Those are seven years in Montreal I'll never forget," Guerrero said. "Very special years for me. Then going to the Angels, getting a taste of winning and the way Montreal prepared me for that. I toiled with this for a long time, because the Canadian people mean a whole lot."
Guerrero, who played one season apiece in Baltimore and Texas, could have joined Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines as the only players with Montreal caps on their plaques in the Hall.
But to say the Angels' organization is thankful Guerrero went another route is an understatement.
"I look at Vladdy and that reward for all that hard work," Angels owner Arte Moreno said. "I look at the fans, because they got to see a great player -- and we've had some really good players come through Anaheim. Obviously Rod Carew was there, Nolan Ryan was there for a long time. There were a bunch of really good players. But to see someone wear our colors [entering the Hall] is a proud moment for our fans."
Moreno said he made it a point not to have any discussion with Guerrero about the plaque decision, understanding how special his Montreal career was to him.
"We had an opportunity to get him in '04, and he just lit it up for us," Moreno said. "Every night. People loved to watch him play. I had scouts that would tell me, 'I'd pay to see this guy play. He's just so electric.'"
A five-tool talent with an incredible arm in right field and the ability to drive even bouncing balls in the dirt, Guerrero was considered one of the game's most entertaining players wherever he roamed. That he'll be forever identified as an Angel is one thing, but his distinction as just the third Dominican-born player to reach the Hall -- pitchers Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez were the first and second, respectively -- is not to be overlooked, either. Evidence of what Guerrero means to the Latin American community, at large, was on display at the news conference, where a sizable throng of Spanish-language reporters ensured Guerrero received more questions than any of the other Hall of Famers.
"It is why I still live in the same village that saw me come into the world," Guerrero said. "I want to be with the people who saw me grow up and share the success that I've had with those people. To this day, those are my people, and that's what keeps me grounded."
Guerrero relayed how baseball shaped his life, how his earliest Minor League days taught him the importance of being on time, how proud he was to learn how to cook for himself and to make the healthy food choices that allowed him to have a long and productive career and how much he'll always appreciate Felipe Alou for giving him his first everyday opportunity in the big leagues. He even sought to set the record straight that the long-told story about him wearing mismatched shoes to his tryout with the Expos was "not right."
Mostly, though, Guerrero expressed gratitude for the recognition of the impact his incredible career -- one in which he became just the sixth player in history (joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial) with at least 449 home runs and a career batting average of .318 or higher -- had on the game of baseball.
"The one thing that came to mind after I retired was knowing when I was going to appear on the ballot," he said. "I was excited I appeared last year. To be elected in my second year means a whole lot."More »
CLEVELAND -- When Jim Thome extended his right arm and pointed his bat toward the mound, settling into his iconic stance, it served as a warning. The pitcher knew what could come next, should the baseball that spun from his fingertips stray from its intended path.
For more than two decades, Thome made pitchers pay with his prolific displays of power and keen eye, becoming one of nine hitters in baseball's storied history to launch at least 600 home runs and the Indians' all-time leader with 337 shots. Now he can point his bat toward the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
On Wednesday, Thome was voted into the Class of 2018 by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, alongside Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. That quartet of all-time greats will be joined by Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were voted in by the Modern Baseball Era Committee, for the induction ceremony on July 29 in Cooperstown.
"This is a day I don't think any player can ever imagine happening," Thome said. "It's a special day in all of our lives."
Thome surpassed the required 75 percent threshold by being named on 379 ballots, accounting for 89.8 percent of the total ballots. That Thome spent the latter third of his 22-year career mostly as a designated hitter did not prove to be much of an obstacle for the voting body, which instead recognized him as one of the game's premier home run hitters.
Thome is the first player voted into the Hall by the BBWAA to have the Indians as his primary team since 1976 (Bob Lemon), and he gives Cleveland 13 Hall of Famers overall.
Sandy Alomar Jr., who roomed with Thome during Spring Training early in their careers with the Indians, was thrilled for his former teammate.
"You know how there's a saying about good guys finish last?" Alomar said. "I'm so glad that a great, genuine person like Jim Thome is in the Hall of Fame. He was such a hard worker and a great teammate. He's the most genuine guy I've ever seen. It's good to see people like that reach their goals and the Hall of Fame. And also have a guy from those '90s Indians to be in it. We had such great teams in that era."
Beyond center field at Progressive Field in Cleveland, a statue of Thome -- erected in 2014 with his likeness frozen in time with his bat pointed forward -- rests near the landing spot of his 511-foot home run on July 3, 1999. As that ball bounced in the direction of Eagle Avenue, Tom Hamilton, the Indians' longtime radio voice, boomed: "That will take two tape measures!"
By that point, Thome had established himself as one of baseball's top power threats -- a skill he carried forward in stints with the Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers, Twins and Orioles through the 2012 season. Thome was a five-time All-Star (three times for the Indians, and once each for Philadelphia and Chicago), a one-time Silver Slugger recipient and he finished in the top 10 in MVP Award balloting four times.
Thome ended with 612 home runs (eighth all-time), 1,747 walks (seventh) and a .956 OPS (18th). He ranks fifth in career at-bats per home run at 13.76, trailing only Mark McGwire (10.61), Babe Ruth (11.76), Barry Bonds (12.92) and Giancarlo Stanton (13.4). Thome, Bonds and Ruth are the only hitters in MLB history to have amassed at least 600 home runs and 1,500 walks in a career.
Thome hit an MLB-record 13 walk-off home runs, launched nine grand slams, had 17 postseason blasts, homered in 38 stadiums and took 403 pitchers deep during his career.
That Thome reached those heights is incredible, given the awkward, tense swing that he featured as a skinny 19-year-old third baseman in Cleveland's farm system. He was a quiet, polite kid from Peoria, Ill., and was taken by the Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 Draft out of Illinois Central College. Thome was a country boy with a strong work ethic, but a 600-homer icon? No one saw that coming.
The blueprint was there, though.
Alomar remembered his first impression of Thome during Spring Training before the 1990 season.
"Jimmy was taking BP with us and I was like, 'Man, this guy hits the ball hard.' And he hit the ball to all fields," Alomar said. "He looked like he had an idea at such a young age of how to hit."
How Thome's famous stance -- one imitated by kids in Cleveland and throughout the country in the 1990s -- came about is the stuff of legends.
As the story goes, Thome and his Triple-A teammates were watching "The Natural" one day, when Charlie Manuel -- then a manager in Cleveland's system -- walked in and told them to turn the TV off. The players insisted on watching a little longer and, when Manuel looked up and saw Roy Hobbs, the movie's fictional protagonist, point his bat toward the pitcher, the manager obliged.
Manuel had been searching for some kind of mechanism for Thome to use at the start of his swing to stay relaxed at the plate. He suggested that Thome try Hobbs' approach, and the stance was born. Thome never shattered any light standards, but he soon began morphing into the type of hitter that Manuel envisioned. It was around that same time that Manuel had Thome shift into a more open position with his feet.
"It was very important," Manuel said on MLB Network. "And let me tell you something, once we did that, he started hitting balls all over the yard. He started pulling balls strong and he also started hitting hard the other way, too."
When the Indians created Thome's statue, the slugger said one of Manuel should be built alongside it. Theirs was a special bond that spanned several years through Thome's career.
"I would not be here if it wasn't for Charlie," Thome said. "I know he's very humble and he'll say, 'Hey, the players got to ultimately do it,' but I will tell you, there was many, many days that he pounded his fist, wanting to keep me at the big league level. There were days when I was in Triple-A that he told me I wasn't ready to go to the big leagues. So from that point, I knew and trusted him like a father."
During the 1990s, Thome was a part of the Indians' core that helped the franchise capture six division titles and reach two World Series (1995 and '97). After the 2002 season, though, Thome became the top free-agent hitter on the market and explored his options, eventually signing a six-year, $85 million contract with Philadelphia. For the Phillies, Thome was the biggest free-agent acquisition since Pete Rose in '78. For Indians fans, it was incredibly tough news to swallow, especially after Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle had also left via free agency before him.
Thome led the National League in homers (47) in 2003, finished fourth in voting for the NL MVP Award and went on to belt 89 homers in a two-year span for his new club. Prior to the '06 season, the Phils dealt Thome to the White Sox, where he spent four years and now works as a special assistant to the general manager. Before retiring, Thome had a second stint with both Cleveland ('11) and Philadelphia ('12).
The Indians gave Thome a fitting send-off in his final home game in a Cleveland uniform. In the ninth inning against the Twins on Sept. 25, 2011, Lonnie Chisenhall moved to left from third base, and former Tribe manager Manny Acta sent Thome to the hot corner -- where his Indians career began -- for one pitch.
Being able to return to Cleveland, and be welcomed back by fans who were upset to see him walk away so many years earlier, meant a lot to Thome.
"Jimmy was so nervous about coming back," Alomar said. "When people came out and stood up and gave him an ovation, that was an incredible feeling for everybody, especially for people who were around for those times and knew what we went through in development, going from losing 100 games to winning 100. All of that, it was just a lot of hard work for growth as a unit, and he was one of the main pieces."
On Aug. 2, 2014, Thome signed an honorary one-day contract with the Indians, so he could officially retire as a member of the organization. That was the same day that his 12-foot, bronze statue was unveiled at Progressive Field, where Thome is part of the team's Hall of Fame.
Thome is no longer just an Indians great, though. He can now be called a Hall of Famer.
"Walking through the front door gives you chills," Thome said of going to Cooperstown. "I think the Hall of Fame is so magical."More »
SAN DIEGO -- In his remarkable 18-year career as one of the best relief pitchers in baseball history, Trevor Hoffman racked up 601 saves. He slammed the door on yet another milestone Wednesday: a place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hoffman's third year on the ballot proved a charm. He appeared on 79.9 percent of the ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America -- a 5.9 percent boost from last year's results and well above the 75 percent threshold required for election.
Along with Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero -- who were also elected on Wednesday -- Hoffman will be feted during a July 29 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., that also will include Modern Baseball Era Committee electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
"It's hard to describe the emotions that flood you right away," Hoffman said. "I know it's a very standard line, but so many things go through you. You think of your early days in the game, you think of parts of your career, you understand what you put in on a daily basis. To be sitting at this stage, seven years after you retire, it just comes full circle. It's the cherry on top of a sundae."
Hoffman learned of the news in a phone call Wednesday afternoon, prior to the official announcement. He celebrated briefly with his family at his Del Mar home, before heading to Petco Park for a news conference. On Thursday, Hoffman will head to New York to meet with media at 3 p.m. ET. It will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com.
"It was awesome to have family around," Hoffman said. "… We made it a little bit bigger today, with all the family and extended family. We were maybe hedging our bets a little bit. But the disappointment last year is last year. I couldn't be more excited, humbled by the process."
Hoffman will presumably become the third player to don a Padres cap on his Hall of Fame plaque, joining Dave Winfield and former teammate Tony Gwynn. Hoffman paused during his news conference Wednesday to note, of the late Gwynn, "I wish he was here to share this moment."
Drafted by the Reds as a shortstop from the University of Arizona in 1989, Hoffman made his career-altering move to the mound two years later. "Career survival," Hoffman called it, after he batted .227 with 55 errors in two pro seasons as an infielder. He broke into the Majors with the Marlins in 1993, but he was traded to the Padres midway through his first season.
"What he became really changed the organization and the future of the franchise," said former Padres executive Randy Smith, who sent Gary Sheffield to the Marlins for Hoffman and two other prospects. "He's a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word."
Hoffman spent 16 years with San Diego, before he headed to Milwaukee in 2009 to finish his career.
And what a career it was.
In 2006, Hoffman surpassed Lee Smith for Major League Baseball's all-time saves record. He would later become the first pitcher in history to reach the 500- and 600-save milestones. Hoffman's 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera, a surefire Hall of Famer himself and the only pitcher to have since joined Hoffman in those exclusive clubs.
Among relievers with at least 1,000 innings, Hoffman ranks second in save percentage (88.8), eighth in ERA (2.87), fourth in ERA+ (141), second in opponents' batting average (.211), second in WHIP (1.06) and first in strikeout rate (25.8).
Hoffman clearly relished the role of pitching in the ninth inning of close games, and the fans in San Diego adored him for it. AC/DC's "Hells Bells" played every time he entered a home game in San Diego, and it quickly became an anthem for Padres fans. (Fittingly, Hoffman entered his news conference Wednesday with "Hells Bells" playing in the background.)
"I couldn't have imagined being in a different role," Hoffman said. "There's nothing better than flying those doors open, hearing some cool music, getting the fans riled up and having that home cooking to go out and get things done. It's a great role. It's something I cherished."
Hoffman's brother Glenn serves as the Padres' third-base coach and spent nine seasons as a big league infielder. He was on hand for Wednesday's celebration (and even prank-dialed his brother twice to ease some of the tension in the room, while the family waited for the phone call).
If anyone understands Trevor's relationship with San Diego, it's Glenn, who was quick to note that Wednesday's announcement was a victory for the city, too.
"San Diego is his city and his town," Glenn Hoffman said. "The people here love him. … And he's built that relationship to where they can celebrate, too. They can go to New York, and they've got something to celebrate."
Indeed, Trevor Hoffman is perhaps as revered as any living San Diego sports figure and has already been enshrined in the Padres Hall of Fame and the city's sports Hall of Fame. Come July, he'll add another Hall to the list when he receives baseball's highest honor.
In many ways, the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting this year went exactly as you would have expected. Ever since Ryan Thibodaux started the Tracker, compiling public ballots -- he collected 246 of them, which is 58 percent of all the votes cast -- it has been fairly easy to predict who will make the Hall of Fame.
We knew that Chipper Jones, Jim Thome and Vladimir Guerrero would get elected by a comfortable margin. All three were polling higher than 90 percent on the Tracker, so they were virtual locks for election. And all three were elected easily, well above the 75-percent threshold necessary.
Jones, 410 votes, 97.2 percent
That is the 11th-highest percentage in history, just barely behind Greg Maddux, and just ahead of Mike Schmidt.
Guerrero, 392 votes, 92.9 percent
This was a huge leap for Guerrero in his second year on the ballot; he fell 15 votes shy of induction last year. His percentage jumped more than 20 percent.
Thome, 379 votes, 89.8 percent
MLB Network insider Tom Verducci points out that Thome becomes just the third first baseman to get elected on the first ballot, joining Willie McCovey and Eddie Murray. It's a cool fact and is technically correct, but it's a little bit misleading. Lou Gehrig was elected by special election, so he went in before his first ballot. Ernie Banks and Frank Thomas each played more than 40 percent of their games at first base, and they were both elected on the first ballot.
Those three were certainties. Then there were two players who were above the 75 percent threshold on the Tracker, but just barely. Thing is, now that Thibodaux has been doing this tracking for a few years, we generally know how the private balloters think. They tend to be focused less on advanced statistics and more on traditional things like wins, saves, home runs, Gold Gloves, etc.
This boded well for Trevor Hoffman and his 601 saves, and as in the past, his private ballot vote (81.8 percent) was higher than his public vote (78.5 percent).
Hoffman, 337 votes, 79.9 percent
Hoffman becomes only the second pitcher -- after Bruce Sutter -- to make the Hall of Fame without starting one game. He was the purest of closers; only Mariano Rivera, who should be elected next year, saved more games than Hoffman's 601 and finished more games than Hoffman's 856. Hoffman fell just five votes short of the Hall last year.
While the private ballots were expected to come in for Hoffman, history also showed they would probably not come in for Edgar Martinez. He was at 77.2 percent on the Tracker, which suggested he might have a chance to sneak in. Not this year -- only 60.8 percent of the private ballots went his way, and as such he fell 20 votes short.
Martinez, 297 votes, 70.4 percent
It has been a long and exhausting uphill climb for Martinez, who is trying to become the first player elected to the Hall of Fame who was a designated hitter more than 60 percent of the time. Martinez hovered between 25 percent and 37 percent for the first six years he was on the ballot, and only lately has he made a move. His 12 percent jump this year bodes very well for his chances next year, his last on the ballot.
* * *
Mike Mussina was one of the winners on this year's ballot. It has taken a little while for the Baseball Writers' Association of America to warm up to his case. His 270 wins are not quite the 300 that Hall of Fame voters love. Mussina didn't quite reach 3,000 strikeouts. He did not win a Cy Young Award.
Mussina came on the ballot with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Roger Clemens was already on there; Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz joined the ballot a year later. Mussina was swamped. He got less than 25 percent of the vote each of the first two years.
But Mussina's case has been gaining steam and he took another step forward this year as his vote percentage jumped more than 10 points, all the way up to 63.5 percent. It's a strange concept that players can gain so much support having done absolutely nothing to improve their careers, but it has been this way since the start. At 64 percent and five years left on the ballot, Mussina is a virtual lock to get in. The only question is how long it will take.
* * *
Mussina's right-handed pitching counterpart, Curt Schilling, had another rough year. In Moose's first three years on the ballot, Schilling had the higher percentage. The narrative seemed to be that while their cases were quite similar, Schilling's postseason heroics made him the slightly better Hall of Fame candidate.
That turned around last year when Mussina made a nice gain and Schilling, probably because he offended voters with some of his comments and social-media posts, lost support. Schilling gained back a little of that support this year, but his 51.2 percent was still below what he had in 2016. There is now a sizable gap between Mussina and Schilling, with the two most controversial players on the ballot stuck between them.
* * *
When Hall of Fame vice chairman and legendary second baseman Joe Morgan sent out his letter to voters petitioning us to not vote for suspected steroid users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, I wrote that it would all but end their chances to ever be elected by the BBWAA. People have strongly disagreed with that prediction, but I'm sticking with it. The issue isn't that I think Morgan's letter will change many minds. I believed that it would stop the momentum that Bonds and Clemens had been building over the last couple of years. And it has.
Bonds got 195 votes in 2016 and 238 votes in '17. Clemens went from 199 to 239. A 40-plus vote gain in one year is huge; if they could have had a similar bump this year, they would have put themselves in excellent position to get into the Hall of Fame over the next four years.
Instead, they made no movement at all. Bonds got exactly the same number of votes this year as last year. Clemens got three new votes. There were 20 fewer voters this year, so their percentages inched up a bit, but the only way they can make any real ground is by changing minds. I think the Morgan letter blunted that, as intended.
There are those who still think that Bonds and Clemens will make a real push toward 75 percent over the next four years. I just don't see it.
* * *
Another big winner on this ballot: Shortstop Omar Vizquel. He debuted at an impressive 37 percent. In recent years, Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice, Goose Gossage and Sutter all debuted with less than 37 percent and eventually were elected to the Hall of Fame.
The voters clearly were impressed with Vizquel's defense -- he won 11 Gold Gloves -- and his 2,877 hits. What's unclear is why voters were so much less impressed by Andruw Jones, who won 10 Gold Gloves as the pre-eminent defensive center fielder of his time and hit more than 400 home runs. Jones got just 7.3 percent of the vote, though that is above the 5 percent necessary to get back on the ballot next year.
* * *
Moving forward: Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Billy Wagner
It was a good vote for Walker, who jumped 12 percentage points up to 34.1 percent. Walker only has two years left on the ballot, so it will be tough for him to get all the way to 75 percent, but with Guerrero off the ballot, Walker should be the most prominent outfielder not connected to PEDs for those two years. So he might move up a lot.
McGriff only went up a couple of percentage points to 23.2 percent. Next year is the last year for him on the BBWAA ballot, which is probably good for him. McGriff stands an excellent chance of being elected by the Today's Game Committee.
Wagner only moved up one percentage point; it remains baffling how there could be such a perception gap between him and Hoffman. The news only gets worse for Wagner next year when Rivera will be on the ballot. Rivera's career was so much better than any closer in baseball history that he might set a different standard in the voters' minds.
Moving backward: Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa
Kent remains a contentious case. He hit more home runs than any second baseman in baseball history, and he was outspoken about the need for PED testing. But Kent's vote total has basically stayed in place for five years now. He dropped two points to 14.5 percent.
When Morgan wrote his letter, it was assumed -- with good reason -- that his main targets were Bonds and Clemens. But the other three players most notably connected to PEDs (Ramirez, Sheffield and Sosa) all lost votes. Sosa is down to 7.8 percent and, despite hitting more than 600 home runs, he is in danger of falling off the ballot.
* * *
It's always fun to see who among the down-ballot candidates received support. Jamie Moyer did much better than expected, getting 10 votes, the same number as two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. All 10 of Moyer's votes came from the 176 private ballots.
Johnny Damon, who was a threat to get 3,000 hits until his career ended abruptly, got eight votes. Hideki Matsui, who starred in both Japan and America, got four votes. Chris Carpenter and Kerry Wood received two votes each. Livan Hernandez and Carlos Lee each got a vote.
* * *
There will be at least four very interesting newcomers on next year's ballot. The Great Mariano leads the way, and he will likely become the first relief pitcher to be elected on the first ballot.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay will come on the ballot, and it will be fascinating to see how much support he gets, especially after two-time Cy Young Award winner Santana got just 2.4 percent of the vote. Halladay's career was considerably longer than Santana's; he made 100 more starts and won 203 games to Santana's 139. He should do well.
Todd Helton will be another compelling Hall of Fame candidate. He hit .316/.414/.539, is 19th on the all-time list with 592 doubles, and is top 50 in extra-base hits, runs created and slugging percentage. But, alas, Helton will fight what Walker has had to fight -- the perception that his greatness was an illusion of his home ballpark, Coors Field.
Finally, there will be those who will push the case for pitcher Andy Pettitte, who won 256 regular-season games, 19 more in the postseason and built up a similar bulldog reputation as new Hall of Famer Jack Morris.More »
Four new players are headed to Cooperstown.
When the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced the results of its 2018 ballot on Wednesday night, first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome had cleared the 75-percent threshold needed for induction, along with ballot holdovers Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman.
This was only the fifth time in 74 BBWAA elections that the writers elected four or more players. However, it was the second time in the past four years, as Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz all gained entry to Cooperstown in 2015.
Since the BBWAA elected no players in '13, it has picked up the pace with 16 over the past five years, which is a new record for any five-year span. This is only the second time -- joining 1951-56 -- that the writers have elected multiple players in at least five straight cycles.
With Jones and Thome cruising into the Hall on their initial try, there now have been 54 first-ballot inductees -- but 10 in just the past five years. Previously, there were 10 from 2000-13.
Here are five additional facts to know about each of the newly minted Hall of Famers:
• Jones' 468 career home runs rank third all-time for a switch-hitter, behind only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. He smacked 389 of those as a third baseman, which ranks fourth at that position, behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and the still-active Adrian Beltre.
• Jones finished with a career slash line of .303/.401/.529, and his 10,614 plate appearances are the sixth most for any player with at least a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage. Only Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Tris Speaker, Mel Ott, and Babe Ruth had more, and none of those five played past 1963. Jones is the only switch-hitter in the .300/.400/.500 club.
• Only twice in 13 seasons from 1998-2010 did Jones strike out more times than he walked, and for his career, he walked 103 more times than he struck out (1,512-1,409). The only retired players to debut since 1960 and finish with more free passes than whiffs, while posting a higher OPS+ than Jones' 141, are Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez.
• Drafted by the Braves with the top pick in 1990, Jones joins Ken Griffey Jr. as the only players to go from No. 1 overall selection to the Hall of Fame.
• Jones is just the eighth third baseman elected by the BBWAA, which is tied with center field for the fewest of any defensive position. Prior to Jones, Wade Boggs (2005) was the most recent BBWAA honoree who played the majority of his career at the hot corner.
• Combining elite power and patience, Thome ranks eighth on the all-time home run list (612) and seventh on the all-time walks list (1,747). Bonds and Ruth are the only other players who rank in the top 10 on both.
• From 1996-2008, Thome collected at least 30 homers and 90 walks 11 times in 13 seasons. Bonds is the only player to reach both thresholds in the same season more times in his career.
• Thome launched one homer per 13.8 at-bats, which ranks fourth in history behind Mark McGwire, Ruth and Bonds. He also racked up the second-most strikeouts in history, but when he didn't whiff, Thome's rate of one homer per 9.6 at-bats ranks behind only McGwire.
• Thome is the only player to deliver 13 walk-off home runs, spreading them out over 10 different seasons between 1994-2012.
• He is tied for seventh on the all-time postseason home run list with 17 and joins Carlos Beltran as the only players to have gone deep at least four times in a League Division Series (1999) and at least four times in a League Championship Series ('98) in his career. In those '98-'99 postseasons with Cleveland, Thome piled up 10 homers, 20 RBIs and an .818 slugging percentage over 15 games.
• Combining power with bat-to-ball ability, Guerrero walloped 449 home runs while striking out just 985 times. That makes him one of just five players to finish his career with more than 400 homers and less than 1,000 strikeouts. The others -- Lou Gehrig, Musial, Ott and Ted Williams -- all began their careers prior to integration.
• Ever aggressive, Guerrero only collected 737 walks, which doesn't even put him in the top 300 on the all-time list. However, more than a third of those free passes (250) were of the intentional variety. He ranks fifth in that category, behind only Bonds, Albert Pujols, Hank Aaron and Willie McCovey. Only Bonds exceeded Guerrero's total of seven seasons with at least 20 intentional walks.
• After getting a cup of coffee late in 1996, Guerrero played 15 more seasons and never finished with lower than a .290 batting average -- which came in his final year in 2011. He is one of seven players in the Expansion Era (since 1961) to log at least 15 seasons of 300-plus at-bats and a .290-plus average, and one of five in that time to put together 13 seasons of 300-plus at-bats and a .300 average. The others are Tony Gwynn, Pete Rose, Boggs and Rod Carew.
• Guerrero is the third player from the Dominican Republic to make it to the Hall of Fame, and the first position player. He follows pitchers Juan Marichal and Martinez.
• Guerrero was a star with both the Expos and Angels, getting about 600 more plate appearances in Montreal but winning an American League MVP Award and playing in five postseasons in Anaheim. That presents a difficult choice. While three players now have entered Cooperstown representing the Expos -- Tim Raines joined Gary Carter and Andre Dawson last year -- Guerrero could be the first to have a Halos cap on his plaque.
• Hoffman became the first pitcher to reach both 500 and 600 career saves -- finishing with 601 -- although Mariano Rivera later passed him for the record (652).
• His nine seasons with at least 40 saves ties Rivera for the all-time record, while no other pitcher has reached that mark more than six times. From 1995-2009, Hoffman saved at least 30 games 14 of 15 times, only falling short due to injury in 2003.
• Hoffman not only collected a lot of saves but also did so efficiently. His conversion rate of 88.8 percent is the third highest among the 28 pitchers with at least 300 saves, behind Rivera and Joe Nathan (both 89.1 percent).
• Hoffman's best season came in 1998, when he went 53-for-54 in save opportunities. The 53 saves is tied for the fifth-highest single-season total in history, and the 98.1 percent success rate is the second highest in a 50-save campaign.
• Hoffman racked up a win probability added (WPA) of +34.2, which ranks 21st all-time among pitchers -- just in front of Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Marichal and Sandy Koufax. WPA measures a player's impact on his team's win probability in a given game, thereby giving Hoffman credit for pitching in high-leverage situations.More »
DEL MAR, Calif. -- It was a great day for a family party at Trevor Hoffman's beach house on the shore of the mighty Pacific Ocean. Temperature in late January: 72 degrees. The common refrain: That's why we live here.
At 2:22 p.m. PT, Hoffman took the call he and the crowd were waiting for. It was Jack O'Connell from the Baseball Writers' Association of America and Jane Forbes Clark from the National Baseball Hall of Fame on the other end.
He answered the call as if he was facing Todd Helton with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning -- with intensity and stony coldness. There were no tears on this day. Just raw emotions.
"I was just trying to keep it together," Hoffman later said. "Enjoy the moment."
Hoffman was told he is headed to the Hall of Fame, on the third try. He missed by just five votes last year, and this time he had 20 to spare. His name needed to be on 75 percent, or 317, of the 422 ballots cast by eligible members of the BBWAA. He received 337 votes, or 79.9 percent.
"It's really very difficult to wrap your mind around something like this in such a short period of time," Hoffman told his friends and family moments later as they toasted him with glasses filled with champagne. "You get to certain places, and it's never alone. To be surrounded by so many loved ones and special people in my life who were part of the beginning of the journey and here toward the end is really special.
"We're going to have a lot of fun celebrating in the future. It doesn't go unnoticed that your support was everything one needs when things didn't go well and when things were super. Thanks for being a part of this. Thanks for sharing your day. I love each and every one of you."
And now the whirlwind begins. Hoffman, the National League's all-time saves leader (601), will be inducted into the Hall in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29. He'll join fellow electees Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome, plus Jack Morris and Alan Trammell. The latter pair was elected last month by the Modern Era Committee.
Trammell, the former Tigers shortstop, is a San Diego native and played ball at Kearny High School in Serra Mesa. Hoffman played 16 of his 18 seasons for the Padres. The two talked about the possibility of this happening on the day Trammell was elected.
Thus, the upcoming induction will have a San Diego flavor. Hoffman grew up 90 miles away in Anaheim and his mother, Mikki, brothers Greg and Glenn and their families drove down for the festivities.
Glenn preceded his younger brother in the Majors as a shortstop with the Red Sox. He has been a Padres coach since 2005. Trevor left for Milwaukee as a free agent in 2008 and finished his career with the Brewers in 2010.
Among the small group celebrating Wednesday were Mark Kotsay and Brad Ausmus, both teammates of Hoffman in San Diego.
Trevor's wife, Tracy, fittingly wore a black and grey AC/DC T-shirt with the words "Hells Bells" plastered across the front, the name of the song that played each time Hoffman jogged in from the bullpen to pitch the top of the ninth inning for the Padres.
Hoffman pitched a combined 392 times in what was then called Qualcomm Stadium and Petco Park, and the chime of a bell is still used to usher in games at Petco.
Two of Hoffman's three sons were there, Brody and Wyatt. The third, Quinn, is in school at Harvard and watched the much-awaited phone call via FaceTime. The boys were fixtures around the Padres during Trevor's time there.
There was merriment and laughter, but Hoffman professed to be a tad nervous.
As 2 p.m. PT rolled around, the group was told the Hall call was scheduled to come anytime within a half-hour period from 2:15 to 2:45, but only if Hoffman was elected. If he wasn't, no call.
Hoffman sat with his wife and kids around him at the far end of a wooden table, the specter of aqua Pacific waves in the background. His cellphone was on the table in front of him.
Almost on cue, the phone rang, just a bit before 2:15. There was an immediate hush. The name Glenn Hoffman appeared on the screen.
"It's Glenn," Hoffman bellowed as everyone broke down in raucous laughter.
"I just wanted to make sure your phone was working," Glenn deadpanned.
Once again in their long lifetime together, the older brother had punked the younger one.
"The timing couldn't have been more perfect," Glenn said.
But when the clock struck 2:15, it was time to get serious. The minutes began to ebb. The jovial mood turned tense.
"This is going to be a long 30 minutes," Trevor said.
Almost at that moment, the cellphone rang. The callers were placed on speaker phone.
"May I speak to Trevor Hoffman, please," said O'Connell, the longtime secretary/treasurer of the BBWAA, who has the pleasure of making these calls.
"This is," said Hoffman, almost solemnly.
"I got your phone number [at the Winter Meetings] in Orlando, and I'm letting you know that the baseball writers have elected you to the Hall of Fame," O'Connell said.
Hoffman took a split-second to respond, as if he were checking the sign one more time with his catcher -- perhaps Ausmus -- before throwing the game's most important pitch. He didn't blink an eye.
"I appreciate that, Jack. It was awesome seeing you in Orlando, and I'm glad we were able to make it happen today," Hoffman finally said.
"I wish you had made it last year, but you made it in swimmingly this year," O'Connell said. "I'm happy that you made it. Sometimes it takes a little longer than it should, but you're where you belong right now, my friend."
With that, the group erupted into cheers and applause. Not a man or woman or child in the Hoffman beach house on Wednesday disagreed with O'Connell.More »
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies always knew they had a great one in Jim Thome, but it turns out they had one of the greatest ever.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday evening that Thome will be part of its 2018 Hall of Fame class. He received votes on 89.8 percent of ballots cast in his first year of eligibility. Players need to appear on 75 percent of the ballots for induction.
"How about the 'Thome-nator?'" former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said when he picked up the phone Wednesday night.
Manuel could not have been happier. A lot of people with Phillies connections felt the same way.
Thome sparked a baseball renaissance in Philadelphia 15 years ago. He ignited that rebirth because he had Hall of Fame talent and chose to play in a city that had not enjoyed postseason success since 1993.
Of course, the way Thome tells the story, Philadelphia helped him as much as he helped the city.
No wonder folks call him "Gentleman Jim."
"Philadelphia made an impact on me," Thome said in a conference call with reporters. "When I went there I only knew one thing and that was Cleveland. I love Philadelphia. To this day it's something that I embrace."
Thome spent just a fraction of his storied 22-year career in Philadelphia, playing with the Phillies from 2003-05 and briefly again in 2012. But despite the fact he is better remembered with the Indians, with whom he spent the majority of his career, there is no question Phillies fans will make the trek to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see him inducted in July.
Thome signed a six-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies in December 2002, when nobody wanted to come to Philadelphia to play baseball and when the Phillies were trying to build excitement as they moved from Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park.
He made the Phillies legit. He made baseball in the city fun for the first time in a long time.
"Jim's signing was a transformative moment for our organization," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said.
"When he came over, [Scott] Rolen had just left and they were building the new ballpark," Manuel said. "It was a new era. The fact they got Jim Thome, they knew they got a big player. But I think who Jimmy is and where he came from was big. I remember the construction workers there [at the ballpark] looking at him like he was one of them."
Thome led the National League with 47 home runs in 2003 as the Phillies fell just short of the NL Wild Card. He finished fourth in NL MVP Award voting that season. He then hit 42 homers in 2004, making the NL All-Star team.
"The fans treated me so great there," Thome said. "I truly, truly loved every moment. The fans motivated me. The fans push you. They can be very tough, but as a player I've got to tell you that's what drove me to try to be better. The one thing I love about playing in Philadelphia is it's about going out every day and giving everything you've got and hustling to the degree that you're there every day in that moment. That's what I love most about Philly. The moment was intense every day and I loved it so much."
The Phillies traded Thome to the White Sox after the 2005 season, following the emergence of Ryan Howard as NL Rookie of the Year. Thome returned in 2012, only to be traded to the Orioles that same season.
"I'm extremely happy for Jim and his family," Howard said. "I'm proud I was able to call him a teammate and a mentor and even more proud to call him a friend."
Thome hit 101 of his 612 career homers with the Phillies, including the 400th of his career. But he also made an impact off the field. Ask anybody about Thome and they will say he is one of the nicest people they have ever met.
"Sharing the clubhouse with Jim not once, but twice, was an honor," Jimmy Rollins said. "His infectious smile, gentle nature, and the extra-large and tight hugs he'd give his friends because he was genuinely excited to see you were things I looked forward to every day. He made me strive to be a better player every day with the hope being he didn't feel like he had to do it all himself. I just wanted to be a part of his legacy, not for bragging rights but simply to know what it felt like to stand so close to greatness."More »
SAN DIEGO -- At some point during his 18-year Hall of Fame career, legendary Padres closer Trevor Hoffman must have realized he was charting a course for Cooperstown.
When, exactly, did that notion creep into his mind? Well, Hoffman had the luxury of sharing a clubhouse for nine seasons with another Hall of Famer, the late Tony Gwynn. And when Cooperstown chatter began to engulf Gwynn, Hoffman says he realized he might be on the verge of something special as well.
Gwynn, a 2007 inductee, and Hoffman are two of the most beloved Padres of all time. Come July, they'll share a place in baseball's most storied ground. After Hoffman was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, he was quick to tip his cap to Gwynn, a former teammate who lost his battle with cancer in 2014.
"Standing here, I think of some of the things Tony was thinking about when he was here, being inducted and getting a chance to talk about it," Hoffman said. "I wish he was here today to share this moment."
Gwynn and Hoffman took different routes to Cooperstown. Gwynn, one of the best hitters in the history of the sport, cruised to induction in his first try. Hoffman, one of the best closers in the history of the sport, was elected on the third try.
But their careers will forever be linked, given their impact on the Padres and the city of San Diego. At his election news conference Wednesday, Hoffman was asked when he began to ponder the Hall as a possibility for himself.
"Really, when things started heating up with Tony, with his career starting to wind down, and the numbers he was putting together," Hoffman said. "Seeing him handle that scrutiny and that microscope he was under and, really, what it took for him at that level.
"And then ultimately I realized that I had built up some time in my role. I'm not sure what that particular [Hall of Fame] ticket was going to look like. I think I let myself dream then, a little bit, thinking maybe something down the road might come your way. But if you start looking down the road, that's when this game will trip you up. It'll humble you really fast. It was for a brief minute, and then it was back to going to stadiums, getting ready for another night's work."
Hoffman built himself a rather impressive resume, racking up 601 saves, a 2.87 ERA and a 25.8 percent strikeout rate throughout his career.
Of course, the majority of that career was spent with the Padres -- 16 seasons, to be precise. Gwynn played no small part in Hoffman's decision to remain in San Diego for so long.
"I remember sitting with Tony in the early '90s," Hoffman told MLB.com. "I remember him talking with us about having the opportunity to sign long-term in San Diego, making this our home. He said, 'It's hard to describe, but you won't be disappointed.'
"I took that really to heart. A guy that has been through it, was in the middle of a 20-year career here in this city, to hear him speak on behalf of how great the community is, how much they appreciate you when you work hard. It's been nothing but that. I walk around town, and people couldn't be more complimentary, more supportive."
Come July 29, San Diego fans will bring that support across the country to Hoffman's induction ceremony. Gwynn's presence will undoubtedly be felt that day.
"I've always put Tony at a pretty high level," Hoffman said. "To ultimately have shared a locker room with him and then be going to a pretty special place [in Cooperstown] will be a tremendous honor."More »
The record for most living Hall of Fame electees in any five-year span was shattered on Wednesday night at 23, now that Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman have been added to the Class of 2018 along with Modern Baseball Era electees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell.
That breaks the previous record of 20 established in 1969-73. The Baseball Writers' Association of America also has now tied the four-year record of its electees at 13, and the net effect is that a half-dozen more speeches are coming to Cooperstown on July 29 as fans see living legends.
The good times are expected to keep rolling for Hall hopefuls in 2019, with Mariano Rivera a lock for first-ballot election, Edgar Martinez expected to join him in his last year of BBWAA eligibility and Mike Mussina among those knocking on the door. Next year is also the Today's Game Committee vote, with candidates from 1988-present.
"Hall of Fame Induction Weekend is when fans can come out to salute their heroes with the ultimate honor of being elected," said National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum president Jeff Idelson, who read the names of the electees Wednesday on MLB Network. "Earning election is difficult, even in this era of many living electees. Only one percent of those to wear a Major League uniform end up with a plaque in Cooperstown.
"Cooperstown is about the history of the game, but those who create the history help bring the museum to life. Having a number of living electees, all of whom are deserving, certainly helps to embrace a wider fan base."
This is the fourth time in the last five years that as many as three former players were voted in by baseball writers, and again next year's class could mean it's five out of six. Before 2014, you had to go back to 1999 to find the last time a trio was elected by writers: Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.
Here's another way to look at the stark contrast between these past five years and the five years before them: From 2009-13, there were 14 Hall inductees. Only six of those were elected by the BBWAA, half as many as from 2014-17. And of those 14 inductees, only three elected by the Veterans Committee were living at the time: executive Pat Gillick, manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey (who passed away on Jan. 13).
It is important to note that this five-year record would be for "living" electees, because in 2006, the Hall inducted 17 former Negro Leaguers, plus Bruce Sutter.
Here is a look at the five-year plaque rush:
2018: Jones, Guerrero, Thome and Hoffman (BBWAA); Morris and Trammell
2017: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez (BBWAA); John Schuerholz and Bud Selig
2016: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza (BBWAA)
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio (BBWAA)
2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas (BBWAA); Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre
Three of those 2014 inductees represented the powerhouse Braves era, and that representation is still going strong. Now that Jones is also in, that's six Braves among 23 living electees over a five-year span -- a stunning 26 percent. Never mind that Maddux chose to go without a team logo on his plaque because of his success with the Cubs, Dodgers and Padres.
"When you look back at the 1990s and early 2000s, the Braves were winning their division virtually every year," Idelson said. "Although it resulted in only one championship, their prolonged excellence over a decade-plus, it's emblematic that the guys who have earned elections have represented great teams, from their general manager to their manager to their 1-2-3 pitchers to ... Jones as the second No. 1 Draft pick ever."More »
A year ago, I sat down with my first ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame and agonized over it for weeks.
Who should I vote for? What would I do with players who tested positive -- or were even suspected -- of using performance-enhancing drugs? How would I choose my final 10?
With no personal voting history to fall back on, I first came to the decision that I would vote for players regardless of whether they had ever been connected to PEDs. From the moment they arrived in the Majors, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Manny Ramirez were three of the best players I had ever seen, and the idea of not voting for them seemed implausible.
I respect any voter who chooses to punish players associated with PEDs, but given that we don't know exactly who was or wasn't using drugs prior to the implementation of testing in 2003, I'm not about to draw any such lines. Agree or disagree, that's where I stand.
So last year, once I narrowed the ballot down from 34 to 17, I whittled it down to 10 from there. The final two spots were the toughest, with Gary Sheffield and Fred McGriff making the cut ahead of Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker and Jeff Kent.
After Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez -- all of whom I voted for -- were elected last year, I figured some of the players I was forced to leave off would find their way to the top of my 2018 ballot.
I forgot about those pesky first-timers: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome were no-brainers for me, and while Omar Vizquel's defensive wizardry was second to none, I wasn't ready to vote for him ahead of many of the other eligible players.
Returning on my ballot from last year were Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero and Mike Mussina. Eight spots down, two remaining.
McGriff was the only other player left from my 2017 ballot that I had not checked off again. The moment I sealed my ballot and mailed it in last year, I regretted not voting for Martinez. He finished 11th on my list, thanks in part to the fact that he played about 70 percent of his career games at designated hitter. I absolutely considered him a Hall of Famer, but you can only vote for 10.
This is where Hall of Fame voting gets tough -- strategic, even. To me, the process should be a simple, binary question: Is he a Hall of Famer? Vote yes or no for each player, regardless of how many you vote for.
Instead, we must ask that question first, then pare it down to 10 names if we believe there are 11 or more that warrant a vote. There were 17 names on the ballot this year that would have received serious consideration from me if I could vote for more than 10, and while it's unlikely that I would have voted for all 17, I probably would have checked off 14 or 15 boxes.
So while I voted for McGriff ahead of Martinez last year, I felt they were both deserving. They're each in their second-to-last year of eligibility, and while McGriff hasn't garnered more than 23.9 percent of the vote in any of his first eight years, Martinez and his absurd .312/.418/.515 slash line made it to 58.6 percent a year ago.
If I believe both are Hall of Famers, I owe it to Martinez to vote for him since he has a legitimate chance to earn the required 75 percent in one of his final two years on the ballot. Unfortunately for the "Crime Dog," a vote for him feels like a wasted vote.
With that decision made, my final spot came down to Schilling, Kent and Walker. I gave careful consideration to Hideki Matsui, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones and Johnny Damon, but none had a case convincing enough to move past the first three. I hope they collect at least 5 percent of the vote so I can consider them again, though there's a chance they fall off the ballot the same way Jorge Posada, Jim Edmonds, Carlos Delgado and others have in recent years.
I ultimately chose Schilling, whom I would have voted for a year ago if not for a series of anti-journalist comments he made that rubbed me -- and nearly everybody in my profession -- the wrong way. It was enough to put voting for him off for at least a year when there were clearly more than 10 other deserving players on the ballot.
Schilling's career was brilliant; Hall of Fame worthy, for certain. He was 70 games over .500, had eight seasons with 15-plus wins (including three 20-win campaigns) and struck out more than 3,000 batters while posting the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the game since the mound was lowered.
Then there's his postseason success. Like a modern-day Jack Morris, Schilling pitched three franchises into the World Series: the Phillies, Red Sox and D-backs.
Although he didn't win a ring with the Phillies, he pitched great that postseason. In Arizona, he pitched as well as anybody could, going 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA to lead the D-backs to a stunning World Series title. The numbers weren't quite as dominant with the Red Sox three years later, but his impact on that 2004 Boston team was unquestionable, while his "bloody sock" game will go down as one of the most memorable games in history.
Overall, Schilling was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts, including a 4-1 record and a 2.06 ERA in four World Series. That's Hall of Fame in my book, no matter how much I might disagree with him on non-baseball issues.
So that's my 10: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield and Jim Thome.
Whether your choices would have been the same, somewhat similar or completely different, there's one thing we can all agree on: baseball is great. Why else would anybody care about any of this?
I can't wait to do it all over again next year.More »
Renowned sports broadcaster Bob Costas was named the 2018 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced Wednesday morning. The award is given annually to a candidate who displays "excellence in broadcasting."
Costas, the 42nd winner of the award, received the highest point total in a vote conducted by the Hall of Fame's 15-member selection committee. He will be recognized for his achievements during the Hall of Fame Awards Presentation on July 28 as part of Hall of Fame Weekend 2018.
"I love baseball. As most of you know, it's always been my favorite sport to broadcast, and I think that I'm something of an historian on the history of the craft," Costas said. "As a little kid, when I was 9 or 10 years old, I would fiddle with a radio dial and try to pick up Ernie Harwell from WJR in Detroit, or Bob Prince on KDKA in Pittsburgh or Chuck Thompson on WBAL in Baltimore, or Harry Caray and Jack Buck on a very clear night all the way from Long Island, beaming in from St. Louis on KMOX.
"And in the early '60s, we lived for a short while in Los Angeles, and I listened then to Vin Scully on a transistor radio like millions of others."
Costas was selected over finalists Buddy Blattner, Joe Buck, Dizzy Dean, Don Drysdale, Al Michaels, Joe Morgan and Pee Wee Reese.
"For almost 40 years, Bob Costas has presented an incredibly thoughtful and informed voice on every game he calls for NBC, The Baseball Network and MLB Network," president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Jeff Idelson said. "But it's Bob's pure affection for baseball that has made him a national treasure. From the first day he entered our living rooms, Bob became one of the national pastime's greatest friends."
A graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Costas began his broadcasting career as the play-by-play caller for the St. Louis Spirits of the American Basketball Association. He called regional National Basketball Association and National Football League games for CBS in the late 1970s before moving to NBC in 1980.
Costas was paired up with Sal Bando to form the backup broadcast team for NBC's MLB Game of the Week in 1982, and he served that same role alongside fellow Ford Frick Award winner Tony Kubek from 1983-89.
"But I would think that the 15 people who voted, all of whom know the history of baseball broadcasting, I would think that the work that I did on a baseball game of the week on NBC in the '80s and then in the '90s with Bob Uecker and Joe Morgan on NBC, that it was that history as much as anything else that led to me being lucky enough to being selected," Costas said.
Costas has handled play-by-play duties for the American League Championship Series in 1983, '85, '87 and '89 in addition to doing pregame duties for the All-Star Game during those seasons. He also helped perform pregame assignments for the World Series in 1982, '84, '86 and '88.
Costa is a 28-time Emmy Award winner, and he joined MLB Network in 2009. He has served as the network's documentary host for the past nine years.More »
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Akron Beacon Journal had decided to invest in full coverage of the 1981 Cleveland Indians, not just home games. But the newspaper's Tribe beat reporter did not want to travel. The sports editor needed somebody flexible -- or perhaps crazy -- enough to spend an entire summer following a season that wound up being memorable for Len Barker's perfect game and little else.
Sheldon Ocker, who had been covering the NBA's Cavaliers, agreed to take on the job. He had no idea he'd be doing it for the next 33 years.
"I should have known better," he jokes now.
Ocker met all the deadlines, sat through all the rain delays, caught all the flights and, of course, covered all the highs and lows and news and notes associated with more than three decades in the life of a baseball club. Now they'll put his name not in a byline but on the most prestigious award a baseball scribe can receive. On Tuesday, Ocker was announced as the 2018 recipient of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He will be honored with the accolade as part of the Hall of Fame's induction weekend on July 27-30 next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"I was surprised," Ocker said. "I guess nobody expects that they're going to win, but I sure didn't."
The writers recognized Ocker for his indefatigable approach to the job. From that 1981 season through his retirement at the end of the Tribe's 2013 campaign, he very rarely missed a game -- both in Spring Training and the regular season.
"He had the four things every beat writer needs -- he was a good reporter, he had strong opinions, he never took a day off and he knew the best restaurants in every city on the road," said Paul Hoynes, who has covered the Indians since 1983. "More than that, he's a good friend."
Ocker, 75, retired following the 2013 season after 33 years on the Indians' beat for the Beacon Journal. He was named the Ohio Sports Writer of the Year in '97 and 2000 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association and served as the president of the BBWAA in '85 and as chair of the Cleveland Chapter 11 times. He is now the 69th winner of the Spink Award, having received 168 votes among the 426 ballots cast, including two blank submissions, via BBWAA members with at least 10 consecutive years of service. Jim Reeves (143 votes) of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and longtime Minneapolis-based baseball writer Patrick Reusse (113 votes) were also considered.
When Ocker gets to the podium in Cooperstown, he'll have more than a few stories to tell. Like the time a rookie by the name of Manny Ramirez summoned him to a table in the visiting clubhouse in Kansas City where Ramirez was sitting with Julian Tavarez.
"Can you give us a loan?" Ramirez asked Ocker.
"How much, Manny?" Ocker replied.
"Sixty thousand dollars," Ramirez said. "We want to buy two Harleys."
Ocker had to explain to the young Ramirez that sportswriter salaries aren't exactly on par with those of the ballplayers they cover.
Not all the laughs came courtesy of Manny. When things were slow on the field, Ocker would occasionally pepper the press box by drawing from his collection of cutouts from the New York Post of an old jokes column from comedian Joey Adams and reading the groaners aloud to the audience.
"Mostly they were not funny at all," Ocker said. "Which is why they were funny."
You've got to have a sense of humor to do what Ocker did for as long as he did it. But the funny thing about the baseball beat for those who do it long enough is that the lifestyle gets in your blood after a while. And for Ocker, retirement was a rude awakening.
"It took two years before I stopped packing my suitcase every other week," he joked. "You kind of have withdrawal a little bit, because you have this routine that's like the opposite of a normal person. Instead of going to Kansas City to see the Royals, you have to go to the grocery store to buy some hamburger."
And so Ocker wound up on a beat of a very different sort, working part-time as an editor and school board reporter for a company that produces community magazines in the Northeast Ohio area.
But Ocker's time in baseball was not forgotten by those who worked alongside him all those years.
"When you get voted into something by the people you've worked with for years and years, it makes it more special, because they know what you do and you know what they do and you're kind of all in the same boat," he said. "When they recognize you like that, it makes it pretty neat."More »
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were Tigers Draft picks in the same year, a few rounds apart in 1976. They both arrived in the big leagues a year later and spent the next 14 seasons as teammates in Detroit.
On Monday, they were wearing the same jersey once more. This time, it was the red and white jerseys the Hall of Fame gives to inductees to put on during their introductory press conference. And as they put their arms through the sleeves, fitting them over the attire they wore to the Winter Meetings, the gravity of Sunday's news was sinking in.
"How's it look, buddy?" Trammell asked, turning to Morris.
"Makes you look good," Morris answered.
It was a good fit -- not just the jerseys, but the historic significance of Morris and Trammell entering Cooperstown together. The pair was part of the Tigers' last World Series championship team, in 1984, the same year that two teammates went into the Hall of Fame wearing the same cap on their plaque. Baseball writers voted in Don Drysdale that year, his 10th on the ballot. That same year, the Veterans Committee voted in Drysdale's Dodgers teammate, Pee Wee Reese.
Though Braves rotation mates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine went into the Hall of Fame together in 2014, only Glavine went in as a Brave. Maddux, whose career began with the Cubs, went in with a blank cap on his plaque.
As Trammell and Morris spoke together with reporters, they played off each other like they were still teammates. While Morris was emotional, at times fighting back tears as he spoke about the long wait to get in, Trammell couldn't stop smiling.
"I've prided myself for years of being prepared, and that was kind of my style of how I played, but I find myself with my mind drifting constantly," Trammell said of his mentality since Sunday. "I'm trying to stay on task, and I'm having a very difficult time doing it. I'm going to be honest. I feel a little bit out of place.
"The Hall of Fame, that's got a great ring to it. But when I hear 'Alan Trammell, Hall of Fame,' it hasn't resonated yet, and I'm just speaking from the heart."
Those emotions might be more similar as they sit down and prepare their speeches, the magnitude finally sets in for Trammell, and the task at hand becomes more imperative for Morris. But for this day, their personalities on the dais at Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort reflected a little bit of their personalities as teammates -- Morris the fiery competitor, Trammell the kid at heart.
"After failing on the writers ballot, reality sinks in. For me, it was a wonderful learning time because I had to remind myself of how much I am grateful for without the Hall of Fame," Morris said. "And then you get this wonderful news from your peers, and it happens, and Tram and I are both having a tough time grasping that right now. But it's more for the people that were in my corner than me, myself, right now. I think, had I made it on the first ballot, I wouldn't have that same feeling. So I'm grateful for the time, because it has taught me a lot."
One of the people who had been in both of their corners is no longer with them, though he's also in the Hall. Until now, Sparky Anderson was the only member of the 1984 Tigers enshrined in Cooperstown, in his case as a manager. Both Trammell and Morris were thinking of Anderson and his teachings as they thought about their careers that led them down this path.
"As young athletes, we thought we were good, and we thought we knew what we were doing," Trammell said. "And little did we know, we didn't know squat. We really didn't. And he was the man that got us over the hump."
They had different relationships with Anderson, as Morris acknowledged, but he got the most out of them.
"Sparky made me a ballplayer, whether I liked it or not," Morris said. "We were unhealthily too close. He wasn't my manager. He was my older brother, my dad, and I love both of them. … I loved Sparky, but I wanted to hug him and kick him in the butt at the same time almost every day.
"What I can tell you is he brought out the best in both of us, and not only us, but our teams. There's a crazy, insane way he did it. It defies all logic. It doesn't fall into any analytic. But he knew what he was doing, and I love the man, will forever. Wish he was here to celebrate with us."More »