The 2018 Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America, and it included 19 new faces headlined by the likes of Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. While the Hall of Fame candidacy of Jones and Thome is nigh indisputable, the same cannot be said for the remaining 17 newcomers on this year’s ballot.
Despite the combined accolades of all the men on this ballot, only a few can truly be considered Hall of Famers while the rest, based on sheer numbers and a limited impact on the game, fall short of that honor. There are also a few players on this ballot who can be described as “hopefuls” and could find themselves sneaking into the Hall of Fame with just barely enough votes.
Here are the players who deserve a definitive Yes:
This one is a no-brainer. Jones was one of the greatest switch hitters to ever play the game, and his career accomplishments speak to the tremendous impact he had on the sport of baseball. Jones, the first overall pick of the Atlanta Braves in 1990, collected 2,726 hits throughout his career along with 468 home runs and 1,623 runs batted in. Jones also slashed an impressive line of .303/.401/.529 for his career. He was an integral part of the Braves’ 1995 World Series team and finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Jones’ extensive trophy case includes an MVP award (1999), a batting title (2008), and two Silver Slugger awards (1999, 2000). He was also an eight-time National League All-Star.
The raw numbers alone essentially solidify Jones’ rightful place in the Hall of Fame. However, one cannot forget the long-lasting impact he had on the sport. During an era when players were seemingly obsessed with just hitting as many home runs as possible, Jones forged his own path to success. The tall, lanky third baseman was a dangerous switch hitter who could drive the ball to any part of the ballpark, and he made it look effortless. Chipper Jones could be, and should be, a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Thome’s career can be summed up with one word: power. Thome was one of the most fearsome left-handed power hitters of his time. He mashed 612 home runs during his illustrious 22-year career, which lands him at the number eight spot on the all-time home run list. He was a five-time All-Star and also won a Silver Slugger award in 1996.
Thome’s legacy of pure power will, without a doubt, land him in Cooperstown. His slash line (.276/.402/.554) and his lack of championship success may prevent him from making it in on his first ballot, but it will not keep him out forever. Jim Thome is a surefire Hall of Famer.
Now, here are the few players who could be described as Hopeful:
If defense alone won championships in baseball, Rolen would have been a perennial World Series contender. Rolen was an eight-time Gold Glove winner for his defensive prowess at third base. He was also a seven-time All-Star who amassed just over 2,000 hits (2,067) and 316 home runs in his 17-year career.
Rolen’s numbers, while impressive, do not necessarily jump off the page to potential Hall of Fame voters. He had a good career but not a great career. Rolen’s biggest problem is perception. He is viewed as a defensive wizard at third base but he is not respected as one of the all-time best players of his generation. Rolen may squeak in at some point, particularly if the voters decide to take his advanced metrics into account. It will, however, be an uphill battle for Rolen to find his way into Cooperstown.
This is another case in which the raw numbers will not do the candidate any favors. Santana’s career was, unfortunately, cut far too short due to persistent injury problems. He only pitched in the major leagues for 12 years, and he finished with a record of 139-78 and he fell just shy of the 2,000 strikeout mark (1,988).
Despite his short career, Santana was a two-time Cy Young winner, a four-time all-star, and one of only 38 pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball to win a Triple Crown, meaning he lead his league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA in a single season. Anyone who had the privilege of watching Santana pitch can attest to the fact that when he was healthy and at the top of his game he was downright filthy with his combination of power pitching and a knee-buckling changeup.
Santana’s short career may cost him a shot at Cooperstown, but an appeal to the voters concerning his impact and what he accomplished in such a short time may give him an opening.
A beloved member of the historic 2004 Boston Red Sox World Series team that affectionately referred to themselves as “the idiots,” Damon has a strong case as to why he deserves to be enshrined in Cooperstown. His raw numbers are favorable as he totaled 2,769 hits along with 235 home runs and 408 stolen bases in his 18 years in the major leagues. Damon was a two-time all-star and a two-time World Series champion, one with Boston and one with the New York Yankees.
Damon, however, will run into the same problem that Scott Rolen ran into: He was never viewed as the best player in his league or of his generation. Damon was a speedy, slap-hitting outfielder with limited power and a weak throwing arm. Damon was an unforgettable talent and personality, particularly around the city of Boston, but it is unlikely that he would ever be considered great enough to vote into the Hall of Fame.
The rest of the players on the ballot, while fine players who had good careers, are not Hall of Famers. Here is a quick breakdown of the players who, unfortunately, will receive a definitive No:
Jones’ power and his exceptional defense in center field were something to behold, but he was not especially good at getting on base (his .254 career batting average is similar to Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew‘s .256, but Killebrew’s .376 on-base percentage is leagues ahead of Jones’ .337 mark) and he had his last good season at age 29. His peak was outstanding, but like another former Braves center fielder, Dale Murphy, his decline was so sharp and sudden that it probably tanked his chances at the Hall of Fame.
Zambrano was one of the biggest personalities the sport has ever seen — that much cannot be questioned. However, at no time in his career was Zambrano a dominant pitcher, and a 4.1 BB/9 rate is no way to get to Cooperstown if you don’t have Nolan Ryan‘s strikeouts and longevity to balance it out.
Moyer redefined what it meant to be durable as a major league pitcher. He pitched for 25 seasons, which he absolutely should be commended for. That being said, his 209 career losses and 4.25 career ERA will keep him far away from Hall of Fame consideration.
Another defensive guru at his position, Vizquel was someone whom many young shortstops modeled their game after. In his 24 major league seasons, he had an above-average OPS one twice, and his 11 Gold Glove awards will not be enough to land him in the Hall of Fame.
Another unfortunate story involving persistent injuries. At one point in his career, Carpenter was the best pitcher in the major leagues. Sadly, the latter half of his career was plagued by elbow problems that negatively affected his performance. His career numbers are not enough to warrant a place in the Hall of Fame, despite the undeniable talent he had before his injuries.
Had Hernandez been able to repeat the type of season he had in 1997 throughout his career, he might have had a shot. However, he did no such thing, and he ended his career with an unimpressive 178-177 record and a 4.44 ERA. Enough said.
Hudson only played for 11 seasons and finished his career with just a .273 batting average and less than 1,500 hits. He was good, but he was nowhere near great.
Despite only pitching in the majors for 16 seasons, Millwood ended up with a rather impressive career strikeout-to-walk ration (2,083-843). His career ERA of 4.11, on the other hand, as well an uninspiring record of 169-152 will keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking case of “should have, would have, could have” ever in Major League Baseball. Wood had electric pitching talent but his arm could not hold up. He only lasted 14 seasons and had to spend the latter part of his career as a closer before eventually calling it quits.
“El Caballo” will be hard pressed to convince the writers that he deserves to be a Hall of Famer. His career .285 batting average along with 358 home runs is impressive, but a shortened 14-year career does make his numbers seem a tad inflated.
Huff will have to hope that voters will not take his Twitter activity into account when making the decision on him. Regardless, Huff’s mediocre .278 career batting average coupled with his mediocre power numbers (274 home runs) paint the picture clearly enough.
Matsui will always be remembered, particularly by Yankees fans, as being one of the most feared left-handed hitters in the American League. However, that was only for an extremely short period of time. The latter half of Matsui’s career left a lot to be desired.
Isringhausen would have benefited from being on the ballot ten years ago as opposed to now, because ten years ago having 300 career saves was somewhat rare. These days, however, modern-day closers are reaching the 300 save mark at a much faster rate. He was never as dominant as Mariano Rivera and he didn’t record the volume of someone like Trevor Hoffman, who is still trying to get into the Hall of Fame in the first place.
Apply the same argument against Isringhausen to Brad Lidge. He finished his career with just 225 saves and a high ERA (3.54). Thus, Lidge will find himself on the outside looking in just like Isringhausen.