On Wednesday afternoon, the Baseball Writers Association of America unveiled the 2018 class of Major League Baseball stars being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
600-save reliever Trevor Hoffman, Atlanta Braves legend Chipper Jones, 612-home run hitter Jim Thome, and former American League MVP Vladimir Guerrero will take the stage at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer, as voted on by members of the BBWAA.
Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez, 270-game winner Mike Mussina, and steriod-era greats Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are among the notable exceptions in the 2018 inductions.
This ends a long and exhausting journey for fans, analysts, and ballot trackers. But if you’re really passionate about this, you can look ahead to to the 2019 ballot and see the locks, bubble players, new additions, and more for next year’s vote.
THE FIRST-BALLOT MORTAL LOCKS
The term “first-ballot Hall of Famer” flies around a lot these days, but Mariano Rivera is undoubtedly the greatest relief pitcher that has ever lived, and in 2019, will be honored for it.
The all-time leader in saves (652), games finished (952), and ERA+ (205) was an All-Star at 43, four times a Cy Young Award finalist, and a World Series MVP, all as the New York Yankees closer.
He might not get upwards of 95 percent of the vote — some voters strategically vote for others when they’re fully aware that one guy will certainly make it — but Rivera will surpass the 75-percent plateau necessary to achieve baseball immortality.
Joining him in a depressing, posthumous way will be Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay. Halladay was a 10-speed bike in an era of baseball where those are becoming increasingly rare, and his longevity — and excellent peak — will not be ignored.
Halladay was the best pitcher of the 2000s and it wasn’t particularly close. Twice he won the Cy Young, twice led his league in wins, four times pitched the most innings, seven times paced all others in complete games, and was never prone to the long ball (0.8 home runs per nine innings) or the walk (1.7 walks per nine).
Though his induction will be more a celebration of his life than his baseball career, the late, great Halladay put up Hall of Fame numbers in all aspects of his game.
THE RETURNING PLAYERS WITH BETTER ODDS
With returning players Hoffman and Guerrero off the ballot, other ballot regulars now have a better chance to seal the deal as Hall-of-Famers. Those names include the aforementioned Mussina and Martinez, especially.
Martinez finished the 2018 round at 70.4 percent of the vote. No player who has reached 70 percent or higher has ever failed to become a bust in the Hall eventually, and Edgar has about as good of odds as anyone to get the famous phone call in 2019.
Mussina finished at 63.5 percent of the vote, after compiling just over 20 percent in 2014, his first eligible year. It’s clear Mussina’s case is on the rise in the eyes of the BBWAA, and at his pace of yearly growth, the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles strongarm will see a Hall of Fame berth eventually.
Clemens and Bonds were the greatest pitcher and hitter of their generation, but a Hall that preaches clean, fair play has kept them out of the conversation. In spite of that, as the Hall moves more towards inducted the era during which these two dominated, they might have a better shot.
Bonds and Clemens finished just 0.9 percent apart from each other, as very rarely does a voter take one without the other. At 57.3 percent (Roger) and 56.4 percent (Barry), they aren’t far enough off to completely eliminate them from Hall contention, and a potential change of perspective from Hall voters could assist them.
Guys like Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Omar Vizquel, and Andruw Jones will also continue their quest to Hall of Fame honors.
FIRST BALLOT PLAYERS WHO MIGHT GET THE CALL
Roy Oswalt, Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, and Andy Pettitte make their first appearances on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2019, adding a mix of players that retired in the 2010s (if you would like to feel old for a little while).
Helton is the best of this bunch, and although his counting stats are underwhelming (2,519 hits and 369 home runs despite playing at Coors Field), Helton did have a monster few seasons and won both the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger four times.
Oswalt was an above-average to elite pitcher in his time with the Houston Astros, tallying six top-six Cy Young finishes, including his 2001 campaign where Oswalt went 14-3 as a rookie. He racked up 50 WAR, an ERA title, and an NLCS MVP, but didn’t have the longevity and sustained excellence you would want out of a Hall of Famer.
Pettitte was basically a glorified Oswalt, playing six more seasons than him and appearing on more skilled rosters (coincidentally, they were teammates for a bit). Pettitte won the World Series five times and pitched in an absurd 44 postseason games.
Unimpressively, the only time Pettitte led his league in anything was in starts or wins, though his counting stats (256-153, over 3,300 innings) are mighty pretty. One thing to keep in mind is that Pettitte admitted to using PEDs.
Berkman was about as solid of a player who didn’t get enough credit for his team’s success as anyone in MLB history. It’s widely believed that in a world without Bonds or Albert Pujols, Berkman (career .293 with 366 home runs) would have won an NL MVP or two in his time. This, however, is not the Hall of Pretty Good, but Berkman might have a chance down the line.
Tejada: 2002 AL MVP, six-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger, All-Star Game MVP — and none of that matters. Tejada was included in the celebrated Mitchell Report, lied to Congress about drug use in baseball, failed a PED test, lied about his age … you name it. The Hall of Fame is so much about off-the-field stuff that, even if Tejada gets some votes, I can’t think it will matter in the end.
ONE-AND-DONE PLAYERS ON THE BALLOT
Michael Young, Placido Polanco, Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, Freddy Garcia, Derek Lowe, Darren Oliver, and Juan Pierre are all slated to be one-and-done players on the 2019 Hall of Fame ballot. Each has his own great resume of Hall-worthy single stats, but none of them can really put it together.
With that, we congratulate the four newest members of the Hall of Fame, and to fuel our collective baseball mind, start to speculate what the next Hall cycle will be like.
Yes, Andrew Miller is proving to be maybe the greatest reliever of all time. Sad that he won’t get in when he’s done. He’s a true reliever, not 10 pitches and go home. Get a guy out? Miller. Go three innings, five? Miller. I’d never vote for a one-inning guy. Might as well vote for a dominant pinch hitter (Matt Stairs), a dominant utility infielder. A great closer is Wirth 1/10 a solid starting pitcher. Only guys like Miller actually have real value, but sadly they don’t get respect.