Last year, Ken Griffey Jr. broke the record for highest percentage of the ballots received, en route to being formally inducted (although his plaque sports a Mariners logo, and not a backwards baseball cap). Along with Griffey Jr., catcher Mike Piazza also was inducted on his fourth go-around with the ballot process. A lot of the ballot is the same as last year’s, so if any of the descriptions sound familiar, that would be because their HOF case is the same.
For those of you who don’t know, in order to get enshrined in the Hall of Fame, you need to receive at least 75% of the votes on the ballots cast. If you do not receive at least 5% of the votes, your name will be removed from the ballot. Otherwise, if your total percentage is between 5% and 75%, you remain on the ballot for a total of ten years.
The 2017 Hall of Fame Ballot is headlined by some polarizing newcomers, including Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. Other storylines are the names associated with steroids and the fact that they still haven’t gotten into the Hall yet, as well as the last year on the ballot for Lee Smith and ‘Hall of Very Good’ member Tim Raines.
The 2017 Ballot
The Below 5% Group of the Ballot
Julio Lugo: The Red Sox had Lugo for a few years and he wasn’t anything special.
Mike Cameron: For some reason I remember Mike Cameron being quite good, but I was quite wrong. Cameron was known for his speed and glove above everything else.
Danys Baez: Who? Just kidding, but you might as well forget his statistics.
Melvin Mora: Mora played for the Orioles back in the day and if I remember correctly, him and Miguel Tejada made up one of the more dynamic left sides to an infield for that time.
Pat Burrell: Could he be the second 1st overall pick in the Hall of Fame? Nope.
J.D. Drew: J.D.’s swing should be in the Hall, but not his career.
Aaron Rowand: Rowand had two standout seasons, but he doesn’t have close to the resume or the longevity that the Hall of Fame looks for.
Arthur Rhodes: Arthur’s pitches finally missed some bats late in his 30s as a reliever; he won’t get above 5%.
Carlos Guillen: The middle of his career was pretty impressive, but the beginning and end aren’t close to Cooperstown worthy.
Javier Vazquez: The Silent Assassin had a career record of 165-160 with an ERA of 4.22, not up to par with the Hall of Fame’s elite requirements.
Freddy Sanchez: A former Red Sox top prospect that was traded for Jeff Suppan, Freddy won a batting title in 2006 and a World Series in 2010. He had an impressive prime, but not enough for Cooperstown.
Orlando Cabrera: If Nomar can’t get in, neither should Orlando.
Derek Lee: Lee is one of the more overrated players in my opinion – he is only a two-time All Star.
Sammy Sosa: Corked bats and steroids won’t get him 5%.
The Following Should Get Above 5% But No HOF Plaque in the Future
Tim Wakefield: 200 wins behind one pitch? Hopefully he’ll get enough votes to remain on the ballot.
Jason Varitek: J-Tek has caught the most no-hitters in MLB history and both Wakefield and Varitek already have been inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame, next stop Cooperstown? Doubtful but I think he’ll be on the 2018 ballot.
The Hall of Very Good Admissions (Maybe a HOF Plaque in the Future)
Jorge Posada: One of the members of the ‘Core Four’, the New York Yankee backstop will be a close call for Cooperstown. I think and hope that Posada gets in someday, but I’m giving no chance to get in this year with all of the other big names on the ballot. Posada was a 0.273 career hitter, but his biggest contribution was his leadership behind the plate. During his career, he caught for Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia and Randy Johnson, among others. The four-time World Series Champion, five-time All Star and five-time Silver Slugger will need more than a few years on the ballot in order to get the nod if it ever comes.
Fred McGriff: 7 homers shy of the 500 HR Club, but not enough other attributes to make him worthy of the Hall. Definitely a member of the Hall of Very Good.
Billy Wagner: There are only five relievers in the Hall of Fame, which shows the degree of difficulty ahead of Wagner. But with over 400 saves and ranking fifth all-time, he has hope.
Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez might be the most under-appreciated member of the 2017 ballot. Magglio hit 0.309 during his career, and in his prime, was one of the most feared hitters in the game. Ordonez, like Posada, will be a close call for the Hall, and if he does end up getting in, it will definitely take the majority of the ballot eligible years.
Tim Raines: In his final year on the ballot, Raines will push the 75% mark once again, most likely getting somewhere close to 70%. A seven-time All Star and a career 0.294 hitter with over 2600 total hits seems like Cooperstown is a possibility, but Raines will most likely need a few sympathy votes this year in order to get in.
Edgar Renteria: Edgar Renteria was one of the most underrated shortstops during the 2000s, and what most people forget is that Renteria burst onto the scene at 19 years old. Renteria won two rings, one in the beginning with the Florida Marlins in 1997 and one at the end in 2010 with the San Francisco Giants. He won the MVP for the 2010 World Series, batting 0.412 with 2 homers and 6 RBIs in 5 games.
Mike Mussina: He played his college ball at Stanford and played his pro ball in the AL East. The five-time All Star and zero-time Cy Young Award winner won 270 games, but his ERA numbers struggled in the offensively-superior AL East. In his 4th year on the ballot, Moose should make a move with his slurve, but we will see if voters change their mind on him.
Jeff Kent: A five-time All Star, 2000 NL MVP, and a career 0.290 hitter, Kent truly reached his stride in his thirties. He has hit the most home runs ever by a second baseman with 377.
Lee Smith: In his last year of eligibility, Smith is still a ways away from the needed 75%. The seven-time All Star has had a great ride on the HoF ballot, but don’t expect him to be enshrined into Cooperstown.
Edgar Martinez: A lifetime Mariner, the seven-time All Star totals over 300 homers and boasts a career 0.312 average. He was member of the 116-win 2001 Mariners alongside Ichiro Suzuki, Aaron Sele and Bret Boone. One of the better career designated hitters, but his ballots will be close. I don’t think it’ll be close enough.
Gary Sheffield: Sheffield is a member of the 500 HR club, and with nine All Star appearances he seems like a lock for the 75%. But, Sheffield was on the Mitchell Report, therefore it will be tough for Gary to overcome the PED use cloud that is over him.
The ‘Depends on the Year’ Admins
Larry Walker: People forget about this 1997 NL MVP with a career 0.313 batting average and five All Star appearances, but if his voting track record tells us anything, he still has a ways to go and it doesn’t seem likely.
Jeff Bagwell: BagPipes was a four-time All Star and the 1994 NL MVP. The lifetime Astro played a major role in their top-heavy lineup with Lance Berkman and Craig Biggio. With 449 career home runs, 51 more homers would have him enshrined for sure, but in a stacked year for the ballot, he might have to wait until next year.
Curt Schilling: Schilling’s politics seem to be his own worst enemy, since most of the voters don’t seem to be a fan of his. Schilling was a gamer and a crucial part to the 2004 Red Sox World Series run. Although Schill never won a Cy Young, he finished second in the Cy Young voting three times. He also has three World Series rings to his resume and a 2001 Fall Classic MVP honor. In his fifth year, Schilling will have to get around 55-60% of the ballots in order for hope down the road for an induction.
The Should-Be 2017 Hall of Fame Class
Roger Clemens: In my opinion, he’s the best pitcher of all-time, but otherwise a consensus top-five pitcher. Going into his fifth year on the ballot, his percentage last year didn’t exactly show much improvement, but you can expect a big jump this year. If Clemens can gain a significant amount of votes in a strong year for the ballot, The Rocket will be in good shape moving forward. He’s an eleven-time All Star, one-time MVP, and seven-time Cy Young Award winner, while totaling over 350 career wins, a 3.12 career ERA, and 4,672 strikeouts. Magical seasons like 1986, 1990, 1992, 1997, and 2005 (three and a half seasons without alleged PED use) will go down in history, but his alleged PED use will cost him votes. Clemens should get in, and I think that he will get in, eventually.
Barry Bonds: Same old story – Bonds’ name was on the Mitchell Report, and if not for the PED use, he would be a sure-fire Hall of Famer. He holds the records for most career intentional walks, total walks and home runs. If a fourteen-time All Star and seven-time MVP with 762 career homers isn’t enough credentials to overcome PED use, nothing will. Bonds belongs in the Hall because he brought an unprecedented amount of excitement to the game and the kayakers of McCovey Cove in San Francisco.
Ivan Rodriguez: Pudge is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. Ivan Rodriguez had perhaps the most feared arm from behind the plate in recent memory. I-Rod totalled 14 All Star Games, 13 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 1 MVP (0.332/35 HR/113 RBI), one World Series title (in 2003), which spanned over 21 seasons with 6 different teams. The question with Pudge isn’t whether or not he’ll get into Cooperstown, but which hat his plaque will grace (I say the Texas Rangers).
Manny Ramirez: Manny should also be destined for the Hall of Fame, but he has the steroid and performance-enhancing drug use baggage that will weigh him down. Ramirez had 555 career home runs, over 1,800 RBIs and compiled a career 0.312 batting average. During the 1999 season with the Cleveland Indians, Manny had 165 RBIs and in 2002 with the Boston Red Sox he batted 0.349. According to David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez was the best hitter he ever saw and worked, which is much, much harder than most believe. Ramirez had two World Series wins in 2004 and 2007, he also took home the MVP honors for the 2004 series. In order for Manny to get in, Bonds will need to get in first so don’t expect Manny Ramirez to get in this year.
Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad, in my opinion, was one of the most exciting players to watch for his era. Not only would he swing at literally anything possible, he’d also smack it for a home run. Guerrero patrolled the outfield for the Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles during his 16 year career, and boasted one of the best outfield arms in all of baseball. He won the 2004 AL MVP and was a perennial name in MVP talks. Vlad never won a World Series ring, but during his career, he had 449 HRs, 1496 RBIs, 181 SB, batted 0.318 and slugged 0.553. Vladdy will make the Hall no matter what, but will it be this year? We think so and he’ll choose between wearing an Expos or Angels hat, ultimately choosing Montreal.
Trevor Hoffman: Ranking second all-time in saves with 601 through 18 seasons gives him quite the resume for a relief pitcher. Many people, including myself, think that Hoffman is destined for the Hall, and this is the year.
Trevor Hoffman, Jeff Bagwell, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens
I think that the grudges some writers hold against the steroid users is quite elementary my dear Watson – the Steroid Era happened in baseball (get over it) and frankly, it saved the sport altogether. It is an injustice to the sport itself to keep a huge part of the game out of a museum dedicated to the game, it just doesn’t make sense. I wrote about Clemens before and why he should be in Cooperstown but the voters didn’t listen, hopefully this year they will. Keep your eyes out for the Hall of Fame induction announcement on January 18th.
Cover Photo via Game Used Universe
GIFs via CBS Sports, Boston Magazine and Reddit