Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Jim Thome gets my Hall call, and so do 7 others - including one previous 'reject'

Because of fairly recently changed rules that mostly affect lifetime Baseball Writers Association of America members - in other words, old guys like me - I'm not sure how many more years I'll be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. 

It's a shame that many former long-time journalists are being pushed aside, as most of us have remained active observers of the game. Thanks to technology, I follow the sport every bit as closely now as I used to, even though I haven't actively covered baseball for more than 7 years. I believe us oldsters provide nice balance to the voting process. I take my responsibility as a Hall voter very seriously.

But hey ... nobody asked me what I think. And one of these years, I'll be told, "Thanks, but no thanks. Now go try to find your car keys."

I had many of these same thoughts a year ago, and one thing that kept going through my mind was this:

At the very least, I hope I get to vote for the Class of 2018, because I really want to check the box next to the name of JIM THOME.

Jim Thome: Great guy, great hitter.
(Photo from
I covered Thome for a long time. I like "The Pride of Peoria" as a person and I admire what he accomplished as a ballplayer. He finished with 612 HR (8th most all-time), 1,699 RBI (26th), and a .956 OPS (18th). And he did all that without be stained by steroid allegations. 

Thome played the game hard, he played it right, and he should be a slam dunk for the Hall.

Another obvious choice in his first year on the ballot: CHIPPER JONES

His credentials are so good that I don't feel like wasting my time or yours reciting them here.

Chipper Jones delivers again for the Atlanta Braves.
(Photo from
Thome and Jones were 2 of 8 former stars to earn check marks on my ballot, and I'll talk about the others in a second. First, a few words about some of the ballot newcomers who did not get my vote ...

++ Omar Vizquel ... A slick-fielding, slap-hitting shortstop in the mold of Ozzie Smith ... except he wasn't quite as good as Smith. Advanced stats doom Vizquel's candidacy. As stated in a recent article by's Jordan Bastian:
Separation comes into play when considering the context of the eras in which they played. Vizquel has an 82 OPS+, which means he was 18 percent below the MLB average over his career. Smith, even with very similar rate and counting statistics, posted an 87 OPS+. Vizquel rated as above average in two of his seasons, while Smith had four such campaigns.
Among the 135 Hall of Famers with at least 4,000 plate appearances, Vizquel's OPS+ would be tied for last with Luis Aparicio and Rabbit Maranville.
Using's calculation of WAR, there was not only a considerable gap offensively (47.8 oWAR for Smith, compared to 32.2 oWAR for Vizquel), but also defensively (43.4 dWAR for Smith and 28.4 dWAR for Vizquel). This is not to say Vizquel's defensive WAR is subpar. In fact, it would rank eighth among all Hall of Famers. Smith's dWAR was just otherworldly, ranking first among all Hall of Famers regardless of position.
++ Andruw Jones ... A precipitous falloff after a torrid start to his career. Frankly, I don't think his numbers are as good as Jim Edmonds' were - and Edmonds got such little love from BBWAA voters two years ago that he immediately fell off the ballot.
++ Scott Rolen ... During Rolen's prime, my friend Ron Santo often said Rolen was the best 3B in the game. He was a superior fielder and a good (but not great) hitter, but I'm afraid he'll probably meet the same lack-of-love fate that Edmonds did. I was tempted to vote for him just to try to keep him on the ballot past his first year, but that's really not the best reason to vote for somebody.
++ Chris Carpenter ... Not enough wins, too high an ERA.
++ Johnny Damon ... It's cool that he won World Series with both the Red Sox and Yankees, and he compiled a lot of stats over a long career. But he doesn't rank in the top 50 in just about any important hitting or fielding category. 
++ Jason Isringhausen ... Just another in a long line of good relievers who aren't Hall material.
++ Carlos Lee ... A good run-producer and terrible outfielder whose numbers fall short.
++ Hideki Matsui ... The second-best Japanese import in MLB history, he lacks Ichiro's Hall resume.
++ Jamie Moyer ... The guy pitched for 25 years and made one All-Star Game appearance. Nuff said.
++ Johan Santana ... Kind of the Andruw Jones of pitchers. Awesome start to his career, then fell off a cliff.
++ Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano ... The former Cubbie hurlers follow each other alphabetically on the ballot, and I assume they will follow each other off the ballot after one year. Both had tremendous promise, especially Wood, but injuries and other woes kept both from reaching their potential. Although Wood pitched one of the greatest games ever (20 strikeouts, 1 disputed hit) and Zambrano threw a no-hitter, they also will be known as participants in one of the most infamous choke jobs in baseball history. Wood even used the word "choke" to describe his performance in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS.
As for those who have been on the ballot for multiple years, I discussed my reasons for excluding them in last year's The Baldest Truth post
One player I have not voted for in the past who is getting my check mark this time:
Edgar Martinez gets ready to take another mighty cut.
(Photo from
I have tried to be consistent during the decades I have voted for the Hall, but every once in awhile I have had to adjust on the fly - as was the case this time with Martinez.
So many baseball people I respect are making such strong arguments for the former Mariners star - mainly through advanced stats such as WAR, OPS+ and JAWS - that I felt compelled to make him one of my choices this time.'s Jay Jaffe makes one such case that traditional stats don't tell the whole story about Edgar.
See, you can teach an old BBWAA voter new tricks!
My other five selections are holdovers from last year and were discussed in previous editions of The Baldest Truth.
Here are the 8 players who received my check marks for the Hall of Fame Class of 2018:
Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Vladimir Guerrero
Chipper Jones
Edgar Martinez
Mike Mussina
Curt Schilling
Jim Thome

Here's hoping that the BBWAA lets me cast a ballot next year for Mariano Rivera - not that the most dominant closer in baseball history will need my vote to crash the Hall.