Cooperstown is about to get a lot more Chipper. The Baseball Writers Association of America released its Hall of Fame ballot on Monday morning, and this year’s class is headlined by Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. The 1995 World Series champion is poised to become the 12th Braves player to enter the Hall, and the first since John Smoltz in 2015.
Joining Jones among this year’s nominees are 14 returning players and 18 new candidates. The group includes seven MVPs, three CY Young winners, two Rookie of the Years, and multiple Gold Glove and Silver Slugger recipients.
Getting nominated is one thing, but making it into the Hall is quite another. A player must be named on 75-percent of the approximately 440 ballots cast in order to be enshrined. Ballots are due by December 31st, and results will be announced on January 24th on MLB Network and MLB.com.
Back in August, we released our original Hall of Fame projections and our intuition was spot on about which players would be nominated. We’ve since had a chance to reconsider each player’s candidacy and have come up with new odds on their chances of being enshrined.
We’ve included the cap that each player’s plaque will (or would) likely don in parentheses.
CHIPPER JONES (ATLANTA BRAVES): 1/999
Chipper Jones checks all the boxes you look for in a Hall of Famer: He was an eight-time All-Star, he won an MVP award, he led his team to 14 consecutive division championships, he won a World Series title, and he spent his entire career with one franchise. If you were designing the perfect career, that’s precisely what it would look like.
In addition to his many accolades, Jones is also the greatest switch hitter since Mickey Mantle. The DeLand, Florida native hit .303 over 19 seasons, he led the majors in batting in 2008 when he hit .364, and he clobbered 468 career home runs. He was the kind of professional hitter that scouts dream about and opposing pitchers dread. Start inscribing his plaque.
TREVOR HOFFMAN (SAN DIEGO PADRES): 1/999
Trevor Hoffman may not have invented the save, but he perfected it. The Padres legend saved 40 or more games nine times, and held the MLB record for career saves when he hung up his glove in 2010. His record has since been surpassed by Mariano Rivera, but his reputation as one of the game’s great closers is still very much intact.
That was evident in 2016 when Hoffman received 67.3-percent of the vote during his first year of eligibility. He came even closer the following year, when he received 74-percent of the vote, just one-percent shy of the threshold. Hoffman should surpass that total with ease this year and take his rightful place among fellow Hall of Fame relievers Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Bruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage.
JIM THOME (CHICAGO WHITE SOX): 1/9
Jim Thome doesn’t have as many career home runs as Barry Bonds. He doesn’t have as many RBIs as Alex Rodriguez. And he doesn’t have an MVP trophy like Jason Giambi. But he does have something they don’t: a clean conscience. Thome’s avoidance of performance-enhancing drugs is likely to appeal to voters nearly as much as his towering home runs.
Thome’s 612 dingers are what you’ll hear about most when his candidacy is discussed, but he did a whole lot more than just swing for the fences. The five-time All-Star also had an exceptional eye, and led the American League in walks three times. His ability to take a pitch or clobber one into the cheap seats helped the Indians reach the playoffs six time in seven seasons, including two trips to the World Series.
The only factor working against Thome is the fact he played 33-percent of his career as a designated hitter, but voters didn’t let that stop them from inducting Frank Thomas, who spent 58-percent of his career as a DH, in 2014.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO (LOS ANGELES ANGELS): 1/4
Vladimir Guerrero came tantalizingly close to enshrinement in 2017 when he earned 71.7-percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility. That’s a mere 15 votes short of the Hall, and it bodes well for his chances in 2018. The same voters that fell in love with his prodigious power and howitzer of an arm the first time around will almost certainly vote for him again, and the sentimentalists who voted for Tim Raines during his final year of eligibility will likely reward Guerrero this time around. Guerrero lacks the World Series pedigree of some of his fellow candidates, but his 449 home runs, 1,496 RBIs, and lifetime .318 batting average stack up favorably in every other way.
EDGAR MARTINEZ (SEATTLE MARINERS): 9/1
The bad news for Edgar Martinez is that he likely won’t crack Cooperstown in 2018. The good news is that voters are continuing to support his candidacy. The longtime Mariner and two-time batting champ earned 58.6-percent of the vote in 2017, one year after getting just 43.4-percent. That’s a significant increase, and it suggests that Martinez may eventually squeeze in. His case will certainly be helped if Thome is inducted this year, as it will prove voters are becoming increasingly open to players who spent much of their careers playing DH.
SCOTT ROLEN (PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES): 12/1
Unlike the previous candidates we’ve discussed, Rolen’s real strength was his defense. The Evansville native won eight Gold Gloves during his 17-year career, and is generally seen as one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball history. He wasn’t exactly a slouch at the plate either. Rolen was a seven-time All-Star who hit .281 with 316 home runs, and 1,287 RBIs.
So why aren’t his odds better? Unlike Jones, Rolen only finished in the top five in MVP voting once, and his career was undermined by a series of injuries. He played 100 games or fewer six times, and he was a shadow of his former self during his final two seasons in Cincinnati. Rolen may make it into the Hall one day, but it won’t be in 2018.
ANDRUW JONES (ATLANTA BRAVES): 15/1
It’s hard looking at Andruw Jones’ statistics without feeling like you’re looking at two different players. On one hand, you have the lithe and lively pre-30-year-old Jones, who tore apart the base paths, chased down fly balls with ease, and led the Braves to ten consecutive postseason appearances. That version of Jones won ten Gold Gloves and finished second in MVP voting in 2005 when he hit 51 home runs and generated 128 RBIs.
On the other hand, you have the post-30-year-old Jones, who consistently showed up to Spring Training overweight and out of shape, and alternated trips to the DL with trips to Fatburger. That version of Jones bounced around between four different teams and never appeared in more than 107 games.
It’s likely Hall of Fame voters will have difficulty reconciling those two players, which is why Jones will get passed over for at least the next two years.
JOHNNY DAMON (BOSTON RED SOX): 25/1
Johnny Damon will likely never be enshrined in Cooperstown, and that’s a shame, because his bushy beard and long flowing locks would have made for one of the institution’s most kick-ass plaques. Half the kids who saw it would have mistaken him for Jesus, and the other half would have thought a caveman had emerged from a block of ice at the turn of the century and briefly hit leadoff for the Boston Red Sox. Either way, if there’s a Hall of Fame for hair, Damon is a first-ballot lock.
BARRY BONDS (SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS): 70/1
So much for good things coming to those who wait. Barry Bonds will almost certainly be denied entry into the Hall of Fame in 2018, marking the sixth time the prickly power hitter has come up short. The good news is that voters – and the baseball community in general – seem to be warming up to Bonds. The seven-time MVP cracked the 50-percent threshold for the first-time last season and has enjoyed productive, controversy-free stints as a Spring Training instructor for the San Francisco Giants and a hitting coach for the Miami Marlins. Bonds currently works as a special advisor to Giants CEO Larry Baer, and recently joined his father, Bobby, on the team’s Wall of Fame.
ROGER CLEMENS (BOSTON RED SOX): 75/1
The only way Roger Clemens is getting into the Hall of Fame this year is if he buys a ticket. The 55-year-old fireballer was a lock for Cooperstown as recently as 2007, before his name popped up 82 times in the Mitchell Report, an independent investigation into the illegal use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. Clemens was subsequently charged with making false statements to Congress in 2008, and saw his name tarnished even further when it was revealed he had been in a long-term relationship with a minor. Consider this Exhibit A in how not to spend your retirement years.