There are 23 first basemen, 21 second basemen, and 24 shortstops in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. There are also 20-plus inductees from every outfield position. So why, then, are there only 16 third baseman? That’s even fewer than the catchers (18). Hell, there are 23 managers in Cooperstown, and 10 damn umpires!
The gap between third baseman and the field grew a little last year when Jeff Bagwell (1B), Tim Raines (LF), and Pudge Rodriguez (C) got the call. I’m not saying Casey Blake and his 167 career home runs should have received more than 0.0-percent of the vote — but it still adds more statistical fuel to the mysterious fire.
There’s good news for all you third-base fans out there. (Is that a thing? Is anyone a fan of a specific position?) Chipper Jones is poised to get one back for the hot-corner men (not to be confused with “hot corner-men,” which I guess would be prostitutes).
I’ve included the cap that each player’s plaque will (or would) likely don in parentheses.
2018 MLB Hall of Fame Odds
TREVOR HOFFMAN (PADRES): 1/999
Hoffman was painfully close last year, getting 74-percent of the vote (a seven-percent jump from his first year). While the incoming class is solid, it won’t siphon votes away from the longtime closer, whose 601 saves rank second all-time. We don’t need to go any further into his Cooperstown credentials. Suffice it to say, no one comes this close — especially in just their second year on the ballot — without getting in the next time around. There’s a better chance that his plaque features a Brewers hat than the BBWAA keeping him out another year. Barring some sort of PED revelation, he’s as good as enshrined.
CHIPPER JONES (BRAVES): 1/50
Even if there wasn’t a weird discrepancy between third basemen and everyone else, Chipper would be a veritable lock. His 468 homers rank third all-time among third baseman. His .401 OBP is sixth. And his 1,623 RBIs are first. The 1999 NL MVP also has a World Series ring on his resume (Braves, 1995) and a batting title (.364, 2008). Some unenlightened voters don’t like putting guys in on their first year on the ballot. (Seriously. Case in point: three voters said no to Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016.) Common sense will win out and Jones will get in anyway.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO (ANGELS): 1/45
Vladdy received a shade over 71-percent of the vote last year, his first on the ballot, so this situation is basically Hoffman-light: players don’t come that close this early and not get in the next year. See: Robby Alomar, who jumped from 73.7-percent to 90-percent in his second year. But here are some numbers, just in case you’re still a doubter: 449 career home runs, .318 average, 1,496 RBI.
Montrealers will be angry when Vlady goes in as an Angel, and there are 234 home runs that say he should be an Expo. But he won his only MVP as an Angel in 2004 (along with two other third-place finishes in MVP voting). How scary was he to opposing pitchers during his time with the Halos? He led the league in intentional walks four straight years (2005-08).
JIM THOME (WHITE SOX): 1/1
Thome is a toss-up, not because he doesn’t have the stats, but because the three guys above are all getting in, and about four of the guys below might get in. In short: this ballot is stacked, and 612 home runs (seventh all time) no longer make you a first-ballot guarantee.
EDGAR MARTINEZ (MARINERS): 3/2
Edgar Martinez could hit. Edgar Martinez built Safeco Field with a two-run double in 1995. They named the award for designated hitters the Edgar Martinez award after he won it five times. There’s some that believe that DH’s are too specialized to earn a spot in the hall of fame, but that’s what they used to say about relievers. Statistically, Martinez seems to make the grade, posting a good JAWS and a better on base percentage than any of the candidates this side of Barry Bonds. He secured 58.6% of the ballot last year, which is trending in the right direction, and 2018 will be his second-last chance to make it. With a little bit of a PR campaign, and some goodwill, Martinez could very easily find himself in the Hall of Fame.
He was also (briefly) a third baseman!
SCOTT ROLEN (CARDINALS): 7/3
We were going to talk about Mike Mussina here, but he didn’t play third base.
The stats like Scott Rolen, because the stats have always liked Scott Rolen. His JAWS is better than the average HOF third baseman. His WAR is higher than Jimmy Collins, George Kell, Pie Traynor, and the one and only Home Run Baker. Rolen won 8 Gold Gloves, made 8 All-star teams, won the Rookie of the Year award in 1997, and was fourth in MVP votes in 2004. He never played for great teams, despite winning the World Series in 2006, and moved around a lot. He also played third base at the same time as Chipper Jones, which is a great way to get overlooked.
It’s Rolen’s first year on the ballot, and while he’ll probably get there eventually, he’s never been one to make a big splash.
BARRY BONDS (GIANTS): 3/1
*puts on bulletproof vest*
Barry Bonds is the best hitter of all time. I understand the trepidation about electing the posterboy for steroid use to the Hall of Fame; I understand the Integrity of the Game; I even understand not wanting to encourage kids to use PED’s.
I don’t need to rattle off Barry Bonds’ stats, you know them all, so I’ll just give you the big one: 232 walks in 2004.
The voters seem to be coming around to making Barry Bonds’ huge head into a plaque, and he cleared the 50% barrier this year. That usually means its a matter of time before you get a call, and as voters see which way the momentum’s moving they’ll come around.
ROGER CLEMENS (RED SOX): 3/1
All the same arguments as above, with some slightly different stats.
- Two seasons with an ERA below 2.0, 15 years apart.
- Five years leading the league in strikeouts.
- Two World Series.
- 7 Cy Young Awards.
- 139.4 career WAR.
- More than 1000 strikeouts, with two different teams
These two will be off the board real soon, it’s really only a matter of this year or next.