Just like every other eligible Hall of Fame voter among the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, I recently received a letter from Joe Morgan (HOF class of 1990) asking me NOT vote for any HOF-eligible players on the ballot this year whose careers included allegations of performance enhancing drug use.
Efforts to influence elections seems to be in vogue nowadays.
As much as I admire Joe for what he did during his Hall of Fame career, I believe that covering Major League Baseball for 40 years and more than 5,000 games makes me qualified to make my own judgment on who is worthy of my vote year in and year out.
I have no idea who used PED — most of the suspects remain in denial — but I have maintained a stance that players linked to steroid use do not get any of my votes, pure and simple. Many of my former BBWAA colleagues don’t agree, but that is their decision to make, not mine, or Joe Morgan’s.
But what bothers me almost as much as the cheaters themselves is being “advised” by anyone on how to fill out my ballot. Sorry, Mr. Morgan, that just isn’t the way it works.
The Hall of Fame Board of Directors (of which Morgan is a member) decided a few years ago to change a rule that I believe opens the door to the cheaters eventually getting into the HOF.
Instead of having the honor of lifetime voting privileges — as was the case since the HOF was established in 1936 — non-active BBWAA members are ineligible to vote following a 10-year period. That means many baseball writers who covered MLB during the so-called “Steroid Era”, including me, will not be eligible to vote when the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are still on the ballot, replaced by younger, stats-driven scribes who have little knowledge of how much damage these guys did to the game.
I will have just two years of voting eligibility remaining after this year, so my time for NOT voting for any of the cheaters is running out.
With all that being said, here are my selections for the HOF Class of 2018:
Vladimir Guerrero: The nine-time All-Star was the AL Most Valuable Player in 2004 and finished in the top 10 five other times during a stellar 16-year MLB career that included stints with the Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles.
Despite lack of speed, Vlad batted at least .300 during 12 consecutive seasons and 13 times overall. He is one of only eight players in MLB history to have a career batting average of at least .318 and a .553 slugging percentage. You have heard of the others: Joe DiMaggio, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Ted Williams and The Babe.
This is Guerrero’s second year of HOF eligibility and he garnered 71.7 percent of the vote as a first-ballot nominee.
Trevor Hoffman: The first pitcher in MLB history to reach the 500- and 600-save plateau, the 18-year big-league veteran missed by a scant one percent of the 75 percent of votes needed last year and is considered a shoo-in this time.
He was Mr. Automatic when it came to getting the final out of a game, performing to HOF standards for the Marlins, Padres and Brewers. During one 15-year stretch of his career, Hoffman had at least 30 saves 14 times.
This is his third year on the HOF ballot.
Chipper Jones: His entire 19-year MLB career was spent with the Braves and he is the closest thing to a first-ballot Hall of Famer in this year’s class.
Jones was the offensive catalyst on a team that already has already has three pitchers (Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine) in the HOF along with manager Bobby Cox.
Chipper finished in the top 10 of the NL Most Valuable Player award six times, including the award in 1999. He is one of only nine players in MLB history to have a .300-plus career batting average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage and at least 400 home runs.
Edgar Martinez: Time is running out on Martinez’s pursuit of baseball immortality and he just might get on the cusp of election this year, his next-to-last chance to be voted in by the BBWAA.
The former Mariners’ star received 58.6 percent of the vote last year, still 16.4 percent short of the 75 percent threshold, but was third among those who failed to get selected. Edgar finished just ahead of Clemens (54.1) and Bonds (53.8).
Martinez, who spent his entire 18-year career with the Mariners, was a two-time AL batting champion, won five Silver Slugger Awards and, in 2004, had the Designated Hitter rule named after him.
This is Edgar’s ninth year on the HOF ballot.
Jim Thome: My guess is that Thome, a five-time All-Star who played for six teams during a stellar 22-year career, will fall short of selection but he’s a future HOF in my book.
His best work was done for the Indians, whom he helped turn into a World Series contender in the mid-1990s.
His 612 career home runs are among the 10th most in MLB history and he drove in at least 100 runs nine times. Thome is one of only five players with at least 500 home runs, 1,500 runs scored, 1,600 RBIs and 1,700 walks.
This is his first year on the HOF ballot.
Omar Vizquel: Not since Ozzie Smith was voted into the Hall of Fame in 2002 has there been a defensive wizard shortstop worthy of HOF status just because of his glove.
The 24-year MLB veteran – he played for six organizations including the Mariners – Omar became known for his defense but turned himself into a quality hitter, as well, batting a career-best .333 in 1999.
Vizquel is the all-time leader in fielding percentage (.985) among shortstops and led his league in fielding percentage six times. He won 11 Gold Gloves, including the 2006 season – as a 39-year-old – becoming the oldest infielder in MLB history to win a Gold Glove.
He shares the record (with HOFer Cal Ripken Jr.) for fewest errors in a season (3) while playing at least 150 games.
Watching Omar play defense on a diamond was like watching Picasso paint on canvas.
This is his first year on the HOF ballot.