After several months of speculation, the results of this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote were released this past Wednesday. Four new members will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman.
Jones, who led this class in votes, was considered by many a shoe-in on his first ballot. For the better part of two decades, Jones played third base for the Atlanta Braves. A career .300 hitter, he played in eight All-Star games, and won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 1999. He was also a core part of the Braves’ 1995 World Series Championship team.
Thome was one of the most prolific power hitters of his generation. Spending the first 11 years of his career in Cleveland, his power was feared by most pitchers in the league, as he amassed 612 home runs in his career, the eighth most by any player in baseball history. A five-time All-Star himself, many considered Thome to have a guaranteed spot in the Hall this year as well.
Perhaps a year later than expected or deserved, Guerrero was elected in his second year on the ballot. “Vladdy” was an electrifying player, winning eight Silver Slugger awards and playing in seven All-Star Games. He spent the best years of his career with the Montreal Expos, who have since moved to Washington, D.C. However, he didn’t win an MVP award until he joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2004. After being elected, Guerrero announced that he would be enshrined as an Angel, making him the first player from the franchise to be enshrined.
Finally, the only pitcher elected this year, Trevor Hoffman, needed three years on the ballot to earn his spot in Cooperstown. Hoffman spent most of his career with the San Diego Padres, and was a seven-time All-Star himself. He led the National League in saves twice in his career, and both times he was named the best reliever in the NL. He was the first player to reach both 500 and 600 career saves and is considered by many to be one of the best closers in the history of the MLB.
Just as interesting as who is going to enter the Hall of Fame is seeing who did not make it, and how close the voting was. In recent years, the Baseball Writers Association of America, who vote each year for the Hall of Fame, have struggled to come to terms with how to measure the best players of the MLB’s Steroid Era. The most notable of these players are Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Easily two of the best pitchers and hitters respectively, their connection to steroids has tarnished their legacy, and made it difficult for some writers to vote for them. This year, they saw their vote totals increase by only a couple of percentage points, making it appear that the momentum they had picked up in years past is slowing down.
On a more positive note, several former players appeared to take steps towards being elected soon. Edgar Martinez fell just 20 votes short of being elected this year, and Mike Mussina was voted for on 12 percent more ballots than he was just a year ago. Both appear to be in line for possible election next year and will be joined on the ballot by several notable first-timers, including Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay.