It's likely that at least three legendary hitters will gain entry to Cooperstown on Wednesday, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America announces the 2018 Hall of Fame election results.
While Trevor Hoffman and Edgar Martinez appear to be on the bubble for induction, first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, along with Vladimir Guerrero, who fell just short in his initial round of eligibility last year, look like locks based on the roughly 50 percent of ballots that have been revealed publicly. All of them are tracking well above 90 percent, with 75 percent needed for induction.
Each of these three sluggers showed he belonged among Hall of Famers, even before getting the opportunity to join the club. They all did some damage during their careers against pitchers who since have received baseball's highest honor. And uniting all three is a measure of success against perhaps the nastiest pitcher of their (or any) generation -- Pedro Martinez.
Here is a closer look at how they fared. (Note: All numbers include the postseason.)
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Jones' overall performance against Martinez was more solid than spectacular. The switch-hitter posted a .339 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage in 59 career plate appearances from 1995-2009. That line includes three home runs.
The first came on July 5, 1997, at Olympic Stadium in Montreal against the Expos. The game remained scoreless in the top of the third, when Atlanta loaded the bases with two outs. Martinez, on his way to an MLB-best 1.90 ERA, missed out over the plate. Jones didn't miss, crushing a grand slam well over the center-field wall to pave the way for a 5-3 Braves victory.
That feat has only grown in stature, considering that Martinez went on to make upward of 300 more regular-season starts without allowing another slam.
Meanwhile, Jones managed to do some of his best work against another future Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson. The two tangled 47 times, and the Big Unit did notch 17 strikeouts, but Jones more than made up for those whiffs.
The resulting slash line of .349/.404/.791 gave Jones the second-highest OPS (1.195) for any player with at least 30 plate appearances against Johnson, trailing only Jose Pujols. Jones' six homers also tie Pujols for the most off the electrifying lefty, and are two more than Jones collected against any other southpaw.
Consider what Jones accomplished against Johnson from 1999-2000, seasons in which the Unit posted a 2.56 ERA, struck out 711 batters and won two National League Cy Young Awards for the D-backs. Over five games, Jones went 8-for-14 with a double, six homers and eight RBIs. That incredible run of success included two multihomer games exactly a year apart -- Sept. 5, 1999, and Sept. 5, 2000 -- in which Jones also drew a walk and swiped a pair of bases.
On one hand, Martinez struck out Thome 18 times in 51 plate appearances and held him to a .167 batting average (7-for-42). On the other hand, Thome battled for nine walks, slammed four home runs and slugged a stellar .476.
Thome is one of only six players to homer at least four times off Martinez, a group that also includes Hall of Famer Mike Piazza and future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. The first of those came in Game 1 of the 1998 American League Division Series in Cleveland, and the next came on Aug. 3, 1999, at Fenway Park, amid one of the most dominant pitching seasons in baseball history. Martinez allowed just nine big flies in 213 1/3 innings that year, while going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA in an offensively charged environment.
Thome also more than held his own against Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, batting .259/.333/.556 over 30 plate appearances.
They first clashed in the 1995 World Series, with Thome going 2-for-6 in the NL Cy Young Award winner's two starts for the Braves. In Game 5, with the Indians fighting to stave off elimination, Thome's go-ahead RBI single off Maddux in the bottom of the sixth inning -- along with his homer off Brad Clontz two frames later -- played a key role in a 5-4 Cleveland victory.
More than a decade later, in 2006, Thome faced Maddux for the final times in a pair of White Sox-Cubs Interleague tilts. Thome went 3-for-5 for the South Siders with a double, a walk and two home runs against the 40-year-old.
During Guerrero's rookie campaign in 1997, Martinez was an Expos teammate and mentor, before his trade to Boston that November. The two didn't go head to head often after that, but when they did, Guerrero had the upper hand, putting up a slash line of .286/.476/.571 in 21 plate appearances.
Vlad made things miserable for Martinez in 2004, his first season with the Angels and Martinez's last with the Red Sox. On June 2 in Anaheim, Guerrero drove in five runs off Martinez with a homer, a double and a sacrifice fly, on his way to a career-high nine RBIs. Then, in Game 2 of the ALDS at Angel Stadium, Guerrero's two-run single against Martinez in the fifth inning gave the Halos a 3-1 lead (Boston later rallied to win).
Meanwhile, Guerrero faced Hall of Famer Tom Glavine more times (75) than any pitcher other than Kevin Millwood over the course of his career, and he tasted no shortage of success. The two faced off in every season from 1996-2003 in the NL East, with Guerrero batting .323/.413/.554 with nine extra-base hits, nine RBIs and 10 walks.
Their second-to-last meeting came with Glavine's Mets visiting Montreal on Sept. 14, 2003. Against the veteran lefty, Guerrero smacked a ringing double in the second inning, lined a single in the fourth and sliced an RBI triple off the right-field wall in the fifth. He added a two-run homer off Dan Wheeler in the seventh, completing the final cycle in Expos history.