CLEVELAND -- Over the last two years, Indians fans have watched Omar Vizquel slowly begin his climb toward the 75 percent threshold in Hall of Fame voting. Now, they’ll also have a former Cy Young Award winner to keep an eye on.
On Monday, Major League Baseball announced the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, which includes five former Indians. Shortstop Vizquel, right fielder Manny Ramirez and infielder Jeff Kent are all returning candidates, while starter Cliff Lee and first baseman/designated hitter Jason Giambi enter their first years on the ballot. In order to gain election, players must be named on at least 75 percent of ballots cast by select members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The results will be announced on Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.
The debate over the previous two voting periods, especially for Cleveland fans, has been whether Vizquel could earn his way to the highest of all honors. His impeccable defense certainly speaks for itself and at a quick glance his 2,877 hits (the second-most behind Barry Bonds out of everyone on last year’s ballot) seems like a good start for his election case. But a second glance shows his 82 career OPS+, which many BBWAA members could easily get caught up on.
Vizquel placed ninth last year, collecting 42.8 percent of votes (a 5.8 percent jump from his first year on the ballot). Ramirez (who spent 1993-2000 with the Indians) has hovered between 22 and 24 percent during his three years as a candidate. He was a 12-time All-Star and finished with a .312 average, .996 OPS and 555 home runs in 19 seasons, but the end of his career was marred by multiple positive tests for performance-enhancing substances. In 2019, he finished two places behind Vizquel in the Hall of Fame voting. Behind Ramirez was Kent, who racked up 18.1 percent in his sixth year on the ballot.
Over his 24 seasons, Vizquel won 11 Gold Glove awards and had the sixth-most hits among shortstops and fourth-most among switch-hitters. He ended his career as baseball’s all-time leader in double plays turned (1,734), fielding percentage (.985) and games (2,709) among shortstops. Behind him in games played was this year’s ballot headliner Derek Jeter, who played 2,674 contests at short. But his below-average OPS+ would be tied for last with Luis Aparicio and Rabbit Maranville among all Hall of Famers with at least 4,000 plate appearances.
Now, joining the party is Lee, who suited up for the Tribe in eight seasons from 2002-09 to begin his career. In 2008, he won the American League Cy Young Award and earned his first of four All-Star selections. In 13 seasons, the lefty led the league in fewest walks per nine innings four times, strikeout-to-walk ratio three times and shutouts and winning percentage twice each.
Giambi played the final two of his 20 big league seasons in Cleveland. Between his time with the A’s, Yankees, Rockies and Indians, he hit 440 home runs and drove in 1,441 runs. He was the AL MVP in 2000, placed second in ‘01 and was named to five Midsummer Classics from ‘00-04 with Oakland and New York.
As long as a player receives at least five percent of the vote, they can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years.