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2018 Hall of Fame picks an easy choice

December 22, 2017

This was an easy Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.At least for me.In addition to the four holdovers from my 2017 ballot of Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith and Fred McGriff (I mean, I still can't believe my voting colleagues don't give Crime Dog more love), I hurried

This was an easy Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
At least for me.
In addition to the four holdovers from my 2017 ballot of Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Gary Sheffield, Lee Smith and Fred McGriff (I mean, I still can't believe my voting colleagues don't give Crime Dog more love), I hurried to place checkmarks next to the names of Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, clear-cut choices as first-ballot picks.
For one, I followed the overwhelming majority of Jones' 19-year career with the Braves up close and personal as a sports columnist for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, so I can vouch for his Cooperstown worthiness. Then there is Thome, with the most storied part of his 22 seasons in the Major Leagues came during his opening 13 years with the Indians. All you need to know is another number regarding this prototypical slugger: 612. When you slam that many career homers to rank eighth on the all-time list, and when you do so without the hint of scandal on or off the field, well, you can't get a bronzed plaque soon enough.

Before I continue, my voting philosophy is simple. Even if a candidate for Cooperstown has the combination of the numbers and the charisma, I say no if he has significant ties to performance-enhancing drugs, and I also say no if he spent the bulk of his career as a designated hitter. Sorry, Edgar Martinez, with a lifetime batting average of .312 and 309 home runs over 18 seasons. Not bad. When compared to some of the other inductees, that's actually pretty good. It's just that I'm not a fan of DHs sharing Hall of Fame space with players who used their gloves as well as their bats.
As for players suspected of PED use, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are the biggies on the ballot, and I've never voted for them.
Now to the no-brainers among the newcomers, starting with Jones, whose father, Larry, idolized Mickey Mantle. Not coincidentally, the younger Jones joined The Mick as one of the most prolific switch-hitters of all-time. In fact, neither Mantle nor any other switch-hitter in Major League Baseball history matched Chipper's resume of more than 400 home runs (468) and a lifetime batting average above .300 (.303). In addition, Jones won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1999 and the batting title in 2008. He made eight All-Star teams. He was a decent fielder at third base, and he served as one of the primary catalysts for the Braves during the middle-to-latter part of their sprint to a record 14 consecutive division titles.

There's more Chipper stuff that I'll tell you in a future column, and I've already told you most of what you need to know about Thome. I'll add that Thome ranks among the game's all-time best ambassadors for his philanthropy through the years. He earned the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, the Roberto Clemente Award and the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award (twice).
Now to the rest of my ballot, where my votes for Hoffman and Guerrero may help them reach the required 75 percent of the electorate you need to become a Hall of Famer. Hoffman and Guerrero were at 74 percent and 71.7 percent last year, when Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez joined a class of multiple Cooperstown inductees for a fifth straight year. It was the first time such a streak had happened since 1951-56.
So the way I see it, Jones, Thome, Hoffman and Guerrero should make this a sixth-consecutive class of multiple Hall of Famers when the results are released during the first week of January.

Beyond that quartet, I'm sighing.
If you go by last year's voting, Sheffield (13.3 percent) remains light years away from reaching Cooperstown, and the same goes for McGriff (21.7 percent, despite a career batting average of .284 and 493 homers).
Maybe next year for Sheffield and McGriff.
This year?
I just told you.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com.