Hall of Fame 2018: Voting Primer (7/9) – Shoe-In First Timers

Hall of Fame 2018: Voting Primer (7/9) – Shoe-In First Timers

The Hall of Fame class of 2018 will be announced on January 24, 2018. In the meantime, I’m going to spend my Sundays going over the 33 players on this year’s ballot. I’ll include what the argument for inclusion is for each player and what the argument against their inclusion might be. I’ve tried to group the players together in the most reasonable manner. In the comment section, I’d love to hear if any of the players have your vote or you’re at least considering them. Thanks!

Chipper Jones
85.0 bWAR, 85.6 fWAR
First year on the ballot
Chipper Jones | Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0} via Flickr
Consider this: As far as metrics, JAWS, and all that goes, no first timer is more deserving than Chipper Jones. His JAWS is actually third behind Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds on this year’s ballot. It’s sixth among third basemen behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, Adrian Beltre, and George Brett. Considering there are 13 Hall of Fame third basemen and Jones ranks behind just four of them in JAWS, that should tell you something. Also, just how damn good has Beltre been in his career?

Chipper’s 468 home runs are the third-most by third basemen (Beltre will pass him soon). Only five third basemen have more hits and if you don’t include Edgar Martinez, no third basemen has a better OPS. Jones retired with a .397 wOBA, good for seventh among 3B, though he’s #1 in my mind. Three of those ahead of him are deadball-era players and the other three (Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Dick Allen) primarily played another position. The “Off” stat that is included in fWAR lists just one name higher than Chipper at third base – Alex Rodriguez.

Jones wasn’t exactly a monster in the playoffs, but he did slash .287/.409/.456 with more walks than strikeouts. He also hit 13 postseason home runs and was on base ten times in the 1995 World Series. He went to eight All-Star Games, won two Silver Sluggers, a batting title, and an MVP. Twice, he paced the league in offensive WAR according to baseball-reference. And he did it all with just one team, which is almost unheard of in today’s world of free agency.

In short, Chipper Jones was Gary Sheffield at the plate. If Sheff wasn’t a team cancer, connected to PEDs, and played a more valuable position, he’d already be in the Hall of Fame. Nothing like that will stop Chipper.

But there’s this: This is the one article of this series where it’s nearly impossible to come up with reasons why these two players shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, but I’ll do my best to play Devil’s Advocate.

Chipper Jones’s defense was never more than average and often well-below. While he was lauded – and rightfully so – for his ability to charge a ball and make the bare hand grab/throw to first play that many third basemen struggle with, his range to either the left or right wasn’t very good. His lack of range also was pretty miserable in the outfield.

One other condition that one voter used was the morals clause. Chipper Jones certainly wasn’t without his issues – namely, his inability to keep it in his pants. He later wrote about that in his book, “Ballplayer,” where he talked about telling his first wife about three women he was cheating on her with. Marriage is not easy even for those of us who don’t spend weeks on the road. Chipper’s on his third one now and appears to have put all of that mess behind him. But if you are a voter with a particular attachment to morals, you could use his extramarital affairs as a reason to not vote for him. I guess.

One other morals-related issue if you want to call it that is related to Chipper’s penchant for saying – well – whatever the hell floats through his head on Twitter. This is a bit unfair – we don’t ask ballplayers to be geniuses. We ask them to do their job on the field. Few did it better than Chipper, but I do understand it. When a guy parrots crap about the Newtown massacre being a false flag, it makes you question that person’s naivety and intelligence. Chipper did apologize for that and learned his lesson to not do too much drinking-and-twittering.

The last reason someone might not check the box next to Chipper’s name is especially stupid. Nobody has received 100% of the Hall of Fame vote. Not Babe Ruth, not Willie Mays, not Bob Gibson. There’s always that guy who wants to make sure a deserving Hall of Famer doesn’t reach 100%. Voters can be really dumb.

Jim Thome
72.9 bWAR, 69.0 fWAR
First year on the ballot
Jim Thome | By Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Consider this: 18th in OPS, 8th in home runs, 7th in walks, and the 5th best AB/HR. That’s all-time. For Jim Thome, that’s where his case starts. Truly, it’s all he needs, but let’s dive in just a bit more.

Jim Thome was one of the greatest pure power hitters the game has ever seen. Only eight players have a better Isolated Slugging than Thome’s .278 and other prolific power hitters like Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, and Mike Schmidt aren’t part of that select club. He was a human highlight machine. On any given swing, he’d launch one into the stratosphere.

Thome played for six ballclubs in his career, though he’s most known for his time with the Indians. He spent the first dozen years of his career there before returning in 2011 for 22 more games as an Indian. Beloved in the city, he is one of the most popular sports figures in the city’s history despite never winning a ring there. Unfortunately, Thome would never take home a World Series ring. He appeared twice in three years, but the Indians couldn’t beat the Braves pitching and Edgar Renteria broke Cleveland’s hearts in 1997.

The list of first basemen with better numbers than Thome is dreadfully small and full of Hall of Famers. Only Albert Pujols has more home runs while only eight first basemen have a better fWAR. I mean, honestly, how many more times can you say “there’s little doubt this guy should be in the Hall?”

But there’s this: Like with Chipper, we have to nit-pick here. Unlike with Chipper, this is pretty much entirely going to be about his playing style because Thome was known as one of the greatest people in the game. Twice, he won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award and even took home a Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for his involvement with the community. Thome was that ultra-rare combination of an amazing ballplayer and the best teammate ever.

So, we have to look entirely to what he did on the field. Let’s start with the obvious – if you can’t vote for Edgar Martinez for being a DH, can you really vote for Thome? Granted that Thome spent more of his playing time in the field than Martinez, but he still DH’d in over half of the games he played in (818 of 1599). Again, if you want to hate on Martinez for that, should Thome get a pass? Of course, we also had this discussion a few years ago related to Frank Thomas. The fact that Thomas spent over 300 more games as a DH may have hurt him in the vote, but he still reached 83.7%.

Part of the reason Thome did DH so much was that he was not a good defender. He was moved off third base because he couldn’t play that position well and was never considered even average at first base. Granted, nobody seems to expect first basemen to be defensive marvels.

Thome also had his issues in the playoffs. In 71 postseason games, he slashed .211/.312/.448. He did have some dominant playoff runs here-and-there, though, including four homers in both the 1998 ALCS and 1999 ALDS. He hit 17 homers overall in the playoffs.

Though Thome was a five-time All-Star, he never won an MVP. He never even got that close, finishing fourth in the NL MVP race in 2003. He won just one Silver Slugger – at third base in his final year of playing the position (1996). Now considered a shoe-in to get in the Hall of Fame in his first year, it is a little surprising that he received so little love for his hitting prowess during his playing days.

Um, only Reggie Jackson struck out more times than Thome? Like I said, I’m nit-picking because that’s all we can do with both Chipper and Thome.

What do you think? Do any of these four newbies to the Hall of Fame ballot deserve to be elected? Let me know below and if you’ve missed any of the previous primers, you can also find them below.

Previous Primers

  1. Position Players With Little Chance
  2. The Closers
  3. Starters Who Will Fall Short
  4. The Returning Sluggers
  5. The Borderline Cases
  6. The Offensive Powerhouses

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