Once upon a time, a bunch of people decided to pay homage to this great game of baseball, and in doing so, also decided it would be nice to annually honor its greatest players with induction into the Hall of Fame.
This weekend celebrates the 2018 class of Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell, and Jack Morris. As such, in lieu of August Power Rankings, I’ve decided to toss together a retrospective on the sextet and the accomplishments that earned each of them a place in baseball immortality.
Name: Vladimir Guerrero (“Vladdy”, “Vlad the Impaler”)
Teams played for: Montreal Expos (1996-2003), Los Angeles Angels (2004-2009), Texas Rangers (2010), Baltimore Orioles (2011)
Election details: Second year on ballot; named on 92.9 percent of ballots cast (392 of 422).
Noteworthy stats: Career slash line (BA, OBP, SLG) of .318/.379/.553 with a 140 OPS+. The batting average is 55th all-time, while the slugging mark is 23rd. His .931 OPS is 34th best in history. Collected 2,590 hits, including 477 doubles and 449 home runs. He’s 85th all-time in doubles and 40th in homers. Drove in 1,496 runs and scored 1,328 times.
Awards and such: 2004 American League MVP, 9-time All-Star selection, 8-time Silver Slugger.
Observations: Renowned for an insanely good throwing arm from right field, leading his league in assists three times (2001, 2002, 2004). Also led his league in errors nine times (1997-2003, 2006-2007). Ranks sixth all-time in errors as a right fielder. He’s also fifth on the all-time boards with 250 intentional walks, leading the league five times (2000, 2005-2008). First-ever Angels’ player to win the AL MVP. Despite a well-deserved reputation for swinging at EVERYTHING, he still managed a .379 OBP with only 985 strikeouts in 9,059 plate appearances.
Required Snark: Still can’t believe he is in but Larry Walker is just sorta there (34.1 percent in his eighth year). I guess it’s about flair and character over actual talent, because on the basis of pure baseball ability, these two are just about even.
Name: Trevor Hoffman (“Hoff,” maybe? I dunno if dude had a nickname.)
Teams played for: Florida Marlins (1993), San Diego Padres (1993-2008), Milwaukee Brewers (2009-2010)
Election details: Third year on ballot; named on 79.9 percent of ballots (337 of 422).
Noteworthy stats: Second all-time with 601 saves; league in saves twice (53 in 1998 and 46 in 2006); career 2.87 ERA with FIP of 3.08; WHIP of 1.058 with a miniscule 0.8 HR/9 rate. Struck out 1,133 in 1,089 ⅓ innings. Accumulated 40+ saves in nine seasons, 30+ in 14 seasons. Second all-time with 856 games finished. Led the NL in Win Probability Added (quite a feat for a closer) with 6.3 in 1998; 22nd all-time overall with 34.2.
Awards and such: Seven-time All-Star selection; second in Cy Young voting twice (1998 and 2006); received MVP votes five times (1996, 1998, 1999, 2005, 2006). Winner of 1998 & 2006 NL Rolaids Relief awards.
Observations: Drafted by the Reds in the 11th round of the 1989 Rule 4 draft as a shortstop. Due to his “good-arm, no-bat” approach, the Marlins snared him in the 1992 expansion draft with the eighth pick and converted him to the mound. Thanks to 35 ⅔ innings in the former Joe Robbie Stadium, Hoffman made his big-league debut with the Fish before getting shipped out in the June 1993 deal for famed bat-waggling iron-glove Gary Sheffield*. Spent the next 15 years rocking out to AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” on his way to icon status with San Diego. If not for the beloved (and dearly missed) Tony Gwynn, Hoffman would be “Mr. Padre.”
*For real, Sheff’s atrocious defense pretty much locked him out of Cooperstown. Just 11.7% of the votes on his first try in 2015, 11.6 in 2016, 13.3 in 2017, and 11.1 last year.
Required Snark: I’m still not sold on closers getting in. It’s a much more specialized role than the DH. Put Edgar in, then we can talk about how deserving closers are. This was the hardest of the six to write up in terms of achievements and so forth.
Name: Chipper Jones (“Larry Wayne”)
Teams played for: Atlanta Braves (1993-2012)
Election details: First year on ballot; named on 97.2 percent of ballots cast (410 of 422).
Noteworthy stats: Averaged 30 homers and 105 RBIs per year over a 19-year career. Won the NL batting title for the first-and-only time at age 36 in 2008, hitting .364 with a .470 on-base percentage. Second all-time for the Braves in on-base percentage (.401) to Deadball Era star “Sliding” Billy Hamilton (.456) and third in slugging (.529) behind Aaron (.567) and Wally Berger (.533). Second in games played (2,499) behind Aaron (3,076) with 468 homers (third) and 1,623 RBIs (second).
Awards and such: Stole the 1999 NL MVP from Houston’s Jeff Bagwell because he had a good weekend against the Mets. Placed second in the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year race behind Japanese sensation Hideo Nomo. Eight-time All-Star with a pair of Silver Sluggers.
Observations: First overall pick in the 1990 MLB Rule 4 draft because Todd Van Poppel wanted nothing to do with Atlanta. Will be the second top draft choice in the Hall after Ken Griffey, Jr. Third-best position player in Braves franchise by bWAR with 85.2 behind Hank Aaron (142.5) and Eddie Mathews (94.6). Crazy that Chipper is literally the second-best third baseman in team history. Says something about how great Mathews had to have been. From Jason Mendoza’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. Probably loves Blake Bortles too.
Required Snark: I never liked Chipper, always thought he just carried himself like an unlikeable cretin. But, hey, I’m a big fan of Bryce Harper, so what do I know …
Well, I know my buddy Jonathan Lynn loves him.
Name: Jim Thome (“Big Jim” “Sock It Thome”)
Teams played for: Cleveland Indians (1991-2002, 2011); Philadelphia Phillies (2003-2005, 2012); Chicago White Sox (2006-2009); Los Angeles Dodgers (2009); Minnesota Twins (2010-2011); Baltimore Orioles (2012)
Election details: First year on ballot; named on 89.8 percent of ballots cast (379 of 422).
Noteworthy stats: Became the eighth member of the 600-home run club in just 8,167 at-bats, second-best rate among club members after Babe Ruth (6,921 ABs). Smashed 40+ home runs six times, with a career-high 52 coming in 2002 with Cleveland. Led the NL with Philly the next season with 47, the only time he was tops in round-trippers. League-leader in walks three times (1997, 1999, 2002) while the front-runner in strikeouts three times, too (1999, 2001, 2003).
Awards and such: Finished in the top 15 in MVP voting six times and was a five-time All-Star. Finished his 22-year career with a slash line of .276/.402/.554 with 451 doubles, 612 homers, 1,583 runs scored and 1,747 RBIs.
Observations: He was just awesome. A best-case three-true outcomes slugger who crushed the ball. Every Thome at-bat was an event. Plus, he is a really great, loveable guy. I always wished he would sign a one-year, late-career deal with Detroit. Alas, I had to settle for Thome destroying Detroit for 66 home runs, his most against any opponent.
Personal Snark: No snark here. I love Jim Thome. Maybe my all-time favorite non-Tiger. If he’s not, then he’s right behind Ken Griffey, Jr. or Cal Ripken. Good company no matter what. Also, he just seems like a great, affable guy. If you don’t like Jim Thome, then you are not a baseball fan.
Name: Jack Morris (“The Winningest Pitcher of the 80s”, “The Jack”)
Teams played for: Detroit Tigers (1977-1990), Minnesota Twins (1991), Toronto Blue Jays (1992-1993), Cleveland Indians (1994)
Election details: Elected via Veterans Committee.
Noteworthy stats: Drafted in the fifth round of the 1976 Rule 4 draft, three rounds after fellow inductee Alan Trammell. See “Observations” for more on Morris’ numbers.
Awards and such: No Cy Youngs; his closest finish was third in both 1981 and 1983. A couple years with 13th-place MVP finishes in 1991 and 1992. A five-time All-Star and two-time World Series winner (although for the 1993 Blue Jays, he posted a 6.19 ERA, so, you know…)
Observations: Getting in on the Veterans Committee because they value pitcher wins far more than a rather crappy 3.90 ERA, a pedestrian 105 ERA+, a “meh” WHIP of 1.296, a mere 5.8 K/9 rate, and 3.3 walks per nine. He led the league in wins twice (1981, 1992) and complete games once (11 in 1990) and strikeouts once (232 in 1983). But he also led the lead in wild pitches six times, walks and earned runs once. He’s in because he “won” more games during a conveniently easy-to-remember period of time (1980-1989, aka a neatly-cut decade) than anyone else. Yawn. He’s in because of one admittedly incredible performance in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. While no one should take the Hall of Fame that seriously, he’s probably pretty high on the list of worst inductees of all time. A good pitcher, but far from great. Sigh.
Personal Snark: Should not be here. But he is, because some narratives (guts, pitching to the score, World Series rings despite being awful in the actual games he pitched except for one, Most wins of in an arbitrary end-point that just happened to neatly fold into a decade). I know Jack is a Tiger and I should be over the moon here. But I’m not on any sort of personal level. I’m glad for him, but not for what his election means for the Hall, the Game, or the old ideas we stubbornly cling to. Have a day, Jack. You, somehow, earned it.
Name: Alan Trammell
Teams played for: Detroit Tigers (1977-1996)
Election details: Elected via Veterans Committee.
Noteworthy stats: Drafted in the second round of the 1977 Rule 4 draft by the Tigers. Posted 70.7 bWAR during 20 seasons with Detroit. That’s fifth-best all time for Detroit, right behind his longtime double-play partner Lou Whitaker (who, ahem, should also be in the Hall). Hit .285 with 185 home runs and 1,003 RBIs. Totaled 2,365 hits, the seventh-most in team history. He’s also
Awards and such: Second in the 1987 MVP voting to George Bell’s 47 home runs, when Tram hit a career-best .343/.402/.551 at a premium defensive position. Fourth in the 1978 Rookie of the Year balloting and a six-time All-Star. Finished with four Gold Gloves and a trio of Silver Sluggers.
Observations: He was a tier below Cal Ripken, Jr. and Robin Yount offensively in the 1980s and a step behind Ozzie Smith on defense, but was damn good as the third-or-fourth best shortstop of the era, depending on how you view Yount’s decade—five years at short and then five in center field.
Personal Snark: None. Love Tram. He’s just as good as Barry Larkin, Ryne Sandberg and a dozen other guys who had much, much easier roads to Cooperstown. Had he won the 1987 MVP (Eat me, George Bell defenders!), he would’ve been elected first- or second-ballot. Plus, he was on Magnum P.I.