Jones, Thome, Guerrero, and Hoffman elected to Baseball Hall of Fame


Jones, Thome, Guerrero, and Hoffman elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Over 600 home runs. More than 600 saves. A .300 career average.

In the age of baseball analytics, there's still room in the Hall of Fame for big, round numbers you can count on.

Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman were rewarded Wednesday, easily elected in the newest class headed for Cooperstown.

"I don't know how you tabulate or calculate WAR," Jones said, referring to a sabermetric stat that didn't exist for much of his career.

"Yes, you can dig deeper," he said. But he added: "What I want to see is batting average, on-base percentage, runs produced."

Designated hitter Edgar Martinez came close after a grass-roots campaign to promote him. Boosted by advanced metrics, he'll get his last chance on the ballot next year.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both tainted by the steroids scandal, edged up but again fell far short.

A switch-hitter who batted .303 with 468 home runs, Jones was an eight-time All-Star third baseman for the Atlanta Braves.

He was a force for most of the Atlanta teams that won 14 straight division titles - his election put another member of those Braves clubs in the Hall, along with pitchers John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz.

Of the four new members, Jones was the only one to win a World Series. He joined Ken Griffey Jr. as the lone overall No. 1 draft picks to reach the Hall.

Jones and Thome made it 54 players elected in their first year of eligibility by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Jones drew 97.2 percent (410 of 422) of the vote and Thome was at 89.8 percent - 75 percent is needed for election.

"It was waterworks," Jones said after receiving the call.

Thome hit 612 home runs, ranking him eighth on the career list, and launched a record 13 walk-off homers. The five-time All-Star played mostly for the Cleveland Indians.

Thome was known for his pre-swing routine, standing absolutely still in the box while pointing his bat at the pitcher. He said the posture helped him relax, slow down and "not be so tense."

The slugger praised his longtime hitting coach, Charlie Manuel, for all the work they did together.

"It's about sweat equity, and getting after it," Thome said on MLB Network.

Guerrero was elected in his second try, getting 92.9 percent. The nine-time All-Star played half his career with the Montreal Expos.

The outfielder batted .318 with 449 homers and 1,496 RBIs, and was a notorious bad-ball hitter. He said he developed that talent as a kid in the Dominican Republic, playing a game similar to cricket in which hitters swung broomsticks while pitchers tried to bounce balls past them and knock over folded license plates.

"That opened up my hitting zone," Guerrero said through a translator.

Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina, who was in Switzerland, congratulated Guerrero, saying on his Twitter account that "it fills all Dominicans with pride that he has carried our flag to the top."

CDN television in the Dominican showed images of fireworks and people celebrating in the streets in Nizao, Guerrero's hometown located 30 miles west of the capital in Santo Domingo.

Hoffman was chosen in his third year, getting 79.9 percent after missing by just five votes last time. The former Padres closer used an outstanding changeup to post 601 saves, second to Mariano Rivera's 652, and revved up fans in San Diego with rocking entrances to "Hells Bells" by AC/DC.

Hoffman became the sixth pitcher who was mostly a reliever to make the Hall, along with Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers and Hoyt Wilhelm.

As for his wait, Hoffman said: "You can't do anything to enhance your career after not getting that call. I'm not worried about whatever year it is. I'm ecstatic to get in."

It took 317 votes to be elected. There were 422 ballots submitted, including one blank entry.

Martinez made a big move up to 70.4 percent and fell 20 votes short in his next-to-last year on the ballot. Mike Mussina climbed to 63.5 percent.

"It would have been great to get in this year, but it looks great for next year," Martinez said on a conference call.

Clemens, winner of 354 games and seven Cy Young Awards, got 57.3 percent after drawing 54.1 percent last time. Bonds, the career home run leader and a seven-time MVP, reached 56.4 percent, up from 53.8 percent.

Clemens and Bonds each get four more tries. They seem to be "gaining steam with newer voters," Jones said.

Omar Vizquel (37 percent), Scott Rolen (10.2) and Andruw Jones (7.3) were first-time candidates. Among the players who drew under 5 percent and fell off the ballot were Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Johan Santana.

Pete Rose, permanently banned from Major League Baseball after an investigation into his betting on the game, didn't receive any write-in votes, as he often has in the past.

There are now 323 people in the Hall, including a rush of 23 elected by the BBWAA and veterans panels in the last five years.

The four new members will be inducted on July 29. They will be enshrined with pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell, picked last month by a committee that considered older players and executives.

This matches the biggest lineup of living players to be inducted since 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Dazzy Vance, Home Run Baker and Ray Schalk were honored.

"We have a large class," Hoffman said.

Rivera highlights the newcomers on next year's ballot, once again raising debate over whether any player will be unanimously elected to the Hall. Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte and the late Roy Halladay also will be first-time candidates.


Luis Tiant's journey, which has faded with time, is key to Hall vote


Luis Tiant's journey, which has faded with time, is key to Hall vote

Jim Rice’s 15-year wait to get into the Hall of Fame doesn’t sound so bad in comparison to the limbo Luis Tiant finds himself in.

The cigar-smoking El Tiante, now 77, is one of 10 people who can gain entry to Cooperstown through a committee vote during the winter meetings. He needs at least 12 of 16 votes to make it.

Saul Wisnia, an author assisting Tiant in his upcoming autobiography, points out that Tiant's 66.1 wins above replacement lifetime puts him ahead of three other pitchers from his era who are in the Hall of Fame: Don Drysdale (61.2), Jim Bunning (60.3) and Catfish Hunter (36.6). 

Tiant sits at No. 40 on the Baseball-Reference lifetime WAR list. No. 39, at 66.5 WAR, is Hall of Famer John Smoltz.

Even when discussing statistics that sound promising for Tiant, something can be lost with time: a sense of the greater context, both for the journey of the player and the journey for the person, really. The understanding of everything that went into those numbers.

Is there a point where a pitcher whose stats may be borderline becomes, when viewed as a whole, a worthy candidate because of the path behind them? Do we really remember and appreciate what it was like for Tiant as a Cuban pitcher coming to America in the 1960s, and what weight does that carry? 

"People don’t know what we go through," Tiant said. "You have to be a Cuban to know what we go through, through all of life. All this time, we went 46 years away from my country, from my family."

Tiant's returned to Cuba twice in his life, both times in the new millennium. In 1961, when he was in Mexico and made the choice not to return home because of the political climate, he didn't know if he would ever make it back — or ever see his family again. 

In one of the great moments of Tiant's career, Fidel Castro granted permission for his parents to watch him pitch a game at Fenway Park (below).

When Tiant first arrived in the U.S., the vitriol was rampant.

“I get the worst sides of life, Cuban and black,” Tiant said. “And then coming here, and not speaking the language makes it worse. See and then the towns you play, or the state where you play … they’re not liking us. They’re screaming at us, they treated us like a dog. We can’t do anything, we can’t stay in the same hotels where the players stay, we can't eat in the same restaurant they eat, and when we go on the road the players have to bring you the food, the white players bring you the food to the bus. That’s the only way we can eat. 

“They stay in the hotel and we have to stay in the black section. At some peoples’ house, they rent it for us. And that’s the way it was, the people, the fans, they call you names, all game. All game. … You don’t want people to call you names, telling you they’re going to hang you, send you back to Africa. I tell them, people don’t understand what we have to go through. And that’s what bothers me more than anything.”

Tiant went 229-172 with a 3.30 ERA in a 19-year career. Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe, an expert on the Hall of Fame process, wrote earlier this month, “Via the advanced metrics, Tiant is about seven wins off the career WAR standard for enshrined starters, and six off the peak.” 

“One has to give him substantial credit for cultural ambassadorship to justify a vote for enshrinement,” Jaffe continued.

Credit for ambassadorship may not necessarily fully encompass credit for hardship, however.

The Hall does seem meaningful to Tiant, even if he says otherwise.

“I don’t give a damn about it, whatever happens, happens,” Tiant said. “These people do whatever they want to do. … That’s a crazy thing they be doing. I don’t want to be sitting down and worrying about it anymore. I just, sit here. I’m still alive. If they put me in before I’m dead, fine, if not, what are you going to do?”

The vote is Dec. 10, and results will be announced live at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The other nine on the 10-person ballot with Tiant: Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, and Alan Trammell.

Tiant is a part of what’s now called the Modern Era ballot, one of four era ballots that the Hall rotates through, one each year. A 16-member committee votes on their candidacy — much smaller than the pool of voters for players on the traditional writers’ ballot — with the standard 75 percent required.

From the Hall’s press release: “The 10 Modern Baseball Era finalists were selected by the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee from all eligible candidates among managers, umpires, executives and players whose most significant career impact was realized during the time period from 1970 through 1987.”


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall


HOFer Joe Morgan's letter urges voters to keep steroid users out of Hall

Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan is urging voters to keep “known steroid users” out of Cooperstown.

A day after the Hall revealed its 33-man ballot for the 2018 class, the 74-year-old Morgan argued against the inclusion of players implicated during baseball’s steroid era in a letter to voters with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The letter from the vice chairman of the Hall’s board of directors was sent Tuesday using a Hall email address.

Read the full text of Morgan's letter here. 

“Steroid users don’t belong here,” Morgan wrote. “What they did shouldn’t be accepted. Times shouldn’t change for the worse.”

Hall voters have been wrestling with the issue of performance-enhancing drugs for several years. Baseball held a survey drug test in 2003 and the sport began testing for banned steroids the following year with penalties. Accusations connected to some of the candidates for the Hall vary in strength from allegations with no evidence to positive tests that caused suspensions.

About 430 ballots are being sent to voters, who must have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years, and a player needs at least 75 percent for election. Ballots are due by Dec. 31 and results will be announced Jan. 24.

Writers who had not been covering the game for more than a decade were eliminated from the rolls in 2015, creating a younger electorate that has shown more willingness to vote for players tainted by accusations of steroid use. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens each received a majority of votes for the first time in 2017 in their fifth year on the ballot.

Morgan said he isn’t speaking for every Hall of Famer, but many of them feel the same way that he does.

“Players who failed drug tests, admitted using steroids, or were identified as users in Major League Baseball’s investigation into steroid abuse, known as the Mitchell Report, should not get in,” Morgan wrote. “Those are the three criteria that many of the players and I think are right.”

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were inducted into the Hall of Fame in July. They were joined by former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, who were voted in by a veterans committee.

Some baseball writers said the election of Selig, who presided over the steroids era, influenced their view of whether tainted stars should gain entry to the Hall.

Morgan praised BBWAA voters and acknowledged they are facing a “tricky issue,” but he also warned some Hall of Famers might not make the trip to Cooperstown if steroid users are elected.

“The cheating that tainted an era now risks tainting the Hall of Fame too,” he wrote. “The Hall of Fame means too much to us to ever see that happen. If steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.”

© 2017 by The Associated Press