With the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame class announced last week, the streak increased to five years without a former Cleveland Indian earning enshrinement in Cooperstown. In 2011, the last time former Indians earned the call, neither Bert Blyleven nor Roberto Alomar chose to don Tribe caps on their plaques. But instead of focusing on the past, the Indians are looking ahead.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) January 7, 2016
Manny Ramirez will debut on next year’s ballot while Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome highlight the new additions in 2018. These two ballots will be cluttered with plenty of deserving names, so it will be interesting to see how they fare. Here are their cases:
Ramirez has all of the career stats a voter could want. Between 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, a dozen All-Star Game appearances, and an OPS+ of 154, he’s a slam dunk on paper. According to Baseball-Reference, Ramirez has the highest JAWS (a WAR-based score system used to determine statistical Hall of Fame cases) of next year’s newcomers, a list that includes Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, and Indians killers Magglio Ordonez and Edgar Renteria. Ramirez also hit .285 with a record 29 homers in 111 career playoff games. He won the 2004 and 2007 World Series with Boston, earning the MVP as he helped the Red Sox break the curse.
All of this should make Ramirez a slam dunk, first-ballot candidate, but he has more steroid smears on his resume than any other player in baseball history. He was suspended twice for PED use, two more suspensions than both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. Considering neither of those two have come close to the 75 percent threshold necessary for entry, Ramirez is likely standing on thin ice. Clemens and Bonds have fewer PED ties and about twice the JAWS score; Ramirez might need to settle for staying on the ballot as a moral victory. Even if he would miraculously find his way into Cooperstown, Manny would likely wear a Red Sox hat instead of Chief Wahoo.
With 612 career home runs and no ties to PEDs, Thome will make it into the Hall of Fame. He should be a first-ballot choice, but 2018 looks to be packed between Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Jamie Moyer, Johan Santana, Omar Vizquel, and many more former players debuting. Lucky for Thome, he has an old school milestone on his side. He also has the second-highest JAWS score of all the newcomers, ahead of everyone except Chipper.
Thome’s entry to Cooperstown is not a question of if, but a matter of when. He is also likely going to wear a Tribe hat on his plaque because he spent over half of his career with the team. Not much more to say for a guy who put up impressive numbers without cheating during the steroid era.
One of the best fielding shortstops of all time, Vizquel won 11 gold glove awards in his career. Advanced metrics are also complimentary of his fielding, but his bat is pretty disappointing. Vizquel did amass 2,877 career hits, but he did it across 2,968 games and 12,013 plate appearances, 18th all-time. On the bright side for Vizquel, every player with as many or more career plate appearances is in the Hall of Fame, will be in the Hall of Fame, or would be if not for PEDs/being Pete Rose.
Vizquel’s career OPS+ is 82, as is expected from a career .272 hitter without much power. His JAWS score of 36.0 puts him between Jamie Moyer and Chris Carpenter for 2018 newcomers. Carpenter won 144 career games and has no chance while Moyer falls in the same boat as Vizquel. Moyer won 269 games, but had a 4.25 ERA, an ERA+ of 103, and a record 522 home runs allowed. Even though he pitched 25 seasons, Moyer was named an All-Star just once. At least Omar has three All-Star nods on his resume. I think those two will follow similar paths, and I’m not sure either gets enough votes for election.
If Vizquel gets in, he will wear an Indians cap. But it sure feels like Omar is destined for the Hall of Very Good based on his subpar offensive stats.
Who do you think will get in the Hall of Fame out of these three former Indians greats? Let me know who and why in the comments below.