One of the more underrated sports aspects of the month of January, amidst all of the playoff football and NBA basketball, is that it's truly the front half of Hall of Fame season in baseball and football, the half where the new classes are unveiled and announced. For baseball, it happened yesterday, and for football, it will happen in Minneapolis next week.
The back half of Hall of Fame season comes this summer, a week apart in late July and early August when the two sports induct their classes into their respective halls. The unveiling of the 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame class happened yesterday evening on the MLB Network, and the prevalent theme of baseball's hall which has hovered over the announcements the last few years was in play again — who DIDN'T make the hall was nearly as big as story as who did.
Indeed, if you're a baseball fan of the '90s, and early 2000s looking at the election list, your eyes affix just as quickly to the names "Bonds" and "Clemens" as they do the actual inductees. While both of the semi-banished stars have made some headway the last few years, the stain of PED's still hangs over both, enough to where they remain on the outside looking in.
We will dig into Bonds and Clemens more in a moment, but first, here is the four man class that will travel to Cooperstown this summer:
CHIPPER JONES (97.2 percent)
Jones was an eight-time All-Star in his 19 seasons with the Atlanta Braves, the only team he ever played for in MLB. Jones ranks third in home runs all-time by a switch-hitter, and finished with a career .303 batting average and 468 home runs. Jones is the only switch-hitter with at least 1,000 at-bats and a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .500 slugging percentage.
VLADIMIR GUERRERO (92.9 percent)
Guerrero rode his free-swinging hitting style to nine All-Star games in his sixteen seasons with the Montreal Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles, Guerrero had a .318 career batting average and a .553 slugging percentage, and finished with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBIs. Guerrero's career batting average is sixth-highest among players with at least 400 career home runs.
JIM THOME (89.8 percent)
Thome hit the quietest 612 home runs in the history of baseball, it seems. That total is good for eighth all time, as Thome played 22 seasons with the Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Twins, Dodgers and Orioles. His 13 walk-off home runs are the most all time.
TREVOR HOFFMAN (79.9 percent)
Hoffman became just the sixth reliever to be elected into Cooperstown. His 601 career saves ranks second to Mariano Rivera on the all-time list, and his nine seasons with at least 40 saves are tied with Rivera for most all time. Hoffman made seven All-Star games during his 18 seasons, and finished with 1,133 career strikeouts.
So congratulations to all of them. The nearest miss was former Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who jumped over ten percent in voting attainment to 70.4 percent, which bodes well for his potential induction next season, where the only sure fire Hall of Famer added to the ballot will be Rivera.
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Back to Clemens (57.3 percent) and Bonds (56.4 percent), who both saw their vote total increase, but not to the extent they did last year, when each saw about a nine percent jump. This year, Clemens' jump was just three percent and Bonds' was just under three percent. Each has four more seasons to get the necessary 75 percent, and portions of the older faction of voters (who seemingly have it in for both because of SUSPECTED PED use, since neither ever failed a PED test) are getting replaced each year by younger, more PED-tolerant, analytics driven voters who just can't ignore the fact that Clemens and Bonds were on their way to being the best pitcher and hitter of their generation before the suspected PED use began.
At some point, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP award (Clemens), and seven MVP awards (Bonds) become hard to ignore, even for the most jaded voter. I personally think both should be in, largely because, as I stated above, both were winning awards commensurate with the best in the game before their physiques changed in any noticeable way. Additionally, throughout its history, attempts to somehow "fool" the game are woven into baseball's fabric, whether the media likes it or not. In the '70s there were barbiturates, in the '90s there were steroids. If a player got to their historic numbers largely because of PED use (see: Sosa, Sammy), then I get shunning them. For me, Clemens and Bonds, while imperfect, don't fit the category of "banished."
This season, both drew more voters to their side, but ultimately in the race for 75 percent approval, the one thing they may not have on their side is time.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.