Bonds, Clemens, others again shut out of Cooperstown
The Baseball Hall of Fame recently unveiled its 2018 class of inductees, but one must wonder if the Cooperstown, New York, museum now has become home to the Hall of the Very Good. The newest members include Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome and Alan Trammell.
Jones was the face of the Braves during his career. He was an eight-time All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger (top hitter at his position), the 2008 National League Batting Champion and the NL’s Most Valuable Player in 1999. Over the duration of his career, Jones batted .303 and had 468 home runs, second only to Eddie Murray among switch hitters. He also was a key figure on Atlanta’s 1995 World Series-winning team.
Jones is deserving of induction, but one must wonder if he would be in the 2017 class if it were not for the tainted numbers of baseball’s steroid era. Players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all compiled stunning statistics that likely were inflated by their use of performance-enhancing drugs. In some cases, the usage was proven. It was suspected in others, and a select few admitted to using enhancers.
Thome is the one player in this class who deserves to be headed to Cooperstown based solely on his stats. The longtime corner infielder (playing at both first and third base) swatted 612 home runs (good for eighth all-time), rapped 2,328 hits and drove in 1.699 runs. He played in both leagues, putting in a pair of stints with both the Cleveland Indians and the Philadelphia Phillies. He also played for Baltimore, Minnesota, the Dodgers and the White Sox. In addition, Thome was a five-time All-Star and the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2006. He also won a Silver Slugger Award during his storied career.
Having broken in with the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals) in 1996, Guerrero recently confirmed that he’ll enter the Hall as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. After his stint with the Angels in Orange County, he spent some time in Texas with the Rangers before ending his career with the Orioles. Guerrero was the AL MVP with the Angels in 2004 and a nine-time All-Star. He was an eight-time Silver Slugger. He crushed 449 homers and had a career batting average of .318. He finished his career with 2,590 hits.
Good numbers. But like Jones, is he in this class without playing in an era tainted by steroids? Who knows?
Hoffman was a closer throughout his career with San Diego, Milwaukee and the Florida Marlins. He joins fellow closers Rollie Fingers, Rich “Goose” Gossage and Bruce Sutter in Cooperstown. He recorded 601 career saves and 1,133 strikeouts. He was a two-time runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award. Of the members of this class, though, he has to be considered the least-deserving inductee.
Hoffman’s resume simply doesn’t stack up to those other guys. Even among his positional peers, the numbers don’t add up. Lee Smith and Billy Wagner both have been passed over, yet Hoffman gets in? He pitched for some terrible teams. He was a member of the Marlins during their inaugural season. He made one Fall Classic with the Padres in 1998, but San Diego lost to the Yankees. Otherwise, the team was a laughingstock throughout much of his time there.
In the 2018 class, only Trammell, a shortstop for the Detroit Tigers for two decades, and Jones, longtime third baseman for the Atlanta Braves, spent their entire careers playing only for their respective teams. Morris and Trammell have been off the ballot for years, but were selected by the Veterans Committee. And their respective inductions arguably are long overdue.
Morris was a four-time World Series champ and the 1991 World Series MVP as a member of the Twins. In that playoff, he outdueled John Smoltz (a fellow Hall of Famer) and Alejandro Pena in a 1-0 10-inning victory in Game 7. He also won a title with Detroit (1984) and a pair with the Blue Jays (1992-93). He tossed a no-hitter as a member of the Tigers in 1984 and earned 254 career wins. His 3.90 ERA was a bit hit considering that he didn’t play during the expansion eras that brought us only one new AL team (Tampa Bay). The Marlins and Rockies entered Major League Baseball during his career, but he never faced either team as interleague play had not yet been implemented.
Trammell hit .285 and drove in more than 1,000 runs. He won four Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards. He was named to the AL All-Star team six times. He was the World Series MVP in 1984 and part of one of history’s all-time great double-play combinations with second baseman Lou Whitaker, who in all rights should have accompanied Morris and Trammell into the Hall.