Two players who ended their splendid big-league careers as designated hitters with the Orioles are part of this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame class, along with one of the game’s most decorated closers and a standout infielder who stayed with one team his entire career.
Former Orioles Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome as well as Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones and San Diego Padres closer Trevor Hoffman were named on at least 75 percent of ballots submitted by qualified members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
It’s the largest group voted in by the writers since they also selected four in 2015. Since voting in just one player total in 2012 and 2013 (Barry Larkin), the writers have selected 16 in the past five elections.
And several more – including former Orioles’ ace Mike Mussina – are on the precipice of being elected next year (in a class that certainly will include New York Yankees legendary closer Mariano Rivera, who will be eligible for the first time).
Jones, an eight-time All Star for the Braves, was named on the highest percentage of ballots this year at 97.2 percent, or 410 of 422 submitted. It was the first year on the ballot for Jones.
Another first-timer, corner infielder/DH Jim Thome, was named on 89.8 percent of ballots. Thome spent 13 of his 19 big-league seasons with the Cleveland Indians, but also played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers before finishing his career with three months in Baltimore in 2012.
Guerrero, who played primarily for the Montreal Expos and Los Angeles Angels, spent one year with the Texas Rangers and also called it a career in Baltimore, retiring after his lone season with the Orioles in 2011. In his second year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Guerrero received the second largest number of votes at 392 or 92.9 percent. That was up from 71.7 percent last year in his first shot at the Hall.
It took Hoffman three tries, but the Padres closer and National League career saves leader garnered 337 votes and 79.9 percent to cement his election. He fell five votes short of induction in 2017.
This year’s closest call goes to Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martinez, who fell 30 votes short of 2018 induction, but his percentage total surged from 58.6 percent in 2017 to 70.4 this year. Facing the stigma of being a DH-only for much of his career, Martinez’s pursuit of the Hall will be left to the writers one more time. He is in his 10th and final year of eligibility in 2019.
Right-hander Mike Mussina, who spent 10 of his 18 seasons with the Orioles, again saw his vote total and percentage grow in what is now his fifth year of eligibility.
Mussina was named on 268 ballots or 63.5 percent of the vote.
His vote percentage has grown each year: 20.3 percent in 2014, 24.6 percent in 2015, 43 percent in 2016, and 51.8 percent in 2017.
He has five more chances of receiving 75 percent of the writers’ vote, and it is definitely trending in the right direction for Mussina.
Former Oriole outfielder Sammy Sosa, in his sixth year of eligibility, was named on 7.8 percent of ballots, enough to keep him eligible again in 2019. Lefty Jamie Moyer, in his first year on the ballot, received 2.4 percent (10 votes) and is no longer eligible.
Two other former Orioles in their first year of eligibility, Kevin Millwood and Aubrey Huff, didn’t garner any votes and also fell off the ballot. Players must receive at least five percent of the voting to remain eligible; players meeting that requirement maintain eligibility for 10 years on the writers’ ballots before being sent to the Eras Committees.
Two players caught in baseball’s performance-enhancing drug scandal, Roger Clemens (57.3) and Barry Bonds (56.4), saw modest gains but are still a good distance from induction.
Jones, Guerrero, Thome and Hoffman, along with Modern Baseball Era electees Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during a July 29 ceremony in Cooperstown. N.Y.