By David Moriah
For the past few years this Baseball Hall of Fame observer gazed into the crystal ball and made predictions on the next year’s class of inductees. Last year I was mostly correct in my prognostications for 2017, predicting Tim Raines would make it in his 10th and final year of eligibility and Jeff Bagwell would do so as well in his 7th year. I also called the selection of Bud Selig in his first time on the ballot.
Where I went wrong was in expecting Vladimir Guerrero to gain first ballot entry with Ivan Rodriguez falling short, primarily because of suspicion, though unproven, of PED use by Rodriguez. I also missed on John Schuerholz, not recognizing how his remarkable success in guiding the Atlanta Braves to 14 consecutive division titles would win him election. My bad.
Now it’s time to turn to 2018. Let’s start with players returning to the ballot. Two came remarkably close to jumping over the magic 75 percent threshold. The aforementioned Guerrero hit 71.7 percent his first time around, a number which pretty reliably portends eventual selection. I predict he makes it over the finish line in 2018.
Trevor Hoffman, #2 behind Mariano Rivera in career saves, came tantalizingly close this year with 74 percent. It’s hard to imagine him not jumping over the line as well.
After that you drop down to Edgar Martinez’s 58.6 percent, followed by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mike Mussina as the only others above 50 percent. It’s hard to imagine any of them making up enough ground in one year to command a plaque.
As for the next class of eligibles there are two automatic first timers and several others who may eventually make the cut. Automatic locks are Jim Thome with a career 612 home runs, an astonishing number for someone who never commanded superstar status, and Chipper Jones, the mainstay of many winning Atlanta Braves teams. Both Thome and Jones have “similarity scores” on baseball-reference.com that compare favorably with many Hall of Famers including Mickey Mantle, Mike Schmidt, and several more.
Others credible candidates include Johnny Damon, Johan Santana and Andruw Jones, but it’s hard to see any of them entering the first time around.
The other potential path to a plaque runs through the “Eras Committees” which reconsider players passed over in earlier voting, along with umpires, managers and executives from specific time periods of baseball history. Next year the “Modern Era” will be considered featuring those who made their primary mark between 1970 and 1987.
Players who may be on the 10 person ballot from the era include Steve Garvey, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker. From the non-player ranks Marvin Miller, powerful head of the players’ union who drove free agency, looms as a leading candidate.
This observer’s call is that Morris, the pitcher who won the most games in the 1980s, will finally get the call. Miller fell one vote short on his last run at election, netting 11 of the necessary 12 of 16 votes. With the recent election of his arch-rival Selig in place, my prediction is that Miller will finally be enshrined, sadly five years after his death in 2012.
The bottom line: This correspondent predicts a six man induction featuring Guerrero, Hoffman, Jones, Thome, Morris and Miller.