2017 Hall of Fame ballot: First-time eligible candidates
Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman all came within 10 percentage points of Hall of Fame induction this week, meaning they have a strong chance to reach Cooperstown next year. However, they will have some new competition. Here are the most intriguing first-time-eligible players who are expected to appear on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot.
Jim Rogash - Jed Jacobsohn - Mar
There are the 555 career homers, the 2,574 hits, the 1,831 RBI, and the .312/.411/.585 career slash line. There are the 29 postseason homers, the two World Series rings and the 2004 World Series MVP Award. But then there are the two suspensions for failed PED tests, the second of which effectively ended his major-league career. Few would argue against Ramirez being one of the greatest hitters ever, but many will argue that PEDs played a part in that. OUTLOOK: Even a longer shot than Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
The 2004 AL MVP never met a pitch he wouldn’t swing at, and he absolutely destroyed baseballs when he squared up on them. Guerrero fell 51 homers short of the magical 500 plateau, but he topped 30 homers in eight different seasons and had 10 seasons with 100-plus RBI. Although he was limited to DH duties the final three years of his career, Vlad once featured a cannon for an arm in the outfield. But he never was a Gold Glover. OUTLOOK: Strongest chance for first-year induction among the 2017 class.
Getty ImagesJonathan Daniel
An argument can be made that Pudge is the best catcher ever, and he certainly belongs in that conversation. The 1999 AL MVP won 13 Gold Gloves behind the plate and threw out 46 percent of the runners who attempted to steal on him. Offensively, Rodriguez also was elite, hitting 311 homers and batting .296 (10 times he hit .300 or better) during his 21 seasons in the majors. But like Mike Piazza (and others), Rodriguez could be hurt by steroid suspicions. OUTLOOK: Will reach Cooperstown, but not in 2017.
Getty ImagesJohn Williamson
He certainly doesn’t rival Ivan Rodriguez defensively, but Posada swung a very productive bat. The five-time All-Star twice finished in the top six in AL MVP voting and finished with 275 homers and a .273 batting average (and an OPS 50 points better than Rodriguez’s). Posada was a member of the Yankees’ fabled Core Four and was a backbone for four World Series championship teams. OUTLOOK: Will stay on the ballot a few years but will have to 'settle' for Monument Park.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Continuing the run of catcher-candidates is the guy who caught four no-hitters during his career. The longtime Red Sox captain won just one Gold Glove but has been praised by many, including 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Pedro Martinez, for his handling of the pitching staff during his 15 seasons in Boston. The switch-hitting Varitek swatted 193 homers but never hit more than 25 in a season nor batted .300. But he was a pivotal piece in the Red Sox’s World Series title runs in 2004 and 2007. OUTLOOK: A Red Sox Hall of Famer but not a baseball Hall of Famer.
Boston Globe via Getty ImagesBoston Globe
As a 19-year-old rookie in 1996, Renteria batted .309 and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. A season later, he delivered the walk-off hit to win the 1997 World Series for the Marlins. Renteria didn’t post the same offensive numbers as his shortstop peers — he topped 15 homers only once and hit 140 for his career — but he stole 294 bases and was a solid offensive contributor and a two-time Gold Glove winner. OUTLOOK: A very good player, not a Hall of Famer.
AFP/Getty ImagesTIMOTHY A. CLARY
Bet you didn’t know that he ranks second in Red Sox franchise history in strikeouts and third in wins. The knuckleballer finished his 19-season major-league career with exactly 200 wins and more than 2,000 strikeouts. Not bad for a guy drafted as a first baseman by the Pirates. Wakefield was untouchable at times during his career (namely 1995 and 2002) but very touchable at others (four times allowing 30-plus homers in a season). OUTLOOK: Great knuckler but not a Hall of Famer.
Getty ImagesEd Zurga
Ordonez swatted 294 homers and drove in 1,236 runs during his 15 seasons (eight with the White Sox, seven with the Tigers) in the majors. His finest performance came in 2007 when he led the majors with 54 doubles and a .363 batting average. From 1999-2002, he had four consecutive seasons with at least 30 homers and 113 RBI. And his career slash line of .309/.369/.502 is impressive. Detroit fans always will remember his walk-off, three-run homer that ended Game 4 of the 2006 ALCS and sent the Tigers to the World Series. OUTLOOK: An All-Star, but not a Hall of Famer.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Drafted fifth overall by the Cardinals in 1998, Drew had a sweet swing and a great eye at the plate. Unfortunately, he never reached the expectations many had for him, partially because of injuries. Over his 14 seasons in the majors, he hit .278/.384/.489 with 242 homers for the Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers and Braves. Drew was an All-Star only once, winning the MVP honors in that game in 2008. During the Red Sox’s World Series run in 2007, he hit a key grand slam in the Boston’s ALCS comeback against the Indians. OUTLOOK: Injuries also severely hurt his Hall of Fame chances.