I hope everyone got their fill of Indians going into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, because it might be a while before it happens again.
Slugger Jim Thome entered Cooperstown this year, in his first year of eligibility, and one of the things that amazed me about that is how much ill will it – as well as his statue – has engendered. Sure, you can hold a grudge about the way he left, but the fact is that he’s the single-season and career home run leader for the Indians, and his 612 career home runs represent a mark that should be represented in the Hall, tainted only by the era in which he played and no failed tests or any other suspicion beyond the shadow of his contemporaries.
It’s entirely too early to start handicapping next year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but what else am I going to do? The Indians are all home for the off-season, and you don’t want to get me started on THAT topic.
The Indians will actually have a surprising amount of players in their first year of eligibility to be voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America, including Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner and Derek Lowe (he played for the Indians, right?). Unfortunately, none of them are what you’d call strong candidates, and if I had to bet on it, I’d say they all drop off the ballot after their first year, a fate reserved for players who receive less than 5 percent of the vote. (This is your occasional reminder that was the fate that befell Kenny Lofton, and I think that’s almost criminal.)
it doesn’t appear the Indians will have a strong hall candidate for quite some time. After drafting so well in the late 1980s and early 1990s, setting the stage for those great Indians teams of the late 1990s, the Indians went through a fallow period, the results of which became evident on the field as the Tribe threw together a bunch of mediocre years in the 2000s, punctuated by brief moments of getting our hopes up. It’s worth noting, though, that Cliff Lee’s first year of eligibility will be 2020.
The strongest first-year candidate will likely be Mariano Rivera. Roy Halladay is a better-than-average player who might have sentiment on his side after his premature death in a plane crash in 2017. Of course, after the discovery that he might have been legally impaired at the time of the crash, he could also find his name left off some ballots as well.
Among the returning candidates, Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff are in their 10th and final years on the writers’ ballot (it used to be 15, but that change was made to kind of shepherd the steroid era out of everyone’s public consciousness). Omar Vizquel enters his second year on the ballot. He got 37 percent of the vote, a little less than half of the 75 percent needed for induction. His candidacy was more contentious than I expected, and I can’t imagine his vote total will increase, so I don’t have high hopes for his induction.
Manny Ramirez is on his third year of eligibility. His skills are unquestioned, but he has failed drug tests, so I hold out even less hope for his induction. (Of course, I may just be saying this to spare myself the thought of his plaque in Cooperstown showing him in a Red Sox cap.)
The eras committee – the name given to what used to be the veterans’ committee – will consider players in the modern era, from 1970 to 1987, an even more fallow period for the Indians. So for Indians fans, it looks like next July will be a blip on the radar – at least when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
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