Coming off the heels of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America’s annual ballot submissions, four new member joined the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame last week.
They were Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman and Jim Thome.
To me, everyone makes too big of a deal about the numbers. Sure, 30 years ago, the numbers accumulated during a career were a clear measuring stick for baseball greatness.
However, living in a post-steriod era, I feel like the numbers mean a whole lot less and I feel that BBWAA voters rely on them too much instead of using their own two eyes.
In addition to building a decent resume of statistics, to me a Hall of Fame player should have something about them that made us as fans want to see them more than the other 17 guys on the field that day.
Jones, while maybe not the best third baseman of his era, had undeniable success as the offensive face of a franchise that won 14 consecutive division championships.
Guerrero was one of the most exciting hitters to watch because no pitch was safe. He would routinely swing at horrible pitches, pitches a foot outside the strike zone or that bounced off the dirt in front of the plate, and still turn them into a base hit. Yet, he never struck out more than 100 times in a season.
Vlad was no slouch in right field either, where he also had an arm capable of gunning down runners at any base.
Hoffman was renowned for having one of the best change-ups in the major leagues. He was the shining example for relief pitchers that all you need are two pitches, a fastball and a changeup, to make batters look silly.
And if that weren’t enough, only Mariano Rivera has made good on more save opportunities than Hoffman’s 601, and it’s a substantial drop to third on that list.
As for Thome, well Thome hit a lot of home runs. 612 to be exact. However, he did so in an era where 30 home runs in a season was commonplace rather than a great achievement.
He was certainly an outstanding lefty power bat, but to me he’s only a Hall of Famer because of that one number. He’s one of only nine players to reach that milestone.
It’s an incredible accomplishment, but I never felt like I needed to tune into a Cleveland or Philadelphia game to watch Thome hit. Not when there were so many more power hitters at the time that seemed more formidable — Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman just to name a few.
To me, one of the players sure to get my vote every year is no longer on the ballot.
In fact, he got bumped off the ballot with just 11 votes in his first year of eligibility in 2016.
I’m talking about Jim Edmonds, also known as Jimmy Ballgame.
I get the case against him, really I do. One of the biggest things he had going for him was his power numbers (393 career home runs) in an era where everybody else had power numbers and he was on the short end of the stick in comparison. He also came in just below 2,000 hits at 1,949.
Offense was the driving force of that era and while Edmonds blossomed as an offensive powerhouse after being traded from the Anaheim Angels to St. Louis, he didn’t have the longevity as one of the more prominent offensive weapons in the league that so many others on the ballot did.
He also had one of the more memorable postseason home runs that goes largely unremarked upon outside of St. Louis, forcing a game seven of the 2004 NLCS with a two-run blast in the bottom of the 12th inning to end game six.
However, Edmonds was far from a one-trick pony. While he could blast home runs with some of the most ridiculous high-arcing trajectories I’ve ever seen, where I really settled in to watch was when the other team hit one to deep center field.
Edmonds patrolled center field as good or better than anybody else from his era and was greatly renowned for his ability to go back toward the wall on a fly ball and brought a level of excitement few can duplicate with some of his racing grabs at the warning track.
It was also commonly noted the number of hits Edmonds took away on the front end of the position because he played so far in with the confidence that he could get back to anything hit over his head in time.
In total, Edmonds amassed eight gold gloves in his career. There are five other outfielders tied with Edmonds’ mark of eight gold gloves, but only seven have more.
Four of those with more are already in the Hall of Fame — Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Al Kaline.
The other three have each ended their careers after Edmonds.
One of them, Andruw Jones, remains on the BBWAA ballot after receiving 31 votes in 2018, his first year of eligibility.
Another, Ichiro Suzuki, is a lock for Cooperstown when he becomes eligible to go on the ballot. Suzuki also holds the record for most hits in a regular season, set in 2004. He remains active after playing for the Miami Marlins last season.
The last ahead of Edmonds, Torii Hunter, has also not yet reached his first year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot after retiring in 2015. Players must wait five years after retirement before becoming eligible.
Hunter, also an incredibly exciting center fielder to watch, most known for robbing a Bonds home run in the 2002 All-star game, might seem like a questionable choice for the Hall of Fame. That’s because he never seemed to stand out as a middle of the order power bat or a great on-base percentage or batting average player or a speedster on the base paths.
Even in writing this, off the top of my head I questioned whether Hunter had the offensive production to really get into the conversation for the Hall of Fame.
However, Hunter quietly built up a very solid offensive resume with 2,452 hits and 353 home runs over a 19-year career and in his prime was a regular threat for 20 home runs and 20 steals to go with his stellar defensive play. He actually accomplished the 20-20 feat twice, in 2002 and 2004.
There are admittedly a few other at the position to have reached eight gold gloves.
One of them is Barry Bonds, who is held out of the Hall of Fame due to steroid controversy and no other reason.
Another, Andre Dawson, is also already in the Hall of Fame.
The last three outfielders with eight gold gloves are substantially less likely to support the case for Edmonds based on this part of his resume — Dwight Evans, Paul Blair and Garry Maddox.
Like Edmonds, the biggest Hall of Fame honor they might ever expect to receive is the call already received to their teams’ individual Halls of Fame and not to Cooperstown.
Edmonds is of course already a member of the Cardinals’ organization Hall of Fame, voted in by the fans in that Hall’s first year of existence in 2014.
Evans is a member of the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame and Blair a member of the Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame.
But when its all said and done, I don’t know that I’ll ever see another player come at the game and play the field quite with the same quiet panache or flare for the dramatic that Jimmy Ballgame did.