While it isn’t surprising as to who was voted in to the Hall of Fame yesterday, it is surprising to see that Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman were not voted in as well. Guerrero received 71.7% of the needed 75% on his first year on the ballot, coming up just 15 votes short of baseball immortality. Hoffman received 74% of the votes in his second year on the ballot, falling just 5 votes short. Also worth noting is that Barry Bonds received 53.8%, up from the 44.3% received last year. Roger Clemens received 54.1%, a jump from the 45.2% last year. While I’m happy for the players that did get elected this year, I’m disappointed in the Hall of Fame voters for failing to vote in the second-greatest closer in the history of baseball on his second year on the ballot in Hoffman as well as one of the best hitters of his era in Vlad Guerrero.
It seems that voters these days may be hesitant to allow closers in to the Hall of Fame, regardless of how dominant they were. After all, the only relievers in the Hall of Fame are Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Hoyt Wilhelm, Bruce Sutter, and Rollie Fingers. In my opinion, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner belong alongside these great relief pitchers. These two, along with Mariano Rivera, are the greatest closers since the steroid era, with none of them being linked or accused of taking any performance-enhancers. While I do believe that they will both eventually get in, it’s a sin for Hoffman to have to wait as long as he has to get in while Wagner has to wait for Hoffman to get elected so that his stock will rise in the Hall of Fame voting. Wagner may end up having to wait another 5-10 years before getting elected.
The only reasons that I could think of as to why Guerrero wasn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer are that some voters refuse to vote for any player in their first year on the ballot, and that other voters are hesitant or just refuse to vote for any player that played during the steroid era, regardless of the suspicions surrounding the players. Guerrero is just the latest victim of the era he played in. Had he put up the numbers he did in the 1970s, he would have easily been elected into the Hall of Fame on his first year on the ballot.
I feel that voters shouldn’t refuse to vote for a player simply because it’s their first year on the ballot. It ignores the whole point of being honored with the task of deciding who becomes part of baseball immortality. As for the steroid era issue, if they haven’t been linked to taking performance-enhancers, they should be looked at by voters as clean players that dominated in their era despite the disadvantage of having to play against many other players who were taking performance-enhancing drugs.
The election of Pudge Rodriguez is very intriguing in that he has been accused of taking performance-enhancers at some point in his career. In Jose Canseco’s book Juiced, he accused multiple players of taking steroids, including Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Ivan Rodriguez. While McGwire and Palmeiro have been confirmed and admitted to taking steroids, there has been no evidence to link Pudge to taking steroids. Other recent Hall of Fame inductees that have had whispers surrounding whether or not they took performance-enhancers at some point in their career include 2016 inductee Mike Piazza and Pudge’s fellow 2017 inductee Jeff Bagwell. Frankly, I don’t believe that Piazza and Bagwell took steroids. The suspicions surrounding them stems purely out of the fact that they weren’t highly valued in their early years of being prospects. However, their transformations from typical minor league prospects into Hall of Fame players likely stems from changes in position as well as batting approaches. For example, Piazza was a first baseman in college. While Piazza’s power was praised as a prospect, his speed and defense were heavily criticized. Piazza ended up being moved to catcher and improved on his hitting ability, primarily in making contact. This led to him becoming the Hall of Famer he is today. Bagwell was a below-average fielding third baseman as a prospect with the Red Sox. Additionally, the Red Sox valued another third baseman prospect of theirs in Scott Cooper higher than Bagwell. In the Astros organization, Bagwell was moved to first base, and the rest is history. Until their is further evidence to suggest otherwise, I will continue to view Piazza, Bagwell, and Pudge as clean Hall of Famers that deserve to be in Cooperstown.