The Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2018 class on Wednesday night, with a whopping four members elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Thome will join Alan Trammell and Jack Morris (previously elected by the Modern Baseball Era committee) in Cooperstown later this year.
With talk of the Hall of Fame taking over the internet the past month, it got me thinking about how the Blue Jays fit in to this process. Normally at this time of year, the baseball world discusses, debates, considers, and ultimately celebrates great baseball players, who mostly had nothing to do with the Blue Jays during their careers. Roberto Alomar is the only player enshrined in Cooperstown with a Blue Jays cap, and that is not likely to change anytime soon.
But what about the other players in Toronto’s past? The Hall of Fame is – quite rightly – a difficult place to enter. Only the best of the best get in. But just being listed on the ballot is an impressive feat, even if you are one of the dozens each year that fall short. So to give this time of year a bit more of a Blue Jay tint, I took a look back at HOF voting history to see how the Jays have fared, and what the future might hold.
To my surprise, there have been 69 different players on the Hall of Fame ballot to make an appearance for the Blue Jays. Some are well known (Devon White, Jimmy Key, David Wells). Some are not (Jeff Burroughs (86 games in 1985) or Bill Singer (12 starts in 1977)). Alomar is the only one to be elected and represent Toronto, but six other ex-Jays currently reside in Cooperstown:
- Rickey Henderson – member of the Jays in 1993, elected to the Hall in 2009
- Paul Molitor – member of the Jays from 1993 – 1995, elected to the Hall in 2004
- Jack Morris – member of the Jays from 1993 – 1994, elected to the Hall this year
- Phil Niekro – pitched 12 innings for the Jays in 1987, elected to the Hall in 1997
- Frank Thomas – member of the Jays from 2007 – 2008, elected to the Hall in 2014
- Dave Winfield – member of the Jays in 1992, elected to the Hall in 2001
Of the remaining 63, only six managed to remain on the ballot for more than one year: Ron Fairly (on the original 1977 team), Dave Parker (36 AB for Toronto in 1991), Dave Stewart, and Jeff Kent, Roger Clemens, and Fred McGriff, all still currently on the ballot.
Two other players with Blue Jay ties debuted on the ballot this year and survived the 5% cutoff: Scott Rolen (10.2%) and Omar Vizquel (37.5).
So that leaves a total of 54 one-and-done players, guys who didn’t received 5% of the ballot and thus dropped off. Some of the names were pretty obvious: Woody Williams, Royce Clayton, Orlando Hudson, Matt Stairs, Mike Timlin, etc. But there are some players who I thought were deserving of more love from the voters. These guys don’t belong in the Hall of Fame necessarily, but should have at least received greater recognition. I’m thinking specifically of:
- Carlos Delgado – 473 career HR, 4 top-10 MVP finishes, 2-time All-Star, 3-time Silver Slugger winner, 44.3 career WAR. Only 3.8% of the vote in 2015.
- David Cone – 5-time All-Star, Cy Young winner, 5-time World Series champion, 61.7 career WAR. Only 3.9% of the vote in 2009.
- Dave Stieb – perhaps the best pitcher of the entire 1980’s, yet only received 1.4% of the vote in 2004.
- John Olerud – batting title, .295 career average, 58.0 career WAR. Only 0.7% of the vote (4 votes total) in 2011.
- Tony Fernandez – 5-time All-Star, 4-time Gold Glove winner, only 0.7% of the vote (4 votes total) in 2007.
So what lies ahead for the Blue Jays? Who might be the next player enshrined or seriously considered for Cooperstown?
My best guess is that as of right now (the end of the 2017 season), we might see eight Jays listed on the HOF ballot when eligible.
Roy Halladay will be on the ballot next year and should be a lock for the Hall. Whether he gets in on the first ballot, and whether he goes in as a Jay or a Phillie is another story.
Mark Buehrle had a great MLB career – 214 wins, sub-4.00 ERA, 14 straight 200 IP seasons, World Series, perfect game – but falls short based on JAWS. I would imagine him to have a strong enough candidacy to survive one ballot.
David Price and Troy Tulowitzki will forever be linked as mid-season acquisitions in the magical 2015 season. Both looked like HOF locks in their early days, but both have tailed off significantly. I don’t know if either garners enough support to make it past one ballot.
Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin have both had long and solid careers (they have combined for 7 All-Star teams and 6 top-20 MVP finishes) but will have a hard time exceeding 5%.
Josh Donaldson was a late bloomer – he didn’t become a major league regular until he was 27 – but the five full seasons he has played have been outstanding. He has collected three All-Star nods, two Silver Sluggers, one MVP, and three additional top-5 MVP finishes. His 37.3 WAR is two-thirds of the way to meeting the JAWS standard for third baseman, so if he can put together four or five more great seasons he might be pushing for HOF contention.
Finally, we get to the Blue Jay most near and dear to our hearts. Jose Bautista will be a member of the Level of Excellence. He will likely be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. If there was a Hall of Fame for best individual moments, or most important home runs, or best late career surge, he would lead the way. Unfortunately his peak was too short and his fall to steep to be considered for the Hall. But hopefully he did enough during those years for at least 5% of the BBWAA to recognize him.