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Baseball Rights the Ship With a Large Hall of Fame Induction Class in 2018

While a quartet of 1990s greats will receive plaques next summer, players with steroid suspicions didn’t make much headway on the ballot

71st MLB All-Star Game
Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero at the 2000 MLB All-Star Game.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Cooperstown will host another crowded class of Baseball Hall of Fame honorees next July. Five years after the Baseball Writers Association of America infamously failed to elect a single candidate with 75 percent of the vote, yielding an induction weekend with no living inductees, and one year after five baseball giants received a plaque, six more players will enter the Hall in 2018.

On Wednesday, the Hall announced that BBWAA electees Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Trevor Hoffman would join Modern Era committee honorees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell—whose election was announced last month—on stage next summer.

Jones, who won the 1999 NL MVP award and made All-Star teams 16 years apart, and Thome, one of nine members of the 600-homer club, sailed past the 75 percent threshold with 97.2 and 89.8 percent of the BBWAA’s vote, respectively, in their first appearances on the ballot. Guerrero, the 2004 AL MVP and a beloved star with a free swing and rocket arm, gained 92.9 percent of the vote in his second year under consideration, after falling just short (71.7 percent) last year. And Hoffman, who retired as the all-time saves leader, earned 79.9 percent of the vote in his third year.

The closest miss came for Edgar Martínez, who finished just short of induction with 70.4 percent of the vote. That total represents a sizable gain for the Mariners great, who had never previously reached 60 percent and now needs to convince roughly two dozen more voters of his case next year, his last on the ballot. If he reaches the Hall in 2019, Martínez’s path will end up resembling that of 2017 inductee Tim Raines, who benefited from a final-year boost that took him from 69.8 percent to 86 percent.

Further down the ballot, the most divisive Hall candidates of the past half-decade heard somewhat dispiriting news Wednesday. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who rate statistically as two of the best players in baseball history but split voters because of their association with performance-enhancing drugs, saw their vote shares jump from the mid-30s in 2015 to the mid-50s in 2017, perhaps due to the election of Bud Selig, commissioner during the Steroid Era, by the Today’s Game committee last year. But the pair made only modest gains this year: Bonds collected 56.4 percent of the vote while Clemens garnered 57.3 percent. Both have four years remaining on the ballot to pick up the last 20 percent necessary for induction.

Other candidates mired with PED suspicions made little headway and appear poised to follow Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro off the ballot. Sammy Sosa received just 7.8 percent of the vote in his sixth year on the ballot, Gary Sheffield 11.1 percent in his fourth year, and Manny Ramírez 22.0 percent in his second year.

Elsewhere, other risers who could eventually follow Martínez in a late-stage frenzy toward induction include Mike Mussina, whose vote share rose from 51.8 percent to 63.5 percent this year, and Curt Schilling, who rebounded from 45 percent to 51.2 percent after he dropped for character-related reasons in 2017. Voters will consider their cases again next year, when a somewhat-cleared ballot will also feature first-time candidates Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton, and the late Roy Halladay.