Five years after shutting out all candidates, Baseball’s Hall of Fame continues to swing its doors wide open.
For the fourth time since 2014, at least three new members joined the game’s most exalted club as Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman were voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
In addition, worthy aspirants like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, held back for years by allegations of using performance-enhancing drugs, continued to inch closer to the 75% percent threshold required for induction, and Edgar Martinez moved to the verge of the magic figure.
The writers elected only four players between 2010-2013, causing considerable consternation with the shutout in that last year. Since then, the BBWAA has given its stamp of approval to 16 greats, including 13 over the last four years, the largest number ever in such a span.
There was little doubt Jones and Thome would burst through on their first year of eligibility.
Jones, who played his whole 19-year career with the Atlanta Braves, becomes the second No. 1 overall draft pick to reach the Hall, after Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016. Jones didn’t fall too far behind Griffey’s record-setting 99.3% of the vote, getting named on 97.2% of the ballots.
An eight-time All-Star and the 1999 National League MVP, Jones had a career batting average of .303 with 468 home runs. He ranks third all-time in home runs by a third baseman and also third among switch-hitters. Jones is one of only nine players to combine at least a .300 average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage and 400 home runs. Seven of the other eight are in the Hall of Fame.
Thome, also initially a third baseman, made his mark mainly with his power and keen batting eye. In a 22-year career that included 12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Thome compiled 612 home runs and 1,747 walks, ranking eighth and seventh, respectively, on the all-time list.
He drove in at least 100 runs nine times, had a career on-base plus slugging percentage of .956 and was universally beloved as a teammate wherever he played. Thome received 89.8% of the vote.
Guerrero, who nearly missed gaining admission last year on his first try, made it easily this time by garnering 92.9% of support to become the first Dominican-born position player in the Hall. He will join pitching countrymen Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez in Cooperstown.
Guerrero batted .300 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI in his lone season with the Rangers, his penultimate season in MLB.
After overcoming a childhood of abject poverty in the tiny Dominican town of Don Gregorio, Guerrero become one of baseball’s most riveting players, a five-tool right fielder who made nine All-Star teams in his 16 seasons and won the 2004 American League MVP award. His combination of a career .318 batting average and .553 slugging percentage is matched or surpassed by only seven players in history, all of them Hall of Famers.
Hoffman, who spent 15 ½ of his 18 seasons with the San Diego Padres, ranks second in career saves with 601 and was the first pitcher to reach the 500- and 600-save marks. In a 15-year span, he recorded at least 30 saves 14 times, twice finishing in the top 10 in the MVP voting.
Hoffman came within one percentage point of election last year but faced some skepticism because closers like him typically pitch about one-third of the innings of top starters. Still, he gained entry on his third try with 79.9% of the votes.
Bonds and Clemens have also seen an increase in support as attitudes toward suspected PED users have softened and the voting ranks have been purged of inactive writers.
Running on parallel tracks, they have gone from a mid-30s debut in 2013 to mid-50s last year. This time, Bonds garnered 56.4% of the vote and Clemens 57.3%, lending credence to the belief both will eventually gain induction.
Martinez was named on a personal-best 70.2% of the ballots, his 297 votes falling 20 shy of the induction line. He will be in his final year of eligibility next season.
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