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Breaking Down the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame Class and Biggest Snubs

For a lucky few, today's the day Cooperstown called to say, "Welcome."

For everyone else: "Thanks for playing."

The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017 was finally announced Wednesday. To nobody's surprise, this is the fourth straight year that the Baseball Writers Association of America voters selected multiple players for induction.

 

With not a moment to lose, let's get to breaking down the newest members of Cooperstown and all the notables who missed the cut.

      

The 2017 Hall of Fame Class

Jeff Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell earned 71.6 percent of the vote in his sixth year on the ballot in 2016, putting him just shy of the requisite 75 percent. In his seventh year, he's finally in with 86.2 percent.

It's about time. Jay Jaffe's Jaffe WAR Score System (JAWS), which is convenient for measuring players against their Cooperstown peers, rates Bagwell as the sixth-best first baseman in history, behind only Albert Pujols and four current Hall of Famers.

That's quite a testament to what Bagwell did in his 15 seasons with the Houston Astros. He put up a 149 OPS+ (meaning his OPS was 49 points better than average) with 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases, making him the only first baseman ever with over 400 homers and 200 steals.

Previously holding Bagwell back has been the suspicion that he owed his career to performance-enhancing drugs. He was a muscly slugger playing in the 1990s and early 2000s, after all.

But as Jaffe covered at Sports Illustrated, Bagwell is only known to have taken androstenedione. It looks bad that Mark McGwire made the stuff famous as he was binging on home runs in the late 1990s, but at the time andro was legal both under U.S. law and MLB law.

Evidently, that's no reason to keep Bagwell out of Cooperstown forever.

         

Tim Raines

With this being his 10th and final year on the ballot, it was do-or-die time for Tim Raines. The voters landed on "do," boosting Raines from 69.8 percent in 2016 to 86.0 percent this year.

Raines also makes the JAWS cut as an all-time great left fielder. What stands out from a career that spanned 23 years is Raines' 1981-1992 peak, when he averaged a 128 OPS+ and 60 stolen bases.

Of course, no justification for the longtime Montreal Expos star would be complete without words from loyal (and occasionally threatening) Raines fanboy Jonah Keri.

Writing at CBSSports.com, among Keri's points for Raines were that he's the only member of the 800-steal club who wasn't already in the Hall of Fame and that his 3,977 times on base is more than a handful of Hall of Famers, including famed hitting guru Tony Gwynn.

That's a Hall of Famer, folks. Today, it's finally official.

       

Ivan Rodriguez

If there's a surprise member of this year's Hall of Fame class, it's this guy.

Although Ivan Rodriguez initially showed well in the ballots tracked by Ryan Thibodaux on Twitter, his share of the vote began to dip as more ballots came in. That was likely related to questions about Rodriguez and PEDs, which were well covered by Tyler Kepner at the New York Times.

However, Pudge's track record won out in the end. And rightfully so, as JAWS rates him as the third-best catcher in baseball history.

Pudge also passes the traditional smell test. Among other things he collected in a 21-year career, the longtime Texas Rangers star owns 311 career home runs and a career caught-stealing rate of 46 percent.

Rodriguez won the American League MVP when he was at the height of his powers in 1999. A few years later in 2003, he won the World Series with the Florida Marlins.

And now, he can add a Hall of Fame plaque to his collection.

       

The Biggest Snubs

Trevor Hoffman

Trevor Hoffman debuted with 67.3 percent of the vote last year. This year, he just missed with 74.0 percent of the vote.

The longtime San Diego Padres closer ranks behind only Mariano Rivera with 601 career saves. He owes those to longevity and consistency, as he put up a 141 ERA+ (i.e. his ERA was 41 percent better than average) in an 18-year career.

That's to say there are good reasons why he's so close to being inducted. Come next year, he should be more than just close.

        

Vladimir Guerrero

After Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero was the first-timer with the best shot of getting inducted this year. But it's not surprising that he fell short with 71.7 percent, as Thibodaux's tracker made no guarantees:

Guerrero's shortage of support can partially be traced to his iffy sabermetrics. JAWS doesn't rate him as a Cooperstown-level right fielder, which reflects assorted flaws he had in his game.

Still, working in Guerrero's favor is his seemingly complete lack of PED suspicion and his strong traditional stats. It'll be hard to deny a guy with a .318 average, 449 home runs and 181 stolen bases.

Plus, what won't soon be forgotten is Guerrero's limitless plate coverage and an arm that could do this:

 

Barry Bonds

Barry Bonds took a big leap toward induction in his fifth year on the ballot, improving to 53.8 percent from from 44.3 percent in 2016.

This looks like the upshot of Bud Selig being put in Cooperstown. The logic goes: If the commissioner of the steroid era is fair game for the Hall of Fame, then why not the best player of the steroid era?

Bonds put up a 182 OPS+ and clubbed a record 762 home runs in a career that spanned from 1986 to 2007, peaking with a record 73 in 2001. He also won seven MVPs, including four in a row at the height of his powers between 2001 and 2004. On performance alone, he's an all-time great player who had an all-time great peak.

In past years, the role of PEDs in Bonds' career was a firm barrier between him and Cooperstown. Now, clearly less so.

          

Roger Clemens

As per usual, Roger Clemens is right there with Bonds in the voting. In what's also his fifth year on the ballot, he improved to 54.1 percent from 45.2 percent in 2016.

In 24 seasons between 1984 and 2007, The Rocket put up a 143 ERA+ with 4,672 strikeouts and won a record seven Cy Young awards. Despite his own ties to PEDs, Clemens certainly looms large among the game's most accomplished pitchers.

Basically, Clemens was to pitching what Bonds was to hitting during virtually the same time span. And now that Selig is in the Hall of Fame, any logic that benefits Bonds must also benefit Clemens.

         

Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez is running out of time on the ballot, so it's a good sign for him that his share of the vote just shot from 43.4 percent in his seventh year to 58.6 percent in his eighth year.

The knock against the longtime Seattle Mariners great is that he spent most of his career as a designated hitter. But like it or not, the DH has been a position for 40 years. And with a .312/.418/.515 career slash line and a 147 career OPS+, Martinez is the best full-time DH baseball has known.

         

Mike Mussina

Mike Mussina also picked up some votes, going from 43.0 percent in his third year to 51.8 percent in his fourth year.

Mussina's sin is that he didn't make it easy for anyone to rant and/or rave about him during his 18-year career. He was never the best pitcher around. Nor the most entertaining.

However, Mussina was very good over a very large sample size with a 123 ERA+ in 3,562.2 innings. Per JAWS, he makes the Cooperstown cut among starting pitchers.

            

Curt Schilling

In his fifth year on the ballot, Curt Schilling actually declined to 45.0 percent from 52.3 percent in 2016.

From an on-the-field perspective, Schilling's case didn't get any worse. He still owns a 127 ERA+ in 3,261 regular-season innings, as well as a 2.23 postseason ERA that helped him win three rings.

Rather, this appears to be Schilling's penance for emerging as a purveyor of—ahem—controversial talking points. Some see him as being in conflict with Cooperstown's character clause.

"[Schilling] represents the antithesis of the character clause that the Hall and BBWAA continue to instruct voters to honor," wrote Dejan Kovacevic at DKPittsburghSports.com. "I’m not even going to dignify his many actions and statements with a listing or a link. Find them yourself. He’s not worth it."

Schilling's decline in the voting could prove to only be temporary. But that may be up to him.

          

Other Notable Snubs

Manny Ramirez

With a career 154 OPS+ and 555 home runs, Manny Ramirez owns the biggest numbers of the first-timers on the ballot.

However, he also owns three positive tests for PEDs: one inconsequential test in 2003 and two that got him busted in 2009 and 2011. Because he broke legitimate rules with the latter two, it's no wonder he got the Rafael Palmeiro treatment with 23.8 percent of the vote.

         

Gary Sheffield

Now three years into his time on the ballot, Gary Sheffield is still struggling to find upward mobility. He got just 13.3 percent of the vote, a modest increase on last year's 11.6 percent.

Sheffield's 140 OPS+ and 509 home runs are numbers worthy of Cooperstown. But his chances are complicated by a questionable defensive reputation and even more so by ties to PEDs that are less murky than most.

             

Larry Walker

Paul Swydan of FanGraphs had an interesting article that urged voters checking the box for Guerrero to also check the box for Larry Walker. He may not have been as flashy a player, but his 141 OPS+ across a 17-year career is just one thing that must be taken seriously.

Seven years on, however, Walker is still struggling to expand his constituency. He improved to just 21.9 percent of the vote from 15.5 percent last year.

          

Jeff Kent

Jeff Kent is also stuck with a small group of supporters. He debuted with 15.2 percent in 2014 and has improved to just 16.7 percent in three years since.

Kent's claim to fame is that a record 351 of his 377 home runs came while playing second base. He also won an MVP in 2000. Otherwise, it's telling that he's far off the JAWS radar for second basemen.

         

Fred McGriff

Fred McGriff has been on the ballot for as long as Martinez but has barely budged from the 21.5 percent he earned in his debut year back in 2010. He got just 21.7 percent this year.

In fairness, "The Crime Dog" is a Cooperstown-worthy nickname. McGriff also has a 134 OPS+ and finished just seven home runs shy of 500. But alas, JAWS isn't crazy about him either.

            

Sammy Sosa

The good news is that Sammy Sosa managed to hang on with 8.6 percent of the vote. The bad news is that he's still far, far away from the necessary 75 percent with just five years left on the ballot.

On the one hand, it's odd to see a guy with 609 career home runs getting the cold shoulder. On the other hand, it's fair game to question how he hit 292 of those in just a five-year span.

       

Billy Wagner

Also barely hanging on is Billy Wagner, who sunk to 10.2 percent from 10.5 percent in his first year on the ballot in 2016.

Some upward mobility may still be possible for the former flamethrower. The best way to see Wagner is as Hoffman with less longevity but more dominance. Among all pitchers who have ever thrown over 900 innings, he owns the best strikeout rate and the second-best ERA+.

         

Lee Smith

Say farewell to Lee Smith. In his 15th and final year on the ballot, he gathered just 34.2 percent of the vote to fall well short of induction.

Smith was a darn good reliever in his 18-year career, compiling a 132 ERA+ across 1,289.1 innings. But with only 478 saves and modest peripheral numbers, he lacked the goods to impress wide swaths of old-school or new-school voters.

       

Jorge Posada

With the low bar set at five percent of the vote, it was one and done for quite a few guys. Certainly the biggest letdown is that Jorge Posada couldn't escape that fate in garnering just 3.8 percent of the vote.

It didn't help that Posada was sharing a ballot with one of the greatest catchers of all time. Beyond that, there are nits to pick with his track record. JAWS reflects that.

However, anyone who argues that a catcher who hit 275 home runs and won four World Series titles deserved better has a solid case. 

          

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.

 

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