Hall of Fame 2018: Is it one-and-done for these ex-baseball stars?

Big League Stew

Editor’s Note: Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting results are coming Jan. 24. To get you ready, we’re breaking down this year’s ballot in a five-part series that begins with a look at the some of the players who might only see one ballot.

A new year’s Hall of Fame ballot is sort of like a new baseball season. It offers hope. Even to the hopeless. Even to Carlos Zambrano.

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This year’s ballot gives us 19 first-time Cooperstown candidates, and they can easily be broken down into a few categories: Sure things, hangers-on and the one-and-dones. Most new ballots, the one-and-dones outnumber everybody else. Such is the story of the Hall of Fame. And it’s the case this year.  There are also a few players who are right on the fringe of hanging on and being gone after one ballot. They’ll need to get five percent of the vote to hang around.

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We’re talking some names you know quite well: Johan Santana, Andruw Jones and Johnny Damon. Let’s examine them and all 19 ballot newbies:

Examining the first-time candidates on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. (Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)
Examining the first-time candidates on the 2018 Hall of Fame ballot. (Amber Matsumoto / Yahoo Sports)

We’ll spend more words talking about later in this series, but for now just know that Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, two titans of their era, appear to be Hall of Fame locks. According to the indispensable Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, which keeps tabs on all the ballots that have made public by voters, Jones and Thome are both well over 90 percent, with Jones hovering around 98 percent. In short: They’re getting in.

Omar Vizquel and Scott Rolen aren’t getting in this year but they’ll live to get voted on another day. You need to get five percent of the vote to stay on the Hall of Fame ballot, and each of them have already achieved the necessary votes to hang on another year. We’ll write more about them in this series too, but each Vizquel and Rolen bring interesting cases to the table. Vizquel, of course, is a defense-first shortstop and it’ll be interesting to see how people wrestle with that in years to come. He’s at around 30 percent in public ballots. Rolen’s value-based metrics are quite good. His career WAR is very similar to Thome (72.9 to 70) and he compares favorably to other Hall of Fame third baseman. He just lacks the Hall of Fame hallmark stats — he didn’t get 3,000 hits or 500 homers. That’ll mean an uphill climb, but at least he’s faring better than some of his contemporaries:

Of the 15 remaining first-timers on the ballot, we can say with a good amount of certainty that these 12 won’t be back for 2019. Sorry, guys:

• Chris Carpenter
• Liván Hernández
• Orlando Hudson
• Aubrey Huff
• Jason Isringhausen
• Carlos Lee
• Brad Lidge
• Hideki Matsui
• Kevin Millwood
• Jamie Moyer
• Kerry Wood
• Carlos Zambrano

There a few names in there that might surprise you. But none of them have gotten a single vote thus far in the public ballots, which represents 45 percent of the electorate. Jamie Moyer played forever (25 seasons!) and while he’s not a Hall of Famer, he doesn’t even have a tip-of-the-cap vote yet. Carpenter, Millwood, Hernández and Lee had nice careers, but that’s about it. As for Wood, well he’s a classic case of what what-could-have-been.

Here’s where we get to the fun part of all this. There are three stars of their era who might fare better on the ballot if it weren’t so crowded. For them, this year isn’t about getting in — they’re not — it’s about staying around and hoping they can work their way up to 75 percent over their 10 years of eligibility.

Johnny Damon: Damon was one of the most interesting personalities of his era, he was also pretty darn good. His career WAR (56.0) isn’t that far off from Guerrero’s 59.3. And while WAR isn’t the barometer for Cooperstown, it’s at least interesting that Guerrero is expected to get in this year while Damon might get knocked off. Thus far, he has three public votes, which is 1.5 percent. He’ll need roughly 19 more votes to stay on the ballot. That number depends on how many ballots are cast. But it doesn’t look great.

Andruw Jones: Jones was a highlight machine, known as one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball history. His offensive numbers don’t hit any of Cooperstown benchmarks, but they’re good. He hit 438 homers. People have gotten in with fewer. Especially at his position. According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, which measures Hall of Fame credentials against players already in the Hall, Jones ranks at 54.6, which is just below the centerfield average of 57.9. Jones has 12 votes on the public ballots, which puts him at 6.2 percent. At that rate, he’ll stay on the ballot but it’ll be close.

Johan Santana: There was a time in Santana’s career when he looked like he was on the path to Cooperstown. He won the Cy Young in two of three years, led the league in strikeouts three years in a row, had the best ERA in the league in three of five years. Then injuries hit and he was never the same. Is Santana a Hall of Famer? No, not really. But he was probably better than where he currently sits: three votes and 1.5 percent. Like Damon, he’ll need about 19 more and that doesn’t look too good based on how many ballots are already in.

Coming Thursday: The players stuck in Hall of Fame no man’s land.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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