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There was only room for three in baseball’s 2017 Hall of Fame class.
Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez received the call on Wednesday after finishing above the 75-percent threshold needed for election. Not far behind though were a pair of hopefuls in Trevor Hoffman, who finished a mere five votes short of election, and first-timer Vladimir Guerrero, whose 71.7 percent finish put him just 15 votes shy.
Guerrero’s election in particular would have made for a fun storyline for a few reasons, not the least of which being that he absolutely belongs. It would have been great to see a pair of first-ballot guys get in, but instead that distinction belonged solely to Pudge Rodriguez. Beyond that, it would have been a joyous occasion for the still supportive Montreal Expos fanbase had both Raines and Guerrero gotten their due.
Alas, it was not meant to be this time, but it does bring forth an interesting question: Why exactly did Vladimir Guerrero fall short?
For most of his 16-year career, Guerrero was a true five-tool player who struck undeniable fear not only into opposing pitchers, but also opposing baserunners. He could change a game with one swing or one throw, which made him a must-see player on both sides of the field.
But it wasn’t just the raw ability that stood out, he consistently put up remarkable numbers, finishing with a .318/.379/.553 career batting line, 2,590 hits, 449 home runs and 1,496 RBIs.
It wasn’t always pretty or smooth for Guerrero, but the production always matched the hype. Had it been pretty, that may have actually lessened his appeal to some degree. He had a unique style and energy that worked for him and elevated his profile.
Everything about Guerrero’s career screams Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, not enough voters agreed in 2017, and there are really only two plausible reasons why.
First and foremost, it’s possible some voters don’t view Guerrero as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It’s silly for voters to get hung up on such a distinction. There are no extra rewards or bigger plaques for first-ballot Hall of Famers. But rewarding that title has factored into the voting before.
Beyond that, perhaps the deep ballot hurt his chances as several voters were pulled in several directions, leaving Guerrero the odd man out. There are no PED questions attached to Guerrero. He didn’t spend his career in a hitter’s ballpark. His case is as cut and dry as they come, but it’s one we’ll have to revisit again in 2018.
Looking ahead, there should be a light at the end of the tunnel for Guerrero. That he topped 70 percent in his first year on the ballot bodes well for his future. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see his percentage jump over 75 percent next year. But the likelihood that he’ll eventually get in won’t make the wait any more comfortable now or warranted when his time comes.
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