The new Hall of Fame ballot is here, and Chipper and Thome look like first-ballot selections

From ESPN - November 20, 2017

Because we need more issues to squabble about right now, it's the new Hall of Fame ballot! Let the arguments begin, and please, keep the language civil.

Here's a quick review of the new names on this year's ballot. Combined with all the strong holdovers, it's going to be a crowded ballot, and those BBWAA members who vote for 10 candidates will once again be forced to leave off somebody they'd like to vote for.

Chipper Jones: An easy first-ballot Hall of Famer, Jones hit .303/.401/.529 with 468 home runs and 1,623 RBIs, winning the 1999 NL MVP Award along the way. With 85.0 WAR via, Jones ranks among the greatest third basemen of all time:

Mike Schmidt: 106.5 WAR

Eddie Mathews: 96.4

Adrian Beltre: 93.9

Wade Boggs: 91.1

George Brett: 88.4

Chipper Jones: 85.0

Brooks Robinson: 78.4

If you fudge the numbers, you can argue Jones is the second-best third baseman behind Schmidt -- he's third behind Mathews and Schmidt in offensive WAR but was the weakest defender of those top seven. Jones played in a tougher era than Mathews and is close enough to Brett, Boggs and Beltre that he could be considered at least their equal or better, especially when you consider how much of Beltre's WAR total is dependent on his defense.

Chipper played in 12 postseasons and was also popular with the media, so he will finish with a high percentage of votes, although Ken Griffey Jr.'s record percentage should remain safe.

Jim Thome: With 612 home runs (eighth all-time), 1,699 RBIs (26th), a .402 OBP and a .956 OPS, Thome is one of the great sluggers to play the game. Unlike others in his era, he has not faced any PED allegations or rumors, so that should not be an issue. He should be a first-ballot guy, and I think he will be, but he might not clear that 75 percent threshold with much room to spare. Some voters might hold his defense against him (he played 818 games at DH), or his .276 batting average, and a select few are suspect of any slugger from the steroid era and wo not vote for him.

Scott Rolen: This is the most fascinating player on the ballot in some regards. No, he's not going to get elected, but does he get 30 percent of the vote and establish himself as a strong candidate in the future, or does he get less than 5 percent and fall off the ballot? At his peak, Rolen was clearly a Hall-level player, with a monster 2004 season (9.2 WAR), plus seasons of 6.7, 5.8 and 5.5 WAR. He had five more between 4.1 and 4.7. He also had a lot of injuries later in his career, reaching 500 plate appearances just three times after turning 30, so his counting numbers do not blow you away. He finished with 316 home runs, 1,287 RBIs and barely cleared 2,000 hits.

Rolens Hall of Fame case rests on how voters evaluate his defense. He won eight Gold Gloves, and the defensive metrics back up that assessment -- among third basemen, Baseball-Reference rates him just behind Robinson and Beltre in career fielding runs. On that list above, he's ninth in career WAR (Ron Santo is eighth). He's a strong borderline candidate, although I do not know if he's one of the 10 best candidates, which is why his ultimate vote total is a big wild card.

Andruw Jones: Chipper's longtime teammate with the Atlanta Braves, Andruw burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old sensation when he hit two home runs in Game 1 of the 1996 World Series. Jones has a lot of positives: In his 20s, he was not just the best defensive center fielder in the game -- he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves -- but one of the best ever, rightfully drawing comparisons to Willie Mays. He was effortless out there, with great reads and the ability to glide to the right spot, and a key reason guys like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were consistent contenders for Cy Young Awards. He reached the postseason in the first 10 seasons of his career. He also hit 434 home runs. So you have a legendary defensive player who hit more than 400 home runs. That's a pretty intriguing Hall of Fame case.

Alas, Jones turned 30, gained weight, could not stay healthy and had a disastrous second half of his career. After turning 30, he hit .214/.314/.420 with just 92 home runs, and those seasons leave a sour legacy and the feeling of wasted talent. He finished with 62.8 WAR -- two or three good seasons from owning a much stronger case. WAR totals for a few outfielders:

Kenny Lofton: 68.2

Andre Dawson: 64.5

Dave Winfield: 63.8


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