Looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot

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We’re less than 24 hours removed from the 2016 Hall of Fame class being announced but, hey, why not look ahead to next year’s ballot?

Yesterday we talked about three guys knocking on the door: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman. Beyond them were other gainers like Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez and Curt Schilling. All of them and others will be back, but here are the most notable guys joining them, in no particular order:

Manny Ramirez: He’d be a no-brainer if he didn’t brainlessly take PEDs after the testing regime was firmly in place. As it is, two drug suspensions will obliterate his candidacy, perhaps even more than PEDs harmed the candidacies of guys like McGwire, Bonds and Clemens. Those guys did their dirty work before testing was in place. Manny was caught after, and many will consider that to be more serious and culpable transgression. That aside, he played 19 seasons for the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays. He was a 12-time All-Star, played for two World Series winners and smashed 555 home runs.

Ivan Rodriguez: “Pudge” was considered the best defensive catcher of his era and, perhaps, the best defensive catcher of all time. He hit fantastically too, hitting over 300 homers, posting a career average of nearly .300 and driving in over 1,300 runs. He has an MVP Award in his back pocket and was a key member of the 2003 World Series champion Marlins. I suspect he’ll get in eventually, but I likewise suspect that he’ll have to wait a bit, not unlike Piazza and Biggio due to unsubstantiated PED rumors. If you loved “Mike Piazza’s back acne,” you’ll LOVE “Ivan Rodriguez’s weight loss!”

Vlad Guerrero: A bit of a short peak and a bit of a short career for a Hall of Famer, having played sixteen seasons for the Expos, Angels, Rangers and Orioles. Still, it was some peak. He was a nine-time All-Star, the 2004 AL MVP, has a World Series ring, (sorry: brain cramp) had a career .318 average, .379 on-base percentage, hit 449 home runs, drove in 1,496 RBI and, in his prime, was one of the best defensive outfielders with one of the greatest arms anyone has ever seen. He’s an interesting case vote-wise. I think, if anything, the time he played in relative obscurity in Montreal will help his case as, over the years, Vlad’s exploits have become the stuff of legend far more quickly than that of many of his contemporaries. There’s an air about him, I feel, that he was even greater than his numbers suggest. I go back and forth on that. He was great, but he did have some flaws in his game and his defense and stuff did fall off quickly. I’d vote for him. I think he stands the best chance of the newbies to make it in next year, but he’s not necessarily a mortal lock.

Jorge Posada: All 17 years for the Yankees and a World Series ring for every finger of one hand. A better hitter than you may remember, with a line of .273/.374/.474, 275 home runs and 1,065 RBI. If you go by WAR — which is problematic, but just for the sake of argument — he comes in 13th, just ahead of a lot of catchers who didn’t make the Hall but probably should’ve. Guys like Bill Freehan, Ted Simmons and the like. Ahead of him: Pudge, Fisk, Carter and guys who are generally thought to be clear Hall of Famers. A tough case. It may be a Jeff Kent-style case in which, unfortunately, Posada becomes the living, breathing dividing line between a Hall of Famer and a non-Hall of Famer. And don’t tell me that East Coast Bias will save him. That didn’t do a heck of a lot for Willie Randolph and Bernie Williams.

Magglio Ordonez: He’s not getting in, but it’s fun to remember him. A 15-year career between the White Sox and Tigers in which he was a six-time All-Star and one of the better hitters around. Most notably: I can’t think of many players who could be fan favorites for both the Sox and the Tigers. Everyone loved Magglio.

Jason Varitek: A lot of baseball writers will spill a lot of ink talking about how great a career he had and how great a guy he was before ultimately not voting for him. Considered by many to be the heart-and-soul of the 2004 and 2007 World Series-winning Red Sox, he got on base at a decent clip for a guy who didn’t hit for average, had some pop, had that little “C” on his jersey and once shoved his mitt in Alex Rodriguez‘s face, endearing him to millions. That’s fun, that’s interesting, but that’s not a Hall of Fame case.

There are many other fun “oh my God, how has he been retired that long?” names that will appear on next year’s ballot. Melvin Mora. Javier Vasquez. Tim Wakefield. Edgar Renteria. But no one else who is likely to get serious consideration.