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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2018 — No. 9: A Hall of Fame class for the ages

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We’re a few short days away from 2019 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2018. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were more akin to tabloid drama. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

There were a few years there when it seemed like no one would be elected to the Hall of Fame. Heck, in 2013, no one was elected to the Hall of Fame, at least by the baseball writers. In 2010 and 2012 only one guy got in. It was a tough ticket.

In recent years, however, the BBWAA has done a better job of clearing what remains a pretty big backlog of deserving candidates. Last January they elected four guys and, with two candidates elected by the Veterans Committe the month before, one of the best classes to ever take the stage together was inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in July: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Alan Trammell and Jack Morris all got the call.

Jones spent parts of 19 seasons in the majors, all with the Braves. He hit .303/.401/.529 across his career with 458 home runs, 1,623 RBI, 1,619 runs scored, and 150 stolen bases. He won the 1999 National League MVP Award, made the NL All-Star team eight times, won two Silver Slugger Awards, and won the batting title in 2008 with a .364 average. He helped the Braves win the World Series in 1995 in six games over the Indians. Jones was part of the Braves’ historic dominance as the club made the playoffs in 11 consecutive seasons from 1995-2005, which included two other World Series appearances.

Jones is one of the best switch-hitters in baseball history. According to Baseball Reference, only Mickey Mantle accrued more WAR (109.7) than Jones (85.0) among switch-hitters. He’s ahead of Pete Rose (79.1), Ozzie Smith (79.5), and Frankie Frisch (70.4). Jones is also one of the best third basemen in baseball history. His 85.0 WAR is fifth-best all-time behind Mike Schmidt (106.5), Eddie Mathews (96.4), Adrian Beltre (93.9), and Wade Boggs (91.1). He’s ahead of Brooks Robinson (78.4) and Ron Santo (70.4).

Thome hit .276/.402/.554 with 612 home runs, 1,699 RBI, and 1,583 runs scored in his 22-year career. He spent 13 of those years with the Indians, followed by four each with the Phillies and White Sox, two with the Twins, and short stints with the Dodgers and Orioles. Thome is eighth on the all-time home run leaderboard behind Albert Pujols (614) and ahead of Sammy Sosa (609). Thome’s eye at the plate was just as important as his power, as he led the league in walks three times and drew 1,747 total over the course of his career. He made five All-Star teams and won an AL Silver Slugger Award in 1996.

Guerrero played 16 seasons in the majors. Eight of those came with the Expos, six with the Angels, and one each with the Rangers and Orioles. He hit .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 1,496 RBI, 1,328 runs scored, and 181 stolen bases. Guerrero won the 2004 AL MVP Award and eight Silver Slugger Awards (three in the NL, five in the AL), and made nine All-Star teams (three NL, five AL). Guerrero was known as one of the best “bad ball” hitters of all time, meaning that he was able to find success on pitches well outside of the strike zone.

Hoffman compiled 601 saves — second-most all-time behind Rivera — across an 18-year career. He and Rivera are the only closers with more than 478 saves, in fact, showcasing both players’ pitching prowess and longevity. Hoffman also had a career 2.87 ERA with 1,133 strikeouts over 1,089 1/3 innings. The right-hander was drafted by the Reds, went to the Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft, and was traded to the Padres in 1993 in the Gary Sheffield deal.

Morris pitched parts of 18 seasons in the majors, 14 of which were spent with the Tigers. He played on four championship teams: the 1984 Tigers, the 1991 Twins, and the 1992-93 Blue Jays. While his regular season stats weren’t terribly impressive beyond his 254 wins, Morris has always had a decent amount of Hall of Fame support due to his postseason performances. Morris shut the Braves out over 10 innings in Game 7 of the ’91 World Series. That being said, his postseason ERA of 3.80 isn’t far off his regular season ERA of 3.90. If you ask me, Morris doesn’t pass muster for the Hall of Fame. He now has the highest career ERA of any pitcher in the Hall.

Trammell had been unjustly kept out of the Hall of Fame despite a terrific career. He hit .285/.352/.415 across parts of 20 seasons from 1977-96, all with the Tigers. He was regarded as a tremendous defender and made a memorable combination up the middle with Lou Whitaker, who also played with the Tigers from 1977-95. According to Baseball Reference, Trammell racked up 70.4 Wins Above Replacement during his career, which is slightly more than Hall of Famer Barry Larkin (70.2) and as much as Hall of Famer Ron Santo (70.4).

 

 

Rays place Austin Meadows on 10-day injured list with thumb sprain

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Rays outfielder Austin Meadows has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a right thumb sprain, per a team announcement Sunday. No concrete timetable has been given for his return to the lineup just yet, but he’s scheduled to meet with a hand specialist on Sunday as the Rays try to determine the extent of his injury.

Meadows, 23, suffered the sprain in the seventh inning of Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox. He lined a two-run triple into the right-center field gap — one of a franchise-record four triples that the Rays recorded in the game — but slid awkwardly into third base and jammed his right thumb in the process. He didn’t appear to be in obvious pain following the hit, however, nor was he removed from the game at the time.

Prior to the setback, Meadows carried a hefty .351/.422/.676 batting line with six homers, 19 RBI, and a 1.097 OPS through his first 83 plate appearances of 2019. He was replaced by Guillermo Heredia in right field for Sunday’s series finale and will likely lose a few starts to Avisaíl García as well.

In a series of corresponding moves, right-handed reliever Jake Faria was optioned to Triple-A Durham, infielder/outfielder Andrew Velazquez and righty reliever Emilio Pagán were recalled from Triple-A, and reliever Hunter Wood was placed on the paternity list. Second baseman Joey Wendle was also reinstated from the 10-day injured list after rehabbing a left hamstring strain and is scheduled take over the keystone during the Rays’ matinee against the Red Sox on Sunday.