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Phillies Wall of Famer Jim Thome inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

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Thome delivers his acceptance speech in Cooperstown, New York

 

On Sunday afternoon, retired Philadelphia Phillies star first baseman Jim Thome finds himself officially enshrined among baseball’s immortals.

Also inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame are five more superstars: Vladimir GuerreroTrevor HoffmanChipper JonesJack Morris, and Alan Trammell.
Even though Thome played just four of his 22 big league seasons with the Phillies, his impact on the organization was considered so great that he has previously been enshrined on the club’s Wall of Fame.
Last summer, Thome joined Mike Lieberthal (2012) as the only players enshrined on the Phillies Wall of Fame who appeared in a majority of their seasons with the club during the 2000’s but who had not played with the 2008 World Series team.
Thome signed with the Phillies as a free agent following the 2002 campaign. By that time, he had become one of the most feared sluggers in the game. As a member of the Cleveland Indians, Thome had been a three-time American League all-star, a Silver Slugger winner, and a perennial MVP candidate.
The Phillies team that Thome was joining for the 2003 season was not dissimilar to the current 2018 team. After years of losing, the Phillies had spent a few seasons rebuilding and retooling their roster.
Thome was signed to become the new Phillies first baseman and help the team step up to contending status. He was also brought in to provide a drawing card as Veteran’s Stadium closed in 2003 and Citizens Bank Park opened in 2004.
In his first season, the team’s final year after 33 seasons at The Vet, Thome led the National League with 47 home runs. He finished fourth in the NL MVP vote that year for a Phillies team that led the NL Wildcard race before collapsing to lose seven of their last eight games.
The following year, Thome made the National League all-star team for what would be the lone time in his career. He banged another 42 home runs that season, finishing among the top 20 in NL MVP voting. Among the many highlights were the 400th home run of his career, which he banged in front of the home fans in South Philly.
He would be honored following that 2004 season with the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award given to a player who best exemplifies strong character both on and off the field.
That Phillies team turned it on down the stretch this time, finishing the season with a 21-8 record after September 1. But again, it wasn’t enough to land a playoff berth.
His third season with the Phillies would prove to be abbreviated. It would also lead directly to a change that would have reverberations for the Phillies ultimate fortunes, and for the rest of his own career.
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Young slugger Howard would finally replace
the injured Thome for good in July 2005

In that 2005 campaign, Thome suffered a pair of injuries. He was driven to the disabled list first by a lower back strain, and then again by a bout with elbow tendinitis. Meanwhile, a 25-year-old first baseman named Ryan Howard was blasting moon shots in the minor leagues and pushing for playing time.
Thome would play his final game of the 2005 season on June 30. It would be his final game with the Phillies as well. At least for the next seven years.
As Thome finished up the end of his three-year, $36 million-dollar contract with three months on the disabled list, Howard stepped into the starting lineup.
The young slugger immediately became a star, bashing 22 home runs, 21 of those after Thome’s season was finished. Howard captured the NL Rookie of the Year honors, beginning a magnificent career in Philly during which he became “The Big Piece” and helped lead the 2008 team to their World Series championship.
Thome signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox. He would bounce back strong, blasting 42 home runs in 2006 with the Chisox and becoming an AL all-star. He would play in parts of four seasons with Chicago before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 38 in 2009.
With Los Angeles in 2009, Thome would once again see his career intersect with the Phillies, this time as a postseason opponent. He actually received a pair of plate appearances as the Dodgers and Phillies battled in the 2009 National League Championship Series.
Thome drew a walk off J.A. Happ in the bottom of the sixth inning of a Phillies 8-6 victory in the NLCS Game One. He would be immediately replaced by a pinch-runner who also had previous Phillies ties, pitcher Randy Wolf.
In Game Two, a 2-1 comeback victory for Los Angeles, Thome rapped a pinch-hit single off Scott Eyre. He was again removed for a pinch-runner. But that hit came in the midst of a two-run Dodgers rally that gave them the victory and tied the series.
Thome would then play for five different organizations over his final four seasons, including returns to both the Indians and Phillies.
He would slam five final homers in a Phillies uniform over 71 plate appearances during the first few months of the disappointing 2012 campaign. That season would prove to be the swan song for a long era of winning baseball at Citizens Bank Park.
As the team floundered, the 41-year-old Thome was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles on June 30, 2012 for a pair of nondescript minor league prospects. He would retire after finishing up that season in Baltimore.
Over part of four seasons in red pinstripes, Thome recorded a .260/.384/.541 slash line. He blasted 101 home runs, banged 42 doubles, knocked in 281 runs, and scored 243 times.

 

 

Today’s a special day for a very special guy.

Congratulations to Jim Thome on his induction into the @baseballhall today!

For his full 22-year career, Thome blasted 612 home runs. That places him eighth on the all-time Major League Baseball home run leader board. He finished up with 1,699 RBI and 1,583 runs scored. Thome also walked 1,747 times in his career.

 

Though his time in Philadelphia was relatively brief, it was also undoubtedly memorable and influential. He helped the organization in the early-mid 2000’s emerge from a decade of losing and ushered in an exciting new era of winning baseball at a beautiful new ballpark. Today, Thome takes his rightful place among the most memorable players in the history of the game.

My 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot

This past year marked a major change in direction as far as my baseball writing was concerned. For the previous three years, I wrote almost exclusively on the national pastime.

As the Fall of 2017 arrived, I decided to return to writing across the broader spectrum of politics, religion, entertainment, and social issues.

Baseball is always going to hold a special place in my heart and life, especially in regards to my hometown Philadelphia Phillies.

For anyone who has enjoyed my baseball writing in the past, rest easy. I am going to continue writing on the sport here at my website from time to time. You can enjoy those pieces, including all from the past, by clicking on the “Baseball” category from the website toolbar.

As a lifetime member of the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association), I have the honor of being involved in the organization’s annual Hall of Fame voting process. This was my fourth year with a ballot, and my selections were returned just this past week.
The IBWAA voting process does not earn a player a plaque at Cooperstown. It does, however, allow another block of informed voters to express their opinion as to which players are deserving of that ultimate career honor. You can consider it a formal endorsement from the Internet baseball writers and bloggers.
A year ago for the 2017 IBWAA Hall of Fame voting, I broke down my ballot into three categories: Hall of Famers, Under Future Consideration, and Not Hall of Famer. I am doing the same for this piece on the 2018 ballot, and will continue that process into the future.
There were 31 eligible players on last year’s 2017 ballot. Eight of those players received my vote as a Hall of Famer: Barry BondsRoger ClemensTrevor HoffmanMike MussinaManny RamirezIvan RodriguezCurt Schilling, and Larry Walker.
 
Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero, who was on my “Future Consideration” list a year ago, were each voted in by the IBWAA in 2017. Both players received 175 votes (84.54%) to gain the honor of our HOF endorsement. Mussina, Hoffman, Bonds, and Clemens all received more than 70% of the vote, falling just short of the 75% requirement for endorsement.
 
This year, I was more frugal with my own vote, casting a ballot for just five players. In doing so, I left off three players who received my vote a year ago: Walker, Ramirez, and Hoffman. 
 
 
 
Frankly, I don’t really enjoy taking a vote away from these players. It’s not that I no longer feel they are worthy. I made a personal decision this year to “tier” my deserving choices. The five players who did receive my vote are, for me, clearly ahead of those three.
 
A year ago there were 31 players on the ballot. After voting for eight, I listed another seven under consideration, and rated 16 as not deserving. You can see here that the number of players who I will be considering in the future has grown considerably.
 
There are three videos accompanying this piece. I would recommend that you view each of them for more information on the HOF 2018 nominees and process. The middle video on Schilling’s worthiness is particularly revealing. 
 
Here is my breakdown of the 2018 IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. You will also absolutely have your own opinions, and I would love to hear them. Among the below nominees who were on the 2018 IBWAA ballot, which would receive your vote to the Baseball Hall of Fame?
 
 
 

2018 HALL OF FAME PLAYERS (5)

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Chipper Jones, Jim Thome

FUTURE CONSIDERATION (16)

Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Larry Walker, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Johnny Damon, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, Andruw Jones, Jamie Moyer, Johan Santana, Omar Vizquel
 

NOT HALL OF FAMER (11)

Chris Carpenter, Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hudson, Aubrey Huff, Jason Isringhausen, Carlos Lee, Brad Lidge, Hideki Matsui, Kevin Millwood, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano
 

My 2017 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America (IBWAA) conducts voting in December of each year for its Baseball Hall of Fame.
This process is conducted in much the same manner as the formal BBWAA voting, which results in players being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
The IBWAA was born on the Fourth of July in 2009. As described at the association website, the organization was formed “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).” 
The BBWAA is made up of writers who have covered the game for “traditional” media. This usually means of the print variety, such as newspapers. 
Meanwhile, coverage of the game has exploded beyond such traditional means over the last two decades.
Baseball coverage has now expanded to purely digital websites and blogs. Due to this expansion, a vibrant and vital new resource is available to all fans of the sport. 
Hence, the IBWAA organizes internet writers, columnists, and bloggers who might otherwise be shut out of the aging print media structure.
The IBWAA was founded and has been managed since its inception by Howard Cole, a writer who primarily covers the Los Angeles Dodgers. 
Cole is now looking to sell the rights to the organization. He can be reached at info@ibwaa.com or @Howard_Cole on Twitter.

IBWAA HALL OF FAME VOTING PROCESS

Each December, the IBWAA conducts its own voting for the Hall of Fame. While this voting process does not get anyone inducted at Cooperstown, it does allow another valuable, educated voice to be heard.
Writers and bloggers on the web often spend just as much time and energy following and writing about the game. Finally, these web writers have been given a voice in the HOF process. As a result, we become part of a collective that serves as an alternative to help honor the greats of the game.
The IBWAA requires that a player receive 75% of the votes from voting members for election to the Hall of Fame. In 2016, the IBWAA selected Ken Griffey Jr with 230 votes. This was a unanimous result. Edgar Martinez received 173 votes (75.22%). As a result, he was also honored.
A few other players were so-called “controversial” nominees on the BBWAA ballot a year ago. Of these, Mike Piazza (2014) had already been elected previously by the IBWAA membership. Likewise, both Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines (both 2015) were already elected.
I am currently a baseball writer for the FanSided organization. This is a respected and growing network of fandom-focused sports, entertainment and lifestyle sites.
Furthermore, I am a lifetime member of the IBWAA. Consequently this will be my third year voting in the IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame process.

2017 IBWAA BALLOT AND MY BREAKDOWN

This year there were 31 players appearing on the IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Members are permitted to vote for as many as 15 of those nominated. I voted for the full allowance of 15 in each of my first two years as a voter. However, this year I chose to cast a ballot with just eight players on it.
Getting into arguments as to why I voted for this player and not for that player is pointless. Suffice it to say that I have been following this game closely now for over four decades. In this Hall of Fame voting, I have developed my own evaluation process.
I am absolutely certain that many of you would vote differently. As a result, I would love to hear your opinions. Please feel free to share with me in a comment. Maybe you will want to tell me that I’m an idiot. Most of all, I would like you to simply share with me your own vote.
Most noteworthy, the breakdown to follow will show the names of the eight players for whom I voted. Then I will present a list of players who I feel are potentially worthy. I simply feel that my current honorees are more clear-cut. Consequently, I want to evaluate these other players a bit more.
Finally, the last list will show those who had a nice MLB career, but are simply not Hall of Fame worthy.

2017 HALL OF FAME PLAYERS (8)


UNDER FUTURE CONSIDERATION (7)


NOT A HALL OF FAMER IMHO (16)

Time for Closers to Get Their Hall of Fame Due

For far too long, the Baseball Hall of Fame voters of the BBWAA have not given the position of closer the appropriate respect that it deserves.
There are 312 individuals: players, managers, executives and umpires currently enshrined as baseball’s immortals.
Only five pitchers who were primarily relievers during their careers are currently inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those five are Hoyt WilhelmRollie FingersDennis EckersleyBruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage.
This does not include John Smoltz, who registered 154 Saves and was one of the game’s top closers from 2002-04. Smoltz was a starter for 481 of his 723 career games.
Do the math. That means less than 2% of the enshrined players can be legitimately classified as a closer.
Since the 1970’s the closer position has evolved into one of the most important strategic positions in the game.
It is almost a foregone conclusion that immediately upon his eligibility in two more years, the former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera will be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
This year there are three closers on the 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot who are all returnees from a year ago. All three are worthy of enshrinement, among the best pitchers in the history of the game.

HELL’S BELLS

Trevor Hoffman strode out to the mound across parts of 18 big league seasons with the Marlins, Padres, and Brewers. He was a 7x All-Star, 2x Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and twice led the National League in Saves.
He registered 14 seasons with 30+ Saves, nine of those with 40+ Saves. In both 1998 and 2006, Hoffman was the runner-up in Cy Young Award voting. In addition, Hoffman received the 2004 Hutch Award and the 2006 Lou Gehrig Award.
He currently holds records for NL Career Saves, Consecutive Seasons with 40+ Saves, Seasons with 40+ Saves, Most Relief Pitcher K/9, and Most Career Games Pitched with one team.
Hoffman is second all-time in Saves to only Rivera with 601 over his career. He finished with just 846 hits allowed over 1,089.1 innings with a 1,133/307 K:BB ratio. His career 6.99 H/9 mark is 7th in MLB history. He is 9th all-time in MLB history with 1,035 games pitched.
Introduced early in his career as a power reliever, an injury during the 1994 off-season prompted him to reinvent himself. Hoffman would develop one of the greatest changeups in the history of the game, and pitch with strong results past age 40.
His #51 has been retired by the San Diego Padres, and he has been inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. He currently oversees pitching instruction at all levels of the Padres operations.
A year ago, Hoffman received 67% of the votes in his second year of Hall of Fame eligibility. He is considered one of three extremely strong returnees on this year’s ballot.

LEE ARTHUR

Lee Smith plied his trade across 18 big league seasons with eight different teams, spending 14 years in the NL and seven in the AL. But he is best known as the closer for two NL Central Division arch-rivals, the Chicago Cubs and Saint Louis Cardinals.
Smith was a 7x All-Star, 3x Rolaids Relief Man Award winner, and led his league in Saves four times. He is third behind only Rivera and Hoffman with 478 career Saves.
He was at the vanguard of the era when closers were expected to simply come in and shut the game down with one final dominant inning, and did that as well as any pitcher in history.
Smith finished with a higher career Saves Percentage than Fingers, Gossage, or Sutter. He finished having allowed 1,133 hits over 1,289.1 innings with 1,251 strikeouts.
Smith finished 2nd in the 1991 NL Cy Young voting when he was 8th in the NL MVP vote. He was 4th in 1992 Cy Young voting, and then finished 5th in 1994.
This is Smith’s final year being considered by the BBWAA. A year ago he received 34.1% of the vote, and is a longshot to reach the Hall this year. His best shot will come in future Veteran’s Committee balloting.

BILLY THE KID

Billy Wagner is 6th on the MLB all-time Saves list with 422, and may be the most dominating left-handed closer ever.
Wagner pitched 16 seasons for five teams, and is best known for his first nine years of work with the Houston Astros. He then spent the mid-00’s closing for a pair of NL East rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
A 7x NL All-Star, Wagner won the 1999 Rolaids Relief Man Award when he also finished 4th in the NL Cy Young vote.
He was also part of a combined no-hitter while with the Astros in the 2003 season. In 2006 with the Mets, Wagner finished in 6th place in the Cy Young voting.
Wagner allowed just 601 hits over 903 innings with an 1,196/300 K:BB ratio.
There is little doubt that, had he wanted, Wagner could have continued as a dominant closer for at least a few more seasons when he retired at age 38 following the 2010 season.
In his final season with the Atlanta Braves, Wagner registered 37 Saves with a 1.43 ERA and 0.865 WHIP. He had a 104/22 K:BB ratio that year, allowing just 38 hits in 69.1 innings.
Wagner was named on just 10.5% of the ballots a year ago in his second year of eligibility. He needs to receive at least 10% this year in order to remain on the ballot, and it may be a narrow result.

ODDS THEY REACH ENSHRINEMENT

These three closers would have to be a part of any all-time bullpen that you would want to put together. They are easily among the top ten in the history of the game, and their numbers and performances compare favorably to the closers already in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Only Hoffman, for whom the official award given to the top National League relief pitcher is now named, has a shot this year. But both Smith and Wagner should be seriously considered in future years by those Veteran’s Committee voters.

Cy Young Award Should Be for Starting Pitchers Only

Each year that an MLB reliever has a dominating season there are discussions as to his Cy Young Award worthiness, and baseball should finally resolve the issue.

The Cy Young Award, emblematic of the best pitchers in MLB during each season, has been awarded since the 1956 season.
For the first decade of the award’s existence, from 1956-66, there was one honoree for all of baseball. Beginning in the 1967 season, a Cy Young Award was bestowed on the top pitcher in each league.
The award has been given out in every year since its debut, including for the 1994 season that was canceled halfway through due to the strike.
The first true relief pitcher to win the award was Mike Marshall of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974. Marshall won 15 games and saved 21 to take the NL honors that season. Three years later, Sparky Lyle of the New York Yankees became the first relief pitcher in the American League to win the honor with 13 wins and 26 saves.

Over its history there have now been five National Leaguers and four in the American League to win the Cy Young Award out of the bullpen.

Each time it happens, and in other years when a relief pitcher had a great season and came up against tough starting pitching competition, the issue is debated. Should a relief pitcher be allowed to win the Cy Young Award?
I say no.
That is nothing against relief pitchers. They have a difficult, pivotal job. But let’s face it, despite what folks like Brian Kenney with MLB Network would like, at present there are two different pitching roles in baseball: starter and reliever.
The starting pitcher has a completely different role than the relief pitcher in the vast majority of cases. Not harder, just different.
The two roles take different skill sets, make different physical demands on pitchers, require different mindsets.
For me, the Cy Young Award should go to the top starting pitcher each season. There should be an equally important and respected award for relief pitchers. Those awards actually now do exist.
Major League Baseball began presenting a Mariano Rivera Award to the best relief pitcher in the American League and a Trevor Hoffman Award to the best relief pitcher in the National League beginning in 2014.
The simple solution is to present the Rivera and Hoffman Awards at the same general time that the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and other major awards are announced.
This year, Kenley Jansen of the Dodgers and Zach Britton of the Baltimore Orioles were awarded the Hoffman and Rivera honors, respectively.
In my 2016 IBWAA Awards ballot, I also chose Jansen and Britton as the top reliever in each league. My Cy Young vote went to Max Scherzer in the NL, and to Corey Kluber in the AL.
That is the way it should be, with the game’s best starting pitchers battling it out for the Cy Young Award. To me, it’s simple. What do you think?