Cleveland Indians: Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel Should Be Elected To The Baseball Hall Of Fame In 2018


Former Cleveland Indians Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel should be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility in 2018.

When the BBWAA casts their ballots for the 2018 Hall of Fame Class, two players should be locks to go in as Cleveland Indians: Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel.

Thome will get in easily. His 612 homers are seventh all-time. His .554 slugging percentage isn’t too shabby either (22nd all-time). He also drove in 1,699 RBI.

If advanced statistics are more to your liking, Thome’s 72.9 WAR ranks 52nd all-time. Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, a first-ballot selection in the 2014 Class, posted a 73.7 WAR (82nd all time).

But really, the homers should be what carries Thome into the hall of baseball immortality. Eight men have clubbed over 600 moonshots. Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. are in, and entered the Hall without any suspicions of PED use. Thome’s name could be added to that group and the sentence about steroids wouldn’t change.

Thome will be the first player to go into the Hall as an Indian since Larry Doby was enshrined in 1998.

The case for Vizquel is tougher to make, but that’s because the baseball writers love to hem and haw about nothing. It’s what they do. They’ll all write 5,000-world novella’s explaining their decision about how they judge the game from a a defensive standpoint.

I’ll save you the long reads. Vizquel was the premier defensive shortstop of his era. The second Vizquel won his 10th Gold Glove, he should’ve became a lock for the Hall of Fame (He has 11 total).

His streak of nine Gold Gloves, spanning from 1993-2001, is the longest in  the American League since the award’s inception in 1957. Ozzie Smith‘s streak of 13 consecutive Gold Gloves is the standard.

OK, maybe some will argue the Gold Glove is an outdated way to measure a player’s true defensive impact. I disagree and believe the award is more accurate than not.

Smith was a first ballot Hall of Famer because of defense. Like Vizquel, he was the best of his era. Both played the game with a passion and love for the art of fielding a grounder.  Who could forget all of those grounders Vizquel fielded with his bare hand? Statistics and numbers are one thing, but the ability to engrain yourself into a fan’s memory with the things you do on the field are truly what makes a legend, and Vizquel accomplished that.

For all the magic Tribe fans saw on display at arguably the most important defensive position on the diamond, Vizquel ranks 10th all time in defensive WAR. Want your advanced statistical measurement? There it is.

As crazy as it may sound, maybe Vizquel’s bat puts him over the top. No one thought he’d be much of a hitter when John Hart acquired him from the Mariners before the 1994 season.

Vizquel worked very hard at hitting, and turned in a .272 career batting average, along with a .336 on-base percentage. He stole 404 bases and clubbed 2,877 hits in his 24-year MLB career (I so badly wanted him to keep playing into his 50s so he’d collect 3,000 hits. Then the BBWAA would have no choice but to put him in).

Ok, comparison time: Luis Aparicio, a Hall of Famer, should be the example Hall writers use for determing Vizquel’s fate. Aparicio hit .262 with a .311 on-base percentage. He stole 506 bases and knocked 2,677 career hits. He won nine Gold Gloves, but to be fair, the award didn’t exist in his rookie season of 1956. Aparicio ranks 14th all-time in defensive WAR.

Aparicio was elected in his sixth year of eligibility. That was a crime. If Vizquel has to wait that long, call the Department of Justice.

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Brooklyn Dodgers great Pee Wee Reese, who lost three years to military service, hit .269 and reached base at a .366 clip while collecting 2,144 career hits. His glove was a dependable as they come and he was a true leader on the field.

Somewhere, Cincinnati Reds fans are yelling about Dave Concepcion.

Davey was a great player, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer.

His offensive numbers are comparable to the aforementioned players. He won five Gold Gloves, but his last was awarded in 1979–he played until 1988. Vizquel was better, for longer. Davey ranks ranks 44th in defensive WAR. Defensively, he’s just not in that upper echelon.

If both of these players are rightfully given their place among baseball’s immortals, get ready, Cleveland, because Cooperstown will become a Tribe Town next summer.

Next: Who Should Start At Catcher in 2017?

Thome and Vizquel weren’t just Hall of Fame players, they were fan favorites who made a city fall in love with baseball again.

See you at the Hall, fellas.