Rozner: Thome, Jones, Guerrero are Hall of Fame shoo-ins

There are still those who believe the first time on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot carries greater significance than the second.

So they don't vote for players the first time around.

This remains one of life's great mysteries.

As Andre Dawson said after jumping 10 percentage points during his fifth year on the ballot, “I guess I must have put up good numbers last year. Strange because I've been retired for 10 years.”

You're either pregnant or you're not. You're either a Hall of Famer or you're not.

In any case, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome should crash the 90 percent mark and cruise into Cooperstown when next week's election results are announced — but they won't approach 100.

The players with the highest percentages ever are Junior Griffey (99.3), Tom Seaver (98.8), Nolan Ryan (98.7), Cal Ripken (98.5), Ty Cobb (98.2), George Brett (98.1), Hank Aaron (97.8), Tony Gwynn (97.6), Randy Johnson (97.2) and Greg Maddux (97.2).

Aaron missed a perfect election by 9 votes in 1982. And the argument against Aaron would be what, exactly? Maddux missed by 15, Johnson by 15, Seaver by 5 and Babe Ruth (95.1 percent) missed by 11 votes.

Yes, 11 people didn't vote for the Babe Ruth of Babe Ruths.

Anyway, and for what it's worth, here's one writer's ballot for this year:

Chipper Jones

Lands at No. 51 all-time in WAR, 32nd in WAR position players and 25th offensive WAR. Those are monster numbers.

Jim Thome

Hit 612 home runs, eighth all-time.

Barry Bonds

Bonds had a Hall of Fame career (400-400) before his hat size exploded.

If his career had ended after 14 years, before he grew exponentially, his 103.4 WAR would have been good for 27th all-time. His 445 home runs would still be good for 42nd all-time. He already had three MVP awards and eight Gold Gloves.

Bonds collected 334 HR and 380 stolen bases through 1996, in his first 11 seasons. That was half of his career. No other player in baseball history has reached both numbers in an entire career.

Roger Clemens

It's not as obvious when Clemens began to enhance himself, but with Bud Selig's election to the HOF, it doesn't matter anymore. Selig was the steroids commissioner. He promoted it more, and profited from it more, than anyone in baseball during the steroids era. If Selig is in, Clemens is in.

Mike Mussina

One of the most underrated pitchers of all time, Mussina is finally gaining some notice and it's absurd that it's taken this long. He got only 20 percent of the votes in his first year and got to 51 percent last year on his fourth ballot.

Mussina is 24th in WAR for pitchers, 33rd in wins (270), 33rd in games started, 20th in strikeouts and 22nd in adjusted-pitching wins.

He's 23rd in strikeout-to-walk ratio and 12 times finished top 10 in WHIP, 10 times top five.

He's 11th all-time in base-out wins saved, 10th in win probability added and second to Curt Schilling since 1900 in strikeout-to-walk ratio among pitchers with at least 3,000 innings.

Curt Schilling

Some voters have openly admitted that they won't vote for Schilling because they don't like his post-career politics and often bizarre comments, but many of those same people will vote for PEDs users because they don't care about issues of character, integrity or sportsmanship, even though it's a stated rule for voting on a player's career.

Whatever. Schilling is a no-brainer.

No. 26 all-time in WAR for pitchers, second in Cy Young voting three times, top 15 MVP voting four times, top eight WAR for pitchers 11 times (top four eight times), top 10 ERA nine times, top six in WHIP 11 times, top 10 in strikeouts-per-9-innings 10 times, top 10 strikeouts-to-walks ratio 11 times (first five times), and is one of four pitchers with 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks (Greg Maddux, Fergie Jenkins, Pedro Martinez).

His postseason record is ridiculous, going 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 starts and 133 innings. He was 4-1 in the World Series, won three rings and his “bloody sock” start in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS was no myth.

He also won Game 4 of the '04 World Series with a temporarily-stapled ankle tendon, allowing him to pitch and leading to a medical technique known as the “Schilling Tendon Procedure.” Boston won its first World Series in 86 years in 2004.

Schilling was also co-MVP of the 2001 World Series, pitching in three games as Arizona beat the Yankees in seven games.

Vlad Guerrero

This ballot did not have room for him a year ago, but he gets in this year on his second try.

Trevor Hoffman

He missed by 5 votes last year and it will be very close again this year. Retired as the all-time saves leader. There's an award named after him. Surprised there's any discussion here.

Jeff Kent

Disliked equally by teammates and writers, Kent is nonetheless deserving.

All-time home run leader at second base (351), second at the position in RBI to Rogers Hornsby (1,518, 54th all-time), 47th all-time extra-base hits (984), 27th all-time doubles (560) and 68th all-time total bases (4,246). Top 100 all-time offensive WAR (97th).

Defense will probably keep him from ever getting in. Suddenly, people like defense again.

• • •

So look for Jones, Thome and Guerrero to get in easily and for Hoffman to make it or miss by a hair again.

Looks like a very nice summer for Cooperstown.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

Chipper Jones Associated Press/June 19, 2012
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