In this week’s Wroundtable, the staff at Wahoo’s on First discussed who will be the next Cleveland Indian to be inducted into Cooperstown. While there are certainly plenty of players who meant a lot to the Indians, there are few who make it into the Hall. Both Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel will be eligible in the not-so-distant future, and players like Manny Ramirez will find themselves onto the ballot even before then. Add in the fact that the Veterans’ Committee elects players from previous eras, and there are certainly plenty of candidates to choose from.
And so, without further ado:
Which player should be the next Cleveland Indians’ Hall of Famer?
Andrew Schmid: Thome should be the next Cleveland Indian elected to the Hall of Fame. Thome may not have been the most balanced batter, but his 612 career home runs – the 7th most all-time – speak for themselves. Even further, his isolated power of .278 ranks eighth all-time. And he didn’t just bring raw power to the table, but he also managed to get on base at a high rate. His .402 on-base percentage is that of a Hall of Famer, and this is not just due to a high batting average, as he showed enough plate discipline to walk roughly 17 percent of the time. Sure, he was most certainly a slugger with raw power and low defensive skills, but he was also one of the best in the game during his career. He provided a generation of young baseball fans a lifetime of memories of baseballs being crushed into the upper decks, and this fact alone must be worth something on the Hall of Fame ballot.
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Katrina Putnam: While I certainly understand the Thome phenomenon, I would root for the next Hall of Famer to be Vizquel. Thome was a home run hitter, and that’s generally a stat players can sustain for a long period of time. When you play from the time you’re 21 years old until past your 42 birthday, you’re bound to break some counting stat records. That’s not to say that Thome wasn’t phenomenal or make light of his achievements. His 162-game average for home runs was 39, so that in and of itself is special. However, try to list the top ten first basemen/designated hitters in the last several decades. I bet you’d run through a few before hitting on Thome. Now run through the top five shortstops. I’d challenge anyone to find five better defensive shortstops than Vizquel. Power is an admirable but common commodity, while defensive instincts like Vizquel’s are incredibly rare. He had a pretty respectable bat, on top of it, which is a feat for any shortstop. Vizquel belongs in the Hall before Thome.
Ryan Rosko: It is tough to go against Thome’s phenomenal career, most notably as one of the great home run hitters of all time, but I am going with Vizquel. Both were cornerstones for the Indians for years. Why not have them both inducted in the same year? I know, likely wishful thinking, but that would be great to see. As one of the greatest short stops of all time, he was a three-time all-star, eleven-time Gold Glove winner. Nothing against Thome as a first baseman/designated hitter, but one aspect of fans watching baseball is the exciting plays that occur. Vizquel did that all the time, making incredible plays. Who knows exactly how many runs and wins he has saved based on his defense?
Cody Norman: Thome and Vizquel are the popular answers here, no doubt. But neither is eligible for induction until 2018. The next Indians player that should make the Hall of fame, however, has the credentials to get the nod in 2017: Manny Ramirez. While Ramirez will almost certainly be doomed by his two PED suspensions at the latter half of his career, Ramirez is among the best hitters to play the game. In his eight seasons with the Tribe, Ramirez hit .313/.407/.592, while averaging better than 100 RBIs per season. He clubbed 236 home runs and posted five seasons with better than 30 round-trippers before moving on to Boston, where the moniker “Manny being Manny” really took off. His career spanned 19 total seasons, and the right-handed slugger totaled 555 home runs while posting a 154 OPS+ and the 10th-best JAWS among left fielders. Without the PED suspensions, Ramirez is a lock to be enshrined in Cooperstown. Once the tone surrounding PEDs in baseball eventually shifts – and it will – Ramirez should be among the first known users to enter the Hall of Fame. Drugs or no drugs, he was one of the greatest hitters we have seen in recent memory. He deserves his place in history.
Nick Blazek: I’ve got to go with Thome. His power mixed with good plate discipline made him such a good hitter. And Thome always seemed to come through in the clutch, the kind of guy the Indians would love to have now. No disrespect to Vizquel, but being No. 7 on the all-time home run list is impressive, and never a rumor of using steroids to get there.
Matthew Bretz: Thome will likely be the next Cleveland Indians player inducted into the Hall of Fame; however, I’m going to go old-school with my choice. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson should be the next member of the Indians’ organization to be in the Hall of Fame. Yes, he’s deemed ineligible for the Hall due to the Black Sox Scandal, but I’m a firm believer that the ban should be a “lifetime” ban. Jackson’s life has long been over, so you’re not punishing him by keeping him out of the Hall of Fame – you’re punishing fans of the game. Jackson played parts of six seasons with the Naps/Indians, and according to Fangraphs, accumulated more than half of his career 60.5 WAR with Cleveland (33.8). It’s time to end the ban and let one of the greatest hitters of all time into the Hall of Fame, and he should go in as a Cleveland Indian.