Cleveland in the Hall of Fame: Examining the franchise’s future path to Cooperstown

Cleveland Indians rightfielder Manny Ramirez (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL / AFP) (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL/AFP via Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians rightfielder Manny Ramirez (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL / AFP) (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL/AFP via Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Manny Ramirez
Cleveland Indians rightfielder Manny Ramirez (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL / AFP) (Photo by DAVID MAXWELL/AFP via Getty Images) /

With names like Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, and Omar Vizquel failing to make it into the Hall of Fame, what does the future hold for the franchise getting some names sent to Cooperstown?

Sometimes you have to let things marinate. I know I did, especially after this latest… interesting Hall of Fame induction balloting, if you can even call it that. Outside of the Today’s Game Committee, one player, just one, will get inducted, and that was David Ortiz.

To say I despise Ortiz isn’t accurate. Dislike? Yeah, I sure do. But this isn’t about David Ortiz or whether or not he is deserving of being in the Hall. This about what former Cleveland Indians belong in Cooperstown.

Where Do Manny Ramirez and Omar Vizquel Go From Here?

Cleveland had a few candidates on this year’s ballot, too! Manny Ramirez and Omar Vizquel both appeared and tallied enough votes to remain on the ballot next year as well. But is it enough? Manny appeared on the ballot for the sixth time, so he has four more cracks at it, but for the second consecutive year remains in the 28% of votes neighborhood.

Vizquel, on the other hand, has been on the ballot for five years so he has five more shots – maybe. You see, he had been climbing up the ranks and even received nearly 53% of votes in 2020, but the last two seasons he’s gone down to 49% and then 24% this year.

For those not keeping score at home, you may now be asking what happened. Manny has been marred in the drug-enhancement suspensions that occurred toward the end of his career. Omar, well, let’s put it this way – his life has resembled that of a Law & Order: SVU episode more recently. Both of these are rightfully red flags to voters and thus explain why they are where they are with the voters.

Both have Hall of Fame-worthy numbers. In his nineteen seasons, Ramirez amassed shoe-in-type numbers: 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, 1831 RBIs, .312 batting average, .585 slugging, 12 All-Star Games, 9 Silver Sluggers, and two World Series titles.

Omar owns impressive numbers for his 24-year career too, such as 2,877 hits, 11 Gold Gloves, and three All-Star appearances. But it could all be for naught.

Ramirez unceremoniously faded into obscurity his final two seasons, and many claim that Vizquel was simply padding his Hall resume towards the end. Now, these can and should be chalked up to silly little gripes that writers have, but they are the ones ultimately voting these guys into the Hall.

The one last figure I want to consider for both is their JAWS score. JAWS (Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score) is a nice clean-ish way to look at how worthy of enshrinement a player truly is. It’s not a perfect metric and does largely value offensive output, but it’s another data point we can use. Manny has a 54.6, roughly a point higher than the average Hall of Fame left fielder. Omar’s JAWS score leaves a ton more to be desired – he owns a 36.2 – which by comparison of other Hall of Fame shortstops is well below the average of 55.5.

Then there’s Kenny Lofton, who in his lone year on the ballot (2013) only received 3.2% of the vote and fell off the ballot for failing to reach the 5% threshold. Is there a day the Today’s Game Committee votes him in?

Lofton ranks as the tenth-best center fielder in terms of JAWS, behind seven Hall of Famers, some guy named after a fish (Mike Trout, ever heard of him?), and Carlos Beltran. Lofton is currently 15th all-time in stolen bases with 622, and nine of the fourteen ahead of him are in the Hall.

Lastly, Lofton was a six-time All-Star, and a four-time Gold Glove winner. But the last six seasons saw Kenny bounce around, playing for nine different teams and playing at a 105.5 wRC+ clip.

The Next Phase of Eligible Cleveland Players

Looking forward to the next few years, there are a few familiar names who will enter the fray and be on the ballot:

Peralta had such a “meh” career, with a career wRC+ of 103, a JAWS of 28.5 (Francisco Lindor already has a higher score of 31.1), that I can’t really envision a way he makes it in and is likely a one-and-done on the ballot.

Colon would be a fun addition but he only has one Cy Young award and an ERA+ of 106; that hurts him. Victor, though he was beloved, seems to come up just short across the board, too; his JAWS score is 30.5 (putting him in the neighborhood with Yadier Molina, Russell Martin, and Brian McCann) but that’s well short of the 44.2 average for a catcher, which he started out as but finished primarily at first base and as a designated hitter.

Cleveland Indians, Bartolo Colon
Cleveland Indians pitcher Bartolo Colon (AARON HARRIS/AFP via Getty Images) /

Sabathia did accumulate 251 career wins, a number not many of today’s pitchers could ever dream of, but only has one CY Young to show for it and a career ERA+ of 116.

Now, that’s not to say that all four won’t get into a Hall of Fame, say, for instance, the Cleveland Indians/Guardians Hall of Fame. I hear the next class will be inducted in 2023. Now that is a fun conversation we can have here soon as the team has yet to induct any of the deserving players of the mid-aughts or teens into their own Hall.

In the end, could the Cleveland faithful be making multiple trips to Cooperstown in the coming years? I suppose (I’ll never say never), but I wouldn’t bet on it. Save your money and place some futures bets on this year’s squad making a playoff run, or spread the wealth to the other teams in town. Maybe Lofton makes it eventually – he has some numbers to indicate he belongs (plus he isn’t embroiled in any controversy), but his fate lies with the Today’s Committee. The best bet to be enshrined through a ballot is surely Sabathia, but he’d be more likely to go in as a Yankee, and if you’re objectively looking at his numbers, you cannot be too surprised by that.

It may be a while before another Indian/Guardian goes into the Hall of Fame – Jim Thome was the last to do so in 2018. Maybe if Jose Ramirez has another ten years of his current pace, he’ll get there, too. Or maybe one day, Corey Kluber and his two Cy Youngs are deemed worthy. Only time will tell.