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Baseball Hall of Fame: Who’s on deck for the Class of 2019?

A whopping six players will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29 in Cooperstown, N.Y. (Four were elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America; two were selected by the Veterans’ Committee.) So who’s on deck for the Class of 2019, which will be announced next January? Free Press sports writer Ryan Ford takes a look at five possible candidates:

DH Edgar Martinez

The case for: Put simply, he is baseball’s greatest designated hitter. The award given out by MLB to the best DH every season is literally named after him. A seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger, he hit .312 for his career with a .418 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage. Martinez is one of just 19 HOF-eligible players in history with at least 4,000 plate appearances and a slash line of .300/.400/.500. 15 of them are in the Hall of Fame. The four that aren’t: Manny Ramirez (PED issues), Larry Walker (played at high altitude), Todd Helton (eligible for first time in 2019, also played at high altitude) and Martinez.

The case against: He was a designated hitter; he’d be the first primarily DH-only player inducted into the Hall. (Frank Thomas, inducted in 2014, played 57 percent of his games at DH. Martinez spent 71 percent of his games there.) Martinez also has somewhat low counting numbers (hits, homers, RBIs); he didn’t become a full-time major leaguer until his Age-27 season. (He also hit .344 over four years in Triple-A, but we’re not here to talk about the idiocy of the late-80s Mariners front office.)

In or out? Martinez is in his 10th and final year on the ballot. He received 70.4 percent of the vote last year, and with multiple qualified candidates earning induction in the class of 2018, Martinez should see his vote total grow enough to top the required 75 percent.

RHP Mariano Rivera

The case for: He’s simply the best-ever relief pitcher. He holds baseball’s records for saves (652) and games finished (952) and finished his career with a 2.76 ERA and 1.000 WHIP in nearly 1,300 innings. He has 51 more saves than the second-place closer (Trevor Hoffman) and 174 more than the third-place closer (Lee Smith). There are just six relievers in the Hall – Hoffman, Hoyt Wilhelm, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter, and Rivera’s numbers top them all.

The case against: There’s an argument that relievers are inherently less valuable (and thus less HOF-worthy) than starting pitchers. Again, there’s only been six relievers inducted. Rivera was a failed starter – he started 10 games as a rookie in 1995 – turned star closer. But c’mon: Dude had a sub-3.00 ERA in 17 of his 19 seasons. He struck out 1,173 batters and walked just 286.

In or out? He’s in on his first year on the ballot. The biggest question is whether he’ll approach the record for percentage of ballots, set by Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016 (99.3 percent).

RHP Roy Halladay

The case for: For an 11-year span, Halladay was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the game. From 2001-11, with Toronto and Philadelphia, he went 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA and a 1.113 WHIP, striking out 1,795 batters while walking just 397 in over 2,300 innings. He threw two no-hitters in 2010 (including one in the playoffs), won a Cy Young Award in both leagues and finished in the top five of Cy Young voting seven times in that span. He was also a throwback, with 67 career complete games.

The case against: His first three years in Toronto and his last two in Philadelphia ranged from pedestrian to awful. He had a 5.77 ERA in 57 games from 1998-2000 with the Blue Jays and a 5.15 ERA in 2012-13 with the Phillies. Those seasons inflated his ERA to 3.38 lifetime, which would be 11th worst in the Hall among starters.

In or out? It’s tempting to say he’s in as a first-balloter. His peak was so dominant, and his death in a single-plane crash in 2017 will likely be fresh on many voters’ minds. But the high ERA could delay it a year.

RHP Mike Mussina

The case for: If Halladay makes it for his dominating peak, Mussina will make it for the consistency of his career. He won at least 11 games from 1992-2008, and won 20 games just once, in his final season in 2008. His ERA mostly hovered between 3.00 and 4.00 in that span. He made five All-Star teams, all in the first half of his career, won seven Gold Glove awards and finished in the top six of Cy Young voting nine times in 18 seasons.

The case against: He played in an offense-heavy period, causing his career ERA to end up at 3.68, higher than all but two HOF starters. (Jack Morris is tops, at 3.90.) He also spent his entire career with good teams in Baltimore and New York, which could lead to one of his key stats – his 270 wins – to be devalued.

In or out? Mussina will be in his sixth year on the ballot; he got 63.5 percent of the vote in 2018. He’ll likely need one more year to break 75 percent.

1B Todd Helton

The case for: Helton’s career slash line of .316/.414/.539 over his 17 seasons with the Rockies is easily Hall-worthy. In his best season, 2000, he led the National League in RBIs (147), doubles (59), batting average (.372), OBP (.463) and slugging percentage (.698). But he still only finished fifth in the NL MVP voting that season. He was a five-time All-Star, won four Silver Slugger awards and three Gold Gloves, and finished in the top 20 of MVP voting in six seasons.

The case against: The peak of Helton’s career not only came in the offense-heavy early 2000s, but also in the high altitude of Denver. His splits reflect the rare air of Coors Field; at home, he slashed .345/.441/.607, compared to just .287/.386/.469 on the road.

In or out? Teammate Larry Walker had comparable numbers and played just half his career in Denver; he’s still waiting for his Hall call after eight years, with 34.1 percent of the 2018 ballot. Helton will likely have to wait at least that long.

One aged and worn baseball sitting in the green grass.

One aged and worn baseball sitting in the green grass.

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