The 2018 Major League baseball season unofficially began yesterday with the announcement of four players being voted into the Hall of Fame; they are: Chipper Jones, who played all 19 years of his career with the Atlanta Braves and received 97.2% of the votes; Vladimir Guerrero, slugging outfielder who spent the majority of his career with Montreal and the Angels; Jim Thome, five-time All Star left-handed hitting slugger; and Trevor Hoffman, one of only two relievers in MLB history to record 600+ saves. The quartet will join ex-Tigers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in Cooperstown, NY in July.

Falling just short of being elected into the Hall of Fame was Edgar Martinez, arguably the top designated hitter in MLB history. Martinez received 70.4% of the votes…he needed at least 75% to get into the Hall. Most baseball pundits seem to believe that Martinez will make it next year…his final year of eligibility.

Of the four players elected yesterday, Jones was the most successful. Drafted first overall by Atlanta in 1990, Jones helped lead the Braves to 11 consecutive National League division titles and 14 in 15 years.  He helped guide the Braves to three World Series appearances, winning a World Series title in 1995.  Jones is the fourth player from that 1995 championship team to be elected into the Hall of Fame, joining teammates Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. In addition, Braves manager Bobby Cox is also in the Hall.

Jones hit 468 home runs in his career and drove in 1,623 runs.  He is also the second-best switch hitter in MLB history, trailing only the great Mickey Mantle. Jones was an eight-time All Star, winning two Silver Slugger awards and was selected National League Most Valuable Player in 1999, when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBI. Jones won his only batting title in 2008 when he finished with a .364 average. He played 1,993 games at third base and the Atlanta Braves organization honored Jones by retiring his number 10 in 2013.

Nicknamed “Big Daddy Vladdy” or “Vlad the Impaler”, Guerrero began his career with the Montreal Expos in 1996 and retired in 2011.  In between, he collected 2,590 hits, smacked 449 homers, drove in 1,496 runs and also displayed speed with 181 stolen bases. In fact, Guerrero stole 37 bases in 2001 and followed that up with 40 steals in 2002. In 2004, Guerrero signed a free-agent contract with the Angels and starred with them for six seasons. He was a five-time All Star and won eight Silver Slugger awards…five in the American League and three in the National League. Guerrero went to the World Series only once, in 2010 with the Texas Rangers. The name Vladimir Guerrero may soon appear in box scores again as his son, Vladimir Jr., is currently in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization and has been listed as the third-best prospect in MLB at third base.

Known as the “Pride of Peoria”, Thome was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 MLB draft…the 331st player overall selected that year. He made his debut with the Indians on September 4, 1991 and played his last game on October 11, 2012. In between, Thome belted 612 home runs and drove in 1,699 runs. He is the eighth-place all-time in homers and one of nine players to hit 600 or more round-trippers. Thome’s best season hitting home runs were 2001 when he slugged 49 and followed that up in 2002 with 52. He hit 40 or more homers six times in his career. Thome was selected as an All Star four times in the American League and once in the National League. He led Cleveland into the World Series twice…in 1995 and 1997; however, he did not win a World Series ring.

Later in his career, Hoffman was noted for entering a ball game to the strains of “Hells Bells” blaring through the loud speakers. Drafted by Cincinnati in the 11th round of the 1989 draft (the 288th player taken overall), Hoffman is only behind the great Mariano Rivera (who will probably be a first-year

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