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January 09, 2017

Who will be the next former Phillie to be inducted to the Hall of Fame?

The Baseball Writers Association of America’s election results for the 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame Class will be revealed a week from today, on Jan. 18, broadcasted live on MLB Network at 6 p.m. EST.

It’s anyone’s guess who will be enshrined this summer, but at least one person attempts to take an analytical approach to making an educated guess: Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter) collects public ballots annually and creates a useful, constantly-updated spreadsheet to track the voting “live” as best as he can. Currently, less than half the votes are accounted for, so take it for what you will, but Jeff Bagwell and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (in his first year on the ballot) look like favorites to get in, Tim Raines is making a very strong showing in his last year on the ballot, while Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Edgar Martinez have received strong support, too.

What do all of those names have in common? Well, probably quite a bit, but here’s one: none of those players ever appeared in a major league game in a Phillies uniform.

The 2016 HOF class had at least a bit of Philadelphia flavor, with Norristown’s Mike Piazza entering Cooperstown alongside Ken Griffey last July. Even the 2015 class had a touch of Philly, with Pedro Martinez (his stay was short, but he did appear in a World Series with the Phillies) getting inducted with Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz.

But who will be the next legitimate former Phillies player to join the hallowed halls of Cooperstown?

First lets at least try to define what we’re calling legitimate: at least four years with the team. Of course, if they were in Philly for only four years, they would likely be going into the Hall of Fame with another team’s hat on their plaque. But, still, they’d also almost certainly have similar plaques in the Phillies Wall of Fame out on Ashburn Alley.

One other note: this summer's inductions will have some Philadelphia flavor. Long-time Philadelphia Inquirer columnist (and Philly native) Claire Smith is being honored with the prestigious Spink Award

OK, enough buildup. Let’s look at the possibilities.

Curt Schilling

Yikes. Yes, we’ll start with the not-so-shy former Phillies ace and 1993 World Series hero who went on the offensive (and then some) last week when he suggested that he’s losing votes because of his current status as a … outspoken conservative? Sure, let’s call it that.

In an interview with TMZ, Schilling said he would be a more popular name on ballots if he was, instead, blasting current president-elect Donald Trump.

“I promise you, if I had said ‘lynch Trump,’ I would be getting in with about 90 percent of the vote this year,” Schilling told TMZ.

Wait, what? Oh, right … lynching. Wasn’t it a much friendlier world when that word had all but disappeared from our lexicon? But, no, Schilling was referring to his own tweet from two months ago.

Now let’s make something clear: Schilling’s world viewpoint in his post-playing career has nothing to do with his playing career. You may not like him (few outside of Red Sox fans do, really) but the current person and the former player are two different things, unless, currently, he was a convicted felon guilty of heinous crime.

But, “character” does fall under one of the six pieces of criteria Hall of Fame voters are asked to consider when voting. So if you’re staring at a crowded ballot (and it is crowded with the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others still on there) and you are only allowed to select 10 (per rules) and you decide to use “character” to help separate some of that cluster, that’s on you, the BBWAA Hall of Fame voter (which I am not … yet. Next year.).

We wrote a great deal on Schilling’s HOF-worthiness in this space just last year. And if you’re sick of reading about Schilling’s latest off-the-field transgressions, you’ll probably enjoy that link since it examines the pitcher’s actual playing career and not his current (off-the-wall) comments and tweets.

Anyway, to answer the question: Schilling probably won’t be making a trip to Cooperstown this summer. And he probably won’t be the next former Phillies inducted, either.

Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley

Hey, we’re combining these two guys, because, why not? They were long-time double play partners, the heart and soul of the Phillies golden years that saw the club collect a world championship, two NL pennants, and five division titles, too.

And we’re also combining them because their current Hall of Fame clocks haven't started: Rollins recently signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants and Utley is a free agent with no intentions of retiring yet, either. Because of that, neither will be the next former Phillies great to be enshrined into Cooperstown.

But do either of them deserve a plaque recognizing the best players in the history of the game someday? Personally, I can see both in the Hall of Fame one day, even if it is years down the line via the Veterans Committee (how Richie Ashburn got in).

But you can make a case both should get in before that, too.

While Rollins, the Phillies all-time hit leader, has durability and longevity, Utley’s candidacy would be more about his Hall of Fame-worthy peak. As (my favorite twitter baseball stat guy) Ryan Spaeder pointed out in his terrific piece from two summers ago, “Utley batted .301/.388/.535 during that five-year peak from 2005 to 2009. Only four other second basemen have slashed that in a season since Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947. And none of them did it twice.”

Utley’s current career WAR (64.4) isn’t far behind first ballot Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (67.5) or Biggio (65.1).

The best way to make a case for Rollins is probably to compare his career output with Barry Larkin, another former NL MVP and also a recently inducted Hall of Fame shortstop. Larkin’s career slash line (.295/.371/.444) is superior to Rollins’ (.264/.324/.418). But Rollins has more hits, doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases, and Gold Gloves.

Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt spoke in favor of Rollins’ HOF candidacy to me for a story back in May of 2014, when Rollins was on the cusp of breaking Schmidt’s franchise hits record.

"Barry Larkin's election to the Hall of Fame opened up a lot of opportunity for other shortstops," Schmidt said. "I believe Alan Trammell has to be mentioned. [Dave] Concepcion. Might even mention Larry Bowa. Among the guys I mentioned, I would think Jimmy Rollins would be at the top of the list when you compare shortstops to Barry Larkin . . . I don't want to make some statement, but I'd say, yes, numbers don't lie, and if you stack Jimmy Rollins next to Barry Larkin, they're very, very similar so why wouldn't you consider Jimmy Rollins a Hall of Fame candidate?”

Roy Halladay

The two-time Cy Young Award winner and owner of one of two postseason no-hitters in the history of baseball will be in Cooperstown one day. He is eligible for the first time in two years (the Class of 2019).

Halladay, who also threw a perfect game during his four years in a Phillies uniform, will almost certainly go into the Hall of Fame with a Blue Jays logo on his plaque. Just as hitters without the historically important statistics (read: according to older segment of the voting populace) like 500 home runs or 3,000 hits have sometimes struggled in the past to get attention their first go-round, Halladay didn’t hit the 300-win plateau that made the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Randy Johnson easy first-balloters. (Maddux, one of the greatest pitchers in the Hall of Fame, had plenty of other stuff, too).

Still, Halladay has plenty going for him too. If you consider the best at your respective position for a decade-long period, that’s a good start.

Excerpted from a story I wrote while at the Philadelphia Daily News when Halladay retired three winters ago (with some updates):

In the 11-year period from 2001-2011, Halladay was 175-78 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 64 complete games and 19 shutouts in 321 games. Translation: in addition to a startling stat line, Halladay completed 20 percent of the games he started during that stretch.

For a frame of reference, here is how four of his peers would stack up over similar runs in their own careers:

CC Sabathia’s best 11 seasons: 175-99, 3.47 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 35 complete games and 12 shutouts in 349 games. Johan Santana’s first 11 seasons, from 2000-10: 133-69, 3.10 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 13 complete games and 8 shutouts in 339 games (263 starts). Roy Oswalt’s first 11 seasons, from 2001-11: 159-63 3.21 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 20 complete games, 8 shutouts in 339 games. Cliff Lee’s best 11 seasons: 139-85, 3.52 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 28 complete games and 12 shutouts in 313 games. 

In a 16-year career that began in Toronto, Halladay won two Cy Young Awards, went to eight All-Star games, finished in the top 10 of MVP balloting twice and finished in the top five of Cy Young voting seven times.

Halladay will get in. But not before…

Jim Thome

This really wasn’t a difficult exercise. Thome is Hall of Fame eligible for the first time next year, for the Class of 2018. He’s an easy pick, a no-brainer of a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Even with a crowded ballot, and one that gets more crowded with Chipper Jones joining Thome on the ballot (along with other notable first-time eligible players, like Johnny Damon, Johan Santana, Omar Vizquel, and former Phillies Scott Rolen, Jamie Moyer, Brad Lidge, and Kevin Millwood, some more likely to garner a decent number of votes than others) there is little doubt that Thome will show up on the 75 percent of ballots necessary for enshrinement.

Thome, who like Griffey never had any suspicions of PED usage during or after his career, hit 612 home runs in 22 major league seasons. Here are the six players in MLB history to hit more home runs than Thome in their respective careers: Griffey, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Bonds.

Thome, a 2016 Phillies Wall of Fame inductee who is a sure bet to go into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a Cleveland Indian, hit .276 with a .402 OBP and .554 slugging percentage in 22 seasons. He is one of just 12 players in MLB history (since 1901) with a slash line of at least .275/.400/.550. Here are the other 11: Bonds, Ruth, Manny Ramirez, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Thomas, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Larry Walker, and Rogers Hornsby.

See you in Cooperstown in July of 2018, Big Jim.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @ryanlawrence21