Red Sox well represented on 2018 Hall of Fame ballot

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 13: Johnny Damon
BOSTON, MA - JUNE 13: Johnny Damon /

The ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018 has been released, which includes a number of players with ties to the Boston Red Sox organization.

The Baseball Writer’s Association of America released the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018 on Monday, which includes several players who once donned a Boston Red Sox uniform.

The high-profile names with a shot at becoming first-ballot electees are Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, and Omar Vizquel. Each is worthy of consideration, although a crowded ballot may make it difficult for each of them to get in. Candidates must appear on at least 75 percent of ballots to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

BBWAA members are limited to selecting only 10 players from a ballot that includes 33 candidates this year. Players can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years, so long as they appear on at least five percent of ballots.

Two new additions to the ballot have ties to the Red Sox organization.

Johnny Damon played in Boston from 2002-2005, making a pair of All-Star appearances and playing a key role in delivering a World Series championship in 2004. He established himself as a fan-favorite in Boston, only to draw the wrath of the Fenway crowd when he left to sign a lucrative contract with the rival New York Yankees.

Jamie Moyer spent a staggering 25 years in the majors, pitching until he was 49 years old. With all he accomplished over those two and a half decades, some may forget that he had a brief stint here in Boston.

The Red Sox signed Moyer as a free agent prior to the 1996 season but he lasted only 10 starts before he was shipped to the Seattle Mariners. Moyer went 7-1 with a 4.50 ERA with the Red Sox. While his production was mediocre, the stellar win-loss record convinced the Mariners to give up promising young outfielder Darren Bragg. While Bragg would end up being a bust in Boston, Moyer’s career was revitalized in Seattle, creating one of the more interesting What If scenarios in franchise history.

The ballot also includes three former Red Sox players who return to the ballot after falling short last year for controversial reasons. There’s no doubt that Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling are worthy of the Hall of Fame based on their numbers alone. The former two have seen their reputations tarnished by being linked to performance-enhancing drugs, while the latter’s outspoken opinions have made him a lightning rod for criticism.

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Oddly enough, Clemens saw his percentage rise to 54.1 percent last year as some voters seem to be softening their stance on PED offenders, while Schilling fell from 52.3 percent in 2016 to 45 percent in 2017.

Billy Wagner is another name returning to the ballot who briefly pitched in Boston. The Red Sox acquired the lefty from the New York Mets midway through the 2009 season to bolster their bullpen. He tossed only 13.2 innings for the Red Sox but posted a phenomenal 1.98 ERA and 14.5 K/9. Wagner is sixth on the all-time saves list with 422 but did not serve as the closer during his time in Boston.

It’s unlikely that any of these former Red Sox will be inducted in 2018. Players like Clemens and Manny may see a slight bump, yet it would take a substantial shift in how voters view PED offenders to lift them above the 75 percent threshold. Schilling should already be in but has offended too many voters who may still hold a grudge against him. Wagner has a long way to go to move up from the 10 percent of ballots he appeared on last year.

As for the newcomers on the ballot, Damon had a great career but his Hall of Fame candidacy is borderline at best. He should gain enough votes to stay on the ballot but he’s certainly not a first-ballot inductee. The impressive totals Moyer tallied are based on longevity. He had several solid seasons but only one All-Star appearance and never finished higher than fourth in Cy Young voting.

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While we probably won’t be celebrating the enshrinement of any player wearing a Red Sox cap next summer, fans will want to monitor the progress of these players with ties to Boston. Even if they don’t get in next year, it doesn’t necessarily mean they never will.