Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, while Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero narrowly missed being able to join baseball’s newest immortals on stage July 30 in Cooperstown.
Hoffman fell just five votes short of election, and Guerrero needed only 15 more tallies to get in. Both are well-positioned to get the necessary 75 percent of votes on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots for next year. Hoffman would be only the eighth former Midwest Leaguer enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a player, despite seven decades of MWL history dating back to the circuit’s start as the Illinois State League in 1947. (Greg Maddux was the last former Midwest League player inducted into the Hall of Fame, in 2014.)
Originally a shortstop and third baseman, Hoffman was converted to a pitcher in 1991 and assigned to the Midwest League to start that season. He made 27 relief appearances for the Cedar Rapids Reds, posting a 1.87 ERA, 12 saves and 52 strikeouts in 33.2 innings before being promoted to Double-A.
Another former Midwest League player, Edgar Martinez, saw the biggest gain among candidates who weren’t elected this year. He jumped from 43.4 to 58.6 percent, falling 73 votes shy of achieving the necessary 75 percent. He can appear two more times on the BBWAA ballot.
Martinez batted .303 with 15 HR and 66 RBI in 126 games with the 1984 Wausau Timbers. Another former Wausau player, 11-time Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Omar Vizquel, will be on the ballot for the first time next year. He batted .213 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games with the 1986 Timbers. No team from a Midwest League community, past or present, has more than one Hall-of-Fame player as an alumnus. (That doesn’t count Hall-of-Famers who played for teams before they were part of the Midwest League.)
In his second year on the ballot, Billy Wagner got 10.2 percent, slightly less than the 10.5 percent he got his first time. He pitched for the Quad City River Bandits in 1994, going 8-9 with a 3.29 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 153 innings (26 starts).