Trevor Hoffman, who pitched for the Cedar Rapids Reds in 1991, is the eighth former Midwest Leaguer to be elected as a player into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Hoffman received 79.9 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote, one year after he fell just five votes short of election. Another near-miss last year was Vladimir Guerrero, who went from 15 votes shy of the necessary 75 percent in 2017 to 92.9 percent in 2018. (His son, Toronto Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., played for the Lansing Lugnuts last year.)
The BBWAA also voted in Chipper Jones (97.2%), who joins Ken Griffey Jr. as the only No. 1 MLB draft picks elected to the Hall of Fame; and Jim Thome (89.8%), who hit 612 home runs and is a native of Peoria, Ill., home of the Midwest League’s Peoria Chiefs.
Hoffman, Guerrero, Jones and Thome will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 29, alongside Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, who were previously voted in by the Hall of Fame’s Modern Baseball Era Committee.
Hoffman, one of only two closers to amass more than 600 career saves, began his minor-league career as a shortstop before Cincinnati moved him to the mound. His first season as a pitcher was 1991, which he split between Cedar Rapids and Double-A Chattanooga. He went 1-1 with a 1.87 ERA, 12 saves, 52 strikeouts and 13 walks in 33.2 innings/27 games in the Midwest League.
Hoffman is the third former Cedar Rapids minor-leaguer to be elected to the Hall of Fame, but the first who played for the team when it was part of the Midwest League. The other two are John McGraw (1891) and Lou Boudreau (1938), who were inducted as a manager and a player, respectively.
Hoffman joins Orlando Cepeda (Class of 1999), Juan Marichal (1983), Carlton Fisk (2000), Paul Molitor (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006), Goose Gossage (2008), and Greg Maddux (2014) as former Midwest Leaguers elected to the Hall of Fame as players. (Cepeda actually played in the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League, a predecessor league whose statistics officially count as Midwest League records.)
Former Seattle Mariners offensive star Edgar Martinez, who won two American League batting titles (in 1992 and 1995), finished 20 votes shy of election to the Hall of Fame this year. He played in the Midwest League in 1984, for the now-defunct Wausau Timbers. Had he made the HOF cut, this would have been the first time two former Midwest Leaguers were inducted as players in the same year. (That also would have happened if Ted Simmons got one more vote from the Modern Baseball Era Committee. He played for Cedar Rapids in 1967.)
Next year is the last time Martinez is eligible for the BBWAA ballot, so it’s highly likely he will get the additional 20 votes he needs for election then. The most significant former Midwest League player up for BBWAA consideration for the first time in 2019 is Roy Oswalt (1999 Michigan Battle Cats), who probably won’t get enough votes for election.
Players needed to get at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot next year. In addition to Martinez, there were three other former Midwest Leaguers on the 2018 ballot who will remain under Hall of Fame consideration next year: Omar Vizquel (received 37 percent of the vote; played for the 1986 Wausau Timbers), Larry Walker (34.1%; 1986 Burlington Expos), and Billy Wagner (11.1%; 1994 Quad City River Bandits).
Several other former Midwest League players on the 2018 ballot didn’t get the five percent required to be considered again by the BBWAA. The most notable of those players is two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana (2.4%), who led the league in ERA and strikeouts three times. He pitched in two games for the 1998 River Bandits, then made 26 starts and one relief appearance for the 1999 Battle Cats. (Both Santana and Oswalt spent the entire 1999 season with the Battle Cats, who were based in Battle Creek, Mich.)
Johnny Damon (1.9%) also falls off the ballot. His offensive achievements for the 1993 Rockford Royals earned him the Midwest League Prospect of the Year award.