The pair are in their first year of eligibility for possible induction to Cooperstown. They are joined on the ballot by Tribe stars Manny Ramírez and Omar Vizquel.
CLEVELAND — Voting has begun for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2023, and two former Cleveland Indians standouts are making their debuts on the ballot.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta and first baseman/designated hitter Mike Napoli are among 28 names who will be considered by more than 400 baseball writers from across the country and beyond. Half of those names are in their first year of eligibility, meaning they have now been retired for at least five years and spent at least 10 seasons in the big leagues.
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Peralta played 15 seasons in the majors and was in Cleveland for the majority of his career, getting his first call-up in 2003. The Dominican Republic native had the unenviable task of replacing fan-favorite Omar Vizquel (more on him later), and while he could never match the latter’s fielding ability, he managed to become a reliable presence in the lineup, blasting at least 20 home runs three times. He was also a member of the Tribe’s 2007 American League Central Division championship team that finished just one win shy of making the World Series, and hit .333 with a pair of homers in that postseason.
In a lopsided deal that did not go the Indians’ way, Peralta was traded to Detroit in 2010 for pitcher Giovanni Soto (who appeared in just six career games). He would make three combined All-Star teams with the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals and also appeared in the 2012 World Series, although a suspension the next year for using performance-enhancing drugs partly damaged his reputation. Still, he ended his career in 2017 with a .267 average, 202 home runs, and 30.4 bWAR.
Unlike Peralta, Napoli spent just one season in Cleveland, but it was certainly a memorable one. The veteran slugger led the 2016 group with 34 homers and 101 RBIs, provided much-needed pop to a lineup that wound up winning its first AL pennant in 19 years. Along the way, he became a popular cult hero among Tribe supporters thanks to the phrase “Party at Napoli’s,” and ended up raising thousands of dollars for the Cleveland Clinic via t-shirt sales.
Before arriving in Northeast Ohio, Napoli broke in as a catcher with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and later made an All-Star team at the position with the Texas Rangers before winning a World Series in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox. After leaving Cleveland, he spent one last season in the Lone Star State before re-signing with the Tribe on a minor-league deal in 2018, but a knee injury at Triple-A Columbus brought his career to an end after 12 years and 267 homers.
Both Napoli and Peralta are considered longshots for election to Cooperstown, something that requires at least 75% “yes” votes from all writers participating in the process. To merely stay on the ballot, players must achieve a minimum 5% threshold, and the pair will likely struggle to get even that much.
Besides the newcomers, former Tribe stars Vizquel and Manny Ramírez join 12 holdovers from last year’s ballot, each in their fifth and sixth years of eligibility, respectively. For those two, the question really isn’t about skill: Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves playing short and tallied 2,877 career hits, while Ramírez is 15th on the all-time list with 555 home runs.
Unfortunately, both have thus far been left in limbo due to their own alleged transgressions. Ramírez tested positive for PEDs at least twice, which brought the legitimacy of his entire career (including eight seasons in Cleveland) into question. He has failed to gain even 30% of support from voters.
Vizquel appeared to be on the fast track to induction after earning more than 50% of the vote in 2020, but that figure slipped the next year following accusations of domestic violence by his then-wife. The charges were later dismissed in court, but separate allegations of him sexually harassing a minor-league bat boy later emerged, and his Hall of Fame support subsequently cratered to below 25% in 2022.
There is one other former Indian on this year’s list of nominees: Jeff Kent, who hit .265 in 39 games when the Tribe won the AL Central title in 1996. Here in Cleveland, Kent is known for being part of two memorable trades: He and José Vizcaíno were acquired from the New York Mets for Carlos Baerga before both were shipped to San Francisco that offseason as part of a deal that brought in Matt Williams. Kent became a five-time All-Star with the Giants, Houston Astros, and Los Angeles Dodgers, winning the 2000 National League MVP while hitting 351 career homers as a second baseman, an MLB record that stands to this day. This is Kent’s 10th and final year on the ballot.
The final results of this year’s voting will be announced in January. In addition, the Hall of Fame’s contemporary baseball era committee will consider a slate of older candidates at next month’s winter meetings, including legendary Indians slugger Albert Belle.
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