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La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller report on the Twins from wherever they make news

What are Hall of Fame chances for former Twins Santana, Thome?

Ballots for this year’s National Baseball Hall of Fame election were mailed to eligible Baseball Writers Association of America members on Monday, and I say it’s about time Livan Hernandez got his due.

OK, with a 178-177 career record, 4.44 ERA and less than half the WAR of an average Hall of Fame pitcher, Hernandez isn’t headed to Cooperstown. Still, he was chosen World Series MVP as a rookie, pitched 17 seasons in the majors, and earned, by baseball-reference.com’s estimation, more than $50 million. And my own affection for him stems from my first spring training as a Twins writer, when Hernandez kept a basketball in his locker, drove to Miami a couple times during camp to attend Heat games, and spent plenty of time debating various NBA topics with me.

There are 14 holdover candidates from last year’s ballot among this year’s field, including two — Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero — who cleared 70 percent of the vote but fell just short of the 75 percent required for election. They’re likely to clear that benchmark this year.

And another 19 retired players are on the ballot for the first time, a group that’s headlined by the all-but-certain first-ballot enshrinee Chipper Jones.

Four of the newcomers are former Twins, if not necessarily known for their time in Minnesota. Hernandez is one, and Orlando Hudson — who spent only one of his 11 MLB seasons in Minnesota, as the starting second baseman on the 2010 AL Central champs — is another, and for them, just appearing on a Hall of Fame ballot is an honor.

But the other two are more interesting cases. Jim Thome, who spent 2010 and five months of the 2011 season in Minnesota and hit his 600th career home run in a Twins uniform, is on the ballot for the first time this year, and he doesn’t figure to be on the ballot for long. A crowd of candidates and the fact that he hit homers at a time when they were plentiful might delay Thome’s election for a year or two, but his stellar off-the-field reputation, and a lack of connection to performance-enhancing drugs make him a huge favorite to reach 75 percent soon.

Then there is Johan Santana, the only two-time Cy Young winner in Twins history, and arguably their best pitcher ever. Most Twins fans who witnessed Santana’s final five seasons in Minnesota, 2003-07, would probably say they believed they were watching a future Hall of Famer. Anyone who watched him absolutely destroy the Rangers in the Metrodome on Aug. 19, 2007, striking out a franchise-record 17 in just eight innings and holding Texas to two hits, might believe he was a first-ballot electee.

Santana led the league in strikeouts three straight years, finished in the top seven of Cy Young balloting in all five seasons, and posted an ERA below 3.00 in three of them. If voters hadn’t been more impressed with Bartolo Colon’s 21 wins than Santana’s superior 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts in 2005, he’d have won three straight Cy Young trophies.

Yet the history of injuries that cut Santana’s career short may also keep him out of Cooperstown. He pitched only 2025 innings in his career, which would be the second-lowest total, ahead of only Dizzy Dean, among starting pitchers in the hall. He clears the 10-year minimum for consideration only because of two seasons spent waiting for his chance in Minnesota’s bullpen and a comeback attempt with the Mets in 2012 after missing a season following shoulder surgery. And because of that, most of his cumulative statistics fall below Hall of Fame norms.

So it might take a few ballots for Santana’s odds of election to become clear, and a player gets only 10 chances. Already, a campaign has begun for the Venezuelan left-hander, making the case that Santana is the modern-day Sandy Koufax, brilliant through his prime but denied because of injury a chance to enhance his numbers. And baseball-reference.com founder Sean Forman noted recently on Twitter that if you neutralize their numbers to account for Koufax playing in a pitching-dominant era in spacious Dodger Stadium, their statistics are remarkably similar (though even Koufax, who retired when he was only 30, pitched 300 more innings than Santana).

That’s the case that Santana supporters will have to make if the Twins’ ace lefty is ever going to clear the high hurdle of 75 percent.

Here are the players on this year's ballot:

Morris gets another shot at the Hall of Fame

Former Twin Jack Morris is one of 10 finalists for the Hall of Fame’s modern era ballot.

Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell are the candidates to be considered for election for the Class of 2018.

Tiant is also an ex-Twin, going 7-3 for the team in 1970.

Candidates must receive 75 percent of the vote from the 16-member selection committee. Inductees would be announced Dec. 10 and inducted in Cooperstown on July 29, 2018.

Modern era candidates made the most significant impact on baseball from 1970-87. Players must have played in at least 10 seasons and are past qualifying for BBWAA voting; the only nominee of the 10 who was not a player was union executive Miller.

Here is more information from the Baseball Hall of Fame release:

Steve Garvey compiled a .294 career average over 19 major league seasons with the Dodgers and Padres, amassing 2,599 hits, 272 home runs, 1,308 RBI and 10 All-Star Game selections. He hit .338 with 11 home runs and 31 RBI in 11 postseason series, was named the 1978 and 1984 NLCS MVP and won the 1981 Roberto Clemente Award.  The 1974 NL Most Valuable Player, Garvey won four Gold Glove Awards and played in an NL record 1,207  straight games at first base.

Tommy John pitched 26 seasons for the Indians, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels and A’s, finishing his career after the 1989 season with a record of 288-231 and 3.34 ERA. His 700 career starts rank eighth on the all-time list and his 4,710.1 innings rank 20th all-time. A four-time All-Star Game selection, John won the 1976 Hutch Award and 1981 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award.

Don Mattingly played 14 seasons for the Yankees, batting .307 with 222 home runs and 2,153 hits. A six-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove Award winner at first base, Mattingly led the American League in total bases in both 1985 and 1986, won the 1984 AL batting title, captured three Silver Slugger Awards and was named the 1985 AL Most Valuable Player.

Marvin Miller was elected as the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966 and quickly turned the union into a powerhouse. Within a decade of being named head of the union, Miller had secured free agency for the players. By the time he retired in 1982, the average player salary was approximately 10 times what it was when he took over.

Jack Morris pitched for 18 seasons for the Tigers, Twins, Blue Jays and Indians, winning 254 career games and earning five All-Star Game selections. Morris posted three 20-win seasons, made 14 Opening Day starts and pitched for four World Series winners, capturing the 1991 World Series MVP following 10 shutout innings in Game 7 for the Twins.

Dale Murphy played 18 seasons with the Braves, Phillies and Rockies, winning back-to-back National League Most Valuable Player Awards in 1982 and 1983. A seven-time All-Star, Murphy won five Gold Glove Awards and four Silver Slugger Awards in center field. Murphy finished his career with 398 home runs and 1,266 RBI.

Dave Parker compiled a .290 career average over 19 major league seasons with six teams, including 11 years in Pittsburgh and four years in Cincinnati, and amassed 339 home runs, 1,439 RBI and two batting titles (1977-78). The 1978 NL Most Valuable Player was named to seven All-Star games and won three Gold Glove Awards in right field.

Ted Simmons played for 21 seasons, totaling a .285 batting average, 2,472 hits, 483 doubles, 248 home runs and 1,389 RBI primarily as a catcher for the Cardinals, Brewers and Braves. An eight-time All-Star, he garnered MVP votes seven times in his career and finished among his league’s top 10 players in batting average six times.

Luis Tiant won at least 20 games in four of his 19 big league seasons with the Indians, Twins, Red Sox, Yankees, Pirates and Angels, finishing his career with 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA while earning three All-Star Game selections. He won two American League ERA titles, including a 1.60 ERA in 1968, and led the league in shutouts three times.

Alan Trammell spent his entire 20-year big league career with the Tigers, earning six All-Star Game selections, four Gold Glove Awards at shortstop and three Silver Slugger Awards. Trammell was named the 1984 World Series Most Valuable Player after leading Detroit to the championship with a .450 batting average over five games. He totaled 2,365 hits, 412 doubles and a .285 career batting average.

The Modern Baseball Era ballot was determined this fall by the Historical Overview Committee, comprised of 11 veteran historians: Bob Elliott (formerly Toronto Sun); Jim Henneman (formerly Baltimore Sun); Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch); Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau); Bill Madden (formerly New York Daily News); Jack O’Connell (BBWAA); Jim Reeves (formerly Fort Worth Star-Telegram); Tracy Ringolsby (MLB.com); Glenn Schwarz (formerly San Francisco Chronicle); Dave van Dyck (formerly Chicago Tribune); and Mark Whicker (Los Angeles News Group).

The 16-member Hall of Fame Board-appointed electorate charged with the review of the Modern Baseball Era ballot will be announced later this fall. The Modern Baseball Era electorate will meet to discuss and review the candidacies of the 10 finalists as part of Baseball’s Winter Meetings on Dec. 10 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

The Modern Baseball Era Committee will meet twice in a five-year period, with the next meeting scheduled for the fall of 2019.

About the Era Committees

The Era Committees consist of four different electorates: Today’s Game (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized from 1988 to the present); Modern Baseball (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized from 1970 to 1987); Golden Days (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized from 1950 to 1969); and Early Baseball (for candidates whose greatest contributions to baseball were realized prior to 1950).

The Today’s Game and Modern Baseball eras will be considered twice each in a five-year period, with the Golden Days era considered once every five years and the Early Baseball era considered once every 10 years. The Today’s Game era was considered in the fall of 2016, with John Schuerholz and Bud Selig earning Hall of Fame election.

Eras considered for yearly induction over the next decade are as follows: 2018 – Modern Baseball; 2019 – Today’s Game; 2020 – Modern Baseball; 2021 – Both Golden Days and Early Baseball; 2022 – Today’s Game; 2023 – Modern Baseball; 2024 – Today’s Game; 2025 – Modern Baseball; 2026 – Golden Days. The Early Baseball era returns for induction consideration in 2031.

The four separate electorates consider by era a single composite ballot of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players. Candidates remain eligible in perpetuity through the Era Committee process.