The ballot you see here is from Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, who got blasted by Jason Collette for only picking five names. One of those names happens to be Jack Morris, and if you’ve been on the internet at any point in the past 15 years (this is Morris’ 15th and last year on the ballot), you should have a pretty good idea of how controversial Morris’ candidacy is. My personal opinion is that he was a durable and capable pitcher who pitched one of the most memorable postseason games of all time, but he’s not as good as someone like, say, Rick Reuschel. That said, I don’t have a problem with him making the Hall of Fame because of the “fame” part of the equation; I just don’t necessarily think he deserves it over some of the names that Shaughnessy (among others) omitted from his ballot.
The Baseball Think Factory has a really cool ballot collecting gizmo that has tracked the vote totals from all the publicly available ballots submitted to the HOF so far. The gizmo has a fairly decent accuracy rate, and give or take a few percentage points, we can reasonably assume that in 2014, a year after the Baseball Writers Association of America selected NOBODY for induction, there will be at least three inductees and possibly up to five:
Probable – Craig Biggio
Maaaaaaaaaaaybe – Mike Piazza
Going to need a miracle – Jeff Bagwell, Jack Morris
The thing that I really like is that a few of the guys who deserve discussion and eventual enshrinement, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (as well as Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Alan Trammell and Edgar Martinez) will remain on the ballot fairly safely. Guys on the cusp of removal from the ballot include Fred McGriff (who unfortunately doesn’t have that strong of a case anyway), Jeff Kent, Mark McGwire, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa (WSD’s favorite, sad face), Rafael Palmeiro and Don Mattingly (who probably isn’t going to make it into the HOF next year even if he survives this year). Of course, fans and writers will hem and haw about performance enhancing drugs and steroids and blah-de-blah, but if Bonds and Clemens don’t get into the Hall of Fame, then there’s a steroid merchant out there who’s not marketing his goodies correctly since even the most skeptical of us can understand that NO DRUG can turn a scrub into Superman quite like that. In Sosa’s case, even with all the home runs and the great memories I have of him, maybe he’s not quite a Hall of Famer, but I’d like him to survive another year so we can keep the conversation going.
Sadly, I think some of the guys under 15% may still drop off the ballot, per a couple of tweets by Dan Szymborski of ESPN:
(The non-public votes are disproportionately terrible, so Biggio/Thomas/Piazza will fall, Morris will gain)
— Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 1, 2014
And the sad thing is, some of these guys with great statistics may fall off in favor of Jack Morris, who wasn’t that great but whom everyone thought was great:
Morris’s final tally has tended to be around 8 percentage-points higher than the BTF, Gizmo, so it’s implying about 71/72 for Morris now. — Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski) January 1, 2014
The ten spot restriction for each ballot necessitates some political gymnastics and gamesmanship, and possibly a bit of collusion among writers to ensure that certain guys get in while others don’t fall off the ballot (my conjecture, not really based on anything but a passing thought). The situation is further complicated by the fact that certain goofball writers like Shaughnessy don’t use all ten spots when there are at least 15 decent names to choose from, and other writers send in a blank ballot as a protest, which adds up to a vote AGAINST everyone. This creates a logjam that won’t easily be resolved.
Let’s say the stars align and the BBWAA does something right, getting Maddux, Glavine, Big Hurt, Biggio, and maybe Mike Piazza inducted. That’s five names done, Morris drops off the ballot to become the Veterans Committee’s problem, and maybe some other names (like Mattingly and Sosa [sad face again]) drop off as well. That still doesn’t solve the problem of the years after, where many players whom we all think are great will enter the ballot, not to mention the holdovers like Bonds and Clemens and Bagwell etc. that will still grab a large chunk of vote. Take a look at the following ballots, with lists of names I think will almost certainly be inducted and names that will grab serious consideration:
Definite: Ken Griffey, Jr.
Definite: Ivan Rodriguez
This means that the HOF voters have to clear out a bunch of extraneous names, induct about 5-7 new guys each year, and ensure that the deserving names don’t fall off the ballot. That’s an extremely tall order as the new-age statheads fight off the ERA/Batting Average dinosaurs. And if you look at the names listed above (I didn’t even bother doing 2019 and beyond), there are a bunch who will likely be hindered by the PED spectre just as Bonds and Clemens were, so the voters and the HOF will have to figure that out too. There are even more names I didn’t list (but you can click the links to see for yourself) that will siphon off votes that should otherwise go towards those worthy of induction.
What should the writers and the Hall of Fame do? I honestly don’t know. Maybe they can remove the 10-names-per-ballot limit so writers don’t have to struggle with whether they want to keep Alan Trammell or Larry Walker off their ballot. Maybe they relax the threshold to 70% or even 65% so Jack Morris can finally get in and shut people up. Maybe they threaten voters like Shaughnessy and all the blank-balloters to rescind their vote if they don’t use all ten slots. In my opinion, since you can’t easily change the way voters think, the more effective way to fix the system is to just make it easier for the deserving candidates to be inducted…and trust me, there are at least ten that even an idiot could vote for.
The 2014 Hall of Fame Class will be announced on January 8th, one week from now. One more week of analysis, followed by another year of bitching before we do it all over again…unless something changes. If the BBWAA won’t do it, the Hall of Fame should force their hand. Something’s gotta give.