As we count down the days to Christmas, the Baseball Writers Association of America also have their own countdown since they have to turn in their Hall of Fame ballots by December 21. We won’t actually find out who gets in until January 6th, after school is back in session, but thanks to Ryan Thibs and his ballot tracker, we have a pretty good idea. Thibs can only track the voters who are transparent enough to reveal their ballots publicly, so there is about a 5-10% difference between the public and actual percentages once all votes are counted.
We can therefore group the candidates into these groups:
These guys are out of time because they’ve been on the ballot for the maximum term allowed by the ballot rules. That includes former Cubs coach Alan Trammell, who was grandfathered in to get a 15th year of eligibility when the Hall of Fame trimmed the eligibility period down to 10 years. Unfortunately for Trammell, he simply won’t get enough votes due to lack of support and because his original supporters probably know that he won’t get in, and thus transferred their tenth vote position to another player that needs to stay on the ballot. Trammell’s case will go to a Veterans Committee later on, and hopefully it works out for him because he is certainly deserving of recognition.
Mark McGwire is also in his final year, in this case his 10th. With not nearly enough votes, he’s gone off the ballot and I doubt he will ever be enshrined even with his gaudy offensive numbers.
For the first year guys, which covers about half the ballot, two notable drop offs include former Cub (and long-time Red Sox) Nomar Garciaparra, who was elite but plagued by injuries; and former Cub (and long-time Angel and Cardinal) Jim Edmonds, who wasn’t exactly flashy but put together a splendid career that would be Hall-worthy if voters paid attention to the types of statistics that truly define a player’s value to his team. Alas, these guys are probably one-and-done, and they are also victims of the ten-per-ballot rule. The difficulty of the ballot situation over the past few years has been how stacked the field is, which is why many of us get upset when voters return ballots without all ten spots filled in.
The candidates on the verge of dropping off, but with enough votes to stand a chance until next voting season, include:
All of these guys have fringe-y cases for the Hall of Fame, but for one reason or another, don’t have enough traction on the ballot to come close to the 75% cutoff at the moment. Billy Wagner is a first-year candidate and while he is not exactly a slam-dunk case, I felt like he deserved to stay on the ballot more than just one year. I’m already displeased that Jim Edmonds is about to be bumped after year one, but there’s not much I, a non-voter, can do about it.
Then there are the guys who have more solid cases but are still on the outside looking in:
I didn’t include former Cubs closer Lee Smith because he’s in his 14th year and will likely drop off the ballot after next year anyway. Bonds and Clemens still have time, and are usually on about a third the ballots in previous years. With the recent purge of old voters and the appearance of new, more open-minded voters, their chances are looking better, and a Hall of Fame with one of the best pitchers and one of the best hitters of all time included makes more sense than one without. The pitchers all have good cases, and Edgar Martinez has seen his vote totals trend up as more people appreciate how excellent he was as an offensive player, even if he’s just a designated hitter. Hoffman should get his due within a couple years, though the others will need some more support.
The Likely Guys
Tim Raines, who is around the margin of error, is in his next-to-last year of eligibility, so he should be able to get in by next year, if not this year. The other three most likely inductees are Ken Griffey Jr., who is as much of a no-brainer as you can imagine, and two holdovers in Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell. If the voters are generous, we will have four inductees for the second year in a row, although we should see at least two or three.
After 2016, the ballot will get culled but will also see the addition of some new guys who deserve plenty of consideration and may make life difficult for the holdovers.
Plus a few guys who will probably steal a few votes, including Jamie Moyer, Andruw Jones and Hideki Matsui. The couple years after that will see big-time playoff heroes like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Derek Jeter hit the ballot, as well as Roy Halladay. We will have to hope that some of the holdovers from this year make a major leap. Since the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA don’t appear to be doing away with the 10-vote limit anytime soon, and are reticent to adopting novel methods to alleviate some of the clutter on the ballot, it appears some of the deserving candidates may run out of luck eventually.