As we get closer to Thanksgiving, the National Baseball Hall of Fame has just announced the official 2017 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot, with 34 players eligible for voting and potential enshrinement. Similar to previous years, I think there are something like 12 players worthy of entry into the Hall of Fame, and since there are only 10 spots on each ballot, it would be extremely disappointing if any voter does not use all 10 of their available selections. In fact:
I might be so bold to say that any voter who doesn't use all 10 slots on their ballot this year should be flogged.
— Rice Cube (@CubicSnarkonia) November 21, 2016
You can also see the Baseball-Reference potential ballot, which lists every player’s slash lines. That list actually shows 36 possible candidates, though Julio Lugo and Danys Baez don’t make it to the official ballot. I think the B-Ref list is set up by voting percentage, then the newcomers are listed by career wins above replacement. Let’s take a look…
The Likely Class of 2017
Based mostly on last year’s voting percentage, plus politics and sympathy votes, I think there are three guys who will definitely make it in this time around:
These guys are so close to the 75% threshold that it would be strange not to see them get in the Hall next July. Raines, in particular, is on his last year on the ballot since the Hall restructured their rules (so he gets 10 years instead of 15), so he may received a last-year-on-the-ballot boost, especially since his case is so strong anyway. The rest of the field appears, at least to me, to lack the airtight argument that will get them over the hump.
The New Guys Who Will Actually Get To Stick Around
There are three super-strong candidates that I can see right off the bat:
I imagine these three will get well over 25% of the vote, and probably will all break the 40% mark overall. There are then a few guys just behind them who will likely get over 5%, that have postseason success or at least weren’t terrible players, but also didn’t have the slam-dunk Hall of Fame resume, either:
The rest of the new guys should feel happy that they even made it on the ballot, unlike over 90% of anyone else who has ever put on a major league uniform. Some of them will even get a token vote from a writer who liked them, possibly at the detriment of someone more deserving, like Tim Raines. But that, again, is the politics and the fuzzy math of Hall of Fame voting.
Of the returning candidates other than the three I believe will make it into the Hall this time around, I think the following stick around on the ballot for another go:
Schilling has said some majorly stupid shit lately and probably pissed off most of the swing voters on his side, but I can’t imagine he drops off the ballot given his strong resume and postseason heroics. In any case, we like Schilling because he’s a good pitcher, not because he’s a good person.
These guys have very strong cases, especially Martinez and Mussina, but they are so far off from the 75% that they will just stay on the ballot. McGriff is way down in vote totals and will simply stay on the ballot for his entire eligibility period before he drops off into the sunset. Again, even being on the ballot, and especially getting someone to vote for you, is an honor. Not everyone can be a Hall of Famer, but I strongly believe Martinez and Mussina belong.
I don’t think Walker ever was accused of PEDs, but he always got a bum rap for playing in Colorado, which is like a baseball launchpad. The thing is that he’s always played well no matter where he was, as his road splits are elite while his Denver-based splits are video game numbers. Bonds and Clemens obviously have their PED suspicions, but look at their slash lines. No amount of steroids can make you THAT good overnight.
This leaves everyone else, who I believe will drop off the ballot due to lack of support. I think votes will swap from these guys to the three newcomers, token votes, and votes to get Tim Raines in.
These players will join the one-and-done guys (i.e. every newcomer I didn’t mention above) as guys who got on the ballot, but were not allowed to enter the promised land. There’s really no shame in that, even though stories like Lee Smith’s are kind of sad, given that he was so good for so long, but then lost momentum. You could argue that Sheffield deserves in, but despite his numbers over a long period of time, he never really jumped out at you, like former “very very good” guys like Jim Edmonds or Kenny Lofton. Sosa was on the cusp, but was hurt by his relatively one-dimensional game and short peak.
If I had a ballot, here’s who I would have voted for:
- Jeff Bagwell
- Tim Raines
- Roger Clemens
- Barry Bonds
- Edgar Martinez
- Mike Mussina
- Manny Ramirez
- Larry Walker
- Vladimir Guerrero
- Curt Schilling
There are two or three other guys I might swap in, so again, voters, if you don’t fill your ballots, prepare to be flogged. We’re about 20 years away from seeing Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant on the ballot, so this is what we’ve got for now.
UPDATE: Ryan Thibodaux, who does this every year, has the current publicly-released ballots organized on his awesome HOF tracker. Definitely a must-favorite.