In order to get my thoughts out in a timely fashion (which has already failed), I've decided to give my rapid fire reaction to the Hall of Fame voting that took place this month.
1. Congratulations to Ken Griffey jr and Mike Piazza!
First and foremost, time to offer congrats to two of the best hitters I have ever watched play the game of baseball. Piazza spent most of his career in the NL and on the East Coast, so I did not grow up watching him nearly as much as Junior, but his accomplishments speak for themselves. 427 Home runs (396 as a catcher) is an incredible accomplishment, and he has put himself squarely in the conversation of best hitting catcher of all time. After three years of waiting (no doubt due to whispers of alleged PED use) Piazza broke through in 2016 with 83% of the vote. A big congrats to him, his family, and Mets/Dodgers fans everywhere.
The Kid. The man who hit a home run in 8 consecutive games, who nearly broke his wrist jumping into a wall to get an out, who hit a home run right after his father back in 1991, and who scored the winning run on "The double" to send the Mariners into the ALCS in 1995 is now forever immortalized in Cooperstown. In what was basically a formality, Griffey received an astonishing, record breaking 99.3% of the votes, breaking Tom Seaver's 14 year old record of 98.2% and cementing himself as one of the all-time greats. I grew up watching him, and will forever remember his effortless swing, amazing outfield plays, and of course the backwards hat (which Bryce Harper has suggested should be reflected in his HOF plaque). Congratulations Junior, and I look forward to your HOF speech in July.
2. A small but impactful shift in BBWAA voters
It may not have seemed all that noticeable to a casual fan, but something happened this season on the ballot that has created hope for many players who may have seemed lost before. The BBWAA "cleaned out" a lot of their previous voters, choosing to remove voters who had not been covering baseball in recent years. This dropped the number of voters by around 100. That, coupled with a bigger group of new voters (who have covered baseball for at least 10 years) seemed to create a shift in voting philosophies. This shift affected quite a few players pretty substantially. Six players received at least a 10% boost from last year: Mike Piazza (+13.1%), Jeff Bagwell (+16.9%), Tim Raines (+14.8%), Edgar Martinez (+16.4%), Mike Mussina (+19.4%), Curt Schilling (13.1%), and Alan Trammell (+15.8%).
Bagwell (71.6%) and Raines (69.9%) seem very likely to finally make the leap over the 75% necessary for induction next year. Notable were the shifts to Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez, who before seemed destined to remain between the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot, and the 75% necessary to be inducted. However, with jumps all the way into the mid 40's, both now have a fighting chance of seeing themselves in Cooperstown before their time is up on the ballot. Mussina has seven years of eligibility remaining, Martinez only three. Edgar will need about 1/3 of the voters to change their tune regarding Designated Hitters and the Hall of Fame in the next three years, which seems (unfortunately) pretty unlikely. With a 16% jump last year, however, it is possible!
Last point on the shifting voting patterns is the small but steady growth in support for baseball's favorite stars, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bonds and Clemens each gained about 8% last year, leaving them still well short of induction, but trending the right way. The new voters favored both Bonds and Clemens, and many voters (including Oregon voter John Canzano) wrote publicly about their changing stance on voting for PED users. Whether this change will eventually enshrine Bonds/Clemens remains to be seen, but for now it appears they will stay on the ballot, collecting somewhere below 75% of the vote and hurting the candidacy's of other players. Which leads me to my next point....
3. How the Hall of Fame rules are hurting certain players
Player A: .284/.376/.527 with 393 HR, 1199 RBIs, and a 60.3 WAR
Player B: .295/.380/.540 with 407 HR, 1333 RBIs, and a 66.5 WAR
Safe to say these are pretty close right? Both were elite defensive CFers, although neither was quite considered the best of his time.
Player A, Jim Edmonds, fell off the ballot after receiving only 2.5% of the vote, well short of the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot.
Player B, Duke Snider, only received 17% in his first year on the ballot in 1970, before steadily climbing up to 86% in 1980 to reach induction.
The fact that Jim Edmonds, a fringe HOF caliber player, didn't even earn enough to stay on the ballot is a shame. I'm not 100% sold on him being a HOFer (you can read more about my thoughts here) but he certainly merited more consideration than this. He joins Kenny Lofton, Kevin Brown, John Olerud and Lou Whitaker as players who didn't get their fair share in court when it comes to HOF consideration.
Other players, who I have advocated heavily for in the past, are not seeing a lot of support, often due to the "rule of ten" which says that BBWAA writers are only allowed to vote for ten players per ballot. Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Billy Wagner, Jeff Kent and the aforementioned Jim Edmonds are players who are getting bumped for being the 11th or 12th most deserving candidate on the ballot. The Hall of Fame should simply be about who deserves enshrinement, not "which ten of these players" deserve it. The Hall of Fame's fear is that allowing voters as many votes as they want will create a situation where tons of players are getting elected, but last year less than half of the voters used all ten of their votes, which proves that this would not be the case. Many of the voters who used all ten would have happily extended votes to McGriff, Mussina, Walker, etc had they been able to, and we might not have seen such a brief end to the HOF candidacy of Jim Edmonds.
4. 2017 HOF ballot and Predictions
I've never been known for my attention span, so now that Piazza and Griffey are sailing into Cooperstown, let's take a look forward and see what the 2017 class has in store for us. The way I see it, three prominent players will be joining the ballot who should garner serious HOF attention. Those three would be Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. Magglio Ordonez, Jorge Posada and a slew of players from the epic 2001 Mariners (Mike Cameron, Carlos Guillen and Arthur Rhodes) will also be joining the ballot, but I don't believe they will merit serious consideration.
The big three, however, should make for some interesting discussion over the next year. Ramirez in particular will be quite the hot button issue. He will become the first player up for induction who actually got suspended by Major League Baseball for PED use during his playing career. How the voters decide to treat Ramirez will say a lot about the future candidacies for David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. I predict he will get votes, but nowhere near the 75% necessary. Something around 25-30% seems reasonable (similar to McGwire throughout his candidacy).
Ivan Rodriguez also has a pretty large steroid cloud over his head, having been called out specifically by Jose Canseco as a steroid user in his tell-all novel, Juiced. How the voters handle him will also be interesting to see, as he is very clearly one of the best catchers of all time. Piazza's 4 year wait for induction doesn't do anything to help Pudge's chances, and I don't think we will see him on a plaque anytime soon (if at all).
To me, Vladimir Guerrero is a Hall of Famer. 449 home runs, a .318 batting average, one of the best arms in the business, and great speed make him one of the best and most fun talents of his generation. He appeared by all accounts to do it the right way, and his only knock was his lack of patience at the plate, and the fact that he spent his heyday up north in Montreal. That, however, shouldn't factor in too much, and I believe Guerrero will eventually get enshrined, although I'm not incredibly confident it will happen in year one.
Getting down to brass tacks, I think we will see three inductees next year, all holdovers from this current ballot: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman. I think Guerrero will be just short and Schilling will continue to inch closer, and I think Mussina and Edgar will climb over the 50% mark on their way toward induction (hopefully).
For me, my ballot will most likely change, but if I had to pick today I would vote for Guerrero, Bagwell, Raines, Hoffman, Schilling, Edgar, Mussina, McGriff, Walker, and Billy Wagner. With apologies again to Jeff Kent - who just doesn't quite make the cut.
I welcome any questions or feedback, these are some of my favorite pieces to write!