Cooperstown - Jim McIsaac
It appears that, despite an extremely strong group of candidates, the BBWAA will elect no one to the MLB Hall of Fame this year
BBTF has been tabulating the HOF votes that have been made public by those members of the BBWAA who are eligible to vote, and with close to 15% of the expected votes being included, it appears unlikely that any of the candidates will get the requisite 75% of the vote necessary to be inducted.
Teammates Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell have the most votes so far, and both are right around 70%, with Biggio a shade over and Bagwell a hair under.
Tim Raines, Mike Piazza and Jack Morris all are in the 60-65% range, which gives them a chance, but still makes them unlikely. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, who to me should be slam-dunk, no-doubt first ballot HOFers, are both hovering around 50%, and everyone else is a ways below that.
Kenny Lofton, whose HOF case I've recently dismissed, but who, in looking at him, has a better case than I previously thought, is currently under the 5% threshold. If that holds up, he'd join guys like Lou Whitaker, Buddy Bell, and Kevin Brown as someone with a pretty decent HOF case who falls off the ballot in their first year.
Next year, of course, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Mike Mussina -- all guys who look like pretty clear-cut Hall of Famers to me -- join the ballot, as well as Jeff Kent, who you can make a case for. With writers being limited to 10 names per ballot, it creates the possibility that fewer players will get elected because there's simply not enough room on the ballot to list everyone deserving. Next year, you could fill up a ballot with Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Mussina, Bonds, Clemens, Biggio, Bagwell, Raines and Piazza -- all guys who I feel are in the "no doubt" category -- and end up omitting the likes of Alan Trammel, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire, all of whom I think are deserving, as well players like Sammy Sosa, Curt Schilling, Kenny Lofton, Larry Walker, and Edgar Martinez, all of whom have compelling (if not necessarily convincing to me) cases for induction. And then the following year will include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield.
I suspect that, if the logjam continues, we'll see a lifting of the 10 player limit rule, and that will probably help relieve some of the backup.
But the other thing that's worth contemplating is this...does more teams, and more players, mean that there should be more Hall of Famers from today's era than from 80 years ago? In the pre-expansion era, there have generally been somewhere from 30-35 Hall of Famers active in any given year, although that spikes for the time period in the early 30s, when there were years with 50 or more Hall of Famers active, years when over 10% of all active players in a given season ended up getting enshrined in the Hall.
But if we assume 30-35 players per year, that means that, for the pre-expansion era, there were approximately 2 Hall of Famers per team. If we acknowledge that there were players not worthy of enshrinement who were inducted, and knock that down to 25 or so "truly" worthies each year, that still puts us at around 1.5 players per team.
Flash forward, and we're at 30 teams in 2013. At the 2 players per team ratio, that would mean 60 active Hall of Famers. At the 1.5 players per team ratio, that would mean 45 active Hall of Famers.
Is that what would should be ultimately expecting? Or should we decide that the larger pool of players shouldn't expand the number of deserving Hall of Fame candidates, and would should look to induct only 25-30 players who are active in any given year?
I tend to believe that more players means more Hall of Fame caliber players. There seems to have been a backlash against some of the more egregious Veterans Committee selections by the BBWAA in more recent years, and more stringent standards have been applied.
This is particularly true as it pertains to starting pitchers...I tweeted this the other day, but there were 13 starting pitchers in the Hall of Fame who were born in the thirteen year stretch from 1935 to 1947. There is one starting pitcher who has been born since 1947 -- Bert Blyleven, born in 1951, and elected last year towards the end of his eligibility. Among players born since 1947, there have been 18 position players elected to the Hall, three relievers -- Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter, and Dennis Eckersley -- and Blyleven.
I'm guessing the next pitchers to be elected will be Greg Maddux and perhaps Tom Glavine next year. They were both born in 1966. That's almost a 20 year gap with one pitcher -- Blyleven. Clemens, born in 1962, and Randy Johnson, born in 1963, will eventually get in as well, but that is still a gaping hole.
Of course this is where the adherents of Jack Morris (born in 1955) make their case, although Dave Steib (born in 1957) has a stronger case than Morris, if we're going to pick the best pitcher of that generation.
Still...the election process has seemed to have become much more idiosyncratic in recent years. Yes, Blyleven, a clear-cut, no-doubt Hall of Famer, finally got in after years of waiting...but Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter? Jim Rice gets elected, but Dwight Evans drops off after 3 years? Andre Dawson, but not Tim Raines?
If the BBWAA elects no one this year, it means that there will be 10 players voted in by the BBWAA in the last eight years, with four of them being Gossage, Sutter, Rice and Dawson, four of the weaker inductees ever voted in by the BBWAA.
The whole thing is just very strange to me at this point. And I guess I shouldn't care, because whether or not someone gets voted into the Hall of Fame doesn't change their accomplishments and what they did.
But, for whatever reason, I do care. And I wish the people voting would make better decisions.