Congratulations are in order for Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio, each of whom was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Those first two are among the very best pitchers in history, and among the small handful of players I really do think I'll be telling my grandkids about someday. The latter two are both quite deserving of Cooperstown membership as well.
In theory, four players being voted in means the ballot will be less of a mess next year, and to some extent that's true. On the other hand, the ballot this year was such a mess that even moving these four off of it leaves a sizable backlog of players I think belong in the Hall.
The players from this year's ballot who'll be back in 2016:
Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammell, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Nomar Garciaparra
Among those 17 are 10 players I definitely support, along with a few others I haven't quite made up my mind about.
The logjam will be worse than it looks from just those players though, because there will be new names arriving on the ballot, including one who's likely to be included on ~95% of the ballots.
Here's a quick look at the players I think will be put on the ballot for the first time in 2016:
Ken Griffey (83.6 career bWAR): He's pretty much a lock to be voted in next year, and rightfully so. Not only was he one of the very best players in baseball for an extended period of time, he was popular with fans and media members alike. Oddly enough, his inability to stay healthy or perform as well during his 30s is likely to help him, as it makes him one of the few great power hitters of his era to seemingly avoid being suspected of anything unseemly. Plus, his Nintendo 64 game merits a little additional credit to his name, doesn't it?
Jim Edmonds (60.3): A center fielder with 8 Gold Gloves and 393 career home runs, making him something of a middle class man's Griffey. I think he's just a little below my HOF line, but not by much. I don't think he was as good as Kenny Lofton, and poor Kenny fell off the ballot after only one year, a casualty of the stacked ballot he landed on. Edmonds' ballot won't be quite as strong as that one, and while I don't think he's ever going to be voted in, I do think he'll receive enough support to stay on the ballot.
Trevor Hoffman (28.4) and Billy Wagner (28.1): I don't really know what to do with closers (aside from voting Mariano Rivera in on the first ballot). After Rivera, these two were quite possibly the best of the last twenty years. (Joe Nathan being the other contender.) Were either of these two better than Dan Quisenberry though? If so, not by much. probably wouldn't vote for either of them, though I'm willing to be talked into it. Wagner pitched 2-3 fewer seasons' worth of innings than Hoffman, but his rate stats are better. Even so, if either of them comes anywhere near 75% of the vote (next year or farther down the road) it'll be Hoffman, because his 601 career saves were briefly the MLB record.
I'm not sure there's anyone else joining the ballot next year that will receive the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot, but there are an average of 15-20 new players on the ballot each year, which means there are likely at least a dozen other guys who'll be there next year. Here are the next dozen eligible, in order of career bWAR:
- Jason Kendall (41.5) - His 2,195 hits rank 4th among all catchers.
- Troy Glaus (37.9) - His .235 isolated power ranks 51st among players with 5,000+ PA.
- Mike Hampton (29.0) - He was a very good fielder and a very good hitter, as pitchers go.
- Luis Castillo (28.9) - Led the NL in stolen bases twice (2000 and 2002)
- Randy Winn (27.5) - He hit 30+ doubles in a season eight times.
- Mark Grudzielanek (26.3) - Led NL with 54 doubles in 1997 and hit 391 of them in his career.
- Garret Anderson (25.6) - Angels' all-time leader in hits, doubles, runs, and RBI.
- Mike Lowell (24.8) -He had 60+ extra-base hits in a season six times.
- Mike Sweeney (24.7) - He hit .300 or better in a full season five times.
- David Eckstein (20.8) - He inspired a lot of baseball conversation.
- Chan Ho Park (20.3) - The great Korean pitcher in MLB history.
- Brad Ausmus (16.4) - He's been called the most handsome manager in baseball.
Griffey is a lock. Piazza led the holdovers with 69.9% this year, which means he's probably close enough to get the odd bump players tend to get when they're near the line, as a certain number of voters decide their colleagues are probably right. Those are the two guys I expect to be elected next year.
Bagwell was at 55.7% this year and will probably be voted in eventually. Raines was at 55.0% this year, but has only two years on the ballot. He'd need to jump to something like 64.0% next year to have a plausible chance in 2017.
None of the other returnees have a chance of ever getting in via the BBWAA, unless some sort of directive is made by the Hall of Fame itself about including PED players, which seems both unlikely to happen and unlikely to actually be followed by 75% of the BBWAA, even if it did happen.
Who would you vote for next year?