The 2015 HOF Class

Baseball Think Factory is compiling publicly released Hall of Fame ballots to get an idea of how this year’s balloting will go. You can check here to see how well their Ballot Collecting Gizmo did last year when compared to the final vote.

Just to get this out of the way, I think publicly releasing Hall of Fame votes is a great idea and should be actively encouraged by the BBWAA and the Hall. When writers have to publicly defend their votes, you get much more thoughtful results (the odd Murray Chass aside — and at least he provides exercise for your neck muscles). Look at that second link and compare the public and private ballots. The difference is quite noticeable. For example, 99.5% of those who publicly released their ballots voted for Greg Maddux. This makes sense, since he was one of the greatest pitchers of all time. But only 95.9% of the private ballots did. It’s a small difference, but it shows the effect of accountability. It is much easier to vote against Maddux because of his era or some dim-witted “no one should get in on the first ballot” logic when you don’t have to defend that attitude in public.

Note that almost every player did better on the public ballots than the private ones except a few like Don Mattingly and Lee Smith. I think this actually a generational thing: older writers not wanting to throw their ballots out to the internet wolves and also favoring older players.

Looking at BBTF, it looks like Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz will get in this year. Biggio is doing even better than last year, when he fell two votes shy, but I would still hesitate to say he’ll make it. Piazza is currently polling at 77.8% which means he will likely not make it as the difference between his public and private numbers was very strong last year, probably due to unsubstantiated PED rumors. Bagwell, Raines, Schilling and Mussina look likely to take small steps forward.

What’s interesting, however, is that this looks to be the year we will see the big purge of the ballot that the HOF has clearly been wanting. One problem the HOF ballot has had in recent years is a super-abundance of candidates. Joe Posnanaki recently commented that he regarded Fred McGriff as a marginal HOFer and had him 17th on his ballot. There are ways to improve the process, including Bill James recent suggestion. But I think we’re going to see the glut of candidates finally shrink this year. Why?

At least three and possibly four men will get inducted. Don Mattingly will drop off the ballot as his time expires. And looking at the votes and considering how the private balloting has gone, it is quite possible that Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Gary Sheffield will also drop off the ballot. In fact, of the new arrivals, it’s possible that none will be on the ballot again next year. That’s a big reduction in the backlog.

Next year will see Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman probably voted in the first ballot. It’s possible Jim Edmonds or Billy Wagner will linger around. But that will crack the door open for Bagwell, Raines, Schilling and/or Mussina. Then in 2017, we’ll see Pudge Rodriguez (in on first ballot), Vladimir Guerrero (in after a few years) and Manny Ramirez (excluded by steroid allegations). That will keep the door open. Then things get interesting again in 2018.

In short, the storm has passed and the Hall has apparently passed its judgement on the PED era. Pitchers are in. Great players without specific allegations are in. Palmeiro, McGwire, Sosa and Sheffield are out. Bonds and Clemens are in limbo but almost certainly will not make it before their eligibility expires.

I think the Hall will have to go back and address the steroid era again, especially once they find out that one (or likely several) current HOFers used steroids. It’s going to be difficult to have a Hall without Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, McGwire, A. Rodriguez, Palmeiro, Sheffield and Manny Ramirez. But I think it will be at least a decade before we get there. The hysteria over PED’s is waning. But it’s not over yet.

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