Five-hundred-seventy-one ballots were cast in the recent Hall of Fame election, and 4,793 votes counted, if my math is right.
That’s an increase of two ballots and more than a thousand votes over 2013, which means of course, this year’s ballots, like Mark McGwire’s physique, were a lot more filled out. Again, if the math is right, the average ballot had more than eight players named; last year’s had 6.6.
But the extra votes — 1,558 of them — went predominantly to the three new candidates and inductees for 2014: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. Of the 17 players who returned to the ballot from 2013, only two improved their percentages, and both of them were at the top of the ticket. Craig Biggio, who missed by 39 votes in 2013, missed by two this year and Mike Piazza, 98 votes short last year, was just 74 short this year.
The other 15 repeaters all dropped in percentage, and one, Rafael Palmeiro, fell off the ballot for 2015. Five-hundred-home runs and 3,000 hits just don’t mean what they used to.
If you thought the ballot was clogged with good candidates this year, just wait. In a year or two it’s going to be so jammed you’ll think Chris Christie is in charge of the election. To wit:
Next year, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Garry Sheffield join the ballot. Not to mention Nomar Garciappara, Jermaine Dye and Ron Villone.
In 2016, Ken Griffey and Trevor Hoffman join the ballot. Not to mention Jim Edmonds, David Eckstein, Brad Ausmus and Christian Guzman
In 2017, Ivan Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez join the ballot. Not to mention Pat Burrell, J.D. Drew (Phillies fans will appreciate that union), Danys Baez and Arthur Rhodes. If Arthur doesn’t make a comeback.
In 2018, Chipper Jones (it would be a good time to follow Larry on Twitter), Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Bobby Abreu (Phillies fans will appreciate that union, too), Andruw Jones, Johan Santana and Johnny Damon all join the ballot. Not to mention Jamie Moyer, Omar Vizquel, Livan Hernandez and Guillermo Mota.
It’s not getting any easier on Biggio or Piazza or Mike Mussina (20.3%) or Curt Schilling (drop of nine points to 29.2%) or any of the others. Every year in the next four, there will be at least two players move to the front of the line.
There’s a movement to ban the 10-player limit voters must now abide by. A handful of voters have said they would have voted for Biggio but couldn’t because of the restriction. Then again, what does that say about Biggio, if those voters had 10 players ranked ahead of him? That he’s probably right where he should be.
A few more points:
ESPN host and former Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard gave his ballot to Deadspin, whose readers voted for the three inductees, Piazza, Biggio, Bagwell, Edgar Martinez, Bonds, Clemens and Schilling. That’s probably a better ballot than Le Batard would have turned in if he filled it out himself. Which is precisely what Le Batard said on Deadspin. “I don’t think I’m any more qualified to determine who is Hall of Fame-worthy than a fan who cares about and really knows baseball. In fact, many people analyzing baseball with advanced metrics outside of mainstream media are doing a better job than mainstream media, and have taught us some things in recent years when we were behind. In other words, just because we went to journalism school and covered a few games, just because accepted outlets gave us their platform and power, I don’t think we should have the pulpit to ourselves in 2014 that way we did in 1936.” He’s right about that, although he proved it in a bizarre manner. “I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we’ve made of sports,” he wrote on Deadspin. When it comes to anarchy, the Hall voting doesn’t need any outside help.
Speaking of anarchy, one vote for Armando Benitez. Let’s assume it came from a satisfied Indians or Braves fan.
More on Biggio. At age 38, he finished the season with 2,639 hits. In the next three seasons, he accumulated his final 421 hits by batting .264, .246 and .251. Without 3,000 hits, Biggio isn’t as close to induction; without those final three mediocre seasons, he doesn’t get 3,000 hits.
Moises Alou is not a Hall of Famer, but he hit .300 seven times and he had an OPS better than .900 six times. He hit .355 with a 1.039 OPS in 2000, hit .312 with 38 home runs in the Astrodome in 1998 and hit 39 home runs with the Cubs in 2004. He retired with 332 home runs, a .303 average, .516 slugging percentage and 128 OPS+; he lost two full seasons, age 24 as a rookie and age 32 between .312 and .355, to injury. All that earned him six votes and elimination from the ballot. In a family of good hitters, Moises was by far the best.
Please Jacques Jones voter, reveal yourself and tell us why. This, we gotta hear.
Sammy Sosa drops to 7.2%. He’s next to follow Palmeiro off the ballot.
No argument on Glavine going in, but his 91.9% is considerably higher than Ferguson Jenkins (75.4), Don Drysdale (78.4), Juan Marichal (83.7), Bob Gibson (84.0), Warren Spahn (83.2) and Sandy Koufax (86.9). Also Mickey Mantle (88.2). And Gaylord Perry (77.2), but he cheated. And Glavine got 62.7% more than Schilling and 71.6% more than Mussina, presumably because his 13-8, 4.45 ERA 2007 put him over 300 wins. Sometimes our fascination with numbers is infantile. Have to wonder if the pitch-tracking technology had been available a decade earlier if Glavine would have done as well.
Five of next summer’s inductees have Braves’ connections: Maddux, Glavine, manager Bobby Cox, player and manager Joe Torre; Tony La Russa had seven at-bats for the ’71 Braves.
Last year folks complained the process is flawed because no one was elected. This year the process is flawed because more weren’t elected. Which is it?
Maddux wasn’t named on 16 ballots. So what? Spare us the outrage. Sixteen voters had their reasons, whatever they are. Tom Seaver wasn’t named on five ballots and three of those had nothing to do with Seaver, but were a protest against Pete Rose’s exclusion from the ballot. When your plaque goes up, they don’t ask how many.
Last word on PEDs and the Hall from Bill James on baseballnation.com: Bill James: “Well, I’m not asking people to set aside what’s right and wrong. If you think there’s a right and a wrong here, and you want to vote on that, that’s great, I don’t have a problem with that. But I’m saying, for sake of understanding, set aside what’s right and what’s wrong. History doesn’t coalesce around a compromise. History coalesces only around an extreme position. And there are two extreme positions: (1) the steroid users can’t go in, or (2) it doesn’t matter. It’s impossible for history to coalesce around the position that steroid users can’t go in, because, frankly, there’s already steroid users in (the Hall of Fame), and as time passes, more and more of us are going to be using more and more steroids for more and more things. It’s impossible for history to coalesce around that position, therefore it has to coalesce around the other extreme position, that (steroid use) doesn’t matter. And I would argue that (given) enough time, it isn’t going to matter, and that all the guys we think are permanently banned, they’re actually all going in.”