Home > Uncategorized > 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame election: A great day for Griffey Jr., Piazza and many others

2016 Baseball Hall of Fame election: A great day for Griffey Jr., Piazza and many others

 

109347Going into Wednesday, I held out hope that we might see a quartet of players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the second straight year. Two players did get in — obvious choices in Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza — but the day’s results brought good news for not only them but for a bunch of players who hope to join them in Cooperstown at some point in the near future.

Griffey Jr. fell just three votes shy of becoming the Hall’s first-ever unanimous inductee. At first, I really wanted to know which three dummies left Junior off of their ballot, but finding such an answer isn’t important. It will be remembered that Griffey Jr., the Player of the ’90s, registered the highest voting percentage in Hall history: 99.32. The abstaining 0.68 percent will live on only in the form of a sports bar trivia question. And that’s a stretch.

As long as you get elected into the Hall, that is what matters. It’s a pass-fail grading system. Percentages are good for ego-stroking (and Griffey Jr. deserved his high vote total), but anyone who surpasses that 75 percent induction threshold will always be regarded as just as worthy as any other player with a bust in the museum.

Piazza, a dominating talent at the catcher position who had to wait too long to enter the Hall (Piazza will have company in that highly specific category, but I’ll get to that later), was listed on 83 percent of the ballots in his fourth year of eligibility. There’s no doubt that Piazza should have been elected in fewer than four years, but baseless steroid associations (concerns? assumptions? aspersions?) hindered his trek. That’s a shame, but again, it doesn’t really matter now because he’s in.

Although every other player fell short of 75 percent, many of them can probably smile tonight as they think about their future chances for induction. In this first election since the HOF culled the voting base of well more than 100 people who had not held active status with the Baseball Writers Association of America since the days when Morgan Ensberg was an All-Star, plenty of players saw their odds of reaching the Hall greatly improve.

Player Ballot year 2016 vote % 2015 vote % % difference
         
Mike Mussina 3rd 24.6 43.0 18.4
Edgar Martinez 7th 27.0 43.4 16.4
Jeff Bagwell 6th 55.7 71.6 15.9
Alan Trammell 15th 25.1 40.9 15.8
Tim Raines 9th 55.0 69.8 14.8
Curt Schilling 4th 39.2 52.3 13.1
Mike Piazza 4th 69.9 83.0 13.1
Fred McGriff 7th 12.9 20.9 8.0
Roger Clemens 4th 37.5 45.2 7.7
Barry Bonds 4th 36.8 44.3 7.5

When you see players jumping up 15, 16, 18 percentage points, understand what a gigantic leap that is. From 2014 to 2015, Schilling garnered the largest positive difference in percentage points at +10.0. From 2012 to 2013 — when the ballot was wide open and no one ended up getting elected — Dale Murphy gained the most ground during his final year of eligibility. However, it was just 4.1 percentage points, up to 18.6 percent.

Cutting all of that “dead wood” had a significant positive impact on the voting. Leaving just the baseball people to vote on baseball’s hall of fame resulted in more votes for worthy players and the greater likelihood that more players will see their enshrinement day come before their 10 years on the ballot has passed.

I don’t think I’ve seen a Baseball Hall of Fame vote in recent years that carried less controversy than Wednesday’s, largely due to those massive point gains.

Griffey Jr. got in at nearly 100 percent. Awesome.

Piazza got in by a healthy margin. He should have been in sooner, but cool.

Bagwell and Raines still have work to do, but given where they sit after the 2016 vote, it’s pretty easy to assume that they will get the call in 2017. That year will also be Raines’ final one on the ballot, so you know he’ll get some sentimental votes.

Trevor Hoffman was named on 67.3 percent of ballots in his first year. His time is coming.

Edgar Martinez, with only three years left on the ballot, probably doesn’t have enough time to gain 30 percentage points, but with the advances made by Mussina and Schilling, their candidacy is looking very strong, even if they have to wait past 2017. They will be taking just their fourth and fifth turns on the ballot, respectively.

In previous years, there’s been a ton of debate directly following the Hall of Fame announcement about who got jobbed, why voters are stupid not to vote for Player X and yada, yada, yada.

On Wednesday, there wasn’t much of that at all because the players who should have definitely gotten in did. And those who didn’t but deserve to — Raines, Bagwell, Hoffman, Schilling, Mussina — probably will and soon. So why complain about something that’s damn near inevitable anyway?

It was a little odd to not hear that much noise. 

Helping those on the outside looking in are the newcomers to the ballot in 2017 and beyond. Frankly, there is not a ton to love here.

Next year, Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez will land on the ballot. I think Vlad can get in on his first try if for no other reason than this looks like a line drive in the box score, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if he falls between the 60-70 percentile.

Even with the more knowledgeable voting base, “Pudge” will probably get the Mike Piazza treatment: Totally deserving of your 75 percent but will probably have to wait because of PED anxiety (worries? connections? accusations?). Give him 2-3 years.

M176-461bkanny? Nope. Even the biggest apologist for Bonds and Clemens (I haven’t forgotten about them) won’t let him pass through the gates.

In 2018, Chipper Jones is a no-brainer, but what about Jim Thome? Will his 612 home runs be devalued by his lack of versatility and defense? Will the “slugger” tag hurt him?

In 2019, Mariano Rivera. But Roy Halladay and/or Todd Helton???

There have been seven first-ballot Hall of Famers in the past three votes. But over the next three, we might see only three or four at most. That leaves a lot of smart people with a lot of blank spaces to fill with the names of a lot of excellent players. And those players minus Raines have plenty of years to stump for votes.

Let’s finish this up by talking about the two most polarizing names on this year’s list and assess their chances of ever being inducted in Cooperstown: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I would vote for them. I don’t know if that makes me whatever a “Big Hall” guy is, but they are two generation-defining ballplayers who would have made it into the Hall if their careers had ended before the earliest record of them allegedly taking performance-enhancing drugs. Oh, and this is a good time to mention that, unlike your Mannys, your McGwires, your Palmerios, any talk of Clemens’ or Bonds’ PED use also has to include some form of the word “alleged.” With all of the dot-connecting that’s gone on, there is still no PED admission or otherwise solid proof with Clemens or Bonds.

That’s not to say that they didn’t take banned substances. I’m sure they did (as did many, many, many of their peers). But baseball never caught them. They never tested positive. That has to play a role into their candidacies.

But more to the point about how this year’s voting affects Clemens and Bonds. I’ve heard some people say that their seven-point jump is not enough, that they needed a bigger boost in order to clear the 75 percent hurdle. I disagree with this for a couple of reasons.

One: Time. It’s been a theme in this post. Like Schilling, Clemens and Bonds just finished their fourth years on the ballot. I know they each still need to gain about 30 or so percentage points and that’s a lot of votes, but they have time. After Tim Raines’ fourth go-around, he was at 37.5 percent. Bagwell was at 54.3 percent after his fourth year, and that was 2014. Now, once a player held down by PED chatter (whispers? conjecture? suggestions?), it’s basically a foregone conclusion that Bagwell will be making a speech in Cooperstown during the summer of 2017. That honor will be bestowed upon him during his seventh year as a candidate. In other words, with time to spare.

Time also has a tendency to make us gloss over the ugly and complicated parts of a person’s life. With time, perhaps the voters will do the same when it comes to Bonds’ and Clemens’ baseball lives and reflect more on their undeniable greatness.

Two: Bonds and Clemens will make it to Cooperstown with an addition of only about five percentage points over each of the next six years. And as stated above, the next few years aren’t exactly filled to the brim with obvious candidates for induction. Once Hoffman, Bagwell, Raines and possibly Guerrero graduate in 2017, I expect Bonds and Clemens to receive significantly more support because these smart baseball writers are going to have to vote for someone. Without a bevy of attractive new options available, I think more and more voters will give these two their HOF due. 

It may take until 2022, when David Ortiz’s name will probably appear for the first time on a Hall of Fame ballot, but I believe Bonds and Clemens will have their day in Cooperstown. And what a day that will be. 

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