By In Baseball

The Future Of HOF Voting

Following Tango again, there are two fascinating questions about this year’s absolutely stacked ballot.

1. Should a voter who believes there are more than 10 qualified Hall of Fame candidates on the list apply a certain roundabout strategy in order to get his or her vote to the players who it will help most?

2. How much (if at all) will the influx of great players hurt the players already on the ballot?

I have a lot to say about Question 1 in an upcoming post … let’s say I believe there are 16 candidates on the ballot who should Hall of Famers. Should I leave off an obvious one like Greg Maddux to make sure a less obvious one like Mike Mussina gets my vote and maybe doesn’t fall off the ballot? (Spoiler alert: No, I won’t do that, and I’ll explain why).

The second question: Will the addition of Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mussina and even Jeff Kent to this year’s ballot take away some of the support that has slowly and painstakingly built up for guys like Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell, not to mention the early promising support garnered by Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and others.

Tango says: Yes. It will. Unmistakably. I think he’s probably right.

In 1981, there were five players — Don Drysdale, Harmon Killebrew, Hoyt Wilhelm, Juan Marichal and Luis Aparicio — who were not voted into the Hall of Fame but would eventually be voted in by the the BBWAA. All five received moderate to good support that year.

In 1982, there was a ridiculously great group of first timers, including Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson and Billy Williams.

So what happened to those five leftovers? Did any of them get elected? Answer: No. Marichal did make a leap forward — perhaps because there was no great pitcher added to the ballot, or perhaps everyone was embarrassed they didn’t elect him the first time around — but Drysdale, Killebrew and Wilhelm all lost a little support. They got it back the next year when Brooks Robinson was the only reasonably popular Hall of Fame candidate to join the ballot. And three of those five — Drysdale, Aparicio and Killebrew — made it the following year, when no viable Hall of Fame candidates came on the ballot (Wilbur Wood was probably the best play to join the ballot in 1984).

This is a historical trend. When the list of new candidates is light, you often find that older candidates get in. Think of a borderline Hall of Fame choice. Got one. Now look:

— Tony Perez was elected in 2000. Goose Gossage and Jack Morris were the best first guys that year.
— Bruce Sutter was elected in 2006. Best first-timers on that ballot: Orel Hershiser and Will Clark.
— Jim Rice was elected in 2009. Only Rickey Henderson was the only viable Hall of Fame candidate.
— Andre Dawson was elected in 2010, when Robbie Alomar was a first ballot (and did not make it probably because of the spitting incident). Barry Larkin was also a first-timer on that ballot, but many didn’t see him as a first-ballot guy.

You know who the luckiest Hall of Famer is? Catfish Hunter. No doubt about it. He came on the ballot at precisely — I mean PRECISELY — the right time. He came on in 1985. The only other Hall of Fame caliber player to be on that first ballot with him was Lou Brock — so Hunter got 53.7% of the vote. The next year, only Willie McCovey came on, so Hunter skyrocketed to 68%. The NEXT YEAR no Hall of Famer came on the ballot (Bobby Bonds or Sal Bando was the best player) and Hunter was voted in.

How lucky was that? Well, one year afterward Luis Tiant — who was at least as good and perhaps a better pitcher than Hunter — came on the ballot. The only other viable candidate to come on that year was Willie Stargell. Tiant got 30.9% of the vote. That’s promising. Only it wasn’t for him.

And then: The flood: In 1989, Johnny Bench and Carl Yastrzemski were elected first ballot. Other first ballot entries included Gaylord Perry, Ferguson Jenkins and Jim Kaat. Poor Luis didn’t stand a chance. His vote percentage dropped all the way to 10.5%, and he never recovered, never again came close to that 31% of the first year.

In fact, you can see what the loaded 1989 ballot did to people’s chances.

Jim Bunning dropped from 74.2% in 1988 to 63.3% in 1989.
Tony Oliva dropped from 47.3% in 30.2%.
Orlando Cepeda dropped from 46.6% to 39.4%
Harvey Kuenn dropped from 39.3% to 25.7%

They all dropped — Maury Wills, Ron Santo, Mickey Lolich, Ken Boyer, everybody.

In 1990, Jim Palmer and Joe Morgan got on the ballot — two, surefire Hall of Famers — so there wasn’t room for anyone else. But in 1991, only Rod Carew was a sure thing (Rollie Fingers was just below sure thing) so that was the year leftovers Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins went in. In 1991, only Tom Seaver was the only sure thing, so there was room for Rollie Fingers.

And so it it goes. In years where there are no slam dunk Hall of Famers on the first ballot — like 1997 and 1998 (though Gary Carter should have been elected first ballot) — guys like Don Sutton and Phil NIekro can get in. But in 1999, Nolan Ryan George Brett, Robin Young and Carlton Fisk ALL joined the ballot, leaving (as Tango points out) no votes for anyone else.

Tony Perez dropped from 67.9% in 1998 to 60.8% in 1999.
Jim Rice dropped from 42.9% to 29.4%.
Gary Carter dropped from 42.3% to 33.8%.
Steve Garvey dropped from 41.2% to 30.2%.
Bruce Sutter dropped from 31.1% to 24.3%.

Bill Deane has forecast that only Greg Maddux will make it on this year’s ballot, Glavine and Thomas falling a bit shot and dwindling support for Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and even Jack Morris on his last ballot. If you look at the history of the voting, yeah, he could be right. What a dreadful thing that would be if Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine don’t get elected, not to mention all the players already on the ballot like Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. But it sure looks like we could be heading that way.

And here’s the craziest part: Every ballot from now on will be overstuffed.

New players this year: Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, Mussina, Kent.
New players in 2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield.
New players in 2016: Ken Griffey, Jim Edmonds.
New players in 2017: Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero.
New players in 2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Johan Santana (?), Scott Rolen.
New players in 2019: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte.

I really do believe that, at some point, the Hall of Fame will have to do something to break up the logjam. A rule change. A voting clarification. A more inclusive voting policy. Something. But I don’t think, at least right now, they feel the impulse to change things. They seem curiously paralyzed by the effects of expansion, PEDs, the growing numbers of BBWAA voters and the increasing awareness everybody has about everything.

So what I think might happen is that while some all-time great players stew on ballot for way too long (some won’t get elected at all), some not-so-greats will get elected by whatever the Veteran’s Committee happens to look like. The best thing Jack Morris can do is get off this crazy ballot and get into the Veteran’s Committee room.

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77 Responses to The Future Of HOF Voting

  1. francisco says:

    Joe, some people have come up with alternative virtual Halls of Fame (such as the Hall of Merit). What if people like you, Bill James, Tango, Rob Neyer, and other widely read and influential writers banded together to create a more “official” sort of alternative? This basically happened with the Fielding Bible Awards, and eventually, the official Gold Gloves started trying to catch up. An alternative with the weight of some bigger names behind it might gain some traction.

  2. penferris says:

    JimEdmonds is *not* a Hall of Famer. Not even close.

    • Ed says:

      If he was as good a fielder as his 8 gold gloves in CF suggest, I’d say he was definitely a Hall of Famer. He was an incredibly good hitter during his peak, but like Barry Larkin he was constantly injured which kept him from putting up great career counting numbers.

      However, the defensive metrics don’t seem to think he was anywhere near that good a fielder. He actually had negative dWAR a couple of seasons during his peak and then a few more at the end of his career.

      I’m not sure where I stand on him. A 132 career OPS+ is phenomenal for a CF (Griffey Jr. is only at 136, although that’s partially because he played so many extra seasons as a mediocre hitter), but if he wasn’t actually good defensively (and I don’t really know)… that combined with his constant injuries would probably keep him out for me.

    • 18thstreet says:

      People really, truly refuse to believe that great fielding matters. Sure, many will say that you can’t elect DHs because they don’t field. And then a guy like Jim Rice makes it in entirely based on his hitting resume. But let me tell you: Jim Edmonds was a better ballplayer than Jim Rice. He won’t get a sniff for the Hall, though, because no one gives a damn about fielding.

      • Ed says:

        And they somehow think it’s better for a player to be a terrible fielder and actually hurt his team by being out there than it is for them to DH and only provide positive value to the team.

        • Ed says:

          i.e. someone like Manny Ramirez would have been MUCH more valuable if he could have DHed instead of regularly botching balls in RF.

          • Manny was worth -106 defensive runs in the outfield. He had 8343 PA as an outfielder. The difference between RF and DH in positional adjustments is -10 runs per 600 PA. So had he played those games as a DH, he would have been docked an additional 139 runs on his WAR, meaning his WAR would drop by 3 wins as a DH compared to being in the field.

      • Anon Ymous says:

        Jim Edmonds fielding was average to below average for many of his Gold Glove years. He was talented at making flashy diving catches barely getting to balls that any reasonably above average CF with range would have caught more easily, which also translated into a lot of balls he failed to catch that better CFs caught with difficulty. This was known at the time by those of us who watched him and other basic range stats, and the defensive metrics that have come out since have validated what those of us were saying.

        You can make a case for him for the HOF, and maybe even say his defense ended up being a positive factor for his career overall, but don’t let Gold Gloves or highlight plays distract you from what his defensive value really was.

    • Ed says:

      Additionally, if you go by career WAR — every eligible CF with a higher career WAR than him is in the Hall of Fame except Kenny Lofton and Willie Davis. Ken Griffey Jr., Carlos Beltran, and Andruw Jones are also all higher than him, but none of them are eligible for the ballot yet.

      He’s also ahead of multiple CFs who are currently in the HOF — Kirby Puckett, Larry Doby, Earl Averill, Edd Roush, and others.

      Like I said in my other post… I think he’s a borderline guy and probably not worthy of induction if his defense actually was average or below average in CF. If he’d played defense like Andruw Jones while hitting the way he did, he’d be surefire.

    • Ian R. says:

      Jim Edmonds has almost precisely 60 WAR. That’s pretty much the Hall of Fame average.

      You may not like WAR, but that would seem to indicate he’s at least close.

    • And because Edmunds doesn’t pass the sniff test, he will probably quickly drop off the ballot…. Especially with the current glut he’s going to be dropped into…. This while Morris gets the full run of 15 years on the ballot and nearly makes it. Crazy.

      • mrgjg says:

        Jim Edmonds reminds me of Kevin Brown in that while he was playing nobody really thought of him as a HOF, but then you look at the numbers and your kind of surprised at how good they were.
        Unfortunately for Jimmy, I think he’s destined for the same fate as Brown; one and done.

    • Donald A. Coffin says:

      And your reasoning is???

      Edmonds has a 133 OPS+; he has 60+ WAR. Defensively, he was excellent (about 6 DWAR, not Andruw Jones territory, but excellent). Would I vote for him? I don’t know; I haven’t thought seriously about it. But “not even close”?

    • Nick says:

      I think it’s fair for you to say he’s not a hall of famer, but not even close? Really? What makes you say that?

      I would’ve killed to have a player that consistent on the Dodgers at any point in my lifetime. Patience at the plate, and a really good amount of power, plus he played centerfield!

  3. Ian says:

    Slightly off topic but have you ever looked at Jim Kaat as the most unlucky near HOF guy? If he had retired after 1976, his career record is 247-201, 3.31 era, 3865 ip. 3 20 win seasons and he goes on the ballot in the early 80s. He probably gets in. (And he wouldn’t be a horrible choice. 112 ERA+, about 65 fWAR. Beat Koufax in game 2. Worse players on in).

    Instead, he plays another 7 years, can’t reach 300 wins. Those 7 years are bad enough to push him down and he gets on the ballot in that wave in 1989.

    • Kaat is on my short list of guys who need a look from the Veterans Committee.

      • mrgjg says:

        I remember when Kaat appeared to be done as a topflight pitcher after getting injured in 1972 when he was in the midst of his best year. He’s so bad in 1973 that the White Sox claim him off waivers in August.
        He then comes back in 1974 with this “quickpitch” technique that immediately pays dividends and proceeds to throw consecutive 7+ WAR seasons.
        His Sept. 1974 was a month for the ages. In 7 starts he threw 6 CG 60.2IP 36 H 11 BB
        2 ER!! ERA 0.30 7-0 W/L

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      Eh, without those seven years, his WAR is barely above 48, which is Dwight Gooden/Jimmy Key/Dennis Martinez territory.

  4. Triston says:

    You can see this in reverse really well if you compare the 1962 and 1964 BBWAA results (they didn’t vote in 1963).
    In between, they changed eligibility from retired 5 to 30 years to the current 5 to 20. So a whole decade of players, essentially, suddenly fell of the ballot.
    Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson were elected first ballot in 1962, but no other candidate received more than 51% of the votes [Sam Rice, 50.6%]… but there were a whopping 24 candidates who received between 5 and 50[.6]%!
    13 of those candidates (12 of whom are in the HOF) suddenly disappeared because of eligibility changes, and almost everybody’s vote totals “skyrocketed.”

  5. dlf9 says:

    Another new player for 2019 to add to the glut — Mariano Rivera

  6. john Cochrane says:

    Jim Hunter pitched his last game at age 33. Timing is everything.

  7. JustinPBG says:

    You can add Pettitte and Rivera to 2019 (not that I think Andy belongs, but he’ll get votes).

  8. 18thstreet says:

    I was just looking at who the writers elected, starting in 1986 (I picked a random year from my childhood). And come hell or high water, the BBWAA never really elects more than two players. In most years, they elect one. I think there was a year with three inductees in there.

    So f voters choose Maddux, and only Maddux, as Bill Deane suggests, it will be in keeping with their historical proclivities. Anyone who names more than three ex-players as being slam-dunk inductees should keep that in mind. So I think Deane’s right.

    And the entry way to the Hall of Fame will continue to circumvent the writers. There’s no way that the Board of Directors can tolerate a museum in Cooperstown, New York — inaccessible to any major transportation hub — that consists of a tiny sliver of elite talent, plus assorted nonplayers, like Joe Torre and dead umpires. That would make for a very boring museum.

    • Ian R. says:

      I get your meaning, but Joe Torre is an odd choice of example, isn’t he? His playing career was pretty close to Hall of Fame worthy, and he’s on the short list of most successful managers of all time. Even if you think managers are grossly overrated, his full body of work should be more than enough.

      • 18thstreet says:

        Yes, but no one visits a Hall of Fame to remember a great manager, do they? (And he was inducted a manager.)

        • cass says:

          There’s a lot more to the museum than the inducted members. That’s just one hall. Many other players and aspects of baseball are covered in the museum. Really, the biggest significance of the award is validation by the baseball community. That’s why people get so passionate about this. It is a communal history. The actual physical museum is secondary.

          • 18thstreet says:

            Tell that to the Board of Directors of the physical museum, who have actual bills to pay and not merely a platonic ideal of bills to pay.

            They need admission. They need people to visit. And their interest in this is very different than that of the BBWAA.

        • Patrick Bohn says:

          Do many people visit the Hall of Fame to remember any one player? As you pointed out, Cooperstown isn’t exactly easy to get to. Who’s making the hike out there to go see any one thing? (Inductions excluded)

        • mrgjg says:

          Some managers were worth the price of admission. Guys like Casey Stengel, Earl Weaver and Billy Martin could be pretty entertaining.

          • Agreed.

            Stengel and John McGraw are probably better remembered than many of the HoF players of their times. Not the very top stars, but many of the others.

            The only guys who could possibly have an effect on Hall revenues who won’t get in are the ones not getting in because of gambling (Rose) and PEDs. Whether Morris. Trammell, or Raines ever make it, or whether Biggio, Smoltz, or Thomas makes it, will have virtually no effect on the Hall from a business perspective. The guys that matter, if they were clean, will get in. (Whether the PED guys should get in is a separate matter.)

  9. 18thstreet: There isn’t currently an issue where a lot of deserving players aren’t in (not counting those on the ballot still under consideration). There are some snubs, and their cases are celebrated in this blog all the time. But, it’s not like the cream of the crop and guys a level or two below that aren’t in. There are just a selected few who have gotten short shrift. I don’t see any impact to the HOF museum attendance whether they work through the current ballot fast or slowly. People go there to see the plaques and exhibits and there are already plenty of those. Now, I do agree they could disrupt the whole thing and create controversy if they stay log jammed for 2-3 more years. But we’ll have to wait and see.

    That said, I totally agree with Tango. It IS at least 50% likely that only Maddux will be inducted. I’m betting Glavine rides his coattails too. But, other than that, unless Piazza or Bagwell gets a boost (which there is that steroid speculation that doesn’t seem to go away) I think that’s it. Thomas will get strong support, but I don’t think he’s viewed as a first ballot guy. So, that will cost him support. So, along with the stacked ballot, he’s not going to get to 75%. I’m saying Maddux and maybe Glavine. That’s it.

  10. Brent says:

    Joe, I have said it many time on your blog, but I will say it again, there’s a train acomin’ and the BBWAA is on the tracks. I don’t think there is any way that the Baseball HOF can allow the BBWAA as a whole to be the voters for their museum after about another 5 years of this nonsense. For many of the reasons that you list in 2nd to last paragraph in your piece.

  11. Now, if Maddux drops under 75% because writers assume he’ll get the vote and leave him off to vote for others…. then all hell will break loose and the HOF will have to do something different. It will be especially embarrassing when Bobby Cox gets up for his acceptance speech and lampoons the HOF for screwing up the Maddux vote…. which he may do for Glavine too. That’s the way Bobby rolls. When he gets his dander up theres no talking sense into the guy.

  12. I do think Jim Edmonds is HoF caliber but it’s like maybe 7 years on a non-crowded ballot or thereabouts; he’s basically a (very) slightly worse version of Beltran without the post-season mystique.

  13. The more I learn about baseball, the less respect I have for the BBWAA. They don’t seem to understand modern metrics; okay, fine, they can be confusing. But they also don’t seem to understand obvious things that should be obvious, such as Jim Rice’s HOF candidacy being built on his home ballpark. They don’t grasp the value of not generating outs (at the plate, GIDP, or on the base paths). They don’t seem to understand or care that good players on bad teams deserve more scrutiny, and average players with inflated totals because they were on good teams are not necessarily HOF worthy. They don’t seem to grasp that MVP awards are given for things that are often team and ball park related, and then they don’t seem to discount undeserved MVP awards. And, finally, unlike the NFL, they don’t get together as a group with the other voters, discuss merits and general voting strategies, which means some old golfing writer who lived and died with Bob Feller will leave Greg Maddux (and Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez) off his ballot because, dangit! ball players were so much better in the 1940s.

    Maybe ball players were better in the 1940s (they were certainly whiter). But I think greatness is time independent. I think Feller would have been a fine pitcher today or if MLB was integrated when he came up. And I think Greg Maddux would have performed at least as well if not even better in the 1940s.

    It all comes down to that tricky word, Fame. Most modern metrics try to gauge value in wins, in runs scored or prevented, compared to league averages. We all can agree that 100 walks is better for runs and wins than 20 walk, 30 singles, and 50 outs, even though chances are that .300 batting average will mean more for MVP, All-Star, and HOF consideration than the 50 extra times on base with no outs recorded. We can look at park adjustments, steals, GIDP, and defense, and decide that Trout is a more valuable player even though many wouldn’t even put him into the argument.

    A friend of mine once thought that in order to run for office, you needed to play and beat Sim City, to show you understood system think. I think likewise, that in order to vote for the HOF you need to win a series playing Strat-O-Matic, against a team randomly chosen from the best OBP available at each position and best WHIP on the mound, with duplicate cards allowed. Something has to be done to educate the voters, and I don’t know how else to do it.

    • Strat-o-Matic was a great visual of advanced stats. High OBP guys had a column of hits, a column of walks and another column with some hits. You learned quickly that no walk guys like Steve Garvey didn’t help your team as much as a Joe Morgan, or even a Jimmy Wynn. Pitcher wise, the low WHIP guys just had no hits or walks available on their cards, while Nolan Ryan had gobs of Walks on his card, which was a killer. Nobody ever picked a Ryan card for their team! While the 1970 Tom Hall card was an obscure favorite.

    • invitro says:

      Can you list the players that the BBWAA has inducted that you feel shouldn’t have been, and vice-versa?

  14. Donald A. Coffin says:

    Before the first round of expansion (say, the late 1950s), HoF voters could list 10 players on their ballots. With 16 teams & 25 players of an active roster, a HoF ballot could include the equivalent of 2.5% of an active roster. With expansion, that has been effectively been cut in half (1.33% of an active roster). To restore the HoF ballot to its pre-expansion level, voters would have to be able to vote for 18.75 players (let’s just call that 19)–almost twice as many. So my first recommendation would be to expand the size of the ballot. My second might be to have a runoff if no one is elected (but I feel les strongly about that).

  15. Pat says:

    2016: Hoffman and Wagner. Now I’m not much on relievers for the Hall, but they’re better than 50% of the four who are in and just as good as Gossage, if not better(I consider Eckersley a hybrid). If They’ve elected Sutter and Fingers, and continue to vote for Smith, you have to figure these guys will draw some.

    • Ian R. says:

      Hoffman is widely viewed as a future Hall of Famer, so he’s definitely a threat. I expect Wagner to go one-and-done, though – the ballot will be so stacked, and he’ll be the second-best reliever making his debut.

      • Pat says:

        I’m sure he’ll be viewed as the second best, but check his ERA+ and K rates. He’s quite comparable to Hoffman in terms of quality if not in terms of quantity of Saves.

        • Ian R. says:

          Oh, sure, Wagner was tremendous, and if you’re going to put relievers in the Hall, he has a case.

          Considering his much lower save totals than Rivera (who will go straight in), Hoffman (who will go in eventually) and even Lee Smith (who has had a hard time getting support), I don’t think he has much of a shot on the real ballot.

    • mrgjg says:

      The fact that Sutter got in ahead of Goose is a joke. I don’t see Smith or Hoffman as particularly worthy. Wagner is more of an interesting candidate because at his peak, he was about as dominant and overpowering as anyone.
      That being said, I can understand Fingers being elected because he was somewhat of a traiblazer who pitched on one of the most famous teams in history.
      From a numbers standpoint, the only relievers who really measure-up are Wilhelm, Mariano and Goose, although he’s close to the in/out line.

  16. Clayt says:

    I like how people can all make up their own minds and determine “value” based on whatever floats their boat. Many people really don’t think Ws and RBIs matter. I do. But I also think walks (as a batter) matter more than some others think it does. I think Ks for a pitcher matter. I honestly dont care about many of the new metrics. I couldnt care less if Jim Edmonds didnt get to every single ball in the OF- dude was a beast in the field and made acrobatic plays that everyone loved to see he generally took care of business. dWAR? Some love it, some hate it, some (like me) find it irrelevant. If you use the new metrics or dont care about Ws or RBIs or Ks or whatever, THAT’S AWESOME! Vote for your favorite player based on whatever it is YOU value in a player! Not everybody has to think the same way and I really like that about the HOF vote.

  17. Clayton says:

    Personally I’m really curious to see how the HOF voters treat guys that to me seem borderline but could really go either way. The borderline guys fascinate me because I think just about everyone knows who the studs and duds are. EVERYBODY knows Maddux, Glavine, Griffey, Unit, Chipper, and others are HOFers. But borderline guys like Lee Smith, Jack Morris, Jim Edmonds, Bobby Abreu (thoughts?), Andruw Jones, Vladdy Guerrero, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and others – those guys intrigue me because voting can be so unpredictable.

    I really hope that 3 or 4 or even 5 guys get elected this year. There are probably a dozen players who should make it, really, but it’ll be an absolute shame if only Maddux makes it in this year. Glavine should be a first-ballot guy, so should Frank Thomas. I’d love to see Biggio and Piazza and Bagwell go in this year, too…

    What are yall’s thoughts on the borderline guys? Will Andruw Jones make it? Vladdy? Helton? Moose? Is Abreu even worth discussing?

    • Out of your borderline list, my bet would be that Pettitte makes it but none of the others. Guerrero, because of his singularity increasing the attention he received, would have the best shot, but I doubt it even for him. Mussina somehow managed to be overlooked even as a Yankee. Jones’s dropoff after the brilliant start to his career is going to hurt him the same way Biggio’s hanging on is hurting him. Helton has steroid speculation and Coors Field essentially eliminating him from consideration. Edmonds was not even seen as a GOOD player for much of his career (even though he was an excellent one), so he won’t get much. Morris and Smith are boring discussions at this point and I think everyone has already decided, so we won’t see either move much.

      I think Abreu is worth discussion (though I would probably ultimately side with a “no” on him), but I doubt he even gets that.

      • “Jones’s dropoff after the brilliant start to his career is going to hurt him the same way Biggio’s hanging on is hurting him.”

        Except that the voters have shown a preference for the latter group. Granted, Biggio wasn’t good for the last 8 (wow) years of his career, but if he retires at 34, when he ceased being a star, he has no shot – ~2000 hits, ~150 homers. Even if all of his ratios would be better, he needed those counting stats.

        Jones’s collapse will kill him. Even more importantly, though, will be the failure to adequately consider his fielding numbers. Even if he declined gradually, I think that voters would have turned their nose up at someone who flirts with a .250 career average. He’d have needed 500 homers to even enter the conversation.

        • They have shown that preference, but it seems to me that it’s been shifting away from such a preference for big counting stats. Meanwhile, the popular narrative about Biggio that’s being repeated is, essentially, “pretty good player who played for a billion years, long after he was good.” If he retires at, say, 37, since most players hang on a few years past being good, I think the narrative is, at worst, “excellent player who wasn’t good long enough.”

          And, yes, Jones’s value being so dependent on fielding would make it difficult for him under any circumstances. I rather wonder, though, if he had come up four years later and followed the same career arc how differently he would be viewed. If he comes up at 23 and becomes a star at 25, then essentially falls apart at 34 and hangs on until 39 as a part-time corner outfielder, is he thought of more highly? I think he probably would be.

          That’s why I think there is a similarity between Jones and Biggio–the narrative that surrounds them is severely impacted by the shape of their careers and I think that narrative affects the voters significantly.

          However, I am by no means an expert on the writers’ voting proclivities, so I could easily be wrong and be spouting a bunch of nonsense. 🙂 Hopefully it’s at least vaguely entertaining nonsense!

    • Pat says:

      I don’t think Morris and Smith are anywhere near the border, they’re well below it. Mussina, otoh, is well above it.

    • Ian R. says:

      I think Guerrero and (hopefully) Mussina will get in sooner or later. Smith and Morris will probably come up short – Morris MIGHT go in this year because it’s his last on the ballot, but the ballot is so loaded that that’s a long shot, and Smith will get buried in the sea of strong candidates coming in. Edmonds, Abreu, Jones and Helton all have decent cases, but I doubt any of them will make it – they’re candidates for a Kenny Lofton-like one-and-done, which is a shame. Pettitte’s HGH use will probably keep him out for a long time.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      Bobby Abreu is interesting, because my recollection is that he was not liked at all in Philly, despite having some incredibly good seasons. He said a few unfortunate things (he admitted he wouldn’t run into a wall and get injured, for example), seemed ungritty (is that a word?), and he was fairly unimpressive in the outfield. Oh, he also walked too much. This sentiment was echoed by the front office who traded Abreu to the Yankees in 2006 for almost nothing, and stated that they didn’t think they could win with him.
      This idea seemed to prove true because in each of the next 5 seasons the Phillies seemed to get better and better, making the playoffs 5 times and the World Series twice, including one WS title.
      The Yankees, meanwhile, seemed to get worse during Abreu’s time there, culminating with missing the playoffs in 2008. The next year, with Abreu gone, they won the WS.

      This is all just bad luck for Abreu, I would say. But those confluence of events don’t play well into his story, and as a borderline HoFer, he could use a feel-good story to get the required votes.

      • invitro says:

        Very nice summary of Abreu. I’m a big fan of his… I like players that won’t run into a wall, and will help their team by taking walks. I suggest comparing him with Vlad, which I think I did in the Vlad post a month or two ago.

    • Donald A. Coffin says:

      Mussina is far from borderline; if anything, his inclusion in the HoF raises the average.

  18. corsairman says:

    Nothing truer has ever been said at any time.

  19. Grover Jones says:

    At first I thought the headline was “The FAILURE of HOF Voting.”

    Which also would have been accurate, sadly.

  20. Richard (different one from the above) says:

    Here’s an idea. I think it’s just a simple tweak, but could have significant effects.

    Keep everything the same as it is (75% to get in, less than 5% and you drop off, vote for a max of ten people, etc.) but ignore any and all ballots with less than two names on them.

    BBWAA members who submit blank ballots in protest, by accident, or as an admission of ignorance will not have those ballots affect the outcome. Any member who sends in a ballot with only one name selected (for whatever reason) will also not affect the outcome. Want to really push for Jack Morris? Fine, but vote for someone else, too…

    With fewer ballots in total being counted, it will make it just a bit easier to gain election or stay on the ballot another year. Admittedly, we’re talking no more than one or two percentage points given that there are well over 500 voting members, but at the very least it will force BBWAA members to pay a little more attention.

    Not much, but it’s a start. And one that shouldn’t be too hard to accept.

  21. mrgjg says:

    And here’s the craziest part: Every ballot from now on will be overstuffed.

    New players this year: Maddux, Thomas, Glavine, Mussina, Kent.
    New players in 2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield.
    New players in 2016: Ken Griffey, Jim Edmonds.
    New players in 2017: Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Vlad Guerrero.
    New players in 2018: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Johan Santana (?), Scott Rolen.
    New players in 2019: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Andy Pettitte.

    Maddux, Glavine, Unit, Pedro, Jr., Chipper, and Mo are the most likely 1st ballot guys.
    Thomas, Pudge (the steroids hurt his 1st ballot chances), Smoltz, Thome, Doc,and Vlad go in pretty fast.
    Sheffield and Manny get the McGwire treatment and never get in.
    Rolen, Pettitte, and Johan might stay on a few ballots but otherwise…

    Rolen is really an interesting candidate because the advanced metrics love him, especially his fielding which appears otherworldly. He’s one of the guys who’s defensive reputation is backed-up by numbers.
    I just think he’s going to get the “never seemed like a HOF” treatment like the Lou Whitakers and Dwight Evans of the world.

  22. mrgjg says:

    Great article Wolf. Thanks for that. too bad Mr. Keri doesn’t have a vote because he’s the kind of thoughtful and sober fellow we need to break this logjam.

  23. invitro says:

    I am going a little bit crazy hearing all this decrying of the HoF and the BBWAA voting process. It seems like everyone is mad, and everyone is offering fixes, but no one is saying what voting results they think are evidence of a broken process. Well, except that the HoF is not exactly the list of players that is in their personal HoF.

    If you have a problem with the HoF, please tell me this:
    1. When was the last time you were OK with the HoF?
    2. How are the HoF results different now than they were then?
    3. Was there a situation like the current one of PED-using players then?

    Zero players made it last year from the BBWAA vote. I say: so what. Do you think there has never been a year when zero players made it? I suggest you review the HoF’s history. Maddux and probably Glavine will make it this year. And one or two players will continue to make it every year, with zero players making it every 20 or so years, just as things have gone for 40+ years.

  24. KTM says:

    Obviously, most ballots do not have 10 spots filled. Tom Verducci reports that it’s more like 5-6 votes per ballot on average for the last 25 yrs. So if you take your lists, and select 6 guys, that narrows it down quite a bit.

    I think Maddux will make it. Possibly one more. So it looks like the writers have chosen Bleak House for the Voting. Last year – Paradise Lost.

    And Morris, Trammel, Smith, Mattingly, possibly Walker, Kent, Palmeiro, Sosa… destined for Vets. Bus rides to oblivion.

    As to the future near do wells – I would be surprised if Abreu, Edmonds and some of the others survive more than 1 or 2 ballots at the current pace of votes and amount of players on the ballots. I would take Steve Finley over Edmonds any day of the week, anyhow.

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