Monday, January 5, 2015

It's the Most Hall Time of the Year

Happy New Year means that it is just about time for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY to announce who this year's inductees are.

The ballot for this year's class was loaded - the first-year eligible players alone include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield. In all, there were 34 names on this year's ballot for voters to choose from.

As you may recall, it takes a 75% vote count to gain induction via the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). With that in mind, Craig Biggio should be a shoe-in for this year's class. If not, an investigation should take place ASAP. Biggio finished with 74.8% last year, his third year on the ballot. The next highest on the 2014 ballot was Mike Piazza, who was hampered by performance enhancing drug rumors, and finished with 62.2%. He too should be elected this year.

I won't get on my soapbox about players that were never "caught" using PEDs, other than to say it's not fair of the voters to leave someone off their ballot that they think was a cheater. Jeff Bagwell has been thrown into this same category (he finished third in 2014 with 54.3%).

Johnson and Martinez are no brainers. Smoltz should join former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, who were inducted together in 2014. The right-hander is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history with at least 200 wins (207) and 150 saves (154).
Though Sheffield finished his career as a memeber of the 500 home run club, PEDs could definitely derail his Hall bid. In 2003, Sheffield told a grand jury that he had "unwittingly" used a steroid cream that he had obtained from BALCO. He was introduced to the company by its most well known client, Barry Bonds.

At the time, Sheffield said he thought it was a cortisone cream and was angry when he found out otherwise. ESPN tried to ask Bonds about it in 2004, but Bonds, via a spokesman, ignored the elephant in the room and wished Sheffield all the best. So did Sheffield lie about "oops" moment? The guess is that the voter's will think so. With a .907 career OPS. nine All-Star appearances, and a World Series ring, it would be hard to make an argument to keep Sheffield out otherwise.

At the other end of the spectrum are those players who are near elimination from future ballots. A candidate must receive at least 5% to remain on future ballots. PED prime suspect Sammy Sosa received 7.2% of the vote in 2014 and is likely to drop off in this year's vote. Don Mattingly, who could have ended up with Hall numbers had he stayed healthy, managed to receive barely over 10% last year.

As much as I loved Mattingly as a player, I don't believe he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Many do though and point to Kirby Puckett, who I don't believe should be in either, whose statistics are similar to that of Mattingly's. The biggest difference between the two are the two World Series rings Puckett earned, while Mattingly's mediocre Yankees teams made the post-season just once in his 14 years.

No matter what happens this year, these things hold true - no one will get a unanimous vote; the steroid players will see their perecentages drop; fans, media, and players will not like all the results. It's that Hall time of the year, what else would you expect?

UPDATE (toh to @rebeccapbp):

A's fan and HoF tracker Ryan Thibs has made a spreadsheet of vote totals available to the public. If these numbers hold true, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and John Smoltz are headed to Cooperstown this Summer.

As of 1:55 PM ET, Both Johnson (98.63%) and Martinez (97.95%) approached Tom Seaver's all-time record of 98.8%, but as usual some voters left them out. Inexplicably, Twins beat writer Mike Berardino left both pitchers off.

Looks like Sheffield did indeed take a big hit. So far just over 8% of the vote. Don Mattingly and Sammy Sosa are both below the required 5% minimum. Jeff Bagwell increased to 66.44%, so there is still hope for him in future years.


As of now, Randy Johnson has tied Tom Seaver with 98.8% of the vote. Pedro Martinez is closing in at 98.2%. Going the wrong way - that would be Mike Piazza, who has dipped below the 75% minimum.

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