As usual, the Hall of Fame election results leaned toward the obvious.
Did anybody seriously doubt that Chipper Jones and Jim Thome wouldn’t be elected in their first years of eligibility? Or that Vlad Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman wouldn’t make it this year after last year’s near misses?
One thing that did surprise me: the plan to make all ballots public got scrapped. That means we’ll probably never know who gave sympathy votes to Chris Carter and Kerry Wood (two votes each) and Livan Hernandez and Carlos Lee (one vote each). Did anybody think those four were likely to be elected? Or even garner enough votes to stay on the ballot another year?
Another surprise: Jamie Moyer won’t be on the ballot next year. I didn’t expect him to make it into the Hall of Fame, at least not via the Baseball Writers Association of America balloting. But I did think he’d do better than ten votes, just under half of the five percent needed to stay on the list another year.
That’s a real disappointment, and I hope the Veterans’ Committee steps up. His path to success was unconventional, but to my mind, that makes his elevation to the shrine of role models all the more important.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the ballot, there were no major surprises, and only one minor surprise. I’ll get to the latter in a moment.
Last year I noted that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens had made significant upward movement in the voting, but that I didn’t expect them to move much further this year. And it appears I was correct. In 2017, Bonds scored 53.8% of the votes and Clemens had 54.1%. This year, they managed 56.4% and 57.3%, respectively.
Upward movement, yes, but not a whole lot. They’ve each got four more years of eligibility remaining, but there would have to be a major change in the voters’ perception of steroid use to give them a realistic shot.
Then there’s Curt Schilling. Last year his number dropped from 52.3% to 45% on the strength of voter reaction to his racist and anti-transgender posts. I expected a bit of a bounce-back, but apparently didn’t allow enough for anti-asshole sentiment. This year he lost another 1.1%. (He also seems to have dropped any idea of running for the Senate, which may be just as well for his sense of self-worth. Massachusetts seems unlikely to swing that far right in the next nine months. But I digress.) I still find that disappointing. There’s certainly no shortage of racist, sexist assholes in the Hall already; the character clause has always been honored more in the breach than the observation. Vote on his performance, guys.
The modest surprise–or perhaps, pair of surprises–is Edgar Martinez. Vote trackers and predictors were in agreement that he would almost certainly do better than last year’s 58.6%. The surprise, at least to me, was how much better he did. 70.4% is a very healthy jump.
The unhappy part of the surprise is how close he came: 20 more would have done the trick. I hope none of those sympathy votes were awarded by voters who left Edgar off the ballot.
Ah, well. He’s got one more year of eligibility, and as several writers have already pointed out, nobody has ever gotten 70% of the vote without eventually making it. I cheer for a lot of “first time ever” happenings in baseball–good and bad–but Edgar not picking up that last five percent would be one I’ve got no desire to see.
I’m with you on Jamie Moyer. He was one of those ever-reliable grinders who didn’t do great things, but he did do very good things for a very very very long time. I guess I’d say he did enough “very good” for enough “very long” to be Hall of Fame-y in my book. (I’m just going to open my own Hall of Fame. Congratulations, Jamie Moyer and Mike Mussina … welcome aboard! And, Edgar, sure, you too!)
Okay, gonna ignore the mixed metaphor there (hopping aboard the Hall?) and endorse the idea of a hall for those who didn’t make the official one, but shoulda.
That said, Mike Mussina’s got five more years of eligibility, he’s at 63.5% now, up from 51.8% last year. I’d say he’s still got a good shot at it. Don’t send him the invitation to your hall just yet!
No, no … not a mixed metaphor. You assumed my hall was an actual hall. For heavens sake, I have cats. I can’t afford a hall with my weekly cat treats budget. Plus, halls require sweeping and cleaning. Ewww. My “aboard” comes from the old baseballism … “the batter is aboard” … and so Jamie Moyer and Moose are aboard in my (imaginary) baseball diamond hall of fame. (But not really, because my baseball diamond hall of fame includes the DH, so Moyer and Moose wouldn’t actually be aboard a base after all. They’d be toeing the rubber. So, sure, you’re right. Let me rephrase. Welcome to the rubber, Moyer & Moose. That sounds very weird.)
Clarification noted. “Aboard” was just a little too ambiguous. I tend to associate it with trains. But maybe that’s just me, wandering down the wrong siding.
It does sound weird, probably because we’re not used to sending two pitchers out to the mound at the same time.
“Vote on his performance, guys”?
If the Writers were voting strictly on performance, without regard to character, Bonds and Clemons would have been in the Hall years since, and Schilling would be a shoo-in, but character matters- or it should.
Yes, I know: the Hall is full of racists, spikers, bean ball throwers, speed freaks, misogynists and generally unpleasant people, but our standards are constantly changing, I think for the better, and some of those guys couldn’t get in today, so that argument doesn’t hold water by me. Because mistakes of judgement were made in the past, it doesn’t mean we need to keep making the same mistakes.
I wrote Bruce Jenkins once, after he made the “just judge by the numbers” argument in print, and said that I’d have to remember to never play cards with him, or loan him money, since, to him, only winning (or profiting) mattered, irregardless of how it was accomplished. He didn’t respond; I doubt I was the only one to make that kind of observation.
Personally, I think that both Bonds and Clemons have peaked, vote-wise, and I doubt they’ll make it in by the deadline. Maybe they’ll be given some kind of “honorary membership”, somewhere down the line, when more people have forgotten the sting of their transgressions, and their stories have been wafted upon a cloud of nostalgia. Until then, they have no place there, not without dishonoring the players who resisted temptation and played the game straight.
That’s how I feel about that.
And this one of the wonderful things about baseball: we can have a perfectly polite argument that will never end. That lets us revisit it every off-season when we need a whiff of horsehide to keep us going. (And if that ain’t a performance-enhancing drug, I don’t know what is!)
I’d have more sympathy for the character clause if there was a mechanism to apply it retroactively. (Say, for example, if each year’s ballot came with a second ballot listing the players added in a five-year span, rotating through the years from inception to twenty years before the current year. BBWAA members vote using the same criteria as for adding players to the Hall, and any HOFer who fails to garner 75% of the votes is removed from the Hall.) That way we can apply the same criteria to everyone.