HOF 2023

It’s that time again; one of the surest signs that Spring Training is on the way: the Hall of Fame votes have been announced.

Once again, only one player made it into the Hall: Scott Rolen, making the jump from 63.2% of the votes, past the magic number of 75%, all the way to election with 5 votes to spare at 76.3%. Welcome, Scott!

At the other end of the voting, seven players failed to garner a single nod. Five more scraped up a single sympathy vote, and, to my surprise, nobody had more than one. The next lowest total was Torii Hunter hanging onto the ballot for another year with nearly 7%.

I don’t have any significant disagreements at either end of the balloting. I’d have liked to see R.A. Dickey get a few more votes in recognition of his contributions to the art of the knuckleball, but even there, I agree with the voters that his career wasn’t Hall-worthy. And I’ve got no problem with Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones, and/or Gary Sheffield being elected; none of them made it this year, but they all had significant jumps, at least in part because the Bonds/Clemens logjam is gone.

As for those guys in the middle, there are arguments to be had.

Alex Rodriguez, for one. Last year, he scored 34.3% on 135 votes. This year, he soared to 139 votes, good for 35.7%. I like this trend. If it continues, he’ll hit 171 votes (somewhere around 58%) in his final year of eligibility. I’m more than okay with that.

On the other hand, we’ve got Omar Visquel. IMNSHO, he belongs in the Hall. But his 19.5% score this year is a significant drop from last year’s 23.9%. I don’t see him falling off the ballot before his eligibility runs out after 2027, but I don’t see him getting elected either.

All in all, 2023 was a quiet year as far as Cooperstown was concerned. Next year should be more interesting, though. There are several newcomers to the ballot I expect to make the cut: Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, and Bartolo Colon spring to mind. But will any of them get in on their first ballots? Somehow I doubt it.

Only a bit over two weeks until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. Three weeks until positions players check in. And the first exhibition games are a mere three and a half weeks away. Everyone ready for something resembling baseball?

HOF 2022

Hey, it’s Baseball Hall of Fame time again.

Last year, I was on hiatus in January, so I didn’t comment on the results.

In 2020, I noted that if Curt Schilling “can keep his mouth shut through the presidential elections, he’ll probably be elected next year.” Oops. Didn’t happen. He hit 71.1% in the 2021 voting, sixteen votes short of election; this year he only scraped together 58.6% of the vote. Looks like his sour grapes demand that the writers not vote him in was honored.

One hopes that the Veteran’s Committee takes character into account and declines to elect him as well. Aside from anything else, he flat-out stated that the only people qualified to judge a player are former players. Fans and sportswriters don’t count–his words–in Curt Schilling’s world.

The other big question marks in their last year of eligibility, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, made small gains of around 5%. I suspect they will eventually be voted in by committee, and I’m largely okay with that.

Then, of course, there’s Alex Rodriguez. In his first year on the ballot, the new poster child for the “Numbers not Integrity” crowd got the nod from just over a third of the voters. About what many people expected. I’m betting his numbers will climb, but fall short of 75%, just as happened with Bonds and Clemens. Unless, of course, he does something to force the baseball press to take fresh note of him. Perhaps fortunately for his HoF dreams, his bid to buy the Mets fell through. Sorry, NBA fans, there really wasn’t any way we could stop him from turning those dollars over and buying into the Timberwolves–but we’d sure appreciate it if you could keep him too distracted to keep popping up on TV.

The current Edgar (“He really belongs in the Hall”) candidate is Omar Vizquel. Unfortunately, his polling numbers continue to drop. 52.6% in 2020, 49.1% last year, and only 23.9% this year. Plenty of time left–this was his fifth year of eligibility–but it would be a hell of a comeback.

So who did make it in? David Ortiz, with 77.9% of the voters coming in on his side. History suggests he’d have added at least another ten percentage points if he’d played for the Yankees, but who cares? He’s in and it’s well deserved.

Were there any sympathy votes this year? Of course there were*!

* My assumption is that any player getting less than five votes is getting sympathy votes, often of the “I can’t stomach Player X, so I’m going to use one of my votes as a pat on the back for Player Y” variety. Five or more, I assume at least one or two votes are legitimate nods to the Hall.

Two votes–half a percent–each to Prince Fielder and A.J. Pierzynski.

I didn’t expect Tim Lincecum to collect enough votes to stay on the ballot, but I’m a bit surprised he didn’t hit double digits, but there it is: nine votes, 2.3%.

HOF 2020

Winter is coming to an end. As the MLB app on my phone reminds me, the first pre-season games are less than a month away*. It’s unclear from MLB’s website when we’ll get the first broadcast game, but history suggests it’ll be no later than February 23.

* Most of the earliest games–three of the four on February 21–are, as usual, pros versus colleges, but there is one game between two professional teams. Thanks to the Rangers and Royals for starting things off. I’m confident it won’t be a World Series preview and that most of the players won’t make the Opening Day rosters, but it’ll still be official baseball.

A reminder: there’s no World Baseball Classic this year, but there will be one next year, so we’ll get a chunk of press about the qualifying tournaments. Call it extra baseball.

There are still trades and free agent negotiations going on, but it’s not too late to get in on the annual weeping and wailing over your favorite team’s off-season. Any dedicated fan can find something to complain about–and we do.

But if that’s not your style, how about the Hall of Fame voting?

I’ll be honest here: I haven’t been paying that much attention. Last year was all about whether Edgar would make it in. Once he did, I started thinking about other things. Some of them even had nothing to do with baseball.

But I can’t let the voting go completely unremarked.

The big question leading up to the announcement of the results was whether Derek Jeter would be the second player to be elected unanimously.

Fortunately for my equilibrium, he wasn’t. Missed it by one vote. Thank you, anonymous BBWAA member.

To be clear, I consider Jeter absolutely worthy of the Hall of Fame. I felt the same way about Mariano Rivera last year. This is going to be an ongoing issue (though I don’t see any of next year’s candidates making a serious run at a unanimous election). Now that it’s happened once, it will happen again. But I won’t be reconciled to it until a non-Yankee pulls off the feat.

Curt Schilling added another ten percentage points to his total. If he can keep his mouth shut through the presidential elections, he’ll probably be elected next year.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens moved up slightly, but that’s probably more reflective of a smaller pool of voters than a sign of changing opinions. I doubt they’ll squeak over the bar in 2021 or 2022.

Sympathy votes? Of course there were! One each to Rauuuuuuuul, J.J. Putz, Brad Penny, and Adam Dunn. Two each for Cliff Lee and Eric Chavez. Paul Konerko, Jason Giambi, and Alfonso Soriano also collected a few votes. I don’t think those three qualify as sympathy votes–each of them can make at least vaguely legitimate cases for election.

Disappointingly, my prediction that Chone Figgins would totally rock the sympathy vote tally was only correct in the Charlie Brown sense. I think I’ll stop making predictions at the bottom end of the ballot.

Looking at the potential ballot for 2021, I don’t see any sure bets for election. As I noted above, I think Curt Schilling has a good chance. Omar Vizquel should continue to gain votes, but probably not enough to hit 75% that quickly. Manny Ramirez will probably also move up, but there’s no way he’s going to add more than forty percent of the voters in one year.

HOF 2019

The Baseball Hall of Fame voters continue to perplex me.

This year, there were five candidates receiving what I can only assume were sympathy votes. As usual, no offense to the gents in question, but Lance Berkman? Roy Oswalt? And I hope neither of the voters who named Placido Polanco seriously thought he’d make the cut.

That’s not the perplexing part of the ballot, though. There are always a few of those votes.

Nor is the election of Edgar Martinez perplexing. As we’ve said before, the only peculiar thing about that result is how long it took. Congratulations, ‘Gar. Well deserved!

Nor are the changes in the votes received by the PED Players unexpected. Barry Bonds got a small jump from 56.4% to 59.1%. Roger Clemens climbed from 57.3% to 59.5%.

And, if we needed proof that assholery is less offensive to baseball writers than PED use, Curt Schilling got the big bounce-back I expected last year, jumping from 51.2% all the way up to 60.9%. That’s still well short of the 75% necessary for election, but let’s not forget that two years ago, Edgar was two points lower than Schilling is this year. Last year I said “Vote on his performance, guys.” It appears the voters did exactly that. Will he make the grade in his last three years of eligibility? Stay tuned.

Other non-surprises: Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera were all elected.

So what has me perplexed?

Let me put it this way. Back in 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. scored 99.3% of the votes–the highest percentage ever recorded–and it was generally agreed that if Junior (arguably the greatest player in the history of the game) couldn’t get elected unanimously, nobody ever would.

So how the [expletive deleted] did Mariano Rivera pull it off? I don’t doubt he’s hall-worthy. But unanimously hall-worthy?

I doubt anybody would call him the greatest player in the history of the game. I’m certainly not. Greatest pitcher? Nah. There’s a case, but no. Greatest reliever? Sure, I’d go that far.

But I don’t see how that’s enough to get him a unanimous election.

I know, I know. The vote isn’t over who’s the greatest, just who’s hall-worthy. But again, how is Rivera that much more obviously worthy than Griffey?

I hesitate to suggest bias, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that Junior’s glory years were played in Seattle–out there in the boonies–while The Sandman played for the Yankees. The New York Yankees. I’ll say no more. Just think about it.

And, those of us who remember Junior in his prime can console ourselves with the thought that he got twelve more votes than Mariano. It’s a tiny fire to warm ourselves with, but it’ll do.

Stay tuned for next year, when the pool will include such worthies and potential worthies as Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi, Paul Konerko, J.J. Putz, and Raul Ibanez.

Oh, and my leading candidate to rock the sympathy vote tally, Chone Figgins.

HOF 2018

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.

HOF 2017

Happy Baseball Hall of Fame Post Day!

The votes have been counted and in a stunning upset, Donald Trump has been elected to the HOF, despite a complete lack of qualifications.

OK, now that two-thirds of you have fled, screams of anguish dopplering into inaudibility in your wake, I’ll admit the truth.

DT was not elected to the HOF. In fact, he failed to make the 5% cutoff and, as a result, will not appear on next year’s ballot. Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, since he wasn’t on this year’s ballot either.

Those who were elected–Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan Rodriguez–are all worthy candidates, and it’s great to see Raines get in this year, since it was his final year of eligibility. Making him wait until the Today’s Game Era Committee could get around to considering him would have been more than a bit of a farce.

The middle of the list is the most interesting part, as usual. Edgar Martinez continues to gain ground, jumping from 43.4% to 58.6%. His chances of making up the remaining 16.4% of the ballots in his last two years of eligibility are still–unreasonably!–slim, but there are an awful lot of people who never thought he’d crack 50%. Stay tuned.

As has been widely reported, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens picked up large numbers of voters. Voters’ willingness to ignore the steroid question is widely attributed to the elevation of former commissioner Bud Selig to the HOF. “If the man who did little to prevent steroid use is there, why can’t the players who used them be there as well?” If that’s really the primary driver, I wouldn’t expect them to gain much more ground: everyone who finds that a convincing argument will have already made the switch.

Curt Schilling’s vote total dropped by seven percentage points in the wake of his recent general assholery. I’m betting the numbers go back up next year, especially if he keeps his mouth shut. By all reports, nobody had any complaints about his character during his playing days, and I think that’s what’s important in considering him for the Hall. Punish him now for his actions now, absolutely, but don’t ignore what he did then because you can’t see past his recent actions.

Then there’s the bottom of the ballot. As usual, a few players got what can only be described as sympathy votes. Tim Wakefield (one vote), Jason Varitek and Edgar Renteria (two votes each), and Magglio Ordonez (three votes) all had distinguished careers, but I doubt any of them expected to make it into the Hall.

As I said earlier, any player who gets less than five percent of the vote gets dropped from the ballot. For the third time in his five years of eligibility, Sammy Sosa had the fewest votes of any player who exceeded five percent. He’s up to 8.6% (38 votes) this year. Hang in there, Sammy! You’ve still go five more shots at it.

All joking aside, next year’s ballot is going to be very interesting. In the name of openness and transparency, all of the ballots will be made public starting with the 2018 election.

I have mixed feelings about that. Sure, it would have been interesting to know who voted for Tim Wakefield this year, and even more interesting to have found out who the three people who didn’t vote for Ken Griffey last year were. But is there really any benefit to opening voters up to demands that they justify themselves?

Knowing ballots will be inspected by the world at large is inevitably going to influence the vote. Say, for example, that Edgar isn’t elected. His supporters are going to target those who don’t vote for him, hoping to change some minds before Edgar’s last year of eligibility. Will people vote for him solely to avoid a deluge of “EdgarHype”? On the flip side, will they decline to vote for Schilling to avoid the barrage of “Why the [expletive] are you supporting that [expletive]?” messages?

Interesting times, my friends. Interesting times.

HOF 2016

It’s Baseball Hall of Fame time again. Unfortunately, the Hall failed to act on my suggestion to tie the number of candidates voters can select to the size of the pool. Allowing one additional vote might have pushed Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines over the line and into the Hall. On the other hand, some voters clearly feel ten is more than enough–how else to explain the vote for Garret Anderson and the two votes for David Eckstein? Don’t get me wrong here: just as with last year’s vote for Darin Erstad, there’s gotta be something more than their stats involved.

To nobody’s surprise at all, Ken Griffey Jr. was elected to the Hall. He appeared on the highest percentage of ballots in history: only three of the 440 voters failed to vote for him. (Grant Brisbee has a nice piece on why there will probably never be a unanimous selection. Executive summary: some people are schmucks and some are just plain weird.)

Griffey is the first number one draft selection to make it into the Hall of Fame. Interestingly, the other selectee, Mike Piazza, is the lowest draft selection to make the cut. He was selected in the 62nd round, the 1,390th selection. Since the draft has been reduced to 40 rounds, it’s unlikely that–barring expansion–there will ever be a lower selection. Nice way to bookend the Hall.

Piazza actually received nineteen fewer votes this year than last. He made the cut because there were 109 fewer voters, thanks to the Hall purging the rolls of writers who haven’t covered the game for a decade. As several people have noted, the remaining voters are typically younger than those who were purged, and are apparently more willing to use all ten of their ballot slots, consider modern stats, and dismiss unproven allegations of PED use.

Piazza isn’t the only candidate to benefit from the so-called Purge. Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez* both saw their percentages jump from the mid-twenties to the low-forties.

* Outside of Boston, Martinez is widely regarded as the greatest DH in history–hell, MLB named the annual Outstanding Designated Hitter Award after him–and his continuing failure to make the Hall is an ongoing insult both to him and the city of Seattle. Hopefully the upward trend in his numbers will continue.

Interestingly, the Purge had little effect on the number of players dropped from the ballot. Last year, twelve of the thirty-four candidates failed to reach the 5% cutoff. This year, it was thirteen of thirty-two. In 2015, all twelve were in their first year of eligibility. This year, one second-year candidate failed to make the cut. Nomar Garciaparra saw his vote count drop from 30 (5.5%) to 8 (1.8%). Makes one wonder how many of his 2015 votes came from purged writers who were basing their selection solely on Garciaparra’s time with the Red Sox.

HOF Musings

So the votes are in and the new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame have been selected.

As usual, the media are packed with arguments about the worthiness of various players who didn’t make the cut. Sometimes the argument centers around the PED question, sometimes it’s the player’s stats. Those arguments have always been with us, and they’re always going to be with us.

But this year, for the first time I can recall*, there appears to be unanimous agreement that all of the players who were elected were deserving.

* Let’s skip the jokes about the length of my, um… whatchamacallit… Sorry, what were we talking about?

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio.

Nobody seems inclined to claim that Biggio’s 3,060 hits wasn’t enough, or that Smoltz’s sustained excellence over eighteen years as a pitcher–a position not noted for allowing extended careers–didn’t cut it. I’m not even going to try to find arguments for excluding Johnson and Martinez; they’d be even more ridiculous than the theoretical arguments against Biggio and Smoltz.

“But wait,” I hear someone in the back of the room calling. “None of the four were elected unanimously. Doesn’t that mean not everyone believes they’re deserving?”

There’s only one rational answer to that question: “Quiet back there. Whose blog is this, anyway?”

Oh, all right. Based on the percentages, there were 549 ballots cast this year. Have you ever tried to get 549 people to agree to anything? Two people voted for Aaron Boone. Hell, put me on the ballot and the evidence suggests that somebody will vote for me: somebody voted for Darin Erstad. (No offense to Mr. Erstad, who was unquestionably a better ballplayer than I was. He had a long career, but I doubt anybody really thinks it’s HOF-worthy, even Mr. Erstad himself.)

At the upper end of the list, six people didn’t vote for Randy Johnson. Not, in all likelihood because they didn’t think he was deserving, but because no player has ever been elected unanimously. Seriously. I’m a big proponent of tradition, especially in baseball, but that’s beyond my limit. Come off it, people. If you think he should be in the Hall of Fame, vote for him.

Um… Unless you’ve run out of votes. You can vote for a maximum of ten candidates. Clearly, that’s enough for many voters–only 51% of the ballots used all ten–but it’s such an arbitrary number. There’s no limit on the number of players that can go into the Hall, so why limit the number that the voters can propose?

If there has to be a limit, though, why choose an arbitrary number regardless of the size of the eligible pool? I’d suggest that the number of votes should be tied to the size of the pool. This year, there were thirty-four candidates. Allowing voters to vote for half of the pool would allow seventeen votes, almost certainly enough to satisfy the most generous voter. If the Powers What Is think that’s too much, how about one-third? That would have been eleven this year, not too different from the current arbitrary ten. The extra elbow room would be helpful to voters in good years for new candidates, and dropping the number down in slim years would force voters to pay more attention to the consequences of their actions. Aaron Boone, forsooth.