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.