The Hall of Fame Class of 2016 has been announced, and there are two new members: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman all received more than 67% of the vote, which suggests that they have a good chance of getting in next year.
Frankly, I think that there were at least ten people on the ballot who deserve to get in, and arguably more than that. Mac was a Big-Hall guy, and after being on this site for a while I became more comfortable with that, too. I would have voted for Griffey, Raines, Piazza, Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Alan Trammell, and if I had had an eleventh vote, you could have persuaded me to vote for Larry Walker. (I’m a member of the IBWAA, and I voted for him there, because Raines, Bagwell, and Piazza had already been elected in previous years.)
Voters are demanding a much higher caliber of player nowadays than they used to even a few years ago. Players like Trammell and Mark McGwire, who fell off the ballot because this was their last year of eligibility. Or like Kevin Brown and Lou Whitaker, who fell off the ballot in their first years of eligibility, 2011 and 2001. This despite the fact that they were all at least as good as — if not demonstrably better than — recent inductees like Dave Winfield, Andre Dawson, and Jim Rice, to say nothing of a special case like Kirby Puckett, or relievers like Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter. And even Rice, Winfield, and Dawson had far better careers than the vast glut of players from the first half of the 20th century elected by the Veterans Committee, like High Pockets Kelly and Freddie Lindstrom and Jesse Haines and Rube Marquard.
The Hall of Fame logjam is serious: next year, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Vladimir Guerrero will all appear on the ballot for the first time, next to eight holdovers who got more than 40% of the vote, all of whom have a serious chance of making it in some day: Bagwell, Raines, Hoffman, Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, Martinez, and Mussina. (I’d support the candidacies of all but Hoffman.) Hoffman, Raines, and Bagwell are all very likely to make it next year, because of the number of votes they got this year. Ivan Rodriguez strikes me as a mortal lock, but I felt the same way about Piazza and he didn’t get in until his fourth try. And it is actually quite rare for four players to get elected in one year, though it happened last year.
So I really don’t know. I think Guerrero and Manny will hang around the ballot for a while, with Guerrero eventually getting in and Manny never quite making it. I think the same will be true for Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina. At some point, eventually, it seems likely that Clemens and Bonds will make it, if for no other reason than that they are very probably the best pitcher and hitter of our lifetimes. But it’ll take a long time for all of that to shake out, and every year there are more and more deserving players who get added to the list.