The Hall of Fame Ballot is Going to Get Very Crowded

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Last month, before he climbed the ladder from ESPN to SBNation, Rob Neyer wrote an article that really resonated with me about how congested the Hall of Fame ballot is going to become. There are two problems at play that will cause this to happen:

  1. Hall of Fame voters are holding modern players to a ridiculously high standard. Bert Blyleven ranks 13th all time (all time!) in WAR (according to Baseball-Reference). But it took him fourteen tries to get in the Hall. Jeff Bagwell is the top position player not in the Hall by wWAR. He struggled with just 41.7% of the vote. Blyleven was the top post-1900 pitcher not in by wWAR, but right after him was Kevin Brown. Brown, of course, fared so poorly (2.1%) that he's off the ballot for good. We're talking about the top eligible players by wWAR since 1900—and they couldn't get in. In history. Look at guys like Alan Trammell or Barry Larkin. If they played in a different era, they'd be easy first ballot selections. (Yet, somehow—through all of this—Jim Rice gets in.)
  2. Hall of Fame voters are pretending they are the moral police. They're shunning any player who has not only admitted steroid use or failed a test (Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro), but also anyone who happens to have big muscles (Jeff Bagwell).

How will these two problems affect Hall of Fame voting going forward (assuming voters remain consistent—which is an enormous assumption)?

Over the next several years, we're going to see some interesting debates hit the ballot—for example, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (see reason #2), Curt Schilling and Kenny Lofton (see reason #1), and Jim Edmonds and Jim Thome (certainly fit under #1, but if Jeff Bagwell is suspected of #2 then these guys will be, too). The list of interesting—and controversial—candidates is a long one.

I want to stress this: There are a ton of players I believe should be in the Hall of Fame—and a year ago I probably would have assumed most would easily be inducted. But Blyleven's struggles combined with Bagwell's non-election have left me shocked and, quite frankly, confused.

Quite simply, we're going to have a ton of Hall-worthy players hanging around on the ballot.

How bad will it be? Let's make a little projection. I'll start with next year's ballot.

2012 Hall of Fame Ballot
Name Year rWAR
Jeff Bagwell 2nd 79.9
Barry Larkin 3rd 68.9
Larry Walker 2nd 67.3
Edgar Martinez 3rd 67.2
Alan Trammell 11th 66.9
Rafael Palmeiro 2nd 66.0
Tim Raines 5th 64.6
Mark McGwire 6th 63.1
Fred McGriff 3rd 50.5
Bernie Williams 1st 47.3
Dale Murphy 14th 44.2
Brad Radke 1st 40.9
Don Mattingly 12th 39.8
Jack Morris 13th 39.3
Tim Salmon 1st 37.6
Juan Gonzalez 2nd 33.5
Brian Jordan 1st 33.5
Lee Smith 10th 29.7

This includes all players with 30+ WAR along with Lee Smith. Who's going to get in?

Class of 2012: Barry Larkin

That's it. I want to believe Jeff Bagwell will make the jump, but 41% to 75% is too big a jump for one year. I hope we basement dwellers can get him a good boost, though. I figure Bernie Williams, Brad Radke, Tim Salmon, and Brian Jordan will fall off the ballot. Some may disagree with Bernie, but we'll see.

2013 Hall of Fame Ballot
Name Year rWAR
Barry Bonds 1st 171.8
Roger Clemens 1st 128.8
Jeff Bagwell 3rd 79.9
Curt Schilling 1st 67.7
Larry Walker 3rd 67.3
Edgar Martinez 4th 67.2
Alan Trammell 12th 66.9
Craig Biggio 1st 65.3
Rafael Palmeiro 3rd 66.0
Tim Raines 6th 64.6
Mark McGwire 7th 63.1
Sammy Sosa 1st 59.7
Mike Piazza 1st 59.1
Fred McGriff 4th 50.5
David Wells 1st 50.1
Dale Murphy 15th 44.2
Julio Franco 1st 40.6
Steve Finley 1st 40.5
Don Mattingly 13th 39.8
Jack Morris 14th 39.3
Reggie Sanders 1st 38.4
Juan Gonzalez 3rd 33.5
Jeff Cirillo 1st 33.2
Lee Smith 11th 29.7

Some major stars hit the ballot in 2013. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza are the biggest. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Piazza all have the varying degrees of steroid allegations. Heck, even Biggio is being pulled into it. Year #3 might have been a good time for Bagwell to get in, but I can also see voters thinking "Well, if I'm not going to put Bonds or Clemens in, I can't put Bagwell in." That leaves Schilling. And honestly, I feel he's incredibly underrated and will struggle to get in. So, who will actually be inducted?

Hall of Fame Class of 2013: No one

I think we'll have a ton of players in the 25-75% window, but nobody is "clean" enough to get inducted. This ballot will be a media circus. Lost in all of this will be the departure of Dale Murphy from the ballot. Given the number of suspected steroid users on the ballot, Murphy will likely get his highest percentage ever, but still fall significantly short. David Wells and the rest of the new candidates will likely fall off the ballot.

2014 Hall of Fame Ballot
Name Year rWAR
Barry Bonds 2nd 171.8
Roger Clemens 2nd 128.8
Greg Maddux 1st 96.9
Jeff Bagwell 4th 79.9
Frank Thomas 1st 75.9
Mike Mussina 1st 74.6
Tom Glavine 1st 71.6
Curt Schilling 2nd 67.7
Larry Walker 4th 67.3
Edgar Martinez 5th 67.2
Alan Trammell 13th 66.9
Craig Biggio 2nd 65.3
Rafael Palmeiro 4th 66.0
Tim Raines 7th 64.6
Mark McGwire 8th 63.1
Sammy Sosa 2nd 59.7
Jeff Kent 1st 59.4
Mike Piazza 2nd 59.1
Fred McGriff 5th 50.5
Luis Gonzalez 1st 46.3
Kenny Rogers 1st 46.3
Don Mattingly 14th 39.8
Jack Morris 15th 39.3
Moises Alou 1st 38.2
Juan Gonzalez 4th 33.5
Ray Durham 1st 32.7
Lee Smith 12th 29.7

Well, we're finally going to get some inductees. Who will it be?

Hall of Fame Class of 2014: Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine

I think Maddux has a chance to be the first unanimous inductee. Glavine will get in while Mussina doesn't get in right away. Why? Well, because Glavine is a bit overrated (I said "a bit", don't yell at me!) and Mussina seems to be terribly underrated. Once this ballot passes, we'll be able to say that Mussina is the best pitcher outside of the Hall. I always assumed Frank Thomas would coast to a first ballot induction. I also assumed that about Jeff Bagwell. If the voters can make a 'roid case out of Bagwell, they can certainly do it for Thomas. Jeff Kent will also hit the ballot. He'll stay on it, but he won't get inducted (any time soon, if at all). Luis Gonzalez, Kenny Rogers, and the rest will drop off. Jack Morris, in his fifteenth season, will finally drop off.

2015 Hall of Fame Ballot
Name Year rWAR
Barry Bonds 3rd 171.8
Roger Clemens 3rd 128.8
Randy Johnson 1st 89.6
Jeff Bagwell 5th 79.9
Frank Thomas 2nd 75.9
Mike Mussina 2nd 74.6
Pedro Martinez 1st 73.5
Curt Schilling 3rd 67.7
Larry Walker 5th 67.3
Edgar Martinez 6th 67.2
Alan Trammell 14th 66.9
John Smoltz 1st 65.3
Craig Biggio 3rd 65.3
Rafael Palmeiro 5th 66.0
Tim Raines 8th 64.6
Gary Sheffield 1st 63.3
Mark McGwire 9th 63.1
Sammy Sosa 3rd 59.7
Jeff Kent 2nd 59.4
Mike Piazza 3rd 59.1
Fred McGriff 6th 50.5
Carlos Delgado 1st 44.2
Brian Giles 1st 42.7
Nomar Garciaparra 1st 42.6
Don Mattingly 15th 39.8
Tom Gordon 1st 34.4
Juan Gonzalez 5th 33.5
Lee Smith 13th 29.7

Another excellent crop of pitchers hits the ballot, including Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Who gets in?

Hall of Fame Class of 2015: Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez

I don't think John Smoltz will have much trouble getting in. I just don't think it'll be on the first ballot. Johnson will get in and I'm fairly certain Pedro gets in (unless someone starts slinging mud). Gary Sheffield's PED ties will hurt him, but he should at least remain on the ballot. He's a worthy candidate if his record was clean. Delgado, Giles, and Nomar will drop off the ballot (though Nomar could stick around a little bit) along with Tom Gordon and Don Mattingly, who will be in his fifteen season.

What does that leave us with? That leaves us with the hypothetical ballot that led off this post: 25 guys who have (at least) a realistic Hall of Fame case hanging around the ballot (well, 24, but I'm not sure exactly when Juan Gonzalez will drop off). I see 18 or so that I would put in.

This is going to be a problem.

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