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How many spots are left in the Hall of Fame?

Lately, it seems like there is a lot of talk about guys who should or should not get into the Hall of Fame.  I see one huge flaw with most of the arguments: there just aren't enough spots for all of the guys who people have been making arguments for.  Sure, there really aren't a limited number of spots, but considering voter trends over the last decade or so, there are certain 'rules' which can be used to see how many spots in the Hall are actually available.  In addition, and I hate to say it, but the Jamesian standards or HOF Monitor, HOF Standards, Black Ink, and Gray Ink will need to be thrown out the window, or at least heavily revised, soon.  Black Ink and Gray Ink should become a little less relevant due to expansion, whereas Standards and Monitor will need a heavy overhaul as we're about to start seeing the first crop of guys who played the majority of their careers in what's becoming known as the "Steroids Era".  Thus, rather than making arguments for certain players, I just want to see how many spots are legitimately available.

So, let's set out some rules that the Hall voters seem to be abiding by lately:

  1. No more than one holdover candidate can be elected in a year.
  2. If more than one candidate is elected in a year, then only one of them can make it in on an overall basis rather than getting in for a specific major career accomplishment or being an 'inner circle guy'.
  3. Any player admitted on their first ballot must be at least "borderline inner circle".
  4. Two players of the same position cannot be elected within a year of each other (sorry folks, Molitor was a DH).
  5. More than two players may be elected in a year only once every 10 years (last time was 1999).
  6. Multiple players may be elected no more than three years consecutively.
  7. The Veteran's committee will not let anyone in who was recently considered, so after 15 years are up, that's it.
In addition, I just want to look at guys who have retired in the past five years or who one would reasonably expect to retire within the next five years.  I'll also try to be overinclusive of the "inner circle" players and of the players with a shot, to see what the absolute maximum is who could get into the hall out of this group.  

Here's a list of the eligible candidates with a shot (no matter how small it is) of making the hall (ic = inner circle guy, b=borderline; feel free to argue with these selections, they're based primarily on the old milestones and whether someone is constantly referred to as a future hall-of-famer; these are as of now, and b's could become ic's, and other guys could become b's):

2006 - Will Clark, Orel Hersheiser, Doc Gooden, Albert Belle

2007 - Harold Baines (b), Jose Canseco, Tony Gwynn (ic), Mark McGuire (ic - like I said, overinclusive), Cal Ripken Jr. (ic), Paul O'Neill, Bret Saberhagen

2008 - Tim Raines (b), Mike Morgan, David Justice

2009 - Rickey Henderson (ic), Mark Grace, Jesse Orosco

2010 - Edgar Martinez, Andres Galarraga, Fred McGriff (b), Roberto Alomar (b), Barry Larkin (b), John Franco

2011 to 2015 (Guys who will likely be retired by 2010)- Roger Clemens (ic), Randy Johnson (ic), Greg Maddux (ic), Tom Glavine (b), John Smoltz, Mariano Rivera (b), Trevor Hoffman, Curt Schilling, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Jamie Moyer, David Wells, Tom Gordon, Barry Bonds (ic), Frank Thomas (b), Jeff Bagwell (b), Craig Biggio (b), Ken Griffey Jr. (ic), Sammy Sosa (ic), Rafael Palmeiro (ic), Tino Martinez, Jim Thome, Mike Piazza (ic), Ivan Rodriguez (b), Larry Walker, John Olerud, Gary Sheffield, Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Kent, Jim Edmonds, Vinny Castilla, Kenny Lofton, Marquis Grissom, Omar Vizquel, Bernie Williams, Steve Finley, Julio Franco

Granted, a lot of the guys I just mentioned look like locks for the Ray Lankford Wing of the Hall of Fame, but then again so did Curt Schilling a couple of years ago, so who knows what intervening factors there may be between now and then.

This, of course, isn't even including current holdover candidates, other new candidates who come about during the last 10 years of HOF eligibility for the guys mentioned above, or early retirements (I could easily add Pedro to the list, but I'll refrain).

So presuming these rules and this field, here's where we end up:

  1. Holdover (predating group in discussion)
  2. Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn
  3. Mark McGuire, (Baines or holdover)
  4. Rickey Henderson, (holdover)
  5. (McGriff, Alomar or Larkin)
2011 - 2015: Clemens, Johnson, Maddux, Bonds, Griffey, Sosa, Palmeiro and Piazza are locks (taking out the steroid factor at the moment);  That leaves 4 players who can be elected out of the holdover or borderline pool. There are 8 borderline players remaining, not including previous holdover borderline players

Then, following the same rules, up to another 18 players may be elected in the following 10 years.  Based on hostorical numbers and knowledge of the players around, there should be between 10 and 13 locks who become eligible over that 10 year period.  It's too far out to determine who most of these locks will be (although I'd say that ARod, Pedro, Jeter and Pujols would be good guesses for starters), but that leaves another 7 - 10 spots for borderliners over the course of those 10 years.  Thus, over the next 20 years, there are between 15 and 18 spots that will be available for the guys who aren't locks.  Once you add in the players who are already eligible and the players who will be eligible after 2010, it becomes pretty clear that there just isn't room in the Hall of Fame for all the guys who are being given credit for a hall of fame type career.  I've heard pretty logical arguments for more than 18 of the non-lock guys above, which means that some of those arguments are going to have to lose.