MLB Hall of Fame Primer: History in the Making

Johnson | Smoltz | Martinez | Biggio

The wait is nearly over, because later today – 2pm Eastern to be precise – the results of the BBWAA 2015 Hall of Fame election will be announced.

In an interesting twist, it seems as though the often stingy Baseball Writers’ Association of America is on pace to make some serious history with this year’s election results.

Before I get in-depth on the potential history in the making of this year’s Hall of Fame class to be, let’s take a quick peek at where things stand heading into this afternoon’s announcement.

A player needs to receive 75% of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. This has not been an easy feat in recent years. Here is a quick rundown of the total number of players voted into the Hall of Fame in each of the last ten years.

2014 – 3 (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, & Frank Thomas)
2013 – 0
2012 – 1 (Barry Larkin)
2011 – 2 (Roberto Alomar & Bert Blyleven)
2010 – 1 (Andre Dawson)
2009 – 2 (Ricky Henderson & Jim Rice)
2008 – 1 (Rich “Goose” Gossage)
2007 – 2 (Cal Ripken & Tony Gwynn)
2006 – 1 (Bruce Sutter)
2005 – 2 (Wade Boggs & Ryne Sandberg)

As you can see, short of last year’s “bumper crop” of three no-doubt Hall of Famers, the members of the BBWAA have been very frugal with their votes.

This wouldn’t be so maddening if the ballot weren’t completely overloaded with players deserving of enshrinement into Cooperstown.

Luckily, it seems as though a larger portion of those with votes are finally coming around and we are currently on pace for a Hall of Fame class with four – and maybe even five – inductees this year.

In the interest of citing history, the last time four players were elected by the BBWAA in a single year was 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gaby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance were all enshrined.

In the entire history of the voting process the only other time the writers elected four men came in 1947, when Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell were all elected.

That’s right, this could mark this first in 60 years – and just the third time EVER – that four players make the cut at the same time. If the BBWAA manages to elect five, which is within the realm of possibility, this year’s election will go down as one of the most historic of all-time.

To date the only time that five players were inducted in the same year was the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1936 when the writers elected Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner.

Yeah. It’s been quite a while.

So who are the four front-runners and our one dark horse?

According to two different tools, Ryan Thibs’ Hall of Fame Tracker and Baseball Think Factory’s 2015 HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo, we’re looking at Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as locks for induction in their first go-round on the ballot. They are followed by fellow first-timer John Smoltz and holdovers Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza.

As of Tuesday morning 187 voters have made their ballots public via Thibs’ Hall of Fame tracker. That number is just shy of 33% of the total ballots – based on last year’s total of 571 returned ballots – and as of right now, all five players have received at least 75 percent of the votes: Johnson (98.93%), Martinez (98.4%), Smoltz (87.7%), Biggio (83.42%), and Piazza (75.94%).

Over on the HOF Ballot Collecting Gizmo, they count total ballots – regardless of who has made theirs public – and they have gotten information about 191 ballots, which accounts for 33.5% of the total ballots – again, based on last year’s total of 571 returned ballots – and the numbers are very, very similar to Thibs’ HoF Tracker: Johnson (98.9%), Martinez (97.9%), Smoltz (86.9%), Biggio (84.3%), and Piazza (75.9%).

Obviously, Piazza is just barely hanging on and could lose ground after the ballots that haven’t been made public are counted. Piazza – like Jeff Bagwell – is a player who suffers from suspected performance enhancing drug connections, despite never failing a test or having any substantial evidence connecting him to PEDs.

Those connections tend to carry more weight with the inactive writers who make up most of the non-public ballots and are generally proponents of keeping the Hall of Fame very small and exclusive.

While it’s possible that Piazza still misses the cut, the other four are looking more and more like locks as we draw closer to the announcement of the results this afternoon. These vote totals bode well for Piazza making it into the Hall of Fame in the near future, even if he’s shut out again this year.

Even if we don’t see a historic class of five elected later today, at least the BBWAA appears to be working to clear some of the logjam of talented, deserving players by electing larger classes into the Hall of Fame.

The next obstacle will be to get the writers to vote for players tainted by PED connections based on their numbers and not their morals. As it stands, there are plenty of PED users, shady characters, cheaters, and other rotten people in the Hall of Fame. Let’s stop acting like we were victims of the “Steroid Era” and just put the best players in Cooperstown where they belong.

For what it’s worth, I shared my fictional Hall of Fame ballot back in November and, although I’d prefer a world where Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Jeff Bagwell are in the Hall of Fame already, I think this year’s potential Hall of Fame class is a very deserving one and a huge step in the right direction for the BBWAA.

About Jeremiah Graves

I am a professional library dude, a cheeseburger enthusiast, a wannabe writer, a slow-pitch softball center fielder, an avid hunter (of churros), a cat-person, and — hopefully — one of your two or three favorite Iowans.
This entry was posted in Baseball, Cheap Seat Chronicles, Craig Biggio, Hall of Fame, John Smoltz, Mike Piazza, MLB, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson. Bookmark the permalink.

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