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SAN FRANCISCO – Last week’s Hall of Fame announcement went as predicted and included the most hand wringing since the invention of the clothes dryer.
As one of the 571 members of the electorate, I wasn’t rooting for any particular outcome. But one part left me feeling dismayed. It wasn’t that Craig Biggio missed enshrinement. It’s that he missed it by just two votes -- and that more than a couple BBWAA members came out and said they would have put him on the ballot if they hadn’t already filled their 10 spaces.
So … 75 percent of the electorate felt Biggio was a Hall of Famer. And yet Biggio will be back on next year’s ballot, taking up a spot on what will be another overstuffed ballot.
How will the 10-vote limit, assuming it’s not amended or scrapped, influence future elections? Who’s on deck in the years to come? Which current candidates can expect to build enough support to break through? And what about Barry Bonds? Let’s take a look at how it might play out:
2015 ballot-eligible: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra.
My rough 2015 ballot: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas got cleared away, thank goodness. But the ballot squeeze is no better because they’ll be replaced by sure-fire Hall of Famers Big Unit, Pedro and Smoltz. My inclination is to vote for the three first-time pitchers and keep the rest of my seven holdovers: Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, and Tim Raines. That means no again on Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling. And no Sheffield.
2015 predicted inductees: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and yes, Craig Biggio should make it this time around. (Voters who left him off due to lack of space are more likely to prioritize him this time.) Smoltz might be a narrower margin than expected, though.
2016 ballot-eligible: Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman
My 2016 ballot: If there’s indeed a four-man class in 2015, the ballot squeeze should ease up a bit. But I’d still use all 10 spots: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Piazza and Raines are the holdovers. Add Griffey, of course. I could add in Kent, Mussina and Schilling at this point. That means leaving off Hoffman, though.
2016 predicted inductees: Griffey is a first-ballot choice, and he’ll likely have the stage to himself.
2017 ballot-eligible: Vlad Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Jorge Posada
My 2017 ballot: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Edgar, Kent, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling. And Ivan Rodriguez. On paper it’s an obvious yes on Pudge, although Jose Canseco accused him of steroid use and a rumor is all it takes to keep a player from getting anywhere near 75 percent. I’ll choose to look at the 13 Gold Gloves, the all-time record 2,427 games caught and 2,800 career hits, instead. Posada was a respected figure with a decorated career, but he’s got Lance Parrish’s career stat line. We wouldn’t be giving him a second look if he split his years between Baltimore and San Diego. And if Rafael Palmeiro is already off the ballot because of one flunked test, what chance does Manny Being Manny have?
2017 predicted inductees: Raines. By now Piazza should have gained enough support to get in, but I think the inclusion of Pudge on the ballot will cause a lot of voters to hedge somewhat. I can see voters flipping on Piazza because they’ll have trouble voting for Rodriguez the first time around and might see voting for Piazza – another great catcher linked to PEDs only by innuendo -- as taking an inconsistent stance. With the way otherwise clear and no obvious inductees, expect more appreciation for Raines, who mostly preceded the full blossom of the PED era and really does have the numbers and accomplishments to be enshrined.
2018 ballot-eligible: Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel
My 2018 ballot: Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Chipper, Edgar, Piazza, I.Rodriguez, Schilling, Thome, Vizquel. It’s bad timing for Rolen to be a first-timer in the same class with Chipper. He should poll enough support to stay on the ballot, though. So should Vizquel, although you had to cover him first-hand to truly appreciate what made him a Hall of Famer. With 12 worthy candidates, I’m forced again to make a sacrifice and it’s down to the same trio. Schilling stays. Kent and Mussina are out again.
2018 predicted inductees: Chipper Jones, Jim Thome. Really, Pudge should cruise here on the second ballot (as Carlton Fisk did). But I doubt it’ll happen.
2019 ballot-eligible: Lance Berkman, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera.
My 2019 ballot: Can we just hope the Rule of 10 has been abolished by now? My predicted holdovers would include Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Kent, Edgar, Mussina, Piazza, I.Rodriguez, Schilling and Vizquel. That’s 10 right there. I’d imagine I would go back and forth with Trevor Hoffman most years, too. Now add in Rivera, who is as automatic as they come, Halladay, who has a strong case, and Helton, who has the numbers but could fall into the Bagwell Zone.
2019 predicted inductees: Rivera. And because he’s so revered, I’d imagine many folks won’t want him to share the stage and will vote accordingly.
As for predictions in 2020 and beyond? Well, I do think Piazza and Pudge will get in, perhaps as part of the same class. But Bonds and Clemens will provide the ultimate referendum on the steroid era. I do think in years with fewer strong first-time candidates, they will poll higher levels of support. And the electorate could become a bit more lenient as younger BBWAA members reach 10 years of service to become eligible to vote. But their combined vote totals wouldn’t have gotten them to 75 percent in this last election. So my guess is that they’ll probably inch above 50 percent, but they’ll never clear the bar – which means we can revisit this lovely topic every January for the next dozen years.