Analyzing the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot: Ken Griffey Jr. is the only lock
Monday, the Hall of Fame released the 2016 BBWAA ballot. I’m always amused by the reaction when this happens, since of course we’ve known almost exactly what the ballot would look like since 2011. Literally the only "news" concerns the guys left off the ballot who had no chance of getting elected anyway.
This year, the most notable name on that regrettable list is probably Chan Ho Park. Brad Ausmus and Luis Castillo made it, but Chan Ho Park and Ronnie Belliard didn’t. Life goes on.
Anyway, here’s the official announcement:
First-time candidates on the ballot include 13-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove Award winner and 1997 American League Most Valuable Player Ken Griffey Jr., seven-time All-Star closer and owner of 601 saves Trevor Hoffman and eight-time Gold Glove Award-winner Jim Edmonds.
Other first-time candidates include Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Luis Castillo, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Mark Grudzielanek, Mike Hampton, Jason Kendall, Mike Lowell, Mike Sweeney, Billy Wagner and Randy Winn.
You’ll notice that second list is in alphabetical order, but it’s convenient because it leads straight to this…
Higher WAR than Lloyd Waner, George Kelly, Tommy McCarthy, Rollie Fingers & Bruce Sutter. So yes https://t.co/OxBmpEmtx9
— Dan Hirsch (@DanHirsch) November 10, 2015
I gotta admit, I knew a) Randy Winn had a pretty good career, and b) those other guys were (ahem) marginal Hall of Famers, at least by any objective standard. But I wouldn’t have thought to combine those two pieces of knowledge.
Of course this is just a joke, as there’s nobody who would argue that Winn belongs in the Hall of Fame. What’s odd to me is that people will argue that Highpockets and Little Poison and (especially) those two relief pitchers do belong.
OK, relief pitchers are weird. I get that. But Kelly and Waner have their passionate supporters, too. Just for fun, here are the four non-retired non-pitchers on either side of Winn, on the rWAR list: Bob Meusel, Clete Boyer, Manny Sanguillen, Davey Johnson.
Mistakes? Yeah. The Hall of Fame’s made a few. Whether Rollie Fingers and Bruce Sutter were among them … well, that’s for you and yours to decide. But we can probably assume that none of those "other first-time candidates" will draw any real support, with Billy Wagner the only one with any sort of case at all (thanks, as it happens, to Fingers and Sutter).
Jim Edmonds won’t fare well, either. Even though his WAR places him in the same neighborhood as Hall of Famers Andre Dawson, Dave Winfield, Richie Ashburn, Billy Williams, Zack Wheat and Willie Stargell.
Then again, that simply places Edmonds in the same category as Kenny Lofton, Dwight Evans and Reggie Smith, outstanding outfielders who simply didn’t do enough things that Hall of Fame voters appreciate. Maybe these guys can form a little club, and invite Lou Whitaker to speak at their first meeting.
The only question about Edmonds is whether he’ll appear on at least 5 percent of the ballots, and thus show up again next year. I suspect it’ll be a close-run thing; last year Nomar Garciaparra barely cleared that bar, but Carlos Delgado did not. And I’m not sure how many voters think of Edmonds as being so much different than those guys.
As for the other first-timers, does anybody reading this really not know that Junior Griffey’s going to pass this test with flying colors? The kid hit 630 home runs and won 10 Gold Gloves. Oh, and everybody loves him. Think Kirby Puckett, same weight but a head taller.
It’s difficult to say how Trevor Hoffman will fare. I wouldn’t vote for him. At least not considering how overstuffed the ballot is. I believe the bar for relievers should be almost unreachably high, and cleared by Mariano Rivera largely on the strength of his postseason brilliance. Meanwhile, Hoffman’s postseason record is just mixed, largely because he gave up a couple of homers in only 13 innings.
Which leaves the holdover candidates. And boy, are there some holdovers. There are almost certainly more than 10 deserving candidates, which compels more than a few voters to leave off candidates they feel consider worthy. There are eight candidates, including Griffey, for whom I would vote with zero reservations…
1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Junior Griffey
4. Mike Mussina
5. Jeff Bagwell
6. Curt Schilling
7. Alan Trammell
8. Mike Piazza
… after which, I would have a real tough time deciding from among Tim Raines and Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez for the last three spots. I know Raines and Martinez have their supporters, and deservedly so. But it doesn’t seem like anybody’s really sticking up for Walker, which is a shame because he was a tremendous player for a long time, and if you believe the (yes, park-adjusted) numbers, he’s just as deserving as Raines and Martinez.
Anyway, Griffey’s the only true lock this time around. But Piazza probably clears the 75-percent threshold, since he’s the top returning vote-getter and a bunch of (mostly) older voters have been chopped from the rolls this year (in what some clever wag dubbed BBWAArmageddon).
Of course there’s a general notion, which could be tested but hasn’t been, that the older you are, the less likely that you’ll vote for a candidate who’s been associated with sports drugs. If true, we obviously would expect Piazza to benefit, and probably Bagwell, too. Well, plus a bunch of other guys. But these two are the only ones who might get pushed over the top soon.
It’s not just drugs. Raines figures to benefit from the new voting body, too. Since presumably younger voters are more likely to be impressed by his .385 career on-base percentage. Again, though, not so impressed that he’s likely to go from the 55 percent he received last year – about the same as Bagwell — to the 75 percent he needs. But both Bagwell and Raines will do even better the next year, when Ivan Rodriguez is the only newcomer who figures to draw heavy support. And Raines might get some extra juice on his last year on the ballot.
So I’ll say Griffey and Piazza this time, Pudge and Raines next time, then Chipper and Bagwell, and only then will there maybe be enough room for Schilling and Mussina and Edgar to get, if nothing else, the attention they deserve.
Alas, Bonds and Clemens will remain lost causes. But hey, you can’t have everything.