Hall notes: Piazza odds good for ’16; What about Bonds, Clemens?
Will everyone calm down now?
Uh, didn’t think so.
Complaining about the Hall of Fame vote is an inalienable American right, and debating every perceived injustice demonstrates, at the very least, how much people care.
Still, the elections of four players — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio — are a major step in the right direction. Not a perfect step, and certainly not the last step. But sorry, not even the crankiest critics of the process — and I can think of a few members of that Hall of Fame — could devise the perfect system.
So keep airing your beefs — on social media, on talk radio, wherever your restless heart leads you. The bottom line is that my fellow writers have elected seven players the past two years, and suddenly the impossibly overcrowded ballot is not so impossibly overcrowded anymore.
Oh, there is still an abundance of worthy candidates; the logjam never was going to end in one or two years. But knowing that Ken Griffey Jr. is the only slam-dunk first timer in 2016, we all can breathe a little easier.
If the Hall approves the writers’ request to expand each voter’s maximum number of selections from 10 to 12 — doubtful in the wake of Tuesday’s positive developments — even better.
Some thoughts as we go forward:
• Mike Piazza is getting elected, probably next year.
Piazza’s percentage has increased steadily from 57 to 62.2 to 69.9 in his three years on the ballot. He fell only 28 votes of the required 412 needed to reach the required 75 percent this year, and will be the leading returning vote-getter in ’16.
Piazza’s supporters say that he should have been elected on the first ballot; statistically, he was the greatest hitting catcher of all time. I can’t argue, but other voters clearly suspect that Piazza used performance-enhancing drugs.
I’ve said it on MLB Network, and I’ll say it again: It’s borderline un-American to withhold a vote on the basis of mere suspicion. Evidence, please.
• Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still have a chance.
I know it doesn’t look that way; both Bonds and Clemens continue to hover around 36-37 percent. Their candidacies remain polarizing, and don’t tell me that another type of voting body would handle this better. Such divisions likely would exist under any system.
In any case, I’m keeping an open mind on Bonds and Clemens, even though I have yet to vote for them. This is not a court of law; there is sufficient information to suggest that both players were users, even if the government failed to convict them.
As time passes and the ballot clears, perhaps more of us will grow comfortable supporting Bonds and Clemens, particularly if the line between users and non-users is blurred by the elections of players under suspicion.
For now, it continues to tick me off that the Hall reduced the number of years that a player can stay eligible from 15 to 10. Bonds and Clemens have seven years of eligibility remaining. It should be 12.
• Tim Raines is getting screwed.
There, I said it. Raines, thanks to the Hall’s power play on eligibility, has only two years left on the ballot. And while he jumped from 46.1 percent to 55 percent in this election, he might run out of time.
I don’t understand how 45 percent of the voters find Raines unworthy; we are talking about one of the best leadoff hitters ever. Sabermetricians love Raines, and given time, perhaps they could influence voters the way they did with Bert Blyeven, who needed 14 years to get elected. Instead, Raines will need to gain at least 100 votes over the next two years. Not likely.
• Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina deserve better.
And they’re going to fare better, too; the elections of five starting pitchers over the past two years leave them as the top starters on the ballot, non-Clemens division.
It’s not right that John Smoltz received 82.9 percent of the vote while Schilling got only 39.2 percent and Mussina 24.6 percent. The three are quite comparable statistically. Correction needed.
• Carlos Delgado should not be off the ballot.
It’s a shame that Delgado did not meet the minimum 5 percent requirement in his first year of eligibility. I’m not saying he’s a Hall of Famer, but further discussion certainly is warranted.
Delgado, who averaged 37 homers and a .969 OPS over a 10-year stretch, is at least comparable to Fred McGriff, who peaked at 23.9 percent in 2012 and was at 12.9 percent this year.
Frankly, I feared that the stacked ballot would result in an even greater number of players failing to meet the 5 percent threshold. But Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Nomar Garciaparra all stayed eligible, even though none cleared 12 percent.
• Who cares if Pedro Martinez received only 91.1 percent of the vote?
Sure, Martinez should have been closer to 100 percent, or at least at the level of Johnson at 97.3 percent. But some writers voted strategically, opting to bypass Martinez and/or Johnson for less celebrated candidates, knowing that both pitchers were first-ballot locks. Others surely snubbed Martinez for less defensible reasons, but their actions were of little consequence.
Yes, many fans know that Tom Seaver received the highest all-time percentage of votes, 98.84 percent. But few remember the percentages of other inductees, and I’ll guarantee you, first-ballot Hall of Famers do not obsess over it.
This year’s election had 549 voters. I’d like to see the writers streamline that number, but even that would not lead to seamless outcomes. Democracy is messy, folks. There always will be kooky voters.
• Who cares if Aaron Boone received two votes and Darin Erstad one?
See above. It’s mind-blowing when people say that votes for players such as Boone or Erstad indicates that the process is broken. No, it simply indicates that one or two voters chose to make a stand on behalf of a player they admired. Those voters almost certainly had empty slots on their ballots. Who exactly is getting hurt?
• Eureka! I’ve got room on my ballot next year.
Four spots to be exact, thanks to the elections of Martinez, Johnson, Smoltz and Biggio. I also voted for Piazza, Jeff Bagwell and Edgar Martinez, plus Raines, Mussina and Schilling.
One of my votes will go to Griffey. Another may go to Trevor Hoffman. I will reconsider McGriff, Alan Trammell and Lee Smith, for whom I’ve voted in the past. I will revisit Bonds and Clemens, as well as Sheffield, Jeff Kent and Walker, all of whom merit further analysis.
No, the system is not perfect, and no one should pretend that it is. But enough with the apocalyptic ranting. Slowly but surely, we’re figuring this out.