Hey, at least we’re guaranteed some news on Wednesday: The Hall of Fame will announce the results of the BBWAA election to determine which players from the 33-man ballot will join Jack Morris and Alan Trammell on induction day in Cooperstown on July 29. Here’s a little primer on a few things to watch for.
We know three players will get elected.
The Hall of Fame Tracker that Ryan Thibodaux maintains -- all percentages mentioned are from his work (and as of early Wednesday morning) -- is an invaluable resource, though it also removes some of the drama from the announcement. We know that first-timers Chipper Jones and Jim Thome will easily clear the 75 percent barrier, with Jones recording what could be one of the highest vote totals in history. Chipper is polling at 98.3 percent of the public ballots, a figure that has been exceeded by only four players: Ken Griffey Jr., Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Cal Ripken. Don’t read too much into that, as voting rules have changed through the years, but Chipper is a no-brainer Hall of Famer, and his percentage, whatever it ends up being, will reflect that.
I’m a little surprised that Thome is polling at just over 93 percent. Even with his 612 home runs, I figured more voters would have a first-ballot bias against him or dismiss him because he put up his numbers in an era when a lot of sluggers put up big numbers. I thought Thome would get in but maybe by sneaking in with 75 to 80 percent. Instead, it looks like he’ll get around 90 percent (vote totals usually go down from the public totals).
Vladimir Guerrero will also get in, jumping from 71.7 percent his first year to 94.9 percent right now. It appears that some voters did have a first-ballot bias against him.
Two players are waiting nervously for that phone call.
Trevor Hoffman just missed election in 2017, falling short by five votes. When a player gets that close, it usually means automatic election the next year. Hoffman is at just over 78 percent of the public vote, but the private ballots tend to have fewer candidates marked. Last year public voters averaged 8.43 votes per ballot compared with 7.41 for the nonpublic ballots. Hoffman, however, polled slightly higher on the nonpublic ballots (74.2 percent to 72.7 percent). As I write this, Hoffman needs to poll at 70.7 percent on the remaining ballots to get in. It looks like he’ll squeak in and become the sixth reliever elected.
Edgar Martinez is the bigger surprise. He’s poised to make a giant leap in his vote total in his second-to-last appearance on the BBWAA ballot. He was at 58.6 percent last year but now stands at 77.1 percent. Unlike Hoffman, however, Martinez’s nonpublic percentage was much lower last year: just 50 percent, versus 65.9 percent of the public votes. Most of the public voters tend to be active baseball writers still covering the beat in some fashion, voters who are younger and more apt to be aware of Martinez’s strong showing in advanced metrics. Will Martinez get in? One forecast predicted that he would fall one vote short. Even if that happens, the good news -- especially for us Mariners fans -- is that Martinez has climbed from just 27 percent in 2015 to the brink of election with one year remaining on the ballot if he doesn’t get in.
What about Bonds and Clemens?
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are now on their sixth ballots (players remain for 10 years). They continue to see their percentages increase, and both are at 64 percent. The purge of voters from 2015 to 2016 that reduced the number of voters from 549 to 440 helped them, but you have to think that the elections of Mike Piazza in 2016 and Ivan Rodriguez in 2017 -- two players caught up in PED speculation -- helped as well. The totals for Bonds and Clemens will fall after the private ballots, and it’s not clear that they’re on an inevitable path to the Hall of Fame. It does seem clear that Joe Morgan’s email to all voters in late November asking them not to support PED users -- issued from a Hall of Fame email address apparently with the approval of the Hall itself (Morgan is a board member) -- has had little effect on voters.
What about Manny Ramirez?
While Bonds and Clemens get closer, Ramirez continues to receive lukewarm support, at 22.5 percent. Although he isn't one of the greatest players of all time like those two, he would be an easy Hall of Famer minus his PED usage. His two positive tests in 2009 and 2011 have put him in a different basket.
Which newcomers will remain on the ballot?
Omar Vizquel is at a strong 32.6 percent, and Scott Rolen is just over 12 percent, which means Vizquel has a much stronger starting position than Rolen, who was the far superior player. Would you have traded Vizquel for Rolen? But I digress. As we’ve learned, Hall of Fame voting doesn’t always make perfect sense. Andruw Jones is right on the border at 6.4 percent and might fall off after one year. As with recent center fielders Jim Edmonds, Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton, Jones' case might perish before it ever gets going. Johan Santana’s wonderful peak as the best pitcher in baseball won’t be enough to keep him on.
Who needs a big increase?
This is Larry Walker’s eighth year on the ballot, and if Walker hopes to make a late run like Tim Raines and now Martinez, his numbers need a huge push. He was at just 21.9 percent last year and is polling at 38.6 percent. That’s nice, but he needs to get to 50 percent to have a chance, and it looks like that won’t happen.
Keep an eye on Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling as well. They were at 51.8 percent and 45.0 percent last year. Timing is important, and they might see their totals increase now that the great wave of starting pitchers has been cleared from the ballot. Morris’ election in early December could help as well, since both have stronger Hall cases than Morris.