The All-Star Game and the balloting for that game really got me thinking, not about All-Stars but about Hall of Famers. It's way too early on in careers to speculate about Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera or Jose Reyes and their chances to make the Hall but today we are currently watching one of the best classes of players that will ever have come up on a ballot at the same time.
Once again, I’m not talking about the young players with the majority of their career still ahead of them but the class of 36-42 year olds that are likely to retire in the next couple of years.And what a group of ballots they are going to be, guys that have passed significant milestones, guys that have been superstars of the modern era.
Some of them are locks. I can’t imagine that Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Jeff Kent or Gregg Maddux aren’t automatic first ballot Hall of Famers, but there are many others that might not find the Hall of Fame to be a lock for one reason or another. It doesn’t matter whether the reason is popularity, health, longevity, steroids, or corked bats. Perhaps milestones like 500 home runs aren’t an automatic ticket to the Hall in this era.
Standards change over time and votes to the Hall aren’t only about on the field accomplishments, although in my opinion that is the most important factor. The Baseball Writers Association of America members that actually vote aren’t automatons and they will take other factors into account. Just what does that mean for a class of athletes that will include many of the biggest names of the modern game?
Here are some of the names and their credentials (some are projected but are extremely likely):
|Barry Bonds||All time home run reader, single season home run leader|
|Tom Glavine||300 wins|
|Craig Biggio||3000 hits|
|John Smoltz||200 wins plus 150 saves|
|Randy Johnson||3rd on the all time strikeout list|
|Curt Schilling||3,000+ K’s and the bloody sock|
|Sammy Sosa||600 home runs|
|Trevor Hoffman||All time Saves leader.|
|Pudge Rodriguez||One of the all time great catchers, 12 Gold Gloves, 1 MVP, 13 All Star selections, .300 career average, 1 World Series Ring|
|Ken Griffey Jr.||600 home runs, 9 - 100 RBI seasons, 13 All Star selections, 1997 MVP, 1997 Player of the Year, 10 gold gloves, lead league in HR’s 4 times|
|Gary Sheffield||500 home runs, 9 All Star selections, MLB Player of the Year 1992, 9 – 100 RBI seasons|
|Frank Thomas||500 home runs, 2 time MVP, 5 All Star selections, 11 – 100 RBI seasons|
|Jim Thome||500 home runs, 5 All Star selections, lead NL in home runs 2003, 9 – 100 RBI seasons|
|Jeff Bagwell||450 home runs, 8 - 00 RBI seasons, Rookie of the Year 1991, MVP 1994, 15 seasons with a single team, 1 Gold Glove.|
|Todd Helton||.332 career average, 5 All Star selections, 3 Gold Gloves, 6 -100 RBI seasons, 1 batting crown. All time Rockies great.|
Everyone on the above list has a chance of making the Hall, although some of these players have better credentials than others. Some of these players have a negative stigma surrounding them and they may need to cash in more on the good vibes of the Baseball Writers than count on their career numbers to get them into the Hall.
How does it work? Well, every member of the BBWAA can cast up to ten ‘yes’ votes (one per player) and thus ten players theoretically can be inducted in a single year. To get into the Hall without paying the standard admission fee, a player needs 75% or more of the BBWAA votes. In the past few years that has been a very difficult threshold to reach - in fact you’d have to go back to 1999 to find a year where more than two 1st year eligible players were elected into the Hall in the same year (Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount).
And with so many worthy candidates on the ballot, not to mention players from past years that are still eligible, it’s likely that the ballot is going to be split in many ways. It’s going to be a dilemma for voters and it could be problematic for this group of talented players. It will be amazingly interesting to see what happens. And all we can do is ask the big question - How would you vote?
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