Next week, the Baseball Writers Association of America’s submission for the 2014 class of the Baseball Hall of Fame will be revealed, and while it is certain to not be a second consecutive shutout, what is still quite hazy is who how many supplicants will be allowed into the membership in Cooperstown.
While that picture is steadily building more and more momentum, as more and more ballots are beginning to be revealed, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has jumped out the gates and revealed whom they feel is worthy of the induction into baseball’s most exclusive (or perhaps more fittingly, elusive) club.
A group of 91 online writers assembled to follow the same requests that are made of the BWAA: a full ballot of all the eligible Hall of Fame candidates, with a maximum of 10 votes per ballot and a minimum of none. The results were revealed on Monday morning, and for the second consecutive year, the results were quite diverse, however at least showed one solid consensus.
What’s coming up is not my vote as a member of the Alliance; I will explain that in full next week. Rather, it is a summary of what this year’s BAA vote reflects, shows in comparison from last year and what, if any, forecasting it provides for what’s to come next week.
Here is what the final vote showed by the numbers of the full candidate listing:
Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Eric Gagne, Luis Gonzalez, Sean Casey, Kenny Rogers, Richie Sexson, J.T. Snow, Armando Benitez, Ray Durham, Jacque Jones, Todd Jones, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo, Mike Timlin all received less than 5% of the vote and would be dropped from the actual ballot as a result.
The easy pick of the year ran away with it, and that was Greg Maddux. The 360 game, four-time Cy Young winner picked up 94.5% of the vote, which is about as strong of a showing as could be expected, yet still seems to be a low total in all reality. There is reasonable rumbling that Maddux could be the first unanimous selection in the history of the vote, and while that seems to be slightly far-fetched, the number that the BBA showed is surprising. There is no strike against Maddux’s career, nor any achievement that he did not conquer. And since he is without a doubt making a one-and-done appearance on the ballot, this is the only time to see how his impact will be felt in the forum.
After Maddux, Frank Thomas had the strongest showing, topping 80% of the vote in his first appearance. The two-time American League MVP, member of the 500 home run club and career .300 hitter should be expected to make such as strong showing. There have been some questions about whether he will make it in on the writer’s upcoming vote, with concerns levied against his status as mostly a designated hitter, the mid-career production/healthy swoon he dealt with, as well as the unavoidable suspicion of association as hitter who made his bones in the mid-90’s. But the showing for Thomas is one of a fair level in many regards, and could be the closest to the actual vote showing between the BWAA and BAA this year.
The third and final player that met the 75% required threshold was Glavine, who is perhaps the greatest #2 pitcher of all-time. Despite spending much of his prime as the second bullet out of the chamber for the loaded Braves rotation, Glavine twice won the Cy Young Award himself and was the World Series MVP in Atlanta’s sole victory during their run. Glavine barely slid over the line, and he is likely to be the most borderline candidate of the year next week as well. He hit the 300 win mark, which is virtually assures that he’ll reach the Hall much sooner than later, and it is tough to argue against him the first time around either. Perhaps the fact that he finished with a career ERA over 3.50 (high by most HOF standards) and carries the stigma of never having been “the man” for his team drops him down some. It will be an interesting showing for if Thomas or Glavine has the better showing among the premier first-timers this year.
Just A Bit Outside
Of the members that came up short, the continued divide among the opinion of performance enhancing drug users remains clear. Both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens kept similar representation on their second ballot as they did a year ago, however both are headed in different directions currently. Bonds dropped from 62% to 60.4% this year, while Clemens also saw a two percent gain up to 58%. Bonds finished fourth last year, but drops to seventh this season, while Clemens sees his place drop to eighth, despite the stronger showing.
A year ago, Jeff Bagwell was the only player that gained 75% vote required, but surprisingly drops down 12% this year and into the sixth place on the ballot. He is no doubt a victim of a much more impressive ballot, as well as a more spread about cast of veterans as well. Tim Raines also fell into this category, coming up 8% lower than he did a year ago and dropping out of the top 5 after an encouraging showing in 2012.
Otherwise, the top of the ballot has been a case of the tortoises instead of the hares. Mike Piazza had the steadiest carryover from 2012 to 2013, has he improved from 69% to 72% and remained within the top five overall. Craig Biggio, who had the best showing of any returning candidate from the BWAA ballot, where he appeared at 68.2%, came up short again on the blogger vote, but saw a 1% increase from a year ago.
Of other note is the extreme decline of Sammy Sosa’s sentiment (a 17% drop off), Edgar Martinez cornering his own market once again (a repeat at 41%) and a not-so surprising marginal face-off between Curt Schilling and Jack Morris once again.
Of the first timers that will remain represented, yet were not meet election criteria, Mike Mussina had the best showing, but was at only a paltry 32% vote.
What Does It All Mean?
In the end, there has not been a regular strong correlation between the BBA and BWAA vote. The BBA put in Jeff Bagwell last year, yet Andre Dawson did not meet the approval of the bloggers when he did so for the writers in 2010. Yet simulataneously, both entities agreed on the exclusion, then inclusion of Roberto Alomar in 2010 and 2011, respectively and the induction of Barry Larkin in 2012.
The writers have been much harder on the PED involved players all the way to a nearly 30% difference in opinion on Bonds and Clemens between the group. Mark McGwire hasn’t topped over 25% for either entity either.
The shared sentiment on marginal and guilt association has blurred the lines of achievement on both ballots, but one similarity that is likely to carry over with both this year is simple: the debates of years past will no doubt continue to carry into the years to come in regards to cautiously awarding final greatness in Cooperstown—whether virtual or reality.
For more on the Hall of Fame and baseball’s Decision Day in real time, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan