Peering into a Crystal Ball

Now that the 2011 Hall of Fame vote is in the books, we can look forward to watching Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick stand on the Cooperstown stage this summer.  It should be a good ceremony with wise-acre Blyleven taking the microphone, something he does extremely well during Twins games.  But we, baseball addicts, can also look a bit further–train our eyes and gaze deeper into the crystal ball–and size up the class of 2012.  At a cursory glance, it may seem that the Baseball Writers won’t elect anyone into Cooperstown next year, but in the realm of Hall of Fame voting, with internet campaigns and cronyism, anything is possible.

Of the holdovers, Reds shortstop Barry Larkin will go into the next vote with the highest percentage of support.  He gained 62.1% of the vote this round.  How will he do next year when the rookie class will be extremely weak?  Longshots Bernie Williams and Vinny Castilla head next year’s class with Tim Salmon, Brad Radke, Javy Lopez, Joe Randa, Ruben Sierra and Terry Mulholland rounding out a weak class.  I can’t see any of these guys getting more than 20% of the vote next year.  Williams has the best chance of reaching 20% because he was a Yankee, but it’ll be a shock if he gets much support.  He clearly wasn’t in the same class as center fielders Ken Griffey Jr. and Jim Edmonds–two peers that hit and fielded circles around Bernie.

With the weak class of 2012 in mind, holdovers from this year’s ballot should see a climb in support.  Larkin will probably crack the 70% mark but is 75%–the needed amount for enshrinement–too much for a guy whose career stats are close to Alan Trammell’s?  Trammell still lingers on the ballot but has never received much attention from voters, due largely to injury and inconsistency.  Larkin edges Trammell in consistency and has a higher BA, but there really isn’t much separating their stats.

Can Jack Morris, that innings-eating workhorse with a bunch of wins, get enough support to take the Cooperstown podium in 2012?  My guess is no, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get 60 to 65% of the vote next year.  Lee Smith’s best chance will be next year, before the 2013 studs of Biggio, Piazza, Bonds, Clemens and Schilling reach the ballot.  Lee will suffer when other firemen, better than John Franco, eventually make the ballot.  With guys like Hoffman, Wagner and eventually Rivera–if he ever slows down–on the ballot, who would vote for Big Lee?

Can second year guys like Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker garner more support than they were shown this year?  With a weak class in 2012, I expect both Baggy and Walker to rise in percentage, but doubt either gets the needed 75% for enshrinement, even though Bagwell has my vote.  I can see Bagwell jumping up to 60% next year and Walker might climb to 30%, but I assume Walker will begin to lose votes after 2012 when other star players make their way to the ballot.  He could end up like Dwight Evans.  Evans had some support during his early years on the ballot before his case lost steam–for some foolish reason–and he was dropped from the ballot ala Harold Baines this year.

So polish your crystal balls, baseball fans, and give the year of 2012 a gander.  While you peer into your crystal ball, trying to see into the future, you might be presented with a barren podium at Cooperstown for 2012.

  1. Matt B said:

    Believe a lot of folks left Bagwell off this year as a protest to their suspicions. Read one voter who said that if nothing comes out in the next year, Bags gets his vote. I think the absence of any viable candidates in the 2012 class will push two of Raines, Bagwell and Morris in, or at the very least get them all at close to 70%, so then the next year it might be hard for the voter to take him off the ballot, and the groundswell of support pushes them in within 2 years. Larkin doesn’t have anything close to the groundswell of support, so I am more suspicious of him. Maybe if the folks that were behind Bly start getting behind Trammell, we’ll see Trammell close the gap on Larkin, but none of his top “similars” on are in the hall. Also how can you induct Trammell but not Whitaker? I think the vets committee gets to put them both in the same year.

    • brettkiser said:

      There were some decent second basemen in the Majors in the 1980s. Sandberg is the only one to make the Hall but Whitaker’s numbers aren’t much worse than Ryno’s. I always felt Whitaker was slighted but I personally never liked the guy. He refused to cover his heart during the playing of the National Anthem at an All-Star Game and received some rather negative press because of it. As a military veteran, I sneer at Whitaker.

      Randolph was also a fine second baseman but Frank White usually got the Gold Gloves above Lou and Willie. Sandberg was clearly the top of the class at 2B for the NL in the 1980s. His only real threat was Steve Sax. Johnny Ray and Billy Doran were good also but they didn’t have the career length of Sandberg.

      I think you’re right about guys getting more support next year, such as Bagwell, Raines and Morris and that some folks may jump on the Trammell bandwagon. As a lifelong Astros fan, I’d love to see Baggy get in but if Raines, Morris and Trammell never make it, it wouldn’t be an injustice.

  2. Matt B said:

    I think my comment about Trammell’s “similars” should be taken without too much weight. Most are contemporary, and his numbers came about before the slugging shortstop was common.

    I have every Topps Lou Whitaker baseball card, the first player I collected!

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