Congratulations go out to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas for their Hall of Fame inductions. Both Maddux and Glavine received over 90% of the vote while The Big Hurt came in a little behind the hurlers with 83.7%. Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio missed by the scantest of margins with 74.8% of the vote. Mike Piazza saw a slight raise in his percentage while everyone else on the ballot, all the holdovers, went the other direction. Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, both deserving candidates, each dropped a bit in the vote with former closer Lee Smith’s support falling off a cliff.
Jack Morris, his last try on the writer’s ballot, came up short with 61.5% while the two hot topic performers, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, each saw their limited support from last year slip a bit as well. Rafael Palmeiro, a member of the 3,000 hit club and one of the top homerun hitters of all-time, fell short of the five percent needed to be retained for 2015’s ballot.
Earlier I made predictions for this year’s HOF class and, I must admit, they were off by quite a bit. I viewed this class as a rather weak class with Greg Maddux as the only lock among the new-comers. Tom Glavine received a lot more support than I imagined. With new-comers to the ballot, I do the eyeball test first: I ask myself whether they looked like Hall of Famers when they played. When I watched Greg Maddux pitch, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer operate on the mound. When I watched Frank Thomas hit, I thought I was watching a Hall of Fame slugger in the batter’s box. When I watched Craig Biggio play, I thought I was watching a Hall of Famer perform. I felt this way about Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, as well, but never perceived Tom Glavine in such a way. With Glavine, while he pitched, I felt he needed a home plate umpire with a liberal strike zone to succeed, and that he wasn’t in the upper echelon of performers, where peers like Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez were stationed.
The 300 win benchmark pushed Glavine into the Hall of Fame, although, in this era, the concept of Hall of Fame benchmarks is now obsolete. You can point to homerun kings like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa as proof that benchmarks are meaningless nowadays, but a better representation of this concept is Craig Biggio. Craig is a member of the 3,000 hit club and no right-handed hitter in the game’s history has more doubles than Mr. Biggio. McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa all have PED issues, which makes them poor subjects of the exit in benchmarks argument, but Craig Biggio was a man of class with an impeccable character. After the ballot’s results were made public, Mr. Biggio again exuded class by congratulating the three men newly enshrined without taking shots at the 25% of writers who foolishly did not vote for him.
Will Craig Biggio make the Hall of Fame next year? It wouldn’t shock me to see him fall below 70%, to be honest. Next year he’ll have to contend with newcomers like Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz—all strong HOF candidates. In 2016, he, Piazza and Bagwell will have a better shot, with Ken Griffey Jr. the main standout—other first-timers in 2016 are Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner. In the upcoming years, 2017 looks to be the weakest group of first-timers with a pair of catchers, Jorge Posada and Ivan Rodriguez, leading the new-comers. Vladimir Guerrero will see plenty support, and Manny Ramirez will also be on that ballot. The names for 2018 look fairly impressive, with Chipper Jones and Jim Thome as locks, and Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel also on that year’s ballot.
The results for this year’s ballot are as follows, with 571 ballots cast: Greg Maddux (97.2), Tom Glavine (91.9) Frank Thomas (83.7), Craig Biggio (74.8), Mike Piazza (62.2), Jack Morris (61.5), Jeff Bagwell (54.3), Tim Raines (46.1), Roger Clemens (35.4), Barry Bonds (34.7), Lee Smith (29.9), Curt Schilling (29.2), Edgar Martinez (25.2), Alan Trammell (20.8), Mike Mussina (20.3), Jeff Kent (15.2), Fred McGriff (11.7), Mark McGwire (11), Larry Walker (10.2), Don Mattingly (8.2), Sammy Sosa (7.2), Rafael Palmeiro (4.4), Moises Alou (1.1), Hideo Nomo (1.1), Luis Gonzalez (0.9), Eric Gagne (0.4), J.T. Snow (0.4), Armando Benitez (0.2), Jacque Jones (0.2), Kenny Rogers (0.2), Mike Timlin, Richie Sexson, Paul LoDuca, Todd Jones, Ray Durham and Sean Casey (0%)
Next year, don’t be terribly surprised if big names like Sammy Sosa, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff and Jeff Kent fail to receive the five percent needed to be retained for 2016’s ballot. It’s almost a guarantee that one, if not more, of these fellows will fall off the ballot in the upcoming years. As of right now, if I had to cast a ballot for 2015, I’d vote for newcomers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield and John Smoltz, while rounding out my ballot with holdovers Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling and Alan Trammell. Voting for ten men seems excessive to me, but I have been swayed to Raines, Schilling and Trammell’s camps due to the Cooperstown comparisons. Tim Raines was a poor man’s Rickey Henderson, Curt Schilling has the greatest strikeout-to-walk ratio in modern baseball history and Trammell is very comparable to recently enshrined Barry Larkin.