For the next month there is going to be a whole bunch of attention on the biggest names that are appearing on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Some will agonize over whether or not Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will get into the Hall in their first year of eligibility.
But others on the ballot will be lucky to get a single vote and will pass from the ballot without a blip on the radar screen. Achieving a 75 percent acceptance ratio is a high standard to meet to gain entrance into the Hall of Fame. It should be a strict, tough minimum standard. And being on the ballot for 15 years is enough time for an entire generation of voters to come and go and for a career to be examined in hindsight.
Having a great player become eligible for the first time has always been an eagerly awaited aspect of Hall voting. Because of the strong feelings circulating about the steroid era, this will probably be the most unpredictable vote ever recorded by the Baseball Writers Association of America.
The screeners who place retired players on the ballot for the qualified BBWAA voters do not include only the creme de la creme of superstars. Other solid players qualify based on certain merits. I have always wondered what it is like for those guys who know they don’t have a prayer of making it into the Hall. To stay on the ballot longer than one year it takes five percent of the vote.
This year the ballot is exceptionally crowded, not only with new names, but holdovers who had excellent careers and in some minds (including mine) definitely seem Hall worthy. For a lesser player, a sometime All-Star maybe during the course of his career, who reaches the ballot, that is probably a pretty satisfying moment. A nice moment. And one that gets extended if by chance and choice they exceed the five percent threshold and stick around for more than one go-around.
When the dust settles, the votes are counted, and the choices (if any) from the modern era ballot for the 2013 Hall are announced Jan. 9, we can be pretty sure that most of the newcomers to the political wars will be one-and-done.
Those on the ballot for the first time are Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Curt Schilling, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Kenny Lofton, Jeff Conine, Sandy Alomar Jr., Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Ryan Klesko, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, David Wells, Aaron Sele, Rondell White and Woody Williams.
That’s 24 new names. There are 13 holdovers, and several of them have good cases to be named to the Hall of Fame. That group includes Jack Morris, Don Mattingly, Jeff Bagwell, Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Larry Walker, Alan Trammell, Bernie Williams and Mark McGwire.
There are 37 candidates. Voters can list up to 10 names on their ballot. There are about 600 voters. I expect the vote to be so splintered this year that maybe nobody will be elected. I also expect the vote to be so splintered that quite a few guys are going to be eliminated.
Rather than review credentials in detail now as I did last year I’m going to start my examination of this potentially bizarre Hall of Fame election by predicting who will NOT survive the voting to be considered again after this year.
Among the first-time guys, I’m thinking that Clayton, Lofton, Cirillo, Conine, Alomar, Finley, Klesko, Mesa, Sanders, Stanton, Walker, Sele, White and Williams are definitely gone. In an ordinary year, Hernandez, Green, and Wells might survive, but not this time. Franco should make another ballot by inches. That would leave Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Schilling, Biggio and Piazza from the first-year group as being elected or held over for future consideration.
Of course, if they garner enough votes that means that some of the previous vote-getters will be shoved aside. Dale Murphy is in his 15th year on the ballot, and this will be the end for him. I’m going to say that Bernie Williams is gone after this round. So is Trammell, Mattingly, Walker, maybe Martinez (which means perhaps no DH will get in for years), Palmeiro, and McGwire. The only way Trammell, Smith and Walker will remain under consideration is if some voters decide to completely shut out anyone in their minds whose work was performance-enhancing drug tainted. In that case they might leave such men with big stats like Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro and McGwire out of their top tens altogether.
To date, the only ones that I have heard of doing exit polling, so to speak, is the Associated Press. That organization’s survey sample indicates that something like that extreme voting might be taking place out in the hinterlands where secret ballots are being prepared.