My Hall of Fame ballot for 2016
Jeff Bagwell, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Alan Trammell.
It’s a bit early this year to receive and file annual ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but this was an easy one for me and mine is already in the mail despite the fact that it isn’t due until Dec. 24.
I voted for who I perceive to be the only first ballot slam dunks, Junior and his 630 homers and Hoffy with his 601 saves. Back from last year’s ballot are Bagwell, Bonds, Clemens, Mussina and Piazza. None of them need much corroborating evidence. Added this year, are Raines, Trammell and Smith much for logistical reasons. Their time is running short on the ballot and I believe the trio all had Hall of Fame careers with significant impact on the Major Leagues. I’ve voted for each of them at times before.
I often hear that a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. The stats don’t change. So why should he get a vote on your ballot one year, but not the next? Whether I like it or not, that’s how the BBWAA voting system works. A player now gets a maximum of 10 years on the ballot (it used to be 15) and each ballot is different. For the past two years there has been a logjam on the ballot caused by the inclusion of some of the last generation’s greatest players mixed with the back log of guys who played under the suspicion of using performance-enhancing drugs.
But we voted in Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Frank Thomas in 2014 and John Smoltz, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio earlier this year. Six of the seven made it the first year their names appeared on the ballot. That opened up space this time to include Smith, Raines and Trammell.
None of them really need defending, but all of them find themselves near the back end of their time on the BBWAA ballot. When the Hall board of directors changed the eligibility rules in 2014, they grandfathered in three players left in the 11-15 year category: Smith, Trammell and Don Mattingly. Mattingly was in his 15th and final year and had only 9.1 percent of the vote earlier this year. He’s gone.
Smith, once the all-time save leader with 478 until Hoffman broke it, is now in his 14th year. He had 30.2 percent. Trammell, whose numbers are comparable to Barry Larkin and Ozzie Smith – two of the most recent shortstop electees – is in his 15th and final year. He had 25.1 percent. Raines, who has really been hurt by the new rules, is in his ninth of 10 years and had 55 percent. He has a faint chance, but not much. He would have had a better chance if his eligibility had remained 15 years.
Piazza, at 69.9 percent, has the best chance of the returnees to be elected this year. But he still needs to make up 38 votes. With an electorate now culled by about 20 percent because of a new Hall vetting process, that may be a tall order in one year.
I’ll be interested to see how the smaller voting population – 475 ballots were mailed out – affects the so-called steroid era candidates. Clemens (354 wins) and Bonds (762 homers) polled at 37.5 and 36.8 respectively in the most recent balloting. Since then, Bonds had his obstruction of justice conviction tossed out by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In the end, neither Bonds nor Clemens were found guilty of doing anything. But they were vetted in the Mitchell Report and have been tried and fried in the court of public opinion.
That has affected their overall Hall vote, but not mine.
As always, I’ll be highly interested in hearing your opinion of my choices. That’s always a fun exercise. Let the venting begin.