Author: Craig Calcaterra

Flying Ken Griffey

Looking ahead to the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot


Too soon? Sure it is. But who cares.

With Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio being elected today, next year’s Hall of Fame ballot will feature all of the holdovers who received north of 5% of the vote this year apart from Don Mattingly, who will no longer be eligible, and a crop of newbies.

Here is a quick look at the most notable newbies. And it’s a quick look, because after the first two or three, it’s a big falloff to guys who no sane person thinks has a Hall of Fame case.

Ken Griffey, Jr.: The big name. The easy choice. He’ll coast in on the first ballot with no questions asked. While the stats may have favored Barry Bonds most years, Griffey was, for a good time in the 90s, considered the best player in the game by the public at large. And subsequent developments (i.e. Barry Bonds turning PED-heel) turned Griffey into an Avatar for the Clean. That stuff is laden with politics, of course, and in Griffey’s case it is nor really necessary to parse. The dude hit 630 home runs and was about a famous as anyone in baseball, even after his career began to decline due to injuries in the 2000s. Today Joe Posnanski wrote that the Hall of Fame was built specifically for players like Pedro Martinez. The same goes for Ken Griffey, Jr.

Trevor Hoffman: For a brief moment before Mariano Rivera took the title, Hoffman was the all-time saves leader. And he was probably the best in the NL for most of his career. A decade of straight dominance, only one guy — Rivera — who all people can agree was better (though some may think some were better than Hoffman) should do the trick for him. If not in 2016, then eventually.

Jim Edmonds: An eight-time Gold Glove center fielder with 393 career home runs who played for a lot of winning teams makes him a candidate. His legend may loom a bit larger than it should — “did he really need to make all of those diving catches?” some may think — but he was, without question, one of the best all-around players in the game for a good chunk of his career. Indeed, after the Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, Edmonds led all of baseball in Wins Above Replacement between 1995 and 2005. A lot of that is based on defense, of course, and we know what a lot of Hall of Fame voters think of WAR in general and the defensive components of WAR in particular, but Edmonds has a better case than you may first think. He’ll likely inspire the most debate out of any of the newcomers.

Billy Wagner: He’s probably not gonna make it, but he was also better than you think. On a rate basis — strikeouts, walk rates, etc. — he was better than Hoffman in many seasons and is probably one of the more underrated closers of his era. Or maybe any era. The cat could throw.

The rest: Jason Kendall. Mike Hampton. Garret Anderson. Troy Glaus. Mike Sweeney. David Eckstein. You get the idea. All of whom deserve a few moments of remembrance before we dismiss them out of hand. And we’ll give them that at some point over the next year.

Those guys notwithstanding, it looks like next year’s Hall of Fame season will be all about Griffey and top-2015-vote-getter Mike Piazza on one level, and Hoffman, Edmonds and the other holdovers in a totally different and lower tier.

Darin Erstad got a vote. Good for him!


None of this of consequence, but it’s always fun. It’s  . . . . the basement of the BBWAA ballot:



  • I guess it’s good that Larry Walker’s vote total increased over last year’s 10.2%, but it’s a pretty meager bounce. The guy may be borderline for some — maybe even borderline for me — but he gets way less support than he deserves;
  • Frankly, I’m surprised Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa remained above 5%. Between steroids and surliness I’d figure they’d be cast into the abyss. Instead we get to talk about them again next year.
  • Carlos Delgado may have one of the best careers ever for a one-and-done candidate. Him, Lou Whitaker and Kenny Lofton are the beginning of a pretty kickass baseball team.
  • Darin Erstad got a vote. That’s the most special thing about this ballot, I’m pretty sure. I never figured I’d argue over such a nonsense thing, but if you’re going to give ONE of the no-vote guys a sympathy vote, how can it not be Cliff Floyd?

OK, I’m done with that.

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame

Image (1) randy%20johnson%20dbacks.jpg for post 3164

The 2015 induction class of the Baseball Hall of Fame was announced Tuesday afternoon and Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio are on their way to Cooperstown.

Players must be named on 75% of the Baseball Writers Association of America’s ballots to get in. Johnson was named on 97.3%, Martinez 91.1%, Smoltz 82.9% and Biggio 82.7% The highest total for a non-electee went to Mike Piazza who received 69.9%. The full results can be seen here.

This summer’s induction will mark the first time since 1955 that four players were selected by the baseball writers. That year Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons made it in. Before that, you’d have to go back to the inaugural class of 1936, when Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson made it in.

Not making the cut: Jeff Bagwell, who only inched up from 54.3% last year to 55.7% this year. Tim Raines, who jumped from 46.1% to 55%, Curt Schilling, who went from 29.2% to 39.2%, Lee Smith, who received 30.2%, up from 29.9%, Edgar Martinez, who went up to 27% from 25.2%, Alan Trammell, who went up to 25.1% from 20.8% and Mike Mussina, who went to 24.6% from 20.3%.

The rest of the ballot of was either far down from those totals or were special cases such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, each of whom gained a couple of percentage a points from last year but whom nonetheless are down at 37.5% and 36.8%, respectively. Surprisingly, neither Mark McGwire (10%) nor Sammy Sosa (6.6%) fell off the ballot, as many thought they might.

Players who fell off the ballot due to not having the requisite 5% to stay on: Carlos Delgado, Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, Darin Erstad, Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt.

We’ll have continued updates on today’s Hall of Fame vote throughout the afternoon.

How did we get to “John Smoltz: first ballot Hall of Famer?”

(FILES) This 25 August, 2002, file photo

I’d have to say the most surprising development of this Hall of Fame season is the fast-tracking of John Smoltz’s candidacy.

He’s poised to enter Cooperstown on the first ballot today. And, for what it’s worth, I believe he is worthy of the Hall of Fame. He may be borderline for me if I were limited to ten votes, but I think he belongs. And (a) since I do not believe there should be a distinction between “first ballot hall of famers” and any other hall of famers; and (b) I happen to be a Braves fan who remembers the day Atlanta traded Doyle Alexander for the guy, this makes me quite happy.

But really, until the polls of Hall of Fame voters started coming out a few weeks ago, I never would’ve guessed that Smoltz would, in fact, make the Hall of Fame on his first try. I figured he’d debut a tad above 50% this year and eventually inch over 75% on his second or third go-around. Matthew handicapped it last year too and thought much the same thing.

My thinking was that some voters would consider him far below Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez which, to be fair, he is. And that when putting him head-to-head against the rest of the guys on the ballot there’d either be enough PED noise for the elites or tough calls for the non-PED guys to make things murky. That the “who is better? Mussina, Smoltz or Schilling” debate would break down at about 33%-33%-33% and none of those extremely comparable pitchers would create any daylight for themselves.

But here we are: Smoltz is going in easily and the only question will be whether he’s closer to the nearly unanimous Johnson and Martinez in the vote totals or whether he’s closer to Craig Biggio who, I suspect, will just scrape in.

I suppose there are a lot of reasons for that, tied up more in storylines that statlines. Well, his postseason performance is a statline, but people tend to vary the amount of weight they put on that depending on storyline considerations. His time as a closer imbues him with some of that magic pixie dust Proven Closers often get from the electorate on account of their belief that the ninth inning is a much harder inning to deal with than, say, innings 1-7.

Mostly, though, I think his teammates help him more than anything. At various times the Braves touted themselves as having “Five Aces” (Pete Smith and Steve Avery anyone?) or “Four Aces” (Avery? Neagle? Millwood?) but really, it was the Three Aces of Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. The other pitchers and, Chipper Jones notwithstanding, all of the hitters came and went, but those three were always there. Or at least it seemed they were. A year after Maddux, Glavine and Bobby Cox went in, I think voters are, on some level, still making a point to memorialize a team that was really, really good for a really, really long time. They’ll close the book with Chipper Jones in a couple of years and that will be that.

None of which is good or bad. Narratives are not my preferred mode of understanding baseball, but I am probably a minority in this. And, of course, given that I think the player in question should be in the Hall of Fame anyway and that it doesn’t matter when he goes, it’s not really worth worrying or wondering about this all that much.

But really, Smoltz as a first ballot guy really surprises me. And I’m not sure I’ll fully believe it until his name is called in a little less than an hour.

Here’s what I think will happen with the Hall of Fame voting today

Pedro Martinez

For all of the back and forth and quibbling over each and every candidate, my guess is that there are only a couple of possible outcomes when today’s vote is announced: either Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio get elected, or just Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz. I think that’s the universe of possible outcomes.

This thinking is based mostly on what we’ve seen from publicly-released ballots thus far combined with some guesswork. My friend Repoz at Baseball Think Factory tracks them via his “HoF Ballot Gizmo” and compiles the results. This is what he has as of this morning:


He’s been doing this for a few years, and he’s figured a few things out about it. The most relevant thing is that the totals in the Gizmo tend to overstate most players’ actual support, as the sample comes from people who are, for the most part, active baseball writers with online outlets at which to reveal their votes ahead of time. It does not capture the votes of the silent majority of voters — many who aren’t active baseball writers — who simply fill out their ballot and quietly send it in. The former group tends to skew “big Hall” and be a bit more open to advanced metrics and more forgiving of PED use than the latter group.

So, it’s safe to say that these numbers will fall anywhere from 3-6% in the final tally. I think that means Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz are safely in. It bodes pretty well for Biggio too, though many thought he’d make it over the line last year and didn’t. I think it means Piazza falls below the 75% threshold when the results actually matter.

If four guys make it in, it will be near-historic. Only twice have more than three candidates been elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers in one shot. The first time was the inaugural class in 1936, featuring Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and friends. The only other time came in 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons made it in.

Even three inductees would be a big deal. We saw that last year with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, but before that you’d have to go back to 1999 when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were elected. Say what you want about the logjam on the ballot and a lot of worthy-players being overlooked, but in the aggregate, the voters are moving about as quickly as their weird and broken process allows them to move.

If I had to bet money, I’d bet money on three, though I am cautiously optimistic that we’ll see four elected: Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz and Biggio.