Deserving players like Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, and Jeff Bagwell fell short of reaching the 75 percent of the votes required for Hall of Fame induction this year, but they’ll have a good chance to increase their totals in 2012 as the pool of first-year eligible players doesn’t include anyone likely bound for Cooperstown.
Here’s an unofficial list of first-time players eligible for induction in 2012:
Bernie Williams Brad Radke
Tim Salmon Scott Erickson
Ruben Sierra Terry Mulholland
Javy Lopez Pedro Astacio
Vinny Castilla Jeff Fassero
Carl Everett Rick Helling
Matt Lawton Jose Lima
Eric Young Matt Clement
Edgardo Alfonzo Tim Worrell
Jeromy Burnitz Danny Graves
Brian Jordan Mike Remlinger
Phil Nevin Jeff Nelson
Bernie Williams has a better Hall of Fame case than he’ll probably get credit for, particularly in his first year on the ballot, but aside from him it’s tough to see any of the other first-timers garnering significant support.
In addition to the lack of big names joining the ballot, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven will be off the ballot after being inducted and Dave Parker will be ineligible following the maximum 15 years on the ballot. That trio received a combined 1,075 votes from the 581 ballots this year, and while not all of them will be reallocated to other players in 2012 it’s a safe bet a large chunk of them will be.
Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, Kenny Lofton, and Curt Schilling lead an exceptionally strong class of first-timers for 2013, so if Larkin, Raines, Bagwell, and others are going to make major progress toward joining Alomar and Blyleven in the Hall of Fame it will come next year.
Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times does an annual column projecting the Hall of Fame voting based on previous results and he’s had some remarkably accurate predictions in the past.
After crunching the numbers this time around Jaffe projects that Roberto Alomar will get in easily with around 87 percent of the vote and Bert Blyleven will also be inducted with about 80 percent. Both players were at 74 percent last year, which was Alomar’s first time on the ballot and the 13th try for Blyleven.
Jaffe projects that Jeff Bagwell will receive 35 percent of the vote, which is a depressingly low total for a player who’s clearly above the Hall of Fame standard for first basemen. However, according to Jaffe “only twice has anyone debuted as well as I’m predicting for Bagwell and not subsequently made it into Cooperstown.” He deserves much better than 35 percent on his first ballot appearance, but even that too-low mark bodes well for Bagwell making it eventually.
Check out Jaffe’s article to see projected vote totals for everyone else on the ballot prior to the actual results being announced Wednesday.
Now that Alex Rodriguez has reached the 600-home run club, it’s time to look at who’s next.
Jim Thome, you’re up.
The Minnesota Twins slugger, who turns 40 on Aug. 27, has 13 home runs in 74 games this season and 577 over the course of his 20-year career. At his current pace, he should finish with about 584 or so this season, putting him in 600 territory at some point next season.
But will that be enough to put Thome into Cooperstown? Tyler Kepner of the New York Times delves into the topic, pointing out that Thome was never perceived as dominant in his era despite his impressive power numbers.
He also notes that Thome – unlike Rodriguez – is perceived to be a player who was clean during the steroid era, though none of us really know that for sure. This is truly murky territory, and will only make Cooperstown voting more complicated/controversial/entertaining over the next several years. Kepner, though, has some solid advice.
The most logical thing for voters might be to ignore the use of steroids altogether – at least as it pertains to the era before testing – and accept the idea that a large percentage of pitchers and hitters were using drugs and that we will never know exactly who was and who was not. Yet the Hall of Fame ballot specifically instructs voters to consider sportsmanship and character.
These are thorny issues with no clear answers. But, as we can see with Thome, a lot of cases are fascinating — for a lot of reasons.
Amen, Tyler. By the way, the next closest active player to 600 is Manny Ramirez at 554, so things aren’t going to get any clearer any time soon.
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