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.