Looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot

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With last night’s Hall of Fame voting announcement behind us, let’s look ahead to 2019’s ballot, shall we?

After yesterday’s vote there one guy clearly banging on the door: Edgar Martinez, who got 70.4% of the vote. Bill discussed his Hall of Fame case and his prospects for induction last night. Very little in life is guaranteed, but I like Edgar’s chances next year, which will be his final year on the ballot.

Also moving up was Mike Mussina, who notched 63.5% in his fifth go-around. As we’ve argued at length here in the past, Mussina is well-deserving of the honor of election. Seeing him jump around 12% from last year to this year is encouraging, and it’s not unreasonable to think that this is a platform year, as it were, from which he will ultimately ascend. If not next year, he seems poised to be elected soon.

Also back in 2019 will be this group, all of whom are polling over 50%: Roger Clemens (57.3%), Barry Bonds (56.4% ) and Curt Schilling (51.2% ). Bonds and Clemens creeped up slightly this year from last, but there seems to something of a hard ceiling on their candidacies. Schilling has yo-yo’d over the past three years, almost all due to his odious political and social comments, but he’s back on the upswing. Still, he’s a a pitcher’s whose merits are as good as Mussina’s, so it’s hard not to think that him trailing Mussina the way he is is a function of a hard resistance to him on the part of some voters. All three of these controversial figures will be on the ballot for the seventh time next year.

The bright side for Martinez, Mussina, Bonds, Clemens and Schilling is that the new class of eligibles, while formidable, is not quite as formidable next year as the new classes of the past few years have been. Let’s take a preliminary look at the folks we’ll be arguing about next December:

Mariano Rivera: When I said “very little in life is guaranteed” a few minutes ago, Mo’s candidacy was part of the “very little.” Feel free to wager your house, your children and your three favorite body parts on Rivera getting inducted in his first year. The only question will be how close to unanimous the vote will be for history’s greatest closer.

Roy Halladay: His peak was among the all-time greatest — Halladay’s 62.4 bWAR from ages 25-34 ranks as the 10th best ever among pitchers and everyone else in the top 16 on that list is a Hall of Famer — and that should be enough to overcome the fact that his career ended early due to shoulder problems, preventing him from compiling more wins, strikeouts and innings. Sadly, his induction will be a posthumous one. Perversely, I suspect his tragic death will likely cause his vote total to be higher than it might’ve been on the first go-around if he had lived.

Andy Pettitte: As I wrote a year ago, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame case is going to be a hot mess. Every weird, subjective and controversial measure of Hall of Fame candidates applies to Pettitte in one way or another. Pitcher wins, intangible “dominance” and “fear.” Postseason excellence vs. regular season excellence. Whether he was a “good guy” and how much the media liked him. The quality of his teammates and the number of rings he won. PEDs above all else.  Almost EVERYTHING that will be cited in Pettitte’s favor has, at one point or another, been cited as a reason AGAINST another guy’s case and almost everything against Pettitte, I suspect, will be attempted to be explained away or distinguished by voters who just liked the guy or prefer his narrative over that which can be found on his page on Baseball-Reference.com. All of which will obscure the fact that, yeah, Pettitte actually does have a good argument to be inducted, though not the best case. Buckle up, it’ll be a bumpy ride.

Todd Helton: Gaudy numbers which will almost be entirely dismissed because he played in Coors Field. If Larry Walker, a superior candidate, is not getting voter love, Helton will not either.

Miguel Tejada: A nod to a few very nice seasons, but he’ll get almost no voter love.

Lance Berkman: Very, very good himself, but almost all of his career comps are guys who have fallen short of Hall of Fame consideration or who eventually will. Jim Edmonds without the defensive value? Dick Allen without the media hatred? Jason Giambi without the PED associations? I just can’t see it.

Roy Oswalt: The only guy on next year’s ballot who was once awarded a bulldozer as a contractual incentive.

Kevin Youkilis: The Greek God of Walks leads the guys first made famous by appearing in “Moneyball” onto the ballot. He will quickly walk off the ballot too, of course. He only played ten seasons in the bigs. That’s sort of amazing to me. I feel like he played longer.

Michael Young: Something of a bizarro Steve Garvey. Like Garvey, he was an excellent player when he played, but who was probably not quite as good as his reputation and, with distance, it’s pretty easy to see that he was not a Hall of Famer. The bizarro part: (a) when he played he was MORE respected by his teammates and LESS by the national press; and (b) since he retired his public persona has improved greatly whereas Garvey’s went into the crapper.

Derek Lowe: While Rivera will rightfully waltz into the Hall, Lowe does provide a reminder that we overrate relief pitchers. As a closer in Boston, he put up a couple of amazing seasons that, one presumes, he could’ve continued to replicate for years and which would’ve eventually placed him in serious Hall of Fame contention. The Sox rightfully moved him to the rotation, however, where he was really good for a long time but not Hall of Fame good. A TON of merely good closers couldn’t make it as starters and a ton of merely good starters could be dominant closers if given the chance. I don’t think people have their minds around that concept. I don’t think many care to try.

There will be a handful of other “oh man, has that guy been retired for five full seasons now?” dudes, almost all of whom will be one-and-done candidates and almost all of whom will make us feel old.

Rest up now, folks. We begin yelling about all of this stuff once again next fall.

Swanson, Olson go deep vs Scherzer, Braves take NL East lead

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ATLANTA — Dansby Swanson and Matt Olson homered off Max Scherzer, lifting the Atlanta Braves to a crucial 4-2 victory Saturday night over the New York Mets and a one-game lead in the NL East.

The defending World Series champions beat aces Jacob deGrom and Scherzer on consecutive nights to take their biggest lead of the season in the division. New York, which held a 10 1/2-game cushion on June 1, faces its biggest deficit of the year with four games remaining.

Atlanta will try for a three-game sweep Sunday night, with the winner earning the season-series tiebreaker between the teams. Even though both teams are headed to the postseason, that’s important because the NL East champion gets a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Swanson’s 24th homer, a go-ahead, two-run shot in the fifth inning, touched off a frenzy among the sold-out crowd at Truist Park, the ball sailing a few rows up into the seats in left-center to make it 3-2. Olson hit his 32nd homer in the sixth, a solo shot into Chop House seats in right to put Atlanta up 4-2.

Austin Riley led off the fourth with a double and scored on Olson’s single to make it 1-all.

Kyle Wright (21-5) gave up two runs and seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts in five innings as he won his eighth straight decision. The Braves have won 16 of his last 17 starts.

New York went up 2-1 in the fifth when Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil hit consecutive two-out singles.

The Mets led 1-0 in the first when Brandon Nimmo singled, advanced on a walk and a single and scored on Eduardo Escobar‘s groundout. Wright, who threw 30 pitches in the first, stranded two runners in scoring position to prevent further damage.

Scherzer (11-5) allowed a first-inning single to Riley and a third-inning infield single to Ronald Acuna Jr., who advanced to third on a fielding error by Lindor at shortstop but was stranded when Michael Harris II lined out to center. Scherzer patted his glove and pumped his fist as he walked off the mound.

Scherzer was charged with nine hits and four runs with no walks and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings as the Mets were knocked out of first place for only the third day all season.

The Braves have won five of the last six against New York to tie the season series 9-all, outscoring the Mets 37-16 over that stretch.

Atlanta’s bullpen, which posted a 1.70 ERA in September, got a perfect inning from Dylan Lee in the sixth. Jesse Chavez faced four batters in the seventh, Raisel Iglesias faced the minimum in the eighth and closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his NL-leading 39th save in 46 chances.

Since the Braves were a season low-tying four games under .500 at 23-27 after play on May 31, they have gone 76-32, tying the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in the majors over that span. They were a season-worst 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Mets on June 1.

Wright, the only 20-game winner in baseball this season, hasn’t officially become the first Braves pitcher to lead the league in wins outright since Russ Ortiz had 21 in 2003, but the Dodgers’ Julio Urias has 17 and can’t reach 20 before the regular season ends.

Wright will become the first Braves pitcher since Hall of Famer Tom Glavine in 2000 to lead the majors in wins. Houston ace Justin Verlander also has 17.

Wright began the game 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in six career starts and one relief appearance against the Mets.

The Braves, who got homers from Riley, Olson and Swanson off deGrom on Friday, lead the NL with 240 homers.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: All-Star RF Starling Marte (right middle finger fracture) has yet to begin swinging or throwing. Manager Buck Showalter said Marte is experiencing less pain but not enough to take the next step in his recovery. Marte has been sidelined since Sept. 7.

Braves: RHP Spencer Strider still has not thrown as he gets treatment on a sore left oblique. Manager Brian Snitker said there is no timetable for the rookie’s return. Strider has been sidelined since Sept. 21.

NICE GLOVE

Harris ran back and jumped to catch Nimmo’s fly against the wall in center field for the first out of the third.

UP NEXT

Mets RHP Chris Bassitt (15-8, 3.27 ERA) will face RHP Charlie Morton (9-6, 4.29) as the teams conclude a three-game series.