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.