The offseason calendar is plodding along, and shortly after the new year the newest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame will be announced. Every sportswriter and blogger will then chime in about who made the cut, who didn't, and far too many will take this opportunity to pontificate (again) about why steroid users are dirty rotten cheaters.
Looking ahead, though, I never realized the logjam that's about to unfold in the next few years.
My cutoff for Hall of Fame consideration is around 50 career WAR. Anybody who's reached that threshold clearly played long enough and enjoyed a high enough level of consistent success to merit serious consideration, and I think this is a good place to start separating the contenders from the pretenders.
Here's this year's ballot. Each member of the BBWAA can vote for up to ten players, and there happens to be ten players who meet my threshold for consideration, plus a handful of guys like Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, and Lee Smith who don't but have still garnered a decent amount of support.
Next year, the list gets longer. It's unlikely that more than three players will be inducted in 2012, which leaves somewhere around 15 50 WAR players, plus the usual suspects on the 2013 ballot. By 2014, as many as 23 50 WAR players and usual suspects could still be on the ballot, with Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Gary Sheffield, Ken Griffey Jr., Jim Edmonds, and Andy Pettitte all set to gain eligibility in the following two years.
With only ten spots on each ballot, a lot of good players are going to be left in the dark.
There are eight players currently eligible who I consider Hall of Famers - Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, Alan Trammel, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, and Mark McGwire. No less than five of them will still be on the 2013 ballot, when Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, Craig Biggio, and Curt Schilling gain eligibility.
That's 11 or 12 no-brainer Hall of Famers with only ten spots on the ballot. Now add Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, and Mike Mussina in 2014, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield in 2015, and Ken Griffey Jr and Jim Edmonds in 2016.
Even ignoring borderline players like Kenny Lofton, something has to change. The BBWAA hasn't inducted four players in one year since 1950, so they're either going to have to reverse course very quickly, or watch idly as more a dozen of the top stars from the 1990-2010 era fall off the ballot entirely. My guess, sadly, is that they opt for the latter, which mean an increasingly irrelevant Hall of Fame.