With the 2016 Hall of Fame voting come and gone (congratulations to Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza!) and all the analysis over who did and didn't get inducted into Cooperstown, it has become customary to look ahead to next year. Players who didn't get in this time around try to gain momentum for next year, and new names enter the picture for the consideration of fans and, most importantly the baseball writers who vote in the election.
The New York Yankees so far have 53 members in the Hall of Fame (including players, managers and executives). Looking ahead to the 2017 Cooperstown ballot, there are a few others who once donned the pinstripes at some point in time that might be added to that ever-growing number. Let's take a look at the Yankees on next year's ballot:
Oh so close.
Raines fell just 23 votes short of being elected into the Hall last week, picking up 69.8% of the overall vote. The good news is he should pick up enough votes next year to finally get in on the final year on the ballot. "Rock" played 23 seasons in the bigs, slashing .294/.385/.425 while ranking fifth all-time in stolen bases (808) and 13th all-time in stolen base percentage (84.7%, ahead of Hall of Famers such as Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan). If you need some proof as to how good Raines was, check out this stat:
Times safely on base Lou Brock 3,833 149 HR & 45.2 WAR Tony Gwynn 3,955 135 HR & 68.8 WAR Tim Raines 3,977 170 HR & 69.1 WAR— Ace of MLB Stats (@theaceofspaeder) December 17, 2015
Of all the former players on the ballot this year that were holdovers from the 2015 ballot, Mussina saw the biggest increase in the percentage of voters who listed him on their ballots (+18.4% increase). With such a big jump, it should help his chances of being inducted at some point during his remaining seven years of eligibility. Will it be as a member of the Class of 2017? Most likely not. Andrew laid out Mussina's case back in December, but also take a look at the chart below. Can you guess who the pitchers are?
One of them is, obviously, Mike Mussina (pitcher B). Pitcher A? First ballot Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.
(And for those wondering, RAA stands for "runs better than average", which, according to Baseball Reference, is a stat representing "the number of runs this player is better than an average player. Adjusted for quality of opposition, parks pitched in, and quality of team defense...". Basically, it just tries to level out the factors the pitcher himself cannot control.)
Gary Sheffield and Roger Clemens
Sheffield and Clemens are lumped together because they're both on the same steroid boat, though there are big differences in their voting percentages. On his third year on the ballot, the powerful Sheffield received just 11.6% of the support from writers, while Clemens received 45.2% of support on his fifth try. The pure numbers suggest both are slam dunk Cooperstown residents, but both Sheffield and Clemens face long odds to receiving a plaque due to steroid (in Clemens' case, alleged) use.
The one-time leader in career saves enters his 15th and final year on the ballot (he was allowed to stay on the ballot under the old 15-year ballot limit after it was changed to ten years a few years ago). After receiving a high of 50.6% of support from writers in 2012, Smith has slowly seen his support drop, and he came in at 34.1% this time around.
Smith's Yankee career lasted all of eight innings after a trade brought him to New York from St. Louis during the 1993 season. He struck out eleven and allowed no runs in those eight innings. He then signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles after the season.
The New Guys
Time flies doesn't it? It doesn't seem that long ago, but yes, Posada retired after the 2011 season, which means he is eligible for the Hall in 2017. The switch-hitter was one of the most consistent offensive catchers of his generation, slashing .273/.374/.474 while hitting 275 home runs and knocking in 1,065. While he was never rated as an elite performer defensively, he provided a steady, often above-average, presence as the starter at a premium position for well over a decade, and that is something that should not be overlooked (more on Posada later).
"Pudge" was a Yankee for just over two months in 2008, but once a Yankee, always a Yankee. The longtime catcher was one of the best of his generation, making a name for himself with his incredibly strong and accurate throwing arm. His bat was almost as good as defense (not that he was a liability offensively, just that his defense was that good). As a Yankee, Rodriguez was not the player we had witnessed over the years when he was a Ranger, Florida Marlin, or Detroit Tiger, slashing .219/.257/.323 and knocking in just three runs in 96 at-bats after they acquired him for Kyle Farnsworth on at the July 31 trade deadline.
Like so many Hall-eligible players these days, his candidacy will come to questions about steroid use. In his book, and in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2005, Jose Canseco alleges he actually injected Rodriguez- as well as Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez- with steroids after he was traded to the Rangers in 1992. However, Rodriguez never tested positive for steroids during his career or appeared on any reports, and he has denied all allegations.
Ask the majority of Yankee fans about Javier Vazquez, and the first thing that will likely come to mind is his dreadful relief appearance in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series in which he served up a grand slam to future Yankee Johnny Damon in the second inning. That game, and the second half of the 2004 season for Vazquez, was definitely not one of the highlights of his otherwise productive career.
Vazquez spent two forgettable seasons with the Yankees ('04 and re-acquired in 2010), but he was a very dependable, if unspectacular, starting pitcher with other teams in his career, topping 200 innings pitched nine times out of 14 big league seasons. He also ranks 30th all time on the career strikeouts list, ahead of legendary names such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Christy Mathewson. Nice career, just not a Hall-worthy one.
In 2017, it seems Raines (along with Jeff Bagwell, who fell just 15 votes shy of induction, and possibly Trevor Hoffman, who finished just 2.5% behind Raines) is a near-lock to pick up enough votes to finally be elected to the Hall, especially since there are no surefire Hall of Famers becoming eligible for the first time next year*. Among the other aforementioned former Yankees, Mussina, who received 43% of the vote from writers this time around, will likely pick up even more votes next year, possibly enough to bring him over the 50% mark, which would bode well for him with what would be six years left on the ballot.
Posada's candicacy will be a very interesting one to watch. It seems as if he's stuck in the middle- not a slam dunk Hall of Famer, but also not someone who should be easily dismissed. According to the Bill James Hall of Fame Monitor (which is a scale that attempts to measure how likely a player is to be voted into Cooperstown, with any score above 100 equating to a likely Hall of Famer and under 100 being less likely) on Baseball-Reference.com, Posada checks in at a 98.
Even the players listed on Baseball Reference's Most Similar Player section is a mixed bag, which lists Posada's career as most similar to the careers of Gary Carter, Bill Dickey, Javy Lopez, Gabby Hartnett, and Lance Parrish. Three of those catchers are in the Hall (Carter, Dickey and Hartnett) and two are not (Lopez and Parrish). Posada won't get elected next year, but he just may get enough support to stay on the ballot for a couple years.
*Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Vladimir Guerrero are among the most notable first-timers next year, but with Ramirez testing positive for PEDs twice, Rodriguez under a cloud of suspicion, and Guerrero's case being far from a slam dunk among voters so far, it doesn't seem any of them is a sure thing to get elected in 2017.