Although it's still November, the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot has been released. Eligible BBWAA writers will have until December 31st to get their votes in prior to the January reveal.
Some of the logjam has been cleared by the past few big classes, but there are still plenty of worthy names in the mix. That's why when I asked the Pinstripe Alley staff for their mock votes, almost everyone used all 10 possible slots. I know personally that I would have gone over 10 if there was no limit, too. We used the Hall of Fame's rules requiring 75 percent of votes for election, so at least 11 of the 14 staff members. We chose eight candidates for induction:
Here's the breakdown per ballot with the player numbers in no particular order, though I did organize them later to make it easier to tabulate.
|Player 1||Player 2||Player 3||Player 4||Player 5||Player 6||Player 7||Player 8||Player 9||Player 10|
No one questions the statistical candidacies of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. They are, at the very least, in the conversation for the best hitter and pitcher who ever played the game. The PED cloud hangs over them though, so they will remain in BBWAA limbo for the time being. They both jumped into the mid-forties for percentage last year, a new high. We've had no problems voting for them in the past, so they're both unanimously in for us.
Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez are often unfairly lumped in with PED-implicated players. There is no hard evidence against them, as neither were included in positive tests, the Mitchell Report, the BALCO investigation, the partially leaked 2003 list, or anything like that. The allegations were simply made by other people, like Jose Canseco (in Rodriguez's case) or suspicious baseball writers. That's crap and it's the same reason that it took Mike Piazza four years to reach Cooperstown. Bagwell was a 449-homer, 149 OPS+ monster at first base, and he should be in.
Since Bagwell was on 71.6% of ballots last year (15 votes shy of induction), he should receive the necessary bump to reach Cooperstown this year, his seventh chance for election. Rodriguez was one of the best catchers in baseball history, so theoretically, he should be a slam dunk too, but frankly, I'm expecting the BBWAA to shut him out at least one year. Oh well. They were both easy picks for us.
Tim Raines and Mike Mussina were the last two unanimous picks by the PSA staff. There are plenty of good cases around the internet for these two former Yankees (I recommend these in particular), who were underrated both during their careers and now afterword. Mussina will be in his fourth year on the ballot and he jumped from 24.6% in 2015 to 43% in 2016; election won't come this year but the likelihood is trending in the right direction.
This will be the last shot for Raines on the BBWAA ballot though. He was only 23 ballots short with 69.8% of the vote in 2016, so since players near election in their last year on the ballot often receive one more bump to get in, Raines should be in good shape. No matter what pre-election tallies say though, his candidacy is going to come right down to the wire, even though he should have been in years ago. If he doesn't get in this time, then it will be up to a future Veterans Committee panel.
Edgar Martinez is our seventh choice and another tremendous player who has a tough road ahead. Despite being the best designated hitter of all time with a monstrous .312/.418/.515 triple slash, 514 doubles, and a 147 OPS+ in 2,055 games, voters seem unwilling to vote for a DH. That doesn't make sense to me since it's been a real position for 43 years and even though they're specialists, voters seem to have no qualms about voting for closers, who are also specialists. It's going to be tough to convince the anti-DH voters, but perhaps the possible Raines induction should inspire Edgar fans. He soared to a personal best 43.4% finish in his seventh ballot appearance in 2016, quite close to the 46.1% Raines tallied in his seventh appearance. Fingers crossed.
Vladimir Guerrero is the PSA staff's final choice, and he should have a solid shot at making the Hall in his first appearance before BBWAA voters, too. The 2004 AL MVP and owner of 449 career homers as well as a .318/.379/.553 triple slash, Guerrero had a cannon of an arm in right field to boot. Guerrero also has plenty of mythos around him, which certainly helps the narrative. It will be interesting to see how he fares.
Among the rest:
- Trevor Hoffman has the best chance for 2017 induction since he was a popular NL closer for decades, second only to Mariano Rivera in saves. In his first BBWAA appearance last year, he garnered 67.3% of the vote, a very strong showing. If he doesn't reach the Hall this year, he will in 2018.
- I like Larry Walker's candidacy a lot (even better than Guerrero, honestly, since he was a more complete player) and think people discount him too much because of Coors Field. He's heading into his seventh year on the ballot though and hasn't even received 20% of the vote since 2013, so he seems destined for the Veterans Committee.
- Given how the BBWAA treated the only previous Hall of Fame candidate to test positive for PEDs (Rafael Palmeiro, who fell off the ballot after four years), I do not expect much from Manny Ramirez in his first ballot appearance. He was such a transcendent hitter that he should receive the 5% minimum to remain on the ballot, but I would be stunned if the BBWAA ever came close to electing him.
- Curt Schilling sure does love destroying his Hall of Fame chances, doesn't he? He was on over half the ballots for the first time last year but after tweeting about lynching journalists, I'm wagering that he sinks like a rock.
- Regrettably, Jorge Posada just doesn't quite compare to the rest of the players on the Hall of Fame ballot. Like Bernie Williams, I expect him to hang around on the ballot for a year or two, but he seems like a Hall of Very Good guy.
- Cheers to Lee Smith in his 15th and final year of inevitably prompting me to ask "How did over 140 people vote for Lee Smith?"
Who would you vote into Cooperstown this year?