The possible upcoming Cooperstown ballot apocalypse

Uh-oh. Here it comes.

Here comes the mess, and it’s heading straight for Cooperstown.

This January, the Baseball Writers Association of America held its annual Hall of Fame election, this time voting Barry Larkin into Cooperstown. It was a standard election—something no one will say about the upcoming ones.

The 2013-15 elections promise to be the messiest ones the BBWAA has contended with in over a half-century. We’re about to have two things happen at once: 1) An exceptionally and perhaps unprecedented number of terrific candidates will reach the ballot all at once, and 2) the steroids controversy will reach a new degree of fervor.

Just one of the above would make the upcoming 2013 ballot memorable, but both at the same time? Yikes. And it won’t get much easier in the immediately foreseeable future.

Let’s add some actual detail to the coming Cooperstown ballot mess. Here are the big names reaching the ballot in 2013: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Kenny Lofton and David Wells. Under normal circumstances, there are five or six slam dunk Hall of Famers right there.

They all get to join backloggers Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Lee Smith, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly, Rafael Palmeiro, Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams.

Then in 2014, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez and Moises Alou arrive. Then in 2015, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado and Nomar Garciaparra.

Sure, normally we’d be looking at multiple guys cruising into Cooperstown each year, but these aren’t normal times. The PED cloud plus the sheer volume of strong candidates can create major problems. There’s at least a threat of no one getting into Cooperstown in the mother of all ballot bottlenecks.

Cooperstown’s nightmare scenario

Okay, so steroids will cause candidates like Bonds and Clemens to suffer. But it shouldn’t hurt guys like Biggio or Thomas. So why is there a fear no one will get in?

To understand that, you need to look back at the history of BBWAA voting, specifically what went on in the 1940s. This was the trickiest time for BBWAA voting. Hardly anyone had been put into Cooperstown by that point, and a half-century backlog existed.

The writers wanted to immortalize new candidates, and the ballots of that period averaged about 10 names per ballot, meaning the entire electorate filled their ballots to the maximum allowed. Yet they almost never put players in. In 1942, they elected Rogers Hornsby by the thinnest of margins, just 77 percent of the vote. Then, in their next vote, no one made it in. And it happened again the next time.

What was going on? Well, in part, the BBWAA was hurt by an odd decision to vote every three years. After inducting Hornsby in 1942, they didn’t vote again until 1945. Immediately after that, they shifted back to annual elections, but still couldn’t get anyone in 1946.

And these were some incredibly deep ballots full of worthy candidates. For example, 46 future Hall of Famers received votes in the 1946 ballot. Sure, some don’t belong, but a ton did. Yet the BBWAA couldn’t put a single one in that year despite almost every voter putting 10 names on his ballot.

The very depth of candidates itself was the problem. The 75-percent bar is a difficult one to clear. With a huge number of really strong candidates, it’s harder to stick out of the crowd. It’s not impossible—there is a reason guys like Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth got elected in the 1930s—but if you have a lot of really deserving players, it’s damn difficult for any single one to clear 75 percent. That’s the lesson of the 1940s and the danger the upcoming ballots present.

If you want a more recent example, look at Robin Yount. He was a two-time MVP with over 3,000 hits who spent his entire career playing up-the-middle defensive positions. Normally, guys like him fly into Cooperstown. In fact, from 1986-2010, all other 3,000 hit players received at least 85 percent of the vote their first time, and as his MVPs indicate, Yount was better regarded than the likes of Paul Molitor and Dave Winfield.

Yet, Yount barely made it on his first try with just 77 percent of the vote. It was a crowded ballot, as he debuted alongside Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Carlton Fisk. Thus, a guy like Biggio or Thomas could have trouble he otherwise wouldn’t. And just because Yount barely eked in doesn’t mean Biggio will do likewise in 2013.

Predicting the future

OK, so there’s danger of a complete fiasco, but will it occur?

Let’s forecast ahead as best as we can.

The 2012 election saw a new record set: Only 5.10 names appeared per ballot, a new all-time low. The previous record low was 5.35.

That’s one piece of good news for avoiding a complete mess in upcoming years. Sure, we have the biggest batch of candidates ever coming up, but we also have the most room available for them. Larkin won’t be back, but the 12 others will return next year. They appeared 4.23 times per ballot.

This doesn’t mean that there are 5.77 names/ballot worth of space before people start losing votes. The biggest increase in names per ballot ever came in 1999, when the arrival of Yount, Brett, Fisk, and Ryan caused the names per ballot to leap from 5.41 names/ballot to 6.74. It’s quite possible that the 1999 record increase will be broken in 2013, but it’ll get crowded before the average gets anywhere near 10 names/ballot.

Let’s look at the new guys in 2013. Bonds and Clements top the list. Normally, they’d likely receive 98 percent, but not with the steroids controversy. No one knows how they’ll do exactly. To date, the biggest ‘roid-releated name on the ballot is McGwire. He peaked with 24 percent of the vote and most recently was at 20 percent. He has his supporters, clearly.

That’s the starting point. Those willing to vote for McGwire are incredibly likely to vote for Bonds and Clemens. After all, the latter two have far stronger cases, and if you’re willing to vote for one guy that did steroids, why not another?

Some electors who skipped McGwire could vote for Bonds and Clemens. They’re stronger candidates, and a voter can decide to give no credit to the asterisked years of Bonds and Clemens and still say they deserve induction solely based on their previous seasons. If Bonds started juicing after 1998 (as is commonly believed), you can vote for him just because of his previous seasons.

Okay, so Bonds and Clemens will top 24 percent. By how much? That’s impossible to say. From my own perspective, I’ll say this. The battle lines in the steroids debate seem pretty hard. Those who are opposed to putting juicers in are often adamantly opposed. The nuance of the previous paragraph isn’t their thing. A majority of those not voting for McGwire probably will support neither Bonds nor Clemens.

Let’s do some math. Last year, four-fifths of the voters didn’t support McGwire. Let’s say half of them support Clemens and Bonds. That means two-fifths still oppose, and they each end up with 60 percent of the vote.

But the reality is that it’s doubtful they’ll get half of the votes of the McGwire non-supporters. Maybe a third. Maybe. If that’s the case, then Bonds and Clemens get the 20 percent already voting for McGwire, plus another 26-27 percent (that’s a third of 80 percent). So I’d tentatively put their support at 40-45 percent. I doubt they’ll get more than that, but they could easily get less support.

Actually, the less support that Bonds and Clemens get, the easier it is for anyone else to get elected. Allow me to explain.

Let’s go back to the 1999 election for a second when Yount and Brett and Ryan all debuted. Yount lost support in that crowded ballot, but neither Brett nor Ryan did. In fact, Ryan got 99 percent, one of the best totals ever. Brett was a hair behind at 98 percent. Its funny, crowded ballots usually cause guys to lose support. It happened to Yount and to the 1940s gang, but not Ryan and Brett.

That’s because a player overwhelmingly considered to be the best on the ballot won’t be hurt by the strength of the ballot. All voters will begin by penciling in their pick for the best player, and if everyone agrees that Ryan and Brett (or Cobb and Ruth) are the best guys out there, it doesn’t matter how crowded the rest of the field is.

Let’s take it back to the 2013 election. For a chunk of the electorate, Clemens and Bonds are the best candidates. Everyone agrees they have the best numbers, but that’s not the main factor for many.

A couple of things flow from this. First, for those that put Clemens and Bonds on their ballot, they’ll already have a very tight ballot. Two spaces are already taken up. Plus, about half of them vote for McGwire, and half of McGwire’s supporters also vote for Palmeiro. So whereas most of the electorate has 10 spaces open, others have six-to-eight slots left. Or perhaps five slots, if they vote for Sosa.

And by and large, writers don’t like to use all their slots. The electorate hasn’t averaged over seven names per ballot in over a quarter-century.

What will happen in the remaining slots? Well, the next most prominent newbie is Biggio, a member of the 3,000 hit club. In the last quarter-century, 3,000-hit guys fall into one of three categories on the ballot. (Well, four categories if you count Palmerio, but that’s a special case due to PEDs).

Category one is players who finished with over 90 percent of the vote, guys like Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Rod Carew and Cal Ripken, Jr.. These guys were considered among the best players in their primes and then had long enough careers to accrue impressive career numbers.

A second category is Yount, who for reasons already noted is a special case.

The third category is guys who were really good for a really long time. They lasted long enough to get 3,000 hits but weren’t as well regarded when they played. This group includes Winfield, Molitor, and Eddie Murray. (Sure, Murray came close, but then again, he also had one All-Star game in his last 11 seasons, so his image diminished).

Here’s the kicker: This group all got the exact same vote from the BBWAA. They all got 85 percent. Winfield got 84.5 percent, Molitor 85.2 percent and Murray 85.3 percent. That’s a tight cluster. Normally, Biggio would fall into this group, as he was badly underrated in his prime.

Yeah, but things are not normal next year. Well, check that. For the opponents of Bonds and Clemens, it is a normal year. After all, they still have a blank ballot, and there sits Biggio with his 3,000 hits and no hint of PED usage. He’ll get 85 percent of their vote.

For the Bonds and Clemens supporters, Biggio won’t do as well. Biggio is the third-best new guy in 2013, just like Young was in 1999. And he’s likely to do worse than Yount’s 77 percent among these guys. Under normal circumstances, Yount would be a 90-percent guy. He was a two-time MVP, after all. (Biggio might not seem as good a candidate as Piazza to some, but then again, Fisk debuted alongside Yount, and some might have preferred him, so that’s a wash).

What should happen? Well, among non-Bonds/Clements voters, Biggio should get around 85 percent. With the others, he’ll get less in what’s already a crowded ballot for people willing to support PED-rs. I’d guess he gets 65-70 percent of their vote. Maybe less.

Upshot: Biggio has a very good shot to get in. Assuming he gets 85 percent of the non-Bonds/Clemens guys (and he really should, given the clustering of Molitor/Winfield/Murray right at 85 percent), and assuming Bonds and Clemens get about 40 percent of the vote, Biggio needs only 60 percent of the votes from the supporters of Bonds and Clemens. That should happen.

Actually, I find this a bit surprising. A week ago, I assumed that Biggio was doomed on this messy ballot. That would set off the real nightmare, because if everyone from this year’s vote went into next year, it would be that much harder for anyone to rise up.

But Biggio should go in next year. No one else should. If Fisk couldn’t get elected as the fourth-best new guy in 1999, Piazza won’t in 2012. Schilling will finish further down, and Sosa may be under 10 percent. As for the backloggers, Morris probably won’t move up enough because it is such a strong batch of new guys. I think he’ll get close but ultimately have to go to the VC.

Looking forward: 2014-15

No matter what happens, Maddux should enter Cooperstown in 2014, just like Ryan and Brett did in 2013. When everyone agrees you’re the best, it doesn’t matter how stacked the ballot is.

Fellow 2014 ballot rookies Glavine and Thomas might have it a bit trickier. Both are overwhelmingly deserving, but it’s a really, really crowded ballot, and it’s hard to say who the voters will prefer. On the hyper-crowded 2014 ballot, I can’t see three new guys making it in. My hunch is that Glavine gets in while Thomas just misses, but it could be the other way around. It’s also possible both just fall a little short.

In 2015, Johnson should make it with no problems, just like Maddux the year before. Martinez has a good chance and ordinarily would waltz in, though the overall strength of the ballot and his comparatively short career might hurt.

From the point of view of Cooperstown, though, the nightmare scenario shouldn’t happen. You’ll get at least one new candidate making it in every year. In 2016, when the glut finally subsides a little bit, Ken Griffey, Jr. should make it in, along with at least one guy from the massive backlog, most like Thomas (if he hasn’t gone in already).

Image how packed that ballot would be by 2016, though. If my hunches are correct, the following guys will be on it: Bonds, Clemens, Bagwell, Griffey, Thomas, Mussina, Schilling, Trammell, Walker, Martinez, Palmerio, McGwire, Smoltz, Raines, Sheffield, Sosa, Kent, Piazza, McGriff, Trevor Hoffman, Jim Edmonds and Andy Pettitte.

Normally, all those guys would be legitimate candidates. By 2016, some might be under five percent.

But as long as guys get elected every year, and Cooperstown has a nice draw with its annual induction ceremony, they’ll stick with the status quo and avoid any reforms.

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Comments

  1. David P. Stokes said...

    I think that it may be worse than Chris suggests.  Part of the problem is that we don’t know exactly who did use steroids, so everyone’s a suspect.  There’s not a single player mentioned in the article that I haven’t seen someone suggest used steroids except Greg Maddux.  And I’m sure that there are a few that suspect even Maddux.  And I’ve read other articles where the writer has taken the position that since they don’t know who did and didn’t use during the “steroids era”, they wouldn’t vote for anyone who played during that time (however that era is defined in the writer’s mind), even if they have no suspicions about that particular player.  Granted, I’m not sure that any of those articles were written by anyone who actually has a vote, but the sentiment clearly is out there.

  2. J Alex Keene said...

    Where does Lofton fall?  Isn’t he criminally underrated?  I tend to agree with everyone else, but I think Thomas goes first ballot.

  3. Chris J. said...

    David – it might be worse, but right now the voters have focused really on the guys strongly suspected of ‘roids, not on the class as a whole. The possiblity of blank ballots could ruin it for someone like Biggio, though.

    J. Alex – I doubt Lofton gets 5%.

  4. David P. Stokes said...

    Lofton’s biggest problem wrt the Hall is Tim Raines.  If you look at outfielders who were primarily leadoff men and whose best skill was stealing bases, Raines is clearly the best eligible candidate, with Lofton next behind him.  It’s hard to advocate Lofton’s candidacy while Raines is still on the outside looking in.  Of course, if you had a vote, you could reasonably vote for both of them, but personally, I’d say that on next year’s ballot, Raines is clearly one of the 10 best candidates and Lofton isn’t.  The way it works out, Lofton might be one of the people hurt worst by the backlog we’re going to be looking at, even though he certainly isn’t widely suspected of steroids use.

    Just to be clear, I’m not sure how we can say if he’s underrated, badly or not, by the HOF voters until we actually see how much support he gets in the voting, but IMO he’s a borderline candidate anyway, even without the backlog.

  5. bucdaddy said...

    One of the big problems (one of the many) I’ve been pointing out is that the guys on the ballot are forced to compete against each other for votes, which just ain’t right. If there are 500 voters and 10 guys on the ballot, each guy can potentially get 500 votes, and everybody goes in. But if there are 500 voters and the SAME 10 guys on the ballot plus another 10 guys, each guy can potentially wind up with 250 votes, and NOBODY goes in, no matter how deserving any one of them is. It’s just math.

    And it’s just idiotic.

    I am (once again) advocating that each guy be voted on on his own merits, one at a time. It would defibrillate interest in the Hall if they had one election for one player every month: In or out. Mike Piazza doesn’t have to compete with Bonds and Clemens for votes. Why should he? Just vote on Mike Piazza, and if he gets 75 percent, in he goes. Next month, vote on Roger Clemens. If he goes in, fine. If he doesn’t, he goes to the back of the line, and some year when there’s not such a load of qualified candidates, he can circle around for another try, see if anybody’s changed his mind or if enough old BBWAA guys have died off and enough new guys with different opinions come on.

    How hard is this to see? The potential interest it would generate is enormous.

  6. bucdaddy said...

    And while I’m at it: A panel of broadcasters, former players and executives and coaches and managers, and the PAYING PUBLIC (via an Internet or Twitter vote every month) should be allowed to select the player each month that the writers (until they grow a conscience about their ethical obligations, at least) then vote on.

    This should also serve at the very least to get the guys like (for heaven’s sake, seriously?) Tony Womack and Terry Mulholland off the ballot from the start, guys who had zero chance anyway but for whom somebody with fond memories or just trying to be nice always seems to waste a vote or two on.

    Serious candidates ONLY!

  7. bucdaddy said...

    OK, one more:

    Imagine if, right now, instead of dreading the coming Hallpocalypse, we were engaged in a nationwide discussion/argument about the merits of just one ballplayer: Craig Biggio. His record could be turned upside down and inside out, ESPN could fill air time with specials filled with [people talking about what a fine player and person Biggio was … or about what an undeserving Hall candidate his is, or whatever. And on Jan. 29, starting at 7 p.m., ESPN can do a two-hour retrospective of Biggio’s career with Biggio right there in the studio, perhaps arguing his own case, or at least watching with friends and family while the Twitter tally comes in, general election-style, with all votes public, and some of the voters explaining their rationale.

    Think you’d watch that? Think you’d watch 12 of those a year?

    As you note, Chris, the Hall voting system hasn’t always been the same as it is now, so there’s no reason it has to stay the way it is now. As an alternative, why not switch to a run-off format? The first vote, the one in January, could be used to pare down the list to (just cause it’s a good baseball number) nine, and a second vote held in March, to increase the likelihood that at least ONE guy gets in every year, and keep the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce happy.

    I could sit here all day and imagine better voting systems than the Hall has now, and I’m an idiot, so smarter guys than me ought to be able to fix this mess …

    Oh, wait, I forgot we were talking about the BBWAA.

    Never mind.

  8. Richard Barbieri said...

    I would be very surprised if Glavine didn’t in on his first try—300 wins is still 300 wins—but equally surprised if Thomas did. 500 HR doesn’t carry the weight it used to, and I see his peak being under appreciated.

  9. Edmundo said...

    bucdaddy,  I’m inclined towards your suggestion of the one-a-month club except that football would adopt it because it’s so successful and when Bret Favre’s month came up my head would just explode.

  10. bobm said...

    Chris:

    Would you share any more detail on the rationale behind your Jack Morris prediction?  Will the new guys really be attractive enough to distract the MSM writers away from the winningest pitcher of the 1980s? smile. Are there other cases besides Hodges and Bunning that are worth looking at?

    “As for the backloggers, Morris probably won’t move up enough because it is such a strong batch of new guys. I think he’ll get close but ultimately have to go to the VC.”

  11. Ted M said...

    I agree with Richard that it’s pretty unlikely Thomas gets in on the first try.  Despite being the player who was most vocally anti-steroids before the whole storm hit, I think he still takes a hit for being a power hitter during the “steroid era” from voters who don’t do enough research to realize that and just discount them all.

    Then he’ll take another hit because of the segment of the writer population that forgets his prime and focuses on the long decline as an old, slow, oft injured slugger.

    Then he’ll take the third big hit because he spent a lot of time at DH and there’s the segment of the voting population who doesn’t like to vote for a DH.

    All told, I’m thinking that despite being one of the greatest hitters the game has ever seen, Thomas is going to come in somewhere in the 50-60% range.

  12. Chris J. said...

    bobm—Morris has to swim upstream against a very strong tide of incoming candidates.  I know in 1988 Jim Bunning got 74% of the vote, and then next year not only couldn’t get the remaining 1%, but actually lost votes before Yaz, Bench, Perry, Jenkins, and Kaat – all of whom debuted that year.

    Morris doesn’t have as many directly comparable guys reaching the ballot next year, but then again he doesn’t have to gain just 1%.

    Next year sucks for the backlog. 

    As for Glavine and Thomas, I agree Glavine should go in, but there are so many good pitchers on that ballot. 

    In the past, 300 wins has actually meant less to the BBWAA than 500 homers.  Perry, Sutton, and Niekro all took multiple ballots to get in.  In the last 25 years or so, I can’t think of any non-PED-related 500 HR guys who had to wait.  Aside from McGwire & Palmeiro, has any 500 HR guy since Killebrew & Mathews had to wait?  I don’t have the info with me, but I can’t think of any.

    Plus Thomas might get a bump as the Clean Slugger – the openly anti-PED guy.

  13. Paul said...

    In your analysis of Biggio’s chances, you posit that he would/could get less than 70% from the voters who choose to put players with the steroid taint on their ballots while the “no-steroid” voters would fall within the 85% bounds of the 3rd group 3k hitters. I would argue that Biggio would get the same 85% or even more from the “sterioders are welcome” group. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that those who put steroiders on their ballots tend to be more open-minded, saber-friendly, logical-thinking people who would just put all the players they think are deserving of the Hall on their ballot without silly constraints such as “first-ballot honors” or “too many at the same time” or “DHs shouldn’t be in the Hall”. Sure they might have Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Bagwell, and Palmeiro on their ballots next year, but that willingness to look at facts instead of feelings would probably lead them to add Biggio and maybe others, not say “hey, I don’t like to have more than 6 slots filled” and just arbitrarily cut it off there.

    Also, the people that probably LOWER the average when looking at how many players are on each ballot are the “anti-steroid” voters anyways…they will have 0-3 players on their ballot, meaning all those “steroid” voters necessarily have to have more than 5 just to give the average number that you presented. If my (admitedly unresearched) theory is true.

  14. John said...

    I wonder if they increased the arbitrary maximium number of votes on a ballot from 10 to 15, would that make any difference at all?

  15. Chris J. said...

    Paul – they’ll be more open minded, but they’ll have less space.  If Robin Yount went from 90+% down to 77% because he was the third best guy on the ballot, Biggio should lose something. 

    John – if they increased the minimum to 15 it would make some difference, but I can’t imagine they’ll do that.  They only way they’d do that is if they had a meltdown w/ no one getting elected – but that doesn’t seem likely.

  16. Dave said...

    Great column!

    What about turnover in the BBWAA?  How much turnover is there?  Would that get new voters in that are more stat savvy?

  17. Chris Jaffe said...

    Turnover is fairly slow going.  There’s some every year, but it’s never drastic every year.  Some are more stat savvy, but two-thirds supported Morris last year, and they inducted Jim Rice not so long ago.

  18. Bob Evans said...

    One other thing about Thomas:  he was the worst fielder many of us have ever seen.  That might sway a few folks as well.

  19. David P. Stokes said...

    I don’t think that increasing the number of players a voter is allow to name on a ballot would have much impact.  Most of the voters never use all their 10 votes anyway.

  20. rubesandbabes said...

    Nice article – logjam.

    I’m pretty sure Bonds will make the HOF after say 4-7 years, and betting he will be the first of the known PED guys. But like the article states, there could be these hard-liners keeping him from ever reaching 75%…and then none of them go in, except those that got away with it.

    No idea about Clemens, who seems marginally more problematic than Bonds, if only for his character issues post-career. Maybe not – years later who will even remember some of the little stuff (like apparently hiring Jose Canseco of all people to vouch for his marital fidelity, while having that affair/whatever with the teenage singer)?

    The idea that assuming that Bonds was clean before 1999 to me is poppycock, flawed, and I equate this sympathy with the ‘Pete Rose should go in for what he did as a player’ camp. Who really knows? McGwire looks to have used PEDs early in his career, I’m pretty sure of that. Still this will be the calling card of Bonds voters, and once he starts trending upward…

    ==

    I was surprised to see Bagwell’s vote surge this year, but trending upward he is. In my mind Bagwell has jumped the line somewhat.

    ==

    Hall of Fame and PED use just really has all the writers running for cover. The way it shapes up now, guys are getting in (Robbie Alomar) and on the way (Piazza, Thome) on the basis of never being caught red-handed, which is being morphed into somehow never been suspected, and therefore we can vote this candidate. It’s a way out for HOF voters.

    Regardless of his possible innocence, the whole ‘Jim Thome has never ever been associated with blah blah blah,’ is just a wrong anointing, random, and just for example ignores his playing for years with Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Jason Grimsley. It’s just a cooked up half-solution, and it is happening.

    I’m guessing PED suspect Mike Piazza is gonna get this ‘never any evidence’ treatment, too, and enter the HOF very quickly – but somehow Ivan Rodriguez won’t, and will have to wait years. I will very surprised if Piazza doesn’t glide right in.

    ==

    Ryan Braun getting busted is good and illuminating for the sport because it puts the ‘Steroid Era,’ right back in the present. What Victor Conte recently said is true – guys have moved on to fast-dissolving roids.

    ==

    No real honest discourse exists about the overall PED health issues vs. real life. Nobody is asking fun questions like why did guys like Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte apparently suggest to their own family members to take PEDS?

    Even better, why do so many policemen where I live really have the appearance of being on roids these days, too?

    ==

    Veering off-topic, that guy Jeff Novitzky snuck around outside the Balco offices in the shadow of Candlestick, digging through the trash at night for a year putting together his case while working for the IRS.

    Question: Who at the FDA hired away Jeff Novitzky to go after Lance Armstrong as an international drug trafficker? Who made the call and how high up in the US Gov’t does that go?

    Thanks very much for reading if you made it this far!

  21. chmch said...

    Nice column, good ideas, but if Barry Bonds gets into the Hall, the meaning of the HOF ends.  I will just have no desire to see it or respect left for it. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way. Somehow separating the two halves of Bond’s career is a lame-wristed cop-out. That’s like a robber is not guilty, because he didn’t rob before he robbed. Get real. And honest. Unlike Bonds himself.

  22. Eric Chalek said...

    Chris, great piece as ever. With so many likely candidates clogging up the ballot in 2014-2017, the Hall faces a second nightmare…strong candidates not getting 5%. Edmonds, Kent, Edgar, mcgriff, Walker, Mussina, Lofton, Posada, Trammell in the most danger among “clean” players. Palmeiro and Sheffield among the “unclean.”

    This is their back door nightmare because it (a) cuts down the number of potentially electable players during a time of weak consensus due to PEDbashing increases the likelihood of an elect-0 year in any given year and (b) defers election for some by as long as 20 to 50 years or more during which there may continue to be backlog buildup and regurgitate these steroid driven issues in 2030 or so. This latter is bad because people turn out for the living not the dead….

  23. Chris J. said...

    Eric – interesting points.  Lofton is the sort of guy who’d likely not make 5% regardless.  Maybe not Posada either (if Bernie can finish only around 10% on a weak ballot, Posada is screwed). 

    As for McGriff, Walker, Martinez – doubtful. Currenlty, the record of most votes by someone who ever fell under 5% is Sparky Lyle, who peaked at 13%.  We could easily see that broken, but these guys are way over 5%.  A Mickey Lolich scenario is more likely.  He was at 20-25% before the 300-game-winners showed up, and fell down to barely over 5% repeatedly—but never went under. 

    If enough guys like you well enough to vote for you in slack years, you’ll likely have a 5% core stand by you in the rough years.

    Alan Trammell will never finish under 5%.  He’s too high up with too few years on the ballot and not many directly similar players about to hit the ballot alongside him.

  24. BobDD said...

    the one commenter says that if Bonds goes in it will ruin the Hall for him:

    That’s insane to me.  Bonds is one of the truly greats, inner-circle HOF players in history.  He even had at least one season better than anything Ruth did.  That he juiced up at 35 can make his later seasons suspect but does nothing to compromise his earlier career.  He had a HOF career. 

    His punishment for cheating is to be known as a cheater who disrespected the game. That’s enough.

  25. Ta192 said...

    Here’s how I see it.  The steroid issue has essentially split the BBWA voting membership into two competitive camps.  One group, probably the smaller but still significant, will generally ignore the PED discussion and vote for an all inclusive group of candidates.  The second group will only consider a much smaller field, “untainted”, as it were by even the hint of PED usage.  It does not take a PhD to realize that there will be virtually no crossover between the two lists of high votes candidates from each pile.  This suggests to me that over the next 4 years:
    A)  NO ONE gets in, or…
    B)  Maddux scrapes through, but noone else.

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