In 2015, the National Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined four players — Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. It was the largest class inducted in 60 years. On Monday, the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released. Will next year’s class be just as large? In order to be inducted, a player must receive at least 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). Members of the BBWAA can vote for up to 10 players. If I were a member of the BBWAA, this would be my 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot. Please note that many on this list were on my 2015 ballot.
1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
This is The Kid’s first year of eligibility. Griffey Jr. is a shoo-in for induction. In 22 seasons, Junior collected 2,781 hits, had a lifetime batting average of .284, blasted 630 home runs, drove in 1836 runs, was named to 13 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Gloves. and earned the AL MVP in 1997.
As astonishing as Griffey’s stats are, one can only wonder what they would have been had he not been plagued with injuries during the 2000s. After Griffey, Jr. was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds, his career was plagued by injuries. Between 2001 and 2010, he played more than 140 games in a season only twice. Had Griffey, Jr. been healthy there’s a good chance he would have been the first, and not Barry Bonds, to pass Hank Aaron on the all-time home run list.
2. Trevor Hoffman
It’s Trevor Time. Also in his first year of eligibility, Hoffman amassed 601 saves over 18 seasons mostly with the San Diego Padres. Those 601 saves are second only to Mariano Rivera on the all-time list and the most in NL history. A 7-time NL All-Star, he is one of only two relievers to save 200 or more games in two different decades. The other reliever is Lee Smith.
3. Lee Smith
Unlike Hoffman, Smith is in his 15th and final year of eligibility on the ballot (the eligibility period is now 10 years, but it is grandfathered for Smith and Alan Trammell). His 478 career saves over 18 seasons was sufficient to make him MLB’s all-time leader until he was passed by Hoffman in 2006. Yet those 478 saves have only warranted more than 50% of the BBWAA once, back in 2012. In 2015, Smith barely managed 30% of the vote. I have few illusions that he will increase his vote total by 45% this time around, but he would get my vote if I had one to give. Perhaps the Veterans Committee will look on his candidacy more favorably.
4. Alan Trammell
Like Smith, Trammell is in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Despite being one half of the greatest double play combination in MLB history with Lou Whitaker, Trammell’s high water mark by the BBWAA was 36.2% in 2012. By 2014, he had fallen to 20.8%. In 2015 his vote total went up to 25.1%. But if Smith is unlikely to receive a 45% increase in his vote, then Trammell is surely unlikely to get a 50% increase. Again, perhaps the Veterans Committee will give Trammell (and for that matter Whitaker) the recognition they deserve.
5. Tim Raines
It will be interesting to see where Raines’ vote total goes in his 9th and penultimate year of eligibility. In 2015, his vote total went from 46.1% to 55%. If it surges again perhaps he will get over the finish line for 2017. Raines’ 808 stolen bases are worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown.
6. Fred McGriff
Entering his 7th year of eligibility, The Crime Dog’s vote total went from a peak of 23.9% in 2012 all the way down to 11.7% last year. In 2015, McGriff’s vote total increased modestly to 12.9%. McGriff finished his 19-year career with 493 home runs. If the 1994 season hadn’t been shortened by a strike, there is little doubt that his home run total would have exceeded 500. I would hate to think that seven home runs are all that will keep him out of Cooperstown.
7. Jeff Bagwell
This past year, Bagwell’s close friend and Houston Astros teammate Craig Biggio was part of the Class of 2015. The Killer B’s should have been inducted together. Bagwell has been unfairly and unjustly lumped with the sluggers of the Steroids Era even though he never tested positive for banned substances much less appeared in the Mitchell Report. Thanks to those aspersions Bagwell has never received more than 60% of the BBWAA vote.
8. Larry Walker
A three-time NL batting champion and a seven-time Gold Glove winner, Walker has yet to garner more than 22.9% of the vote in his five years on the ballot. In 2014, his vote fell to 10.2%. This year, he received a modest increase to 11.8%. Walker has a lot of ground to make up and I don’t think even his defensive prowess can meet that challenge. I suspect that his tenure with the Colorado Rockies in hitter-friendly Coors Field has been held against him. Is the BBWAA trying to tell us that members of the Rockies aren’t worthy of inclusion in Cooperstown?
9. Curt Schilling
After falling from 38.8% to 29.2% of the BBWAA vote in 2014, Schilling gained a full 10% in 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses that 10% because of his conservative views and “controversial” tweets that got him suspended by ESPN this past summer. If that happens it would be a shame, because Schilling should be judged by his 3,000 plus strikeouts, his 11-2 post-season record, and his three World Series rings.
10. Jeff Kent
He is simply the best hitting second baseman in MLB history. But his vote total fell from 15.2% to 14% in 2015. Never a popular figure with either his teammates or the baseball writers, it would not shock me if he is inducted by the Veterans Committee 30 years from now.
These are my Cooperstown Class of 2016. Please feel free to share your list.
The BBWAA will announce its results on January 6, 2016.
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