Thursday, January 02, 2014

My Hypothetical Hall of Fame Ballot

If you weren't instantly put off by the title, and you've read even this far, it likely means you're one of the few who haven't already had enough of this subject for the year. That being said, I'll try to be as brief as possible.

13 of the players on this year's ballot are already in my personal Hall of Fame, and several easy choices are new to the ballot. So, obviously, the process of narrowing my selections down to ten creates some serious dilemmas.

I know this doesn't make me unique, but I've decided, if I had a Hall of Fame ballot, I'd use it strategically out of necessity. That is, unfortunately, I wouldn't simply vote for the ten players I consider to be the most worthy candidates.

Enough has been written about the glut of qualified candidates on the ballot, and the fact that situation is only going to get worse in upcoming years, so I'll not belabor that point. But, the thing that could help alleviate the situation, short of a change in the rule allowing each voter to vote for only ten players, is for some of this year's qualified candidates to get elected. 

So, to that end, my first priority would be to vote for the Hall-worthy players who have a chance of getting in:

Greg Maddux is the only player who's basically guaranteed to be a member of Cooperstown's class of 2014.

Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, also newcomers to the ballot, would be virtual locks in almost any other year. 

Craig Biggio came close last year. He probably won't get the boost needed to get in this year, but he has the best chance of all the returning candidates. 

My next priority would be to vote for the qualified candidates who are in danger of falling below the requisite 5% to remain on the ballot:

I think Larry Walker is in serious jeopardy of being the guy bumped off of many of the ballots that included him last year in favor of the first-timers. 

Based on last year's results, Edgar Martinez has nothing to worry about. However, I expect his support to take a bigger hit than most this year because of his status as a perceived fringe candidate. 

Mike Mussina is this year's wild card. I could see him getting nearly as much support as Curt Schilling received last year (probably not) or somewhere around the 5% borderline. I think he'll be OK, but I'd vote for him just to be safe.* 

That leaves me with three more votes to award to candidates who don't have a chance of getting in this year, but also aren't likely to fall off the ballot either. So, I've decided my third priority will be players whose candidacies need to continue their momentum towards 75%. 

Believe it or not, I considered not voting for Tim Raines. But, in his 7th year on the ballot, I don't think he can afford to take a major step back, although a slight reduction in support seems likely. 

Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are going to get in eventually, I think. Basically, my final choices came down to them or the duo of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

So, Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Biggio, Walker, Martinez, Mussina, Raines, Bagwell and Piazza it is.

*As it turns out, Mussina has received 35 votes from among 101 voters who've made their ballots public to date. Last year, a total of 569 votes were cast, so it appears he already has enough support to remain on the ballot. But, I wasn't aware of this at the time of this writing, which technically was after the ballot submission deadline anyway, so I'll stand behind my methodology here. 

It's hard to believe this means I'm leaving Bonds, Clemens and Curt Schilling off. Schilling probably isn't in danger of dropping off, but he's my riskiest omission. 

Bonds and Clemens aren't going anywhere, but since they're the two best players on the ballot, it feels really weird to not vote for them. 

That leaves Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa as the Hall-worthy players I'm writing off as lost causes. The latter two or three are probably the weakest candidates of the 17 I'd like to vote for anyway. 

I'd also like to see Jeff Kent (who I'm still undecided about) get a longer look, but I just can't find a place for him on my ballot. 

Unfortunately, this is how progressive voters need to approach their ballots, in my opinion. Personally, I'm far from certain I've made all the right decisions here, but I feel pretty confident my top two selection criteria are the way to go. 

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