There have been Hall of Fame ballots in years past where you could scan the list and think to yourself: there's no way I could pick ten names. But these things ebb and flow like anything else, and with the rash of superstars that have retired in recent seasons BBWAA members now find themselves with a unique challenge: vote in the guys who deserve to be voted in, potentially at the expense of a couple of other deserving players.
New arrivals to this year's ballot include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield. The first two are legitimate first-ballot guys, and the latter certainly deserve plenty of consideration. Of course the problem is that by adding a few players who are so sure to garner votes, a number of the existing players who have been slowly drumming up support for what are admittedly borderline cases (Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez) will end up losing votes.
The end game here, and you know where I'm going, is that a number of deserving players will be elected while a number of players whose debate would rage on before, perhaps, eventually gaining enshrinement, will fall short of the 5% required to stay on the ballot for next year. There's a real chance that guys like Sheffield, Walker, McGriff, and Sammy Sosa fall off of the ballot because of an influx of eligible nominees.
Enter Mike Berardino. Mike has been getting a lot of flack on Twitter for his ballot, which didn't include the aforementioned Johnson or Martinez, nor Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, but included Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, and Larry Walker. The outrage isn't that he included Schilling, Trammell, or Walker, but that he excluded - specifically - Johnson and Martinez. Berardino posted his explanation, not that the haters are bothering to read it, but essentially Mike is attempting to bridge the problem we've just gone over. He knows that Martinez and Johnson aren't in any danger of falling off the ballot and in all likelihood will be first ballot Hall of Famers, and so he's doing what he can to ensure that other deserving players keep their heads above water.
It's a calculated risk, and one I can appreciate. Dick Bremer may not have the same philosophy, but it's not as though the guys Berardino is voting for aren't Hall-worthy.
Let's not make this any more complicated than it is. A HOF ballot should be filled out w/ belief "player X" is HOFer or not...PERIOD!— Dick Bremer (@dbremer_pxp) January 5, 2015
Ryan Thibs is posting results of ballots that have been made public, which you can view here. As of this writing he's tabulated results for 154 voters, which is roughly 27% of all ballots. Based on these results, Don Mattingly, Mark McGwire, and the aforementioned Sheffield, Sosa, and Walker all have less than 10%. McGriff and Jeff Kent have less than 15%, and Smith isn't far off. Maybe you could dismiss one or two of those guys out of hand, but most of them deserve to see if they can garner support over the next few years.
I don't think there's a great deal of sanctity when it comes to the Hall of Fame. There are guidelines for induction that are given to BBWAA members for consideration as they tick their boxes on the ballot, but they're still largely subjective guidelines. It's why we debate the merits of the issue year after year, leaving us with a massive gray area between the Walter Johnsons and the Kirby Pucketts of the world, and it's why we sometimes need multiple years to decide whether or not a player is worthy of induction. (And yes, while I'm at it, Pete Rose has done his time - let him in. Honestly - nobody will ever break his career hit record. He deserves it.)
Credit Berardino for having the balls to understand what's at stake on these ballots right now, and for doing what he clearly thought was the right thing. Johnson and Martinez aren't losing anything, but when it comes to a few of these guys a single vote may mean the difference between dropping off the ballot or living to fight another day.
For what it's worth, according to our community vote last week you voted in: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, and Mike Piazza. Jeff Bagwell was north of 70 but didn't hit the requisite 75%.
Finally, because I've been asked, my ballot would be:
- Pedro Martinez
- Randy Johnson
- Barry Bonds
- Roger Clemens
- Mike Mussina
- Jeff Bagwell
- Craig Biggio
- Larry Walker
- John Smoltz
- Mike Piazza