Hey, sorry to spoil your Wednesday on a Tuesday, but it had to be done. As you might have seen, Baseball Think Factory has been collating the Hall of Fame ballots that have been made public by the BBWAA electorate and they've been using them to poll the progress of the candidates. With 21.8 percent of precincts reporting and 125 ballots counted, it's looking likely that no one will get a Cooperstown plaque this season via the writers. Why? Because the electorate as a whole is confused about what to do with alleged steroid users.
Right now, here's what the top of the 2013 field looks like, via BBTF. Remember, a player needs to be named of 75 percent of the ballots to be inducted:
• Craig Biggio, 68 percent
• Jeff Bagwell, 64.4 percent
• Jack Morris, 64 percent
• Tim Raines, 63.2 percent
• Mike Piazza, 61.6 percent
• Roger Clemens, 44.8 percent
• Barry Bonds, 44.8 percent
(Bonds and Clemens both at 44.8 percent — odd!)
Now, maybe there's another 7 percent among the outstanding ballots to get Biggio to the required 75 percent threshold, it's just doubtful. And maybe the demographic of "uncounted" voters is waiting in the weeds to give Jack Morris that push over the cliff to immortality. But probably not. So that leaves everybody out and nobody in this year, except for the trio of new members from a veterans committee. Unfortunately, none of those Hall of Famers-elect are still alive, meaning this year would be the first time since 1960 with no living inductees.
Nobody?! With all of these, well, Hall of Fame-caliber players on the ballot? Outrage!
As you might guess, such a thing has happened before.
The BBWAA has failed to elect anyone to the Hall a total of 15 times since 1940. The writers didn't elect anyone in 1941, '43, '45 and '46, primarily because the Hall was new and there were so many candidates that the ballots were clogged and nobody could get 75 percent with each voter being limited to only 10 selections per year. For example, Rogers Hornsby was elected in 1942 on his fifth try with 78.1 percent of the vote (let that sink in). And he was the only one who made it! But 44 more players behind him on the '42 ballot would someday get into Cooperstown. But none in 1943, of course. Incredible.
Another lockout of sorts happened from 1957 to 1961, and in '63, '65, '69 and 1971. Just imagine how lousy Cooperstown, N.Y. was feeling from '40-'43, and in '58 and '60 when nobody new — not from the writers, nor from a veterans committee — got elected. That really must have been great for tourism.
The most recent time the writers elected no one was in 1996, when knuckleball king Phil Niekro, slugger Tony Perez and right-hander Don Sutton all received percentages in the 60s to lead the field. Not good enough. They all got in eventually, starting with Niekro the next year. I remember '96, and though the Internet wasn't what it has become today, you could still feel the semi-outrage that the stars of the 1970s weren't getting enough love. Some were scratching their chins about Tony Oliva, who fell off the ballot after missing for the 15th time. Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter didn't seem to be making much progress. The same went for Tommy John and Jim Kaat. The likes of Dick Allen, Curt Flood, Luis Tiant, Minnie Minoso, Joe Torre, Vada Pinson and Bobby Bonds were running out of time. Dave Concepcion and Steve Garvey were never going to get enough votes. The level of support for Graig Nettles, Fred Lynn and Keith Hernandez was shockingly low. Frank White was one and done.
But all of that was not like this.
There's nothing in the charter that demands that writers elect anyone in a given year, nor should there be. Generally speaking, it's a good thing that "none" is an option. Yeah, it's a drag, not only for baseball fans but also for the businesses of Cooperstown — not the least of which is the Hall itself. But there should be some kind of exclusivity to it, and the BBWAA has done a spectacular job of maintaining it through the years. The various committees of veterans who also have elected members to the Hall, well, that's another matter sometimes.
But what's happening this season is shameful. These are some of the giants (literally and figuratively) of baseball during the past 30 years. Bonds, Clemens, Piazza — arguably the greatest players at their positions ever (maybe not Clemens, but close). Biggio, Bagwell, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa — "surefire someday Hall of Famers" at certain points history. Raines should have been in already. And then there's the angry Morris mustache crowd. And the should-be angry Alan Trammell crowd. The DH-loving Edgar Martinez society. And the strange-os who vote out of protest for Pete Rose, who is ineligible. There are good reasons not to vote for some of these players, even many of them. But there's no good reason to keep them all out.
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