On Wednesday, Jack Morris fell off the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot after coming up short (61.5 percent) of the 75 percent needed for election in his 15th and final year of eligibility. Morris, who has been the central focus of heated Hall of Fame debates for the better part of the last decade, expressed his disappointment with the committee’s decision, but also breathed a very public sigh of relief knowing his name and his legacy would finally get a break from the constant debates and critique.
That's the small silver lining for Morris. His name will come out of the spotlight, at least until he becomes eligible for the Expansion Era Committee ballot in 2016. In the meantime, another player is likely to be elevated into his vacated position as the most hotly debated potential Hall of Famer. It's actually inevitable, because let's face it, the world we live in now is driven by debates and disagreements both on blogs like Big League Stew and in social media.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at the list of candidates most likely to create the most divisive Hall of Fame debates going forward.
Tim Raines (2014: 46.1 percent, 7th year on ballot)
Raines has been a distant second to Morris as the most hotly debated non-PED accused Hall of Fame candidate in recent years, so he seems like the most logical player to take over the reins, so to speak.
After a 23-year playing career, Raines certainly has longevity in his favor. It could also be argued for a five-year span from 1983-1987 (.318/.406/.467, 57 homers, 302 RBIs and 355 steals), Raines was the most dangerous player in the NL. He ranks fifth all-time in stolen bases (808), to go along with career 2,605 hits and 1,571 runs scored. On the downside, Raines appeared in seven career all-star games, but none of them came after his ninth year in the league. So thumbs up to longevity, but the sustained excellence voters look for might not be there.
Alan Trammell (2014: 20.8, 13th year)
With two years remaining on the ballot, the case for and against Trammell is likely to pick up steam over the next 12 months. It seems like it should be a pretty solid case, too. After all, Trammell's career offensive WAR (62.3) is better than other Hall of Fame shortstops like Ernie Banks (62.0), Pee Wee Reese (55.4) and Ozzie Smith (47.8). His career defensive WAR (22.0) measures up with the competition as well, but coming in with just 20.8 percent of the vote is not encouraging at this stage in his eligibility. Perhaps a renewed focus on his case will do him some good in 2015.
Jeff Bagwell (2014: 54.3, 4th year)
It's a little more complicated with Bagwell since he's among those believed to be guilty of PED use during his career. The numbers (449 home runs and 1,529 RBI) and accolades (Rookie of the Year, MVP and four-time all-star) say he belongs, but there will always be a divide between those who feel he cheated the game and those who don't or don't care. That debate will also exist for Mike Piazza, but it feels like he's in a position to get in sooner than Bagwell.
Curt Schilling (2014: 29.2, 2nd year)
Schilling's percentage figures to trend upward in the coming years, which will keep him safely on the ballot and eventually spark more debate on his candidacy. There may not be the same urgency for his case as there will be for Trammell and Raines, but with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez eligible for the first time in 2015 — and virtual locks to get in — Schilling's name will come up a lot in comparisons. Mike Mussina (20.3 percent) could be in the same boat.
By the way, this list is also open for debate. Feel free to weigh with your thoughts and players who may have been overlooked.
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