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Hall of Fame: Fred McGriff and five other players whose candidacy is in jeopardy

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
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Baseball is one of the few prominent sports that isn’t defined or determined by time. However, when it comes to baseball’s Hall of Fame voting process, time, and sometimes space, make all the difference in the world.

That’s the reality several notable Hall of Fame candidates are facing as we approach the unveiling of the 2019 class.

For some, time is running out. That’s the position Fred McGriff is in. To be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), candidates must be named on 75 percent of the ballots turned in by qualified voters. If they don’t receive the necessary votes after 10 years on the ballot, their name comes off and their fate will be determined down the road by a veteran’s committee.

McGriff has fallen short nine times, and his 10th try is shaping up to be another disappointment.

For others, such as Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte and Lance Berkman, there’s simply not enough room on the ballot for their case to be considered. For many in this category, the road will end before it starts. That’s because candidates are required to earn at least five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot. But with 35 players on the ballot and voters limited to 10 choices, it’s difficult to survive.

Today, we’ll focus in on these notable candidates, McGriff, Jones, Pettitte and Berkman included, whose cases deserved more attention than they’ve gotten, but are now in jeopardy of disappearing from the ballot next year.

Fred McGriff will need helps from the veteran's committee to get into the Hall of Fame. (AP)
Fred McGriff will need help from the veteran’s committee to get into the Hall of Fame. (AP)

End of the line

Fred McGriff: While Edgar Martinez rides the wave of public support into the Hall of Fame (he’s currently at 90.8 percent), it’s far too late now for McGriff. Baseball’s “Crime Dog” won’t even crack 40 percent in his 10th and final season on the ballot.

The situations are comparable in that both Martinez and McGriff were long seen as long shots to be voted in by the BBWAA. Perhaps because Martinez was predominantly a designated hitter during his career, the baseball public has taken a greater interest in his case. That has led to a steady increase in support from the public and from the voters. Tim Raines received a similar push when elected in 2017, receiving 88.2 percent in his 10th and final campaign.

Unfortunately, the same support hasn’t come for McGriff, and that’s definitely a disappointment. Few players had a career peak as strong as McGriff, who hit 242 of his 493 career home runs between the ages of 24 and 30. There’s a good chance he would be in the 500-homer club if not for the strike that shortened the 1994 season.

There’s also this argument for McGriff, which is a pretty strong one.

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If there’s a silver lining for McGriff, it’s that the Today’s Game Era committee seems willing to consider a wider range of players. The 16-man committee elected Harold Baines in December, which could, and certainly should, open a new door for McGriff.

Can former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones hang around on the Hall of Fame ballot? (AP)
Can former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones hang around on the Hall of Fame ballot? (AP)

In danger

Andruw Jones: Jones barely made the cut last year, earning 5.7 percent of the vote in his first year on the ballot. It’s shaping up to be a close call again, as Jones enters the final weekend named on 8.7 percent of the nearly 48 percent of ballots revealed. As we’ve learned over the years, the percentages always dip when the final totals are unveiled.

After finishing his 17-year career with 434 home runs and 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field, many believe Jones deserved genuine consideration for election. Unfortunately, a decline in health once he hit 30 led to a steep decline in production. The disappointing ending to his otherwise excellent career has been too much to overcome in the eyes of voters.

Perhaps the veteran’s committee will be kinder to Jones as well.

Andy Pettitte: It’s shaping up to be an all-or-nothing year for first timers on the ballot. Mariano Rivera is a lock, and barring a stunning change Roy Halladay will get in too. After that, only Todd Helton is garnering enough support to comfortably stay on the ballot.

For Pettitte, it’s going down to the wire. He enters the weekend named on 6.1 percent of known ballots. He’ll need a strong surge to hang on.

Pettitte admittedly doesn’t have the strongest case. In 18 big-league seasons, he notched 256 regular season wins, and a league record 19 wins in the postseason. But wins don’t move the needle all that much anymore, even the October wins. He was part of five World Series championship teams, but the lack of a standout Cy Young type season probably hurts more than anything.

Still, Pettitte was as reliable and consistent as they come. His career deserves more than one year of cursory consideration.

Longtime Astros teammates Roy Oswalt (left) and Lance Berkman are looking at a short stay on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)
Longtime Astros teammates Roy Oswalt (left) and Lance Berkman are looking at a short stay on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)

Never had a chance

Lance Berkman (1.0 percent): When healthy, Berkman was one of MLB’s most dynamic players during his career. Unfortunately, injuries helped limit him to just 1,905 career hits and 10 seasons where he qualified for the batting title. That won’t get it done, but it’s difficult to ignore all that Berkman did well.

He was especially good in the postseason, hitting .317/.417/.532 overall and .410/.520/.564 in 50 World Series plate appearances. His World Series OBP ranked second to David Ortiz among players with at least 40 plate appearances. He mashed 40 homers twice and earned six All-Star selections. It looks like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio will be the only Astros Killer B’s to make the Hall of Fame.

Roy Oswalt (1.0 percent): Like Berkman, injuries did more to damage Oswalt’s case than anything else. An unquestioned ace when healthy, Oswalt posted two 20-win seasons, an ERA title, four All-Star selections, a runner-up finish in the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year voting, and five top five finishes in the Cy Young balloting. He finished with 183 wins and only 1,852 career strikeouts. Even one or two more healthy and productive seasons could have made a major difference.

Michael Young (1.5 percent): It could be argued that Young was baseball’s best pure hitter for much of the early 2000s. A seven-time All-Star, Young posted a .300 or better batting average seven times and 200 or more hits in six seasons. He won one batting title, hitting .331 in 2005. And mixed in one Gold Glove award for good measure.

On a thinner ballot, Young’s name would probably elicit some light debate. As it stands, he won’t see a second year.

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