Archive for the ‘Hall of Fame’ Category

(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstripe Alley)

In addition to the Hot Stove, baseball warms up the winter months with Hall of Fame debate. From the time the ballot is released until the votes are counted in early January, arguments are made for and against various candidates, often with a considerable degree of disagreement and usually with some form of exaggeration. As a result, for those players on the borderline, the process can be somewhat demeaning.

This year, Bernie Williams is making his first appearance on the ballot, and judging by popular sentiment, he isn’t likely to come close to enshrinement. Although Williams’ case deserves much closer scrutiny than many seem willing to give, as a borderline candidate, there really is no right or wrong answer regarding his candidacy. With that in mind, it seems more appropriate to consider the best players who are not in the Hall of Fame instead of trying to determine which of them actually belong.

At the Baseball: Past and Present blog, Graham Womack recently completed a survey based on exactly that premise. For the second straight year, Womack polled an electorate made up of baseball writers and researchers and compiled the results into a ranking of the 50 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Included in this baseball version of purgatory were several players who spent most of their careers in pinstripes, prompting a further question: who are the 10 best eligible Yankees without a plaque in Cooperstown?


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Thirteen new candidates have been added to the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot, but none have overwhelming credentials, which should bode well for Barry Larkin, Tim Raines, and Jeff Bagwell, three eminently deserving players snubbed by last year’s voting. However, it seems as if one of the new eligible players is being written off much too quickly. That’s really nothing new for Bernie Williams, whose career would have never gotten started had he yielded to those who dismissed him.

Bernie Williams’ Hall of Fame campaign faces an uphill battle on two fronts because he appears like a borderline candidate to both the traditional and sabermetricly-inclined factions of the electorate. On the one hand, the older members of the BBWAA are likely to balk at Williams’ relatively deflated counting stats, while those voters in tune with the latest sabermetric trends might be swayed by his less than eye-popping WAR. Both first impressions are worthy of a second look.

Hall of Fame Centerfielders and Upcoming Candidates, Ranked by OPS+ (click to enlarge)

Note: Includes Hall of Famers who played at least 50% of total games in centerfield as well as Bernie Williams, Ken Griffey Jr., and Jim Edmonds.
Source: Baseball-reference.com and fangraphs.com


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The new ballot for the Hall of Fame’s era-based veteran’s committee selection process has been announced, and several compelling candidates are included on the list.

Will Ron Santo's supporters be clicking their heels after the Hall of Fame's Golden Era committee convenes in December?

Among the 10 names selected to appear on the “Golden Era” ballot, Ron Santo is by far the most deserving. The case for Santo has been made countless times, and most agree his body of work warrants election. Unfortunately, those presiding over the Hall of Fame’s selection process haven’t cooperated. As a result, if the third baseman does finally take his rightful place in Cooperstown, it will be posthumously. Regardless of the circumstances, Santo’s enshrinement would still be a cause for celebration, not only for his family, but all of baseball. As one of the best third baseman to play the game, excluding Santo dings the Hall’s credibility a bit, so the time has come to right that wrong.

Whether or not he receives the necessary 3/4 support from the 16-man panel, Santo’s inclusion on the ballot doesn’t bode well for Ken Boyer, a contemporary third baseman who always seemed to be one step behind his counterpart from the Cubs (Boyer’s last gold glove was 1963, the year before Santo reeled off five in a row). Considering the shadow cast by Santo, both during their playing days and now in the voting process, Boyer’s chances of election are pretty slim.

Another cause célèbre on this year’s veterans’ ballot is Gil Hodges, who, like Santo, has garnered considerable sentimental support over the years. However, as a first baseman, Hodges’ resume is not as substantial, even if you include his managerial success with the Mets. Of course, Hodges was always more of a likeable figure than Santo, which perhaps helps to explain why he garnered significantly more support from the BBWAA (a peak of 63.4% vs. Santo’s 43.1%). Playing in seven World Series probably didn’t hurt either.


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Jesus Montero’s major league debut on September 1 was one of the most anticipated arrivals in recent Yankees’ history. So much had been written and said about the 21-year old catcher that his promotion at the beginning of the month almost felt like a second coming. What’s more, the early returns have seemed to justify the heightened expectations. Although Montero may not be a “savior”, with an impressive line of .353/.450/.706 in 20 big league plate appearances, he could be on his way to becoming the most impactful September call-up in recent memory.

Montero's promotion served as the symbolic end to Posada's Yankee career.

Montero’s ascension to a semi-regular role all but marks the end of Jorge Posada’s time in pinstripes. Although the veteran is likely to crack the lineup a few more times before the month runs out, it’s increasingly looking as if he won’t be a part of the post season roster. If so, Posada’s Yankees career will end just as it started: as a cheerleader on the bench during October.

When the Yankees signed Montero as a 16-year old in 2006, Posada was still an All Star catcher. In fact, in 2007, he had the best season of his career. Nonetheless, when Posada was given a four-year extension after that successful campaign, the overwhelming expectation was the new contract would lead right into the Montero era. As things turned out, when the kid was promoted to replace the veteran, it was as a DH, not a catcher, but still, the transition’s symbolism is clear.

The rapidly approaching end to Posada’s pinstripe tenure has been mostly overshadowed by the early brilliance of Montero’s burgeoning big league career. Although excitement about the “next best thing” is certainly justified, Yankees’ fan shouldn’t be quick to cast aside Posada without first realizing they are saying goodbye to a potential Hall of Famer.

Although some might dispute the notion of Posada as Cooperstown worthy, his credentials are compelling. Unfortunately for the Yankees’ backstop, his career happened to coincide with arguably the greatest offensive (Mike Piazza) and defensive (Ivan Rodriguez) catchers to ever play the game, so it’s easy to see why he is sometimes overlooked in Hall-related discussions. Despite these formidable contemporaries, however, Posada’s statistical record still stands out.


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Jason Giambi used three titanic blasts into the right field stands at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark to turn back the clock for at least one game. In addition to the three homers, which doubled his season’s hit total, Giambi also knocked in seven runs, becoming one of a select few to accomplish each feat over the age of 40.

Giambi watches second of three HRs leave the ballpark (Photo: AP)

By joining the list of 40-somethings who have homered three times in one game, Giambi entered rarified territory shared only by Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Stan Musial and Babe Ruth. At one time, Giambi also seemed destined for Cooperstown, but the combination of a late career breakdown and the stain of performance enhancing drugs has all but ensured that he won’t be joining those others in the Plaque Gallery.

Like the Bambino, the “Giambino” had never before belted three homers in a game. Also like the Babe, Giambi’s accomplishment came amid what seems to be the waning days of his career. When Reggie belted his third trio of long balls, he was still a regular with one year left in the tank, but he too was on steady path toward retirement. Musial, however, was still going strong when he went deep three times against the Mets on July 8, 1962.

Three HR Games at 40

Player Age Date Tm Opp PA R H HR RBI
Stan Musial 41.229 7/8/1962 STL NYM 5 3 3 3 4
Jason Giambi 40.131 5/19/2011 COL PHI 5 3 3 3 7
Reggie Jackson 40.123 9/18/1986 CAL KCR 6 4 3 3 7
Babe Ruth 40.108 5/25/1935 BSN PIT 4 3 4 3 6

Source: Baseball-reerence.com

Seven RBI Games at 40

Player Age Date Tm Opp PA R H HR RBI
Stan Musial 40.214 6/23/1961 STL SFG 5 2 2 2 7
Jason Giambi 40.131 5/19/2011 COL PHI 5 3 3 3 7
Reggie Jackson 40.123 9/18/1986 CAL KCR 6 4 3 3 7

Source: Baseball-reerence.com

When Musial victimized the hapless Mets, he was not only months from turning 42, but also in the midst of yet another MVP-caliber season. Entering the game, Stan the Man was hitting .325/.395/.476, leaving some to wonder if he’d ever slow down. “I don’t want to give that boy any ideas,” Mets’ manager Casey Stengel observed, “but the way he’s hitting he can hang around in this business two or three more years easily”.


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Edmonds was best known for catches like this one against the Royals on June 10, 1997.

The official announcement of Jim Edmonds’ retirement on Friday went largely unnoticed, which was kind of fitting because that’s mostly how the All Star centerfielder’s 17-year career was treated. Edmonds has always been a player best known for either making highlight reel catches or coming down with a nagging injury (he only had four seasons with 150 or more games played), sometimes doing both on the same play. A closer look, however, reveals what Edmonds really was: a legitimate candidate for the Hall of Fame.

When most people think about Hall of Fame centerfielders, names like Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Tris Speaker, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle come to mind. For that reason, it’s easy to understand why the immediate reaction to Edmonds’ candidacy would be dismissive. Once you get past that immortal quintet, however, Edmonds follows very closely behind, at least according to Sean Smith’s version of WAR.

Hall of Fame Centerfielders (and Upcoming Candidates), Ranked by WAR

Ty Cobb 3034 13068 159.4 117 1938 0.366 0.433 0.512 168
Willie Mays 2992 12493 154.7 660 1903 0.302 0.384 0.557 155
Tris Speaker 2789 11988 133 117 1529 0.345 0.428 0.500 157
Mickey Mantle 2401 9909 120.2 536 1509 0.298 0.421 0.557 172
Joe DiMaggio 1736 7671 83.6 361 1537 0.325 0.398 0.579 155
Ken Griffey Jr. 2671 11304 78.5 630 1836 0.284 0.370 0.538 135
Jim Edmonds 2011 7980 68.3 393 1199 0.284 0.376 0.527 132
Duke Snider 2143 8237 67.5 407 1333 0.295 0.380 0.540 140
Richie Ashburn 2189 9736 58 29 586 0.308 0.396 0.382 111
Max Carey 2476 10770 50.6 70 800 0.285 0.361 0.386 107
Larry Doby 1533 6302 47.4 253 970 0.283 0.386 0.490 136
Bernie Williams 2076 9053 47.3 287 1257 0.297 0.381 0.477 125
Edd Roush 1967 8156 46.5 68 981 0.323 0.369 0.446 127
Earl Averill 1669 7215 45 238 1164 0.318 0.395 0.534 133
Kirby Puckett 1783 7831 44.8 207 1085 0.318 0.360 0.477 124
Earle Combs 1455 6507 44.7 58 632 0.325 0.397 0.462 125
Hack Wilson 1348 5556 39.1 244 1063 0.307 0.395 0.545 144
Lloyd Waner 1993 8326 24.3 27 598 0.316 0.353 0.393 99

Note: Includes Hall of Famers who played at least 50% of total games in centerfield.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Despite being sabermetrically inclined, I still have my suspicions regarding both predominant versions of WAR. However, when any metric states a player ranks among the best at his position, it is wise to take notice. Using more traditional statistics, Edmonds would still rank among the top-10 Hall of Fame centerfielders in terms of OPS+, runs and RBIs, not to mention fourth in homeruns. By just about any measure, Edmonds was one of the best centerfielders to every play the game. But, is that enough to warrant election to the Hall of Fame? (more…)

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One hundred years ago in Tampico, Illinois, Ronald Wilson Reagan began an improbable road to the presidency that culminated in one of the most successful political careers in American history. Admittedly, I have a profound admiration for the Gipper, but The Captain’s Blog likes to steer clear of politics, so this centennial tribute will focus on Reagan’s strong link to the great American past time of baseball.

Before calling the shots as commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan did play-by-play reenactments for the Cubs.

Although Reagan’s pre-political background as a movie actor is widely known, not many people realize that his first entertainment career was in radio, most notably as the reenactment voice of the Chicago Cubs on Iowa’s WHO during the early-to-mid 1930s. In this role, Dutch Reagan, as he was known to listeners, would receive game updates via telegraph and then, accompanied by sound effects, bring the action to life with a vivid description of the details. In one famous instance, the telegraph feed went down in the ninth inning of a tight ballgame, forcing Reagan to improvise on the spot. With no updates forthcoming, Reagan anxiously described the action as Augie Galan battled Dizzy Dean in an epic batter/pitcher confrontation. Foul ball after foul ball was broadcast to the audience until the telegraph messages finally resumed. Even at an early age, the comfort and ease with which Reagan worked a microphone was evident.

Curly started typing. I clutched at the slip. It said: ‘Galan popped out on the first pitch’. Not in my game he didn’t. He popped out after practically making a career of foul balls”. – Ronald Reagan, excerpted from his 1965 autobiography “Where’s the Rest of Me?”

Reagan left radio behind for the bright lights of Hollywood, but his baseball reenactment days were far from over. In 1952, Reagan starred alongside Doris Day in “The Winning Team”, a movie about pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, who balanced a Hall of Famer career and alcoholism. Although not as famous as his portrayal of George Gipp in the classic “Knute Rockne All American”, a role that included the “win one for the Gipper” line that would give the future President one of his more endearing nicknames, Reagan’s performance as Alexander was well received.

Reagan portayed Hall of Famer Pete "Grover Cleveland" Alexander in the 1952 film, "The Winning Team".

Unfortunately for Reagan, his love of the game was not matched by his ability to play it. In his trademark self deprecating manner, he once admitted that a fear of the ball prevented him from hitting and ensured that he was always the last boy chosen in every game. In this one regard, Reagan likely wasn’t being modest. In 1938, he injured his Achilles tendon during a celebrity baseball game, and then, in 1949, upped the ante at a charity event by breaking his leg in a collision at first base with fellow actor George Tobias. In addition to a damaged ego, the latter injury not only cost the actor a $100,000 salary for an upcoming film, but also forced him to use crutches or a cane for almost an entire year. After the accident, Reagan didn’t play much baseball.


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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

Usually, when one thinks of a podium in the Bronx, it’s there to say hello to a new million dollar acquisition. This time, however, the media hordes were assembled to say goodbye to one of the team’s all-time greats. That’s why, as Andy Pettitte answered questions about his decision to retire, the proceedings took on somewhat of a surreal feeling. After all, if Pettitte was healthy enough to pitch, capable of performing at a high level (his ERA+ of 130 was the fourth highest in his career), and greatly needed by the Yankees, why exactly was he walking away?

As expected, Pettitte’s reasons for retiring centered on his family. According to the lefty, his heart simply wasn’t into returning because the other aspects of his life were pulling on its strings. Considering that Pettitte’s heart has always been in the right place (although Yankees’ fans might not like where it is now), his reasoning was perfectly understandable. And yet, it is still hard to imagine a great player voluntary walking away from the game when he still has the ability to perform.

Andy Pettitte and wife Laura field questions at press conference announcing his retirement (Photo: Getty Images).

At the beginning of the proceedings, Jason Zillo, the Yankees director of media relations, made an interesting comment about Pettitte’s press conference being a unique event in his 15-year tenure with the team (which is almost as long as Pettitte’s). In fact, the validity of the comment extends well beyond Zillo’s time in the Bronx. Despite having scores of superstar players who spent the bulk of their careers with the team, the Yankees have not hosted many press conferences to announce the retirement of a legendary figure.

Since 1901, the Yankees have had 22 position players (minimum 1,000 games) and 10 pitchers (minimum 200 games started or 400 games) compile a WAR greater than 30 during their time in pinstripes. However, from that illustrious group, only three have had a formal press conference to say goodbye on their own terms: Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and now Andy Pettitte.

When the Yankees faced the Dodgers in the 1952 World Series, Joe DiMaggio was sitting in the bleachers instead of playing centerfield (Photo: Life)

Like Pettitte, DiMaggio had been hinting at retirement for some time before eventually making his final decision. During the course of his injury plagued career, Joltin’ Joe would often hint at walking away, but he finally formalized his intentions during the spring of 1951. Despite the dramatic announcement, not too many people expected DiMaggio to actually retire, and the doubts lingered even after he had a subpar year by his standards (OPS+ of 115 in 482 plate appearances). However, after winning the World Series against the cross-town Giants, DiMaggio again told reporters that he probably wouldn’t be back in 1952. Most people still shrugged off the statement, and even Yankees’ owner Dan Topping didn’t seem convinced, telling DiMaggio, “you might feel differently a month from now”. Almost 60 years later, Cashman would be telling Pettitte the same thing.

When baseball is no longer fun, it is no longer a game and so I’ve played my last game of ball.” – Joe DiMaggio, quoted by UP at his retirement press conference, December 11, 1951

As things turned out, DiMaggio was serious. On December 11, 1951, Joltin’ Joe assembled the media and officially retired from the game, much the same way that Pettitte did this morning. At the time, however, such an event was unheard of. “The press conference in which Joe announced his retirement was without precedent in size and confusion,” stated The Sporting News’ Dan Daniel. “The writers were far outnumbered by the newsreel, radio and TV specialists. The sandwiches, coffee and cheese cake had to be replenished thrice.”


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Are 601 saves enough to get Trevor Hoffman into the Hall of Fame?

When Trevor Hoffman recorded his 600th save back in September, I kind of paid him a backhanded complement by unfavorably comparing him to Mariano Rivera. The intention wasn’t to denigrate Hoffman, who has had a wonderful career, but rebut the notion that put both relievers in the same class. In any event, Hoffman has now officially retired with 601 saves, leaving him just 42 ahead of Rivera, so, when all is said and done, he may eventually find himself looking up at the great Yankees closer in even that regard.

For a fitting tribute to Hoffman, Buster Olney does the job quite well. However, Olney goes way overboard by suggesting he “should be an absolute lock first-ballot Hall of Famer”. Make no mistake about it. Hoffman deserves serious Hall of Fame consideration, and he does seem a fair bet to win eventual enshrinement. However, he is far from a slam dunk candidate.

If Olney is correct, then it will mean that Hall of Famer votes are still fixated on the saves stat. Recent voting trends, however, suggest otherwise. One of the ironies behind the recent elections of Bruce Sutter and Rich Gossage is a greater appreciation of the roles they filled seemed to come at the expense of the value placed on the modern closer. Gossage’s own comments about the evolving role of the reliever have highlighted this give and take.

When Lee Smith first appeared on the ballot in 2003, he was the career saves leader with 478, but only polled 42.3% of the vote. That same year, Sutter (300 saves) earned 53.6%, while Gossage (310 saves) tallied 42.1%. In the intervening years, both Sutter and Gossage earned enshrinement, while Smith’s vote total stagnated (in the most recent election, he polled 45.3%). If saves were the driving factor behind a reliever’s Hall of Fame credentials then wouldn’t Smith have been the more popular candidate?

It should be noted that Hoffman’s 601 saves are almost equal to the totals of Sutter and Gossage combined. So, it is possible that such a large number could hold sway. On the other hand, if Rivera does eventually take the lead, it could remove some of the bloom off that figure by the time five years go by. What’s more, if guys like Francisco Rodriguez (268 saves, 28 years old) and Jonathan Papelbon (188 saves, 29 years old) continue their march to 400 saves by 2016, it could further remove some luster from Hoffman’s 601.

Assuming that saves alone do not a Hall of Fame reliever make, we then need to examine how Hoffman compares to his peers in other regards. As previously mentioned, Rivera really is in a class unto himself, which may or may not impact the consideration of other contemporary relievers. So, where does Hoffman stand among the second tier of modern closers?

The 400 Save Club

Trevor Hoffman 601 1035 1089.1 141 67 1.058 9.4 30.7
Mariano Rivera 559 978 1150 204 45 1.003 8.2 52.9
Lee Smith 478 1022 1289.1 132 79 1.256 8.7 30.3
John Franco 424 1119 1245.2 138 84 1.333 7 25.8
Billy Wagner 422 853 903 187 48 0.998 11.9 29.7

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Although Hoffman stands atop the list above in saves, he really doesn’t stand out in any other category. In fact, it’s really Billy Wagner who seems to emerge as the leader of the “not Rivera” group. Considering that both Wagner and Hoffman will go on the ballot together, it could be very difficult for either one to distinguish himself enough to earn a first ballot entry.

Post Season Performance of 400 Save Club

Mariano Rivera 139.2 8 1 42 0.71 139.2 0.766
John Franco 14.1 2 0 1 1.88 14.1 0.977
Trevor Hoffman 13 1 2 4 3.46 13 1.231
Lee Smith 5.1 0 2 1 8.44 5.1 1.875
Billy Wagner 11.2 1 1 3 10.03 11.2 1.971

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Postseason performance is what really allows Rivera to lap the field. Although Hoffman’s 3.46 ERA is respectable, none of the other relievers really have much of a sample to consider. If anything, Hoffman’s high profile blown save in the 1998 World Series could actually work against him, especially among that portion of the electorate that seems fixated on moments (see Jack Morris).

One final note of warning regarding Hoffman’s Hall of Fame chances comes from the results of the 2011 ballot. John Franco, who is a worthy comparable to Hoffman, not only did poorly in the polling, but actually fell off the ballot with only 4.6% of the vote. Although not 601, Franco’s save total is still fourth all-time, and that obviously had little sway with the voters.

Is Trevor Hoffman a Hall of Famer? At this point in time, I think it is too difficult to tell. What he is not, however, is a lock, and particularly not a first ballot lock. In the wake of a player’s retirement, many can be prone to exaggeration. That’s why the Hall of Fame makes its electorate wait five years before casting a ballot.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

Now that Bert Blyleven has finally been welcomed into the Hall of Fame, the small coterie of Internet zealots can now shift their attention to another deserving, but overlooked candidate.

There are more than a few deserving players left over from yesterday’s election, but it’s not exactly clear who needs the most help. Barry Larkin is perhaps the most deserving of the remaining options, but he is all but assured of a coronation at some point in the near future. Therefore, he really doesn’t need any help from the minions of stat crunchers who dare to be objective. So, if not Larkin, than whom?

Since the BBWAA started conducting annual ballots in 1966, 71 Hall of Famers have been inducted by the writers. Of that total, 37 were honored with a “first ballot” election, while 34 were forced to endure varying degrees of suspense (included in this latter group is Red Ruffing, who in 1967 was selected as the result of a run-off, a part of the process discontinued thereafter).  

Breakdown of Hall of Fame Selections by Year of Eligibility

Source: Baseball-reference.com

As evidenced by the chart above, it becomes increasingly difficult to earn a nod from the BBWAA as the years pass. Since 1966, there have been 663 unique candidates considered for election, of which only 5% have been enshrined after being passed over in their first year of eligibility. In other words, the first impression given by a player usually dictates their chances for election. Recently, however, we’ve seen more “long-term” candidates overcome low vote totals in their initial years of eligibility. An evolving understanding of statistics as well as an increased appreciation for more limited roles (i.e., relief pitchers) has likely been a part of this reversing trend, but in general, a candidate’s road to Cooperstown continues to get steep with each subsequent election.

So, outside of falling off the ballot completely, is there a vote percentage that effectively amounts to a death sentence for candidates in their first year of eligibility? The average first ballot score for the 34 Hall of Famers who did not win immediate selection was 40.2%. However, if you remove six players whose first year of eligibility occurred before 1966, the average rises to 46.2%. The median of that more select group is still higher at 50%.

That data won’t be encouraging to this year’s first timers. Of the 19 candidates making their ballot debut, only four received the minimum 5% needed for future consideration. From that quartet, only Jeff Bagwell recorded a respectable total, but even his 41.7% (which is almost identical to the total earned by Steve Garvey in his inaugural year on the ballot) falls below the first ballot average of multi-year candidates who eventually made the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, Bagwell’s first year total ranks third among non-Hall of Famers, behind only Larkin and Lee Smith at 51.6% and 42.3%, respectively. Considering Larkin’s likelihood of being elected, Bagwell seems to be in a gray area. Perhaps a future electorate more enlightened about PEDs will give him a boost, but regardless, Bagwell seems assured of facing an uphill battle.

In addition to Bagwell, there are seven others players for whom one can make a strong argument (Alan Trammell, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Edgar Martinez) as well as two other candidates who have received solid support over several years on the ballot (Lee Smith and Jack Morris).

2011 Hall of Fame Ballot “Holdovers”

Player YoB % of Vote WAR
Jeff Bagwell 1st 41.7% 79.9
Barry Larkin 2nd 62.1% 68.9
Larry Walker 1st 20.3% 67.3
Edgar Martinez 2nd 32.9% 67.2
Alan Trammell 10th 24.3% 66.9
Rafael Palmeiro 1st 11.0% 66
Tim Raines 4th 37.5% 64.6
Mark McGwire 5th 19.8% 63.1
Jack Morris 12th 53.5% 39.3
Lee Smith 9th 45.3% 29.7

Source: Baseball-reference.com

As previously mentioned, Larkin is not only the most deserving of all holdover candidates, but also the most likely to eventually win election. Meanwhile, like Bagwell, McGwire and Palmeiro have to overcome the electorate’s steroid aversion before making a significant jump, so the merits of their candidacies must continue to take a backseat. Digging further, Morris and Smith really don’t deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, while Walker (Coors Field) and Martinez (career DH) both have issues that give pause. So, after whittling down the list, Trammell and Raines remain as the candidates most deserving of a concerted advocacy campaign.

Current Candidates Yearly Vote Progression Compared to All Non-First Ballot Hall of Famers
Source: Baseball-reference.com

As illustrated in the chart above, only Larkin’s vote total is above the average and median pace of other Hall of Famers who failed to win election on their first ballot. Every other player’s most recent vote total stands well below the milestone that is relative to their current year of eligibility. Unfortunately, both Raines and Trammell remain far off the pace, but it is really the latter’s candidacy that faces the most peril. With only five years left of consideration, the former Tigers’ shortstop finds himself over 30% behind the average and median vote totals that would foreshadow an eventual selection. At this point, Trammell’s election would require such an unprecedented about face from the BBWAA that his candidacy seems to be a lost cause. As a result, we are left with Raines as the best candidate upon which to mount a new Hall of Fame campaign.

Although Raines respectively stands 10% and 20% below the average and median milestone vote percentages, all hope is not lost. Over the past two cycles, he has experienced a considerable bump of approximately 7% in each.  If Raines were to enjoy similar support over the next two elections, he would suddenly be on pace for induction.  Of course, continuing the momentum is key, which is exactly why Raines seems to be the ideal candidate for a focused effort on the part of those who use knowledge as influence. Hopefully, the Rock will find his very own Rich Lederer sooner than later.

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