Later this afternoon, an announcement will be made with the results of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America vote and a new Hall of Fame class will be revealed. While there are big names up for first time election, slugger Ken Griffey, Jr. and closer Trevor Hoffman, it seems unrealistic to expect another large Hall of Fame class like the four inductees in 2015.
Of the 32 Hall of Fame finalists, there are 15 newcomers, many of which will struggle to gain the 5% threshold to remain a part on the Hall of Fame ballot in the future. Players like David Eckstein, Brad Ausmus, Garrett Anderson and Mike Lowell had nice professional careers and should feel honored to be on the final ballot, but realistically they have no shot of gaining the threshold for reelection, let alone the hall of fame. Players who also don’t have a realistic chance for Hall of Fame election include former Red Sox Shortstop Nomar Garciapara and those whose careers where mired by steroid allegations. While Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemons, and home run “king” Barry Bonds all have the numbers to make them first-ballot hall-of-famers, their links to steroids will prevent many baseball writers from ever voting them into baseball’s most exclusive fraternity. While I personally feel these players should be honored as the best from an era where steroid use was common and very much part of the game, I don’t believe the Baseball Writer’s Association of America will ever share my opinion.
With all that being said, a simple question might arise: Who will get into the 2016 hall of fame? Mike Piazza should get enough of the vote to enter the Hall of Fame, and will be joined by at least one first-timer on the ballot. While there is uncertainty about whether first-timer Trevor Hoffman should receive first-ballot recogniton (this writer believes he should), the only doubt about former Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr. is how much of the vote he will get.
Many believe Griffey, Jr. can challenge Tom Seaver’s record of 98.84% of the vote in 1992. The Kid, as he was known to many throughout his electric career, revitalized baseball in the Pacific Northwest and brought excitement to Seattle with the expectation of either a monster home run or an acrobatic catch looming every time he took the field. Griffey was slowed by injuries in his career, but still managed the fifth most home runs in Major League Baseball history (630). One of the greatest “what ifs” in baseball is estimating how many home runs Griffey would have managed if he had stayed reasonably healthy during his career.
Hoffman had an equally dominant career on the West Coast with the San Diego Padres. He was the first closer to reach the 500 and 600 hundred save milestones, and at 601 career saves, was the all-time save leader until 2011, when Mariano Rivera surpassed Hoffman’s mark. Hoffman retired with the highest strikeout rate among relievers and 1,133 strikeouts to his name. Relievers usually do not receive much recognition when the Baseball Writers convene to decide the Cy Young (annually given to the best pitcher in each League), however, remarkably, Hoffman finished second in the Cy Young voting twice. While Hoffman is more than merited and will no doubt one day be in the Hall of Fame, it remains to be seen whether the Baseball Writer’s give him the nod this year or make him wait before his inevitable inauguration into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jeff Bagwell (55.7%) and Tim Raines (55.0%) had the second and third highest vote totals for those not elected in the Hall of Fame a year ago. With 11 and 9 years left of their eligibility left respectively, it is only a matter of time before their long careers are honored with a call to the Hall of Fame. However, 2016 will not be their year. Bagwell and Raines can expect to get somewhere in the 55-65% range this season with election in 2017 or 2018 more likely.
The only other player certain to join Griffey this year in Cooperstown is former New York Mets Catcher Mike Piazza. Piazza received 69.9% of the vote a year ago, agonizingly close to the 75% required for Hall of Fame election. It only seems logical that this year Piazza will receive a larger percentage of the vote, enough to make him a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee. Piazza has the record for most home runs by a catcher (427) and is regarded by many as the greatest offensive catcher of all time. The twelve-time all star retired with a career .308 batting average and one of the most famous moments in modern sporting history: an eighth inning home run on September 21, 2001 to give the Mets the lead in the first major sporting event played in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.