The Baseball Hall of Fame features 295 members, including 2011 BBWAA electees Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven and 2011 Expansion Era Committee electee Pat Gillick, all of whom were inducted into the Hall on July 24, 2011.
The voting among the Baseball Writers of America takes place every winter after they are sent their ballots. The writers vote on newly eligible players (players who have been retired for five years) later this year, and the ballot will also include holdovers from the previous year's ballot, if those players have received at least five percent of the vote in any year. Players may remain on the ballot for 15 years.
Of those who did not receive the required 75 per cent of the vote this year, the highest vote totals went to Barry Larkin (62.1%), Jack Morris (53.5%), Lee Smith (45.3%), Jeff Bagwell (41.7 %), Tim Raines (37.5%) and Edgar Martinez (32.9). 17 of the 33 players on this year's ballot failed to make the 5% cut, including 15 of the 19 players who were on the ballot for the first time. First-year candidates who did receive sufficient support to remain were Jeff Bagwell, with 242 (41.7%); Larry Walker, with 118 (20.3%); Rafael Palmeiro, with 64 (11%); and Juan Gonzalez, with 30 (5.2%).
Other holdovers who will remain on the ballot, in addition to Larkin and Morris, include Mark McGwire, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly,Tim Raines, Dale Murphy, Alan Trammell and Lee Smith..
A frank assessment of potential first-time eligibles on next year's ballot reveals a very poor crop of newcomers this year. The only candidate that I feel may draw even scant support is former Yankee outfielder Bernie Willimams, who batted over .300 several times, with a little power. But even I, as a lifelong Yankee fan, don't see Bernie Williams as a Hall-of-Famer.
So, if anyone is elected by the writers in 2012, the most likely candidate is former Reds' shortstop Larkin, who does have some pretty impressive credentials - a lifetime batting average of .295, 2340 hits (including 440 doubles), 379 stolen bases in 456 attempts (an 83% success ratio), three Gold Glove awards and nine Silver Slugger awards, playing 19 seasons at the difficult shortstop position - all for his hometown team - the Cincinnati Reds. I think Bagwell, Raines, and possibly Martinez, may get a few more votes next year, but I think Jack Morris has topped out. Though he was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, he probably isn't a Hall of Famer.
The year after that, the vote for the Class of 2013, should be real interesting, as there will be several first-time candidates who had Hall-worthy careers Times being what they are, though, it's possible that none of the seven first-time candidates will make it - at least not the first time around.
Here are the players to whom I am referring :
1. Barry Bonds - seven-time National League MVP, all-time single season (73) and career (762) home run leader, all-time leader in bases on balls (2558 and 688 intentional), 1996 RBI, 2227 runs scored, 514 stolen bases, 8 -time Gold Glove winner - in the old (pre-Steroid Era) days, a cinch first ballot Hall of Famer
2. Roger Clemens - seven-time Cy Young Award winner (with four different teams, three in the AL and one in the NL), winner of 354 games (plus 12 more in the post-season), struck out 4,672 batters, walked 1580 ( a 3:1 K/BB ratio), 3.12 career ERA and 46 shutouts. Again - a sure-fire first ballot Hall-of-Famer, in a different time
3. Sammy Sosa - 609 HR, seven time All-Star, one time MVP.
All three of these players were probably referred to as "future Hall-of-Famers." But as they say, "That was then, this is now."
There are three other first-time eligibles for the 2013 ballot who should get consideration for enshrinement in the Hall. All three had stellar careers, with good "numbers," though not as eye-popping as Bonds, Clemens and Sosa. To the best of my knowledge, though, none of the following three players has ever been accused or even suspected of using steroids or HGH.
4. Craig Biggio is one of those rare players who, like Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken jr., George Brett and Robin Yount, had a long MLB career and spent it all with one team - in his case, the Houston Astros. An unusual aspect of Biggio's career is that he spent considerable amount of time as a regular at three different poistions - many people forget that the 5'11,185 lb. Biggio was a catcher when he first arrived in Hosuton, and was behind the plate for 428 big league games. Moving to second base in 1992, Biggio wound up playing 1989 games at that infield spot, earning a Gold Glove each year from 1994 - 1997. In 2003 - 2004, he patroled the outfield, playing in both center and left fields (not at the same time, of course), before returning to his old infield spot at second base in 2005 at the age of 39. When he retired following the 2007 season, Biggio was still batting leadoff and playing every day. He collected 3,060 hits over his 20 year career, averaging .291 and hitting 668 doubles and 291 homers. He also stole 414 bases in 538 attempts, a 77% success ratio. Even better, he is considered to be a community-minded citizen and loving husband and father - really an all-around Hall-of-Famer, who will make it some day, though perhaps not on his first try. Like Larkin, Biggio is deserving of Hall enshrinement, but played all of his career for a so-called "small market" team (though Houston is very large, I think that the media consider any city that is not New York, L.A., Boston or Chicago to be "small market"). I feel Biggio's career compares favorably with Hall-of-Famer Paul Molitor.
5. Another 2013 first-time candidate who DID play in a couple of "major markets," and who at one time was considered by many to be a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer seems to have lost some luster during the latter stages of his career and since his retirement. Mike Piazza, like Biggio, came into the bigs as a catcher, taking over the regular duties behind the plate for his uncle Tommy Lasorda's Dodgers in 1993. Over the next nine seasons, Piazza was that rarity - a catcher who hit .300+ with 30-40 home runs a season, first with the Dodgers and then, following a 1998 trade, with the New York Mets. His batting figures dropped off after the 2002 season, and Piazza spent his last two seasons in San Diego and Oakland, where he served as a designated hitter. Still, for his 15 year career, Piazza wound up with 427 homers and a career batting average of .308. Though he didn't win any Gold Glove awards, Piazza was good enough behind the plate to catch 1629 games and throw out 186 would-be base stealers.
6. The final 2013 candidate who might get some consideration for election to the Hall is pitcher Curt Schilling. Schilling pitched for 20 seasons in the bigs; won 20 games three times; played in four World Series and was a member of three World championship teams; was a World Series MVP and LCS MVP; like Biggio he has been an involved member of the community and several charitable groups; and of course, heperformed his best when on the "big stage" - posting an 11-2 mark in his post-season appearances in 1993, 2001,2004 and 2007, topped by the memorable "bloody sock" performance in the World Series. On the 'down' side, Schilling speaks his mind and has been rather vocal about many topics, which is sometimes considered a negative by BBWAA voters, and he posted only 216 regular season career wins - a lot fewer games than most starting pitchers who are in the Hall.
In part two, we'll look at the potential Class of 2014.