For the first time since 1996 and eighth time in history, the Hall of Fame podium will be empty this July. Despite many strong candidates for enshrinement, several controversial issues conspired to destroy consensus. However, just because no one was elected by the BBWAA, doesn’t mean some of the rejected candidates won’t be rewarded in the future. Below is a breakdown of the more notable results presented in context of historical trends since 1967, when the current voting process was instituted.
Craig Biggio – 68.2% (1st)
Although no one was elected to the Hall of Fame this year, Craig Biggio is all but ensured of eventually getting in. At 68.2%, Biggio recorded the second highest rate among players not inducted in their first year on the ballot (behind only Roberto Alomar’s 73.7% in 2010). The only question is will the former Astros’ great join next year’s class or have to wait until 2015? Since 1967, the 15 players who received over 50% in their first year on the ballot experienced an unweighted average increase of 9.2% in their next attempt. That would be more than enough to get Biggio on the podium next July. However, if Biggio follows the track of admitted cheater Gaylord Perry, whose year-two bump was only 4.1%, he’ll have to wait at least one year longer.
Note: Includes players who debuted on the ballot with at least 50%, but fell short of election. Shaded players were enshrined in their second year.
Jack Morris – 67.7% (14th)
If Jack Morris, the most controversial non-PED candidate, was going to earn his plaque, this was probably the year. However, the durable right hander wasn’t able to close the gap. With only 1% more support, Morris’ momentum came to a screeching a halt, leaving him more than 7% short of the finish line. If Morris makes up that ground, he’d become only the second player to get in on his final ballot, joining Jim Rice, who made the leap in 2009. However, the former Red Sox slugger was building off a 72.2% rate in year 14. Also, Rice had the benefit of a relatively weak first-time class. Aside from Rickey Henderson, who was elected, the nine other first timers all received less than 5% of the vote. In contrast, Morris will face an even more crowded ballot in his final season, as the glut of holdovers joins newcomers like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, and Mike Mussina. Considering Morris’ borderline candidacy, it will be very difficult for him to elbow his way onto many additional ballots, not to mention avoid falling off some.
Mike Piazza – 57.8% (1st) and Jeff Bagwell – 59.6% (3rd)
If not for suspicions about performance enhancing drugs, Mike Piazza’s first year vote total would make him a future lock. Of course, if not for PEDs, he’d likely be a first time inductee. For that reason, it’s hard to extrapolate his future vote totals. In his favor, there is no evidence linking Piazza to steroids, which should provide the catcher with more wiggle room. Perhaps the best comp for Piazza is Jeff Bagwell, who has also been the victim of unsubstantiated rumors. After debuting at only 41.7%, the former first baseman jumped up 13.3%, an increase that would bring Piazza right to the doorstep. So, barring any more revelations or rumors, Piazza seems to be in good shape. Bagwell, however, probably faces a much longer climb.
Tim Raines – 52.2% (6th)
The good news for Tim Raines is that of the 10 other candidates to crack 50% on their sixth ballot, Gil Hodges was the only one not elected. The bad news is his progress stalled considerably. After sizeable gains in the past three votes, the Rock only climbed 3.5%. Raines’ election still seems inevitable, but with the ballot filling up, it probably won’t come anytime soon.
Curt Schilling – 38.8% (1st)
Although lower than many expected, Curt Schilling’s debut vote does augur well for eventual enshrinement. Like others, he could suffer because of the ballot glut, but with an initially tally of 38.8%, historical precedent suggests future enshrinement. The only two players to not be inducted after posting a first year vote higher than Schilling’s are Lee Smith (42.3%) and Bagwell (41.7%), but the jury is still out on both. So, it’s more a question of when, not if, the postseason hero will join his bloody sock in the Hall of Fame.
Roger Clemens – 37.6% (1st) and Barry Bonds – 36.2% (1st)
Easily two of the greatest players in the history of the game, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were both victims of the BBWAA’s character crusade. Normally, both players would be in good shape based on their initial tallies, but players under strong suspicion of PEDs, like Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, have had trouble increasing support. Clemens and Bonds, however, are unique candidates because most agree their performance rose to the level of the Hall of Fame even before they allegedly tried to enhance it. For that reason, they should both break away from the typical PED trend, but, still, could face a long-term battle before finally being enshrined. The debate over Clemens and Bonds will likely rage for years, meaning not only will the two legends be denied a rightful honor, but other deserving candidates may also suffer by being crowded off the ballot.
Bernie Williams – 3.3% (2nd) and Kenny Lofton – 3.2% (1st)
Most people don’t believe Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton are Hall of Famers, but they are both closer to the borderline than their vote totals suggest. Unfortunately, by falling under the 5% threshold, neither player will again be considered. Much of the attention has been paid to the top of the ballot, but the exclusion of Williams and Lofton from future consideration is probably the biggest shame.
An empty Hall of Fame class isn’t a tragedy, and that result alone doesn’t mean the process is corrupt. Nonetheless, changes are needed. Although a dramatic overhaul is unlikely, what this year’s vote shows is some small tweaks are needed. In particular, it’s time for the Hall to remove the 10-vote limit and lower the 5% threshold because the confusion created by the crowded ballot is punishing deserving candidates. With 22% of writers maxing out their ballots this year, and several no-brainers being added in 2014, the chaos is likely to increase. If the Hall of Fame allows that to happen, it might as well change its name to the Hall of Shame.