The BBWAA released it's official ballot for the 2016 Hall of Fame class on Monday, with a group of 15 first timers highlighted by Ken Griffey Jr. joining an ever-swelling list of holdovers from baseball's Steroid Era. The announcement didn't come without a bit of a blow for Brewers fans; absent from the ballot was Brewers' legendary second baseman Ronnie Belliard, who retired in 2010. Belliard compiled a 17.7 fWAR during his 13 year career, a figure that is larger than those of both Brad Ausmus (17.2) and David Eckstein (16.8), both of whom will absolutely get too many votes this year. There is no possible explanation for this egregious oversight.
The Brewers do, however, have four players on the ballot this year, including three who will be eligible for the first time. The most prominent among them, and the only one with a real shot to eventually make it to Cooperstown, is Trevor Hoffman. Spending the majority of his 18 career with the San Diego Padres, Hoffman was drafted by the Cincinatti Reds in the 11th round of the 1989 draft, but was plucked by the Florida Marlins in the 1992 expansion draft. He debuted the next spring, and was promptly traded to San Diego that June. Hoffman went on to become one of the game's most dominant closers, racking up seven All Star appearances and finishing in the top six of Cy Young voting four times.
Hoffman signed with Milwaukee as a free agent in 2009 and turned in one of the greatest seasons of his storied career, saving 37 games and recording a sub-2.00 ERA for the first time since 1998, when he finished second in Cy Young voting to Tom Glavine. Age caught up with Hoffman the following season, however, as he struggled and was eventually replaced in the closer role (still not a real thing) by a former cell phone salesman. Hoffman was re-installed briefly as the Brewers closer that September after Milwaukee had fallen out of the race, earning two more saves, the first of which was the 600th of his career. Hoffman won't be a first-ballot entrant to the Hall, and it's hard to gauge his chances for eventual enshrinement. There are five pitchers in the Hall today primarily for their relief efforts, including former Brewer Rollin Fingers. More than likely the sixth will not be Hoffman, but Mariano Rivera, who will be eligible in 2019.
Tracking back a bit, who did the Marlins receive in the deal that sent Hoffman to the Padres? Well, that would be Gary Sheffield, who was drafted by the Brewers in the 1st round of the 1986 draft. Sheffield debuted with Milwaukee at the age of 19, and pushed his way out of Milwaukee four years later by accusing the team of racism when they moved him from shortstop to third base in favor of Bill Spiers (Sheffield, of course, never played shortstop for anyone again and eventually ended up as a corner outfielder and designated hitter, so I guess everyone was racist?), complaining about the team's handling of a foot injury, and purposely committing errors to spite the team.
Sheffield, who played for eight teams over a 22 year career -- probably because no one has ever been able to be around him for more than a couple of years without hating his stupid guts -- has the kind of career numbers that would have made him a shoo-in for the Hall a decade ago: 509 HR, 1676 RBI and a career .907 OPS. But the Steroid Era made those once nigh-unattainable milestones almost commonplace, and Sheffield's name was also one of the more prominent to appear on the Mitchell Report. As a result, Sheffield appeared on just 11.7% of ballots in his first year. No one has made it into the Hall after receiving less than 12% of the vote in their first year since Bob Lemon in 1976. Boy, it sure would be a shame to see Sheffield never get into the Hall of Fame. Darn it.
The other former Brewers on the 2016 ballot are a couple of players that made their bones with NL Central foes before catching on with Milwaukee in the twilight of their careers. Both might be fighting just to get the 5% needed to remain on the ballot for next year, especially with so many deserving players sentenced to purgatory of steroid suspicion. Jim Edmonds, who spent the majority of his career with St. Louis and the California/Anaheim Angels, has the best shot of at least garnering enough votes to stick around for the full 10 years he'll have to try to build a case for his enshrinement. Edmonds compiled a career 64.5 fWAR, much of which was accrued through his outstanding defensive play, including one of the most iconic defensive plays of all time. Edmonds spent less than a year with Milwaukee -- he was traded to Cincinnati in August of 2010 after being signed as a free agent the previous winter -- but he was surprisingly effective for a 40-year-old, slashing .286/.350/.493 while splitting time with Carlos Gomez in center field. The final Brewer on the ballot is Jason Kendall, who I would guess is not likely to garner enough attention on this crowded ballot to stick around for more than a year. Kendall spent two years with Milwaukee, serving as the team's primary backstop on the 2008 team that was the first to reach the postseason in 26 years. Kendall was a three-time All Star, all with the Pirates, for whom he played nine years.
Just to give y'all something to be angry about, here's my ballot. It means nothing and includes Edmonds, who was one of the most incredible defensive outfielders of all time, and Alan Trammel, who is on the ballot for the 15th and final time and will need to convince just under half of the BBWAA to change their minds, having gathered just 25.1% of the vote last year (75%, of course, is needed to gain entrance to the Hall). Listed in alphabetical order:
1. Jeff Bagwell
2. Barry Bonds
3. Roger Clemens
4. Jim Edmonds
5. Ken Griffey Jr.
6. Mike Mussina
7. Mike Piazza
8. Tim Raines
9. Alan Trammel
10. Larry Walker
Good luck to all the former Brewers on this year's ballot, except for Gary Sheffield.