The new year usually brings with it a quiet period for the hot stove, and 2016 has been no different to this point. While we wait for more news about our beloved local nine to break, however, at least we have the Baseball Hall of Fame class announcement.
The Hall announced some changes to the voting process in recent years. The pool of writers that are eligible for the opportunity to vote has been reduced by some 20% and roughly 100 less ballots were mailed out this year than there were for the 2015 election. Additionally, under the new rules players are now only able to remain on the ballot for 10 years as long as they garner 5% of the votes, down from 15 years as recently as two elections ago (players who were already beyond their tenth year of eligibility were grandfathered in).
In order to be eligible, a player must have been retired (or, at least not appeared in a major league game) for a period of five seasons. So in this year's case, all first-time eligible players finished their big league careers in 2010. Eligible players must receive at least 75% of the vote to gain enshrinement into Cooperstown's hallowed halls and take their place among the all-time greats of the game.
This year's class included 32 former big league stars, including fifteen first-time eligible candidates. Here they are, as ranked by their career Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference):
Ken Griffey, Jr figures to be this year's leading vote-getter and could perhaps set a new record for most votes upon election, currently held by Tom Seaver at 98.84%. Mike Piazza, the all-time leader for home runs by a catcher, fell just short last season with nearly 70% of the vote and also stands a good chance at getting elected this year. Jeff Bagwell (55.7%) and Tim Raines (50%) were the next two closest in last year's voting and could possibly see big enough increases to get elected in 2016.
Writers still seem split on how to vote for players embroiled in the so-called "Steroid Era." Yes, many players were either suspected of or caught taking performance enhancers, but to me it hardly seems productive to have a "Hall of Fame" that seemingly glosses over an entire era of tremendous players. I mean, neither the arguably greatest hitter of modern times in Bonds nor the greatest pitcher in Clemens received even 40% of the vote last season. Each has nearly double the WAR totals of the third highest player on the list in Griffey, Jr. It's my hope that as a younger set of voters become eligible, these wrongs are righted and those two along with several others take their rightful place among the best to ever take the field.
Unlike the above mentioned all-time greats, however, many players won't garner the requisite 5% of votes in order to remain on the ballot. Unfortunately for players like Randy Winn and Mike Sweeney, both of whom had terrific careers in their own right, it isn't called the "Hall of Very Good."
As for Milwaukee connections, this year's ballot features four former Brewers. Trevor Hoffman played in Milwaukee for the final two years of his career and despite accruing 601 saves during his 18 year career, he might have trouble getting in on the first ballot as a relief pitcher. Gary Sheffield spent four of his 22 major league seasons in Milwaukee (and developed quite a negative reputation) and hit 509 career home runs, but his name is marred by being dropped in the Mitchell Report and he got just 11.7% of the vote last year. Jim Edmonds is considered one of the top defensive outfielders of all-time and hit 393 home runs in his 17 year career. He spent half of his final career season with Milwaukee in 2010. Finally, Jason Kendall spent most of his excellent career in Pittsburgh, but also spent two seasons in Milwaukee and was the everyday catcher (and contributed 2.8 rWAR) during the club's playoff run in 2008.
Coverage of the Hall of Fame announcement begins tomorrow at 2 PM CT and is being simulcast on MLB Network and MLB.com. The final voting results will be announced at 5 PM CT. The annual enshrinement ceremony will take place later this summer on July 24th in Cooperstown.