Recapping the 2018 Hall of Fame Voting: Who's In, Who's Out and Who's Left
On Wednesday, Chipper Jones, Vlad Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman were all elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame via the 2018 Baseball Writers Association of America ballot. They'll be inducted in Cooperstown on July 29 alongside the pair of Modern Baseball Era Committee honorees Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, who were elected in December.
In the five cycles since the infamous 2013 shutout, the writers have elected 16 players, surpassing the 1951–55 and '52–56 totals of 13 honorees for the most in a five-year span. Beyond that, there's much more to digest with regards to the results, starting with near-miss candidate Edgar Martinez. With an eye toward modern electoral history and more recent trends, what follows here is my rundown of the fates of all 33 candidates on the ballot, some of which will figure into my updated five-year outlook for Monday.
Chipper Jones (97.2%)
Jones joins a trio of former teammates from the Braves dynasty in Cooperstown, namely 2014 honorees Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux and 2015 honoree John Smoltz. Via Jayson Stark, they're the first quartet of first-ballot honorees who each spent at least 10 years with the same team. Jones received the 11th-highest share of the vote in history, just 0.04% behind Maddux. Such high scores are a recent phenomenon; eight of the 10 ahead of him date from 1992 onward, with Ty Cobb (98.2% in 1936) and Hank Aaron (97.8% in 1982) the exceptions. Jones is the first third baseman elected by the writers since Wade Boggs in 2005 and the sixth to be elected on the first ballot.
Vladimir Guerrero (92.9%, up 21.2%)
One year after electing Tim Raines, the writers voted in another former Expos outfielder. Since 1966, only seven candidates have posted bigger year-to-year gains than Guerrero: Luis Aparicio (+25.5% from 1982 to '83) is the leader and Barry Larkin (+24.3% from 2011 to '12) the only one besides Guerrero to ride such a surge into Cooperstown in the same year. What's more, Guerrero's share of the vote surpassed that of Roberto Alomar (90.0% in 2011) for the highest of any second-year candidate.
Jim Thome (89.8%)
The election of the big slugger, who's eighth on the all-time home run list with 612, was yet another no-doubt blast. Thome is the first first baseman elected on the first ballot since Frank Thomas in 2014. He’s the fifth member of the nine-member 600 home run club to be elected after Babe Ruth (1936), Willie Mays (1979), Aaron (1982) and Ken Griffey Jr. (2016). Suffice it to say that it could be awhile before Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa or the still-active Albert Pujols joins them.
Trevor Hoffman (79.9%, up 5.9%)
After missing by just five votes last year, Hoffman, who once owned the all-time record for saves, easily sailed in this year, his third of eligibility. He became the sixth reliever elected to the Hall, following Hoyt Wilhelm (1985), Rollie Fingers (1992), Dennis Eckersley (2004), Bruce Sutter (2006) and Rich Gossage (2008).
Edgar Martinez (70.4%, up 11.8%)
Though he was tracking above 80% among published ballots as recently as Monday, Martinez was left off one too many to create what would have been the writers’ first electoral quintet since 1936. Nonetheless, Martinez posted the third-largest gain of the cycle behind those of Guerrero and Larry Walker (up 12.2%) and his third straight double-digit gain. That's remarkable progress considering that in 2015, his sixth year of eligibility, he received just 27.0% and then, thanks to the Hall's unilateral rule change, had his remaining time on the ballot truncated from nine years to four. Now it appears that he has a strong chance to join Raines, Red Ruffing (1967), Ralph Kiner (1975) and Jim Rice (2009) among the ranks of those elected in their final year of eligibility. He's 0.6% ahead of Raines' share heading into 2019.
Electoral precedent says Martinez is in very good shape. Since 1966, 19 out of 20 candidates who received at least 70% and had eligibility remaining were elected the following year except Jim Bunning. Bunning received 70.0% in 1987 (his 11th year of eligibility), then 74.2% in '88 before falling back 63.3% in '89. He never regained that lost ground from the writers, but was elected by the Veterans Committee in 1996.
Mike Mussina (63.5%, up 11.7%)
In his fifth year of eligibility, Mussina posted his third straight double-digit gain, and the fourth-largest of this cycle. Obviously, he's trending towards election, but he shouldn't book a room in Cooperstown just yet. Since 1966, only one of the three other candidates who received between 60 and 70% in year five, namely Aparicio (67.4% in 1983) were elected the following year. Both Andre Dawson (61.0% in 2006) and Tony Perez (65.7% in 1996) needed four more years, but those were different times. With 10 years of eligibility remaining, voters treated them—and the entire process—with much less urgency, averaging in the range of 5.3 to 6.6 votes per ballot, compared to the modern record of 8.46 set this year.
Roger Clemens (57.3%, up 3.2%)
Barry Bonds (56.4%, up 2.6%)
Though Clemens and Bonds each gained nearly 20 points over the past three election cycles, this year’s gains were smaller than from 2015 to '16 (when the voting privileges of roughly 90 writers more than 10 years removed from active coverage were revoked) for being and from '16 to '17 (when Bud Selig's election led many voters to soften their stances given that the commissioner who presided over the so-called steroid era was being honored). In the wake of Monday's results, many expressed the belief that this might be the death knell for the pair's chances at 75%.
I'm more bullish. Clemens and Bonds gained a bit of ground in the face of the Hall's most direct effort to impede their progress, in the form of vice chairman Joe Morgan's simplistic and reactionary letter to voters. Very few minds actually changed, but all 11 first-time voters who published their ballots at the Tracker prior to the announcement included Clemens, and 10 of 11 did so for Bonds; last year, it was 13 out of 15 for both. Combine four more iterations of that trend with a shrinking electorate where the no's — each of which takes three yes votes to offset, for 75%—are dwindling and I think they'll get there. Consider these patterns over the past four years (the numbers in parentheses are the year-to-year changes):
|Yes||206||199 (-7)||239 (+40)||242 (+3)|
|No||343||241 (-102)||203 (-38)||180 (-23)|
|%||37.5%||45.2% (+7.7%)||54.1% (+8.9%)||57.3% (+3.2%)|
|Yes||202||195 (-7)||238 (+43)||238 (0)|
|No||347||245 (-102)||204 (-41)||184 (-20)|
|%||36.8%||44.3% (+7.5%)||53.8% (+8.5%)||56.4% (+2.6%)|
Obviously, the trends that work in their favor slowed down this year, but they didn't reverse, and many voters resent the Hall for its belated effort to put its institutional thumb on the scale. If things change only this much from 2018 to '19, then yes, it might be more reasonable to start composing a eulogy to those candidacies, but even then, the battle for ballot space will be lessening, which could soften some voters’ resolve. Derek Jeter is the only likely first-ballot honoree in 2020, and even the top candidates debuting on the 2021 ballot (Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter) have little hope of ever being elected. Meanwhile, the electorate will continue to evolve, with younger voters less aggrieved by the conduct of Bonds and Clemens replacing older ones.
Curt Schilling (51.2%, up 6.2%)
Schilling regained most of the support that he lost from 2016 (52.3%) to '17 (45.0%) in the wake of his inflammatory comments on social media. However, he burned two years of eligibility in the process and appears to be in for a slow climb to election. Of the six candidates to receive between 50 and 60% in year six, one (Gil Hodges, who got 54.2% in 1974) has yet to be elected by any means. Of the other five, Dawson (56.7% in 2007) and Gossage (55.2% in 2005) were elected three years later, Kiner (58.9% in 1971) and Raines (52.2% in '13) in four years, and—gulp—Jim Rice (51.5% in 2000) in nine years, time Schilling doesn't have.
Omar Vizquel (37.0%)
The fielding whiz's candidacy is a polarizing one, and while he got nearly half of the votes that he'll need for enshrinement, electoral history says his candidacy could go either way. Of the 16 candidates to receive between 30 and 45% in their debuts, eight have yet to be elected, four of whom are still on the ballot (Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Martinez).
Four were elected by the Veterans Committee (Bunning, Pee Wee Reese, Enos Slaughter and Al Lopez, albeit as a manager), and four more by the writers; Wilhelm (41.7% in 1978) and Jeff Bagwell (41.7% in 20111) both needed six more years to gain entry, Gossage (33.3%) eight and Eddie Mathews (32.3%) four. Excluding the still-eligible quartet, the highest shares of any first-year candidates not to be elected thus far belong to Smith (42.3% in 2003), Steve Garvey (41.6% in 1993), Luis Tiant (30.9% in 1988) and Maury Wills (30.3% in 1978).
Larry Walker (34.1%, up 12.2%)
In his eighth year of eligibility, Walker posted the ballot's second-largest gain and surpassed his previous high of 22.9%, set in 2012, his second year on the ballot. No eighth-year candidate with a percentage that low has been elected by the writers, and the lowest by any candidate with just two years remaining was the 63.5% received by Rice in 2007. Walker's best hope for election is via the 2022 or '24 Today's Game Era Committee ballots, and he can look to Trammell as a positive example. The great shortstop didn't top 30% until his 11th year on the ballot (36.8% in 2012) and surpassed that only in his final year (40.9% in 2016) but was elected in his first shot via the Modern Baseball ballot in December.
Fred McGriff (23.2%, up 1.5%)
While he gained ground for the fourth year in a row and posted his highest share since 2012 (23.9%), the Crime Dog now has just one year remaining on the writers' ballot. Realistically, his 493 career homers and the rest of his resumé will play much better in front of the Today's Game panel, starting in 2022.
Manny Ramirez (22.0%, down 1.8%)
Jeff Kent (14.5%, down 2.2%)
Gary Sheffield (11.1%, down 2.2%)
Sammy Sosa (7.8%, down 0.8%)
Of the four holdovers to lose ground from 2017, all but Kent were linked to PEDs during their careers, though only Ramirez was actually suspended (twice, even). Their slides probably have less to do with Morgan's letter than the overcrowded ballot, and in particular, voters' migration to Guerrero, Walker and Martinez, at least according to a quick breeze through Ryan Thibodaux’s Tracker.
Both Sosa, a sixth-year candidate, and Sheffield, a fourth-year one, are in no-man's land regarding BBWAA electoral history, though the pair can look to the VC-elected Richie Ashburn (6.6% in 1973, his sixth year) and Bill Mazeroski (9.5% in 1981, his fourth year) for hope. As for fifth-year candidate Kent, Ashburn and Mazeroski both did even worse in their fifth years. Trammell (17.7% in 2006) offers some hope for the slugging second baseman, who will be eligible for his first Today's Game ballot in 2024.
Billy Wagner (11.1%, up 0.9%)
Wagner received his highest level of support in his three years on the ballot, though he's moved less than a full percentage point in that span. While the election of Hoffman (whose JAWS is exactly the same) may help him, the arrival of Rivera on an already crowded ballot probably fills the quota of voters inclined to include a reliever. As far as year three shares among BBWAA honorees, Bert Blyleven (17.4% in 2000) is the low man, but it took him 11 more years to gain entry.
Scott Rolen (10.2%)
Thankfully, Rolen received about double the support necessary to preserve his candidacy, not to mention pledges from many voters—particularly those who used all 10 slots—to take a closer look at his credentials next year. He'll need a lot of that, particularly given that the lowest share of any modern first-year candidate elected by the writers is the 17.0% Duke Snider received in 1970, and it took him 10 more years to be elected.
Andruw Jones (7.3%)
It's been touch and go for most of the past two months, but the Braves' dynasty's other Jones did squeak through with 31 votes, 10 more than needed to maintain his eligibility. Beyond the Snider precedent, seven players who received less than 10% in their first years were eventually elected by committees, namely Ashburn, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Billy Herman, George Kell, Mazeroski and Ron Santo.
Johan Santana (2.4%)
Despite a compelling case for Cooperstown centered around his two Cy Young awards, Santana received just 10 votes, less than half of the total necessary to retain eligibility. He joins Bret Saberhagen and Denny McLain among the two-time winners to later fall victim to the 5% Rule, but the door isn't entirely shut. Despite the litany of injuries he's dealt with since last pitching in the majors in 2012, Santana is said to be mulling another comeback according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman.
If that's the case, the precedent of Jose Rijo suggests that such a move would restore Santana’s eligibility. Rijo pitched in the majors from 1984-95, starring for the 1990 world champion Reds, but disappearing off the radar after undergoing his first Tommy John surgery. He received a single vote in 2001, which normally would have been the end of it. By that point, he'd undergone two more TJs and two other major surgeries. Miraculously, he returned to make 34 major league appearances in 2001-02, but another elbow surgery forced him into retirement. He reappeared on the 2008 ballot, and while he was shut out there, it makes for a fascinating little tale.
Jamie Moyer (2.4%)
Johnny Damon (1.9%)
Hideki Matsui (0.9%)
Chris Carpenter (0.5%)
Kerry Wood (0.5%)
Livan Hernandez (0.2%)
Carlos Lee (0.2%)
Like Santana, these seven first-year candidates avoided shutouts, with vote totals ranging from one to 10 (every vote was worth 0.24%), but as expected, they joined the ranks of the One-and-Dones. None had particularly compelling cases for Cooperstown, but all had very good to great careers with their shares of highlights. Matsui can take solace as having recently been elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, making him just the fifth first-ballot honoree; at 43 years and seven months, he supplanted the trailblazing Hideo Nomo as the youngest ever.
Brad Lidge (0.0%)
As in years past, I'll invoke the great Vin Scully, who often reminded viewers, “They also serve who only stand and wait." In a time with less transparency and a less crowded ballot, most of these players would have received a token of support from a writer here and there to avoid a shutout, just as the seven players above did. The times have changed, but there's no shame in the shutout after their unique, impressive careers.