How serious is MLB's Hall of Fame backlog problem?
For almost all the players mentioned, the words "probably not this year, because of the overcrowded ballot…" keep showing up.
We're not overreacting, either. The problem is legitimate.
Bill Deane has been making Hall of Fame projections for over three decades, and has had a pretty remarkable accuracy rate.
Deane's prediction for this year: Only Greg Maddux will get in.
As alarming as that seems, considering the incredible amount of hugely talented players on the ballot, it's not unrealistic at all. In fact, the more you actually look at the ballot and analyze it, the more it makes sense.
There are a few kinds of voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America, and those various types of voters will vote very differently, making it hard to reach the 75% majority needed for induction.
Here are a few of the kinds of people we'll be seeing:
The people who will never vote for a guy in his first year on the ballot.
For some reason, there are voters who absolutely will not vote for a player in his first year. The Hall of Fame has never had a single unanimous inductee, despite many absolute no-brainers. Tom Seaver has the record for highest percentage of votes received, and there were still 5 people who didn't vote for him. It's inexplicable. Now that Greg Maddux is on the ballot, you'd think that he'd be a mortal lock on everyone's ballot, but there will be guys who don't vote for him.
The guys who will never vote for someone suspected of PED use.
I disagree with this particular point of view, because I think you can't possibly have a legitimate Hall of Fame without including some of the guys who have the game's most hallowed records. One of those guys is Barry Bonds. Regardless of how you feel about how clean his urine was, he made a huge impact on the game. He's part of the story of MLB. He needs to be in the Hall of Fame. And once he's in, you basically have to vote in other suspected players based solely on their merit on the field, since you need to be consistent. But still, there are guys who will never vote for Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They'll even go so far as to exclude guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza, even though there's no actual evidence there.
The guys who won't use all 10 votes, even if there are 10 guys who deserve induction.
The average voter casts about 6 votes. This year, there are absolutely 10 guys who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Still, there are a LOT of voters who won't vote for anywhere near 10 players. That obviously lowers the chances of guys getting their 75%.
The guys who will want to rescue players.
Jack Morris is on the ballot for his 15th and final year. Last year, he received 67.7% of the votes. It's hard to believe that there are guys who would decline to vote for him in his final year of eligibility if they've been increasingly convinced of his HOF status over the years. This means that Morris, despite being nowhere near a top 10 player on this current ballot, will most likely get around 70% of the votes. Add that to the list of guys who will vote for guys like Mike Mussina, Rafael Palmeiro, Luis Gonzalez, and other guys for the sole purpose of keeping them on the ballot for an extra year and buying them another chance.
The guys who throw votes away.
I'll never really understand it, but basically every guy on the ballot gets at least one vote every single year. You'd think that the writers would really value their votes, especially with a crowded ballot, but that's clearly not the case. Guys who got at least one vote last year: Aaron Sele, Royce Clayton, Rondell White, Woody Williams, Roberto Hernandez and several others. These are votes that the writers basically crumpled up and tossed in the trash, knowing that they'd be completely pointless.
Between all of these types of voters and the unusually high number of qualified players on the ballot, this year is going to be a serious problem. There might be some players who will fall off the ballot, despite the fact that they might have been Hall of Famers if their names were on the ballot in any other era.
The BBWAA has made quite a mess, after inducting zero players last year, and it should be interesting to see how they clean it up, if at all.