There's been much controversy about Hall of Fame balloting over the last couple of years. Even beyond debates on whether PED-suspected players should get it, there's been widespread dissatisfaction about ballot limits, which might soon be raised.
Hall voters got it (mostly) right Tuesday by electing four players: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. Johnson got 97.1 percent of the vote, Pedro 91.1 percent, Smoltz 82.9 percent and Biggio 82.7 percent.
In only three other years have there been at least four BBWAA-voted inductees: the 1947 class (Mickey Cochrane, Frank Frisch, Lefty Grove, and Carl Hubbell) and the 1955 class (Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, and Dazzy Vance) both had four, and there hasn't been a five-player class since the 1936 election that opened the Hall, which inducted the all-time greats Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson and Honus Wagner.
All four elected today well deserved the honor. Johnson has a case for being named the greatest lefthander of all time. Pedro was dominant through an era when hitters dominated and had two of the best pitching seasons ever. Smoltz was great both as a starter and lockdown closer. Biggio played three key defensive positions well for multiple seasons, had over 3,000 hits and is fifth all-time in doubles.
Mike Piazza, who has an argument to be the best catcher of all time, didn't make it, finishing 28 votes short (69.9 percent). Also, the push for , a well-qualified candidate, didn't get him over the top in his eighth year of eligibility at 55 percent, but he made a large jump from 46.1 percent in 2014. Jeff Bagwell also fell short, getting 55.7 percent, up slightly from 54.3 percent a year ago.
For players with alleged PED use hanging over their heads, the voting took a slight upward turn this year. Barry Bonds had 36.8 percent; last year he got 34.7 percent. Roger Clemens came in at 37.5 percent, up from 35.4 in 2014.
The following players dropped off the ballot by getting less than five percent of the vote: Carlos Delgado, Troy Percival, Aaron Boone, Tom Gordon, Darin Erstad, Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt. The last seven of those (starting with Aurilia on the list above) got no votes.
As you know, I'm a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. We conducted our own Hall of Fame voting, though it's strictly an exercise and has no influence on the Hall, at least for now.
There are 338 members in the IBWAA, of which 227 voted in this election, both essentially doubling last year’s totals.
Per a group decision in January, 2014, the IBWAA allows members to vote for 15 players, instead of the previous 10, beginning with this election. With their first opportunity to do so, 136 members voted for more than 10 candidates. Fifty-two members voted for 15 players. The average vote per member was 11.084.
I revealed my IBWAA ballot in this post December 21 and the IBWAA has selected these five players who crossed the 75 percent threshold: Randy Johnson (with 98.24% of the vote), Pedro Martinez (95.15%), John Smoltz (82.82%), Jeff Bagwell (81.94%) and Tim Raines (79.30%). Biggio and Piazza were not included in this year's ballot as the IBWAA elected them in previous years. Barry Larkin, who was elected to the actual Hall of Fame three years ago, has still not crossed the 75 percent line in IBWAA voting. This year, Larkin got 64.32 percent.
Also of interest from IBWAA balloting: Curt Schilling finished in sixth place, with 65.64%. Roger Clemens garnered 64.76% (after receiving 56.64% in 2014) and Barry Bonds received 63.44% (57.52% last year). These are much larger figures than the BBWAA has ever given to Clemens or Bonds.
Two players with significant Cub connections got nowhere on either ballot. Sammy Sosa got 6.6 percent of the BBWAA vote and 20.26 percent of the IBWAA balloting. Lee Smith received 30.2 percent from the BBWAA and 22.91 percent from the IBWAA. I did vote for Smith; my reasoning, from the December 21 post:
A prototype of the modern closer, he still ranks third all-time in saves (and probably will for a very long time). One of only three pitchers (Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman are the others) with 12 or more seasons of 30 or more saves.
Hall of Fame voting will always be contentious until the Hall and the BBWAA revamp voting procedures. The 10-player limit encourages "strategic" voting, which could eliminate worthwhile candidates. The BBWAA has proposed an increase to 12, which is at least something, though likely not enough. As noted above, the IBWAA allows 15 to be voted for. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has proposed what he calls the "binary ballot":
The Hall and the writers should embrace the bedrock question and its two simple answers on the ballot by doing away the 10-player limit and just putting two boxes beneath every name on the ballot. Yes. No. This forces the voter to weigh each player individually, not as a group, not when weighted as one of the 10 most-deserving on the ballot. It’s simpler. It’s streamlined. And it fits the theme every voter must confront, the ghost of PEDs past or not.
I like this idea. Players would still have to get 75 percent "Yes" votes to be elected, but if he doesn't, he's done, off the ballot. That would eliminate 37-player ballots like we had this year, and put truly deserving players in. So what if that means 10 inductions in any particular year? Wouldn't that be better for the Hall and the game?
One thing is certain. The procedure has to change, because no one likes it and it's not serving the people the Hall wants to come to Cooperstown -- modern, savvy baseball fans. They're going to have to make changes or see the Hall of Fame slide into irrelevancy.