It's time to start gearing up for more baseball activity over the next few weeks leading up to spring training. The Cubs appear quiet for now, but they'll be hosting their annual Convention beginning Friday, January 15.
Meanwhile, baseball's Hall of Fame will make an announcement Wednesday regarding inductees for 2016. The Hall's induction ceremony will take place in Cooperstown, New York, Sunday, July 24.
Darren Viola, who keeps track of publicly-announced Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) ballots, posted Monday morning that 144 ballots had been announced, 32 percent of the total. So far, four players have been named on more than 75 percent of the public ballots: Ken Griffey Jr. (100 percent), Mike Piazza (87.5 percent), Jeff Bagwell (81.9 percent) and (80.6 percent).
This would be a worthy Hall of Fame class.
As many of you know, I'm a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA). The IBWAA conducts its own balloting concurrent with the BBWAA's voting. We don't have any official impact on the Hall's choices, but have this vote to go on record with writers who aren't part of the BBWAA.
In this year's IBWAA balloting, I voted for Griffey, Trevor Hoffman, , Curt Schilling, Lee Smith and Sammy Sosa.
You might wonder why I didn't vote for Bagwell, Piazza or Raines, and there's a good reason: all three of those players were honored in previous IBWAA voting, so they did not appear on our ballot.
I voted for Hoffman because he's clearly one of the two or three best closers of all time. You can make an argument that "closer" has become a position because of the save rule and the evolution of the game to the point that managers manage to the rule and not to game situations, and you have a point. Nevertheless, only Hoffman and Mariano Rivera had nine 40-save seasons. There are plenty of closers who have 40-save seasons, but few have been able to maintain that level as long as those two.
Smith defined the closer role before Hoffman and Rivera came along and held the career saves record from 1993 through 2006, when Hoffman passed him.
Schilling... well, setting aside some of the controversy surrounding him, he passed the 3,000-strikeout milestone (and is one of only three pitchers to do that while walking fewer than 1,000) and was a key contributor to three World Series champions.
Then there's Sammy. Despite all the controversy around Sammy and the so-called Steroid Era, he remains the only player to have three 60-homer seasons. He certainly qualifies as "famous." He ranks eighth on the all-time home run list.
Which, of course, brings you to your question: "If you voted for Sammy, why didn't you vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens?" A fair question, and one I pondered long and hard both before I submitted my ballot and since. There are a number of BBWAA writers who did not vote for Clemens and Bonds in the past who appeared to have done so this year. Viola's tracker has Bonds at 49.3 percent and Clemens at 48.6 percent, big jumps from last year (Bonds 36.8 percent, Clemens 37.5).
I'm starting to come around to the idea that the Hall must excise 20 years or so worth of baseball history. Tainted or not, Bonds and Clemens were among the best of the best even before they allegedly took PEDs. There will, I suspect, come a time when these men will gain induction, and hopefully at that time they'll acknowledge what they did. That would recognize what they did -- both on and off the field.
How, you ask, could I not vote for them before and could consider them now (I'll likely put both on my IBWAA ballot next year)? Because the thinking process evolves, history evolves, times change, and individuals are allowed to change their minds.
I'll reveal the results of the IBWAA vote on Wednesday, when it's announced along with the BBWAA vote. One last note: thinking back on my ballot now (it was due December 31), I probably should have included Mike Mussina. I'll include him next year.
The IBWAA also set up a "Veterans Committee" this year to give our votes, as the Hall does (sometimes -- they failed to elect anyone for 2016), to older players and baseball contributors not previously inducted. I served on that committee. We submitted the following nominations to vote on: Dick Allen, Buzzie Bavasi, Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Bobby Grich, Gil Hodges, Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Barry Larkin, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Minnie Minoso, Dale Murphy, Tony Oliva, Vada Pinson, John Schuerholz, Ted Simmons, Rusty Staub, George Steinbrenner, Lou Whitaker and Maury Wills.
Larkin, who was inducted in Cooperstown in 2012, has never been selected on an IBWAA ballot, which is why he appears here.
I voted for Hodges, John, Kaat, Miller, Minoso, Schuerholz and Simmons.
MLB Network announced Monday that they will be airing a four-hour program leading up to the Hall announcement on Wednesday. The show will begin at 2 p.m. CT, with the announcement of the winners scheduled around 5 p.m. CT. MLB Network noted in a press release:
Anchored by Greg Amsinger and Brian Kenny, the program will feature Bob Costas, Al Leiter, Harold Reynolds, 2015 Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz, Christopher Russo, and Hall of Fame voters Jon Heyman, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Joel Sherman and Tom Verducci, examining this year’s 32 Hall of Fame candidates through traditional and sabermetric analysis. MLB Network’s coverage will discuss the history of the Hall of Fame and what future Hall of Fame classes might look like.
I'm sure you'll have opinions on my votes, and on the voting in general, so have at it.