Last summer, Astros fans finally got a taste of what it's like to have one of "your own" go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. No, I'm not counting Nolan Ryan, who the Astros share with the Mets, Angels, and Rangers. By "your own" I mean a player who went wire to wire in his career wearing the same uniform, who fans around baseball identify with that team. Indeed, watching Craig Biggio go in the Hall was a glorious thing for Astros fans. Rightfully, they want more.
Unfortunately, in last season's vote, as Biggio crept over the threshold of 75 percent approval from the voting constituency, first baseman Jeff Bagwell backslid, dropping to around 54 percent. Usually, when a player begins descending in that approval range, it's a one way trip to annual heartbreak.
However, the Hall tightened things up a little bit with the voting process this year. Thanks to a purge of over 100 voters who haven't covered the game in ten years (and a rule that will make the 10 year threshold permanent), there was renewed hope for some of the candidates who've been linked, rightly or wrongly, to the steroid era of the late 90's. Bagwell is one of those players, even though no proof of his taking performance enhancing drugs has ever surfaced.
The thinking is that the removal of the old guard (many of whom are staunch anti-steroid voters) along with the younger voters being more in tune with the age of analytical stats (which benefit Bagwell greatly) would both hopefully reboot Bagwell's push. And, to a degree, it did.
Bagwell did not get enough votes for induction into the Hall on Wednesday, pulling 315 votes, 15 short of the necessary 330. However, the massive 180 degree turn of his trajectory itself was a huge win for Bagwell. With 71.6 percent approval, Bagwell would appear to be a virtual lock to get into the Hall as soon as next year. No player has ever hovered between 70 and 75 percent and not eventually gotten into the Hall of Fame. So while Bagwell didn't get the phone call he was likely hoping for today, it was still a great day for the big picture of his candidacy.
The only two inductees next summer will be outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., whose best years were spent in the 90's in Seattle, and catcher Mike Piazza, whose best seasons were spent as a Los Angeles Dodger in the early and mid 90's. The voting went like this:
RK. NAME YEAR ON BALLOT VOTES PCT. OF VOTE
1 Ken Griffey Jr. 1st 437 99.3%
2 Mike Piazza 4th 365 83.0%
3 Jeff Bagwell 6th 315 71.6%
4 Tim Raines 9th 307 69.8%
5 Trevor Hoffman 1st 296 67.3%
6 Curt Schilling 4th 230 52.3%
7 Roger Clemens 4th 199 45.2%
8 Barry Bonds 4th 195 44.3%
9 Edgar Martinez 7th 191 43.4%
10 Mike Mussina 3rd 189 43.0%
11 X-Alan Trammell 15th 180 40.9%
12 Lee Smith 14th 150 34.1%
13 Fred McGriff 7th 92 20.9%
14 Jeff Kent 3rd 73 16.6%
15 Larry Walker 6th 68 15.5%
16 Mark McGwire 10th 54 12.3%
17 Gary Sheffield 2nd 51 11.6%
18 Billy Wagner 1st 46 10.5%
19 Sammy Sosa 4th 31 7.0%
20 X-Jim Edmonds 1st 11 2.5%
21 X-Nomar Garciaparra 2nd 8 1.8%
22 X-Mike Sweeney 1st 3 0.7%
23 X-David Eckstein 1st 2 0.5%
24 X-Jason Kendall 1st 2 0.5%
25 X-Garret Anderson 1st 1 0.2%
26 X-Luis Castillo 1st 0 0.0%
27 X-Mike Lowell 1st 0 0.0%
28 X-Troy Glaus 1st 0 0.0%
29 X-Randy Winn 1st 0 0.0%
30 X-Mark Grudzielanek 1st 0 0.0%
31 X-Brad Ausmus 1st 0 0.0%
32 X-Mike Hampton 1st 0 0.0%
X: Off ballot
A few other observations:
1. We are still without a unanimous Hall of Fame selection, as Griffey missed out on three ballots, getting 437 of the possible 440 votes. His 99.32 percent attainment was still the highest in Hall of Fame voting history, surpassing Tom Seaver's previous high of 98.8 percent.
2. In addition to Bagwell, other candidacies that picked up serious steam were those of outfielder Tim Raines (69.8 percent, up 23.7 percent), Curt Schilling (52.3 percent, up 23.1 percent), Edgar Martinez (43.4 percent, up 18.2 percent), and Mike Mussina (43.0 percent, up 22.7 percent). Renewed hope for some greats who've been on the ballot a few years.
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3. Other first time ballot entries who will be back up for election next year are closers Trevor Hoffman (67.3 percent) and Billy Wagner (a surprisingly low 10.5 percent). All other first year nominees, including former Astros Brad Ausmus and Mike Hampton, fell off of the ballot with under five percent of the vote.
4. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two players with clear cut first ballot Hall of Fame numbers but also with the unfortunate stink of PED's, both picked up votes this year, climbing from around 35 percent to 45.2 percent for Clemens and 44.3 percent for Bonds. They'll both need a similar jump next year to keep hope alive for eventual induction, a ceremony that would be easily the most watched Hall of Fame induction ceremony of all time.
5. Next year's ballot will pick up several new first time nominees, including catcher Ivan Rodriguez, outfielder Manny Ramirez, and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.
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