Looking Ahead To The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot
Yankees legend Mariano Rivera will lead an impressive list of newcomers on the 2019 baseball Hall of Fame ballot.
The BBWAA elected four players to baseball’s Hall of Fame as a result of this year’s voting. Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman will join veteran’s committee selections when they are formally inducted this summer at the annual ceremony in Cooperstown.
Let’s take an early look at next year’s ballot, which is led by Yankees legend Mariano Rivera.
The Greatest Closer Of All Time
“Mo” is baseball’s all-time saves leader (652) and holds the record for games finished (952) and ERA+ (205). He also has the best career ERA (2.21) and WHIP (1.00) of any pitcher in the live-ball era (1920-present). Rivera was a 13-time All-Star, won the Rolaids Relief Man Award five times, led the majors in saves three times, was a top-finisher for the Cy Young Award six times, and received MVP votes in nine seasons.
The greatest closer of all time also has a legendary postseason resume. He appeared in 96 games and is 8-1 with 42 saves. In 141 innings pitched, he carries a 0.70 ERA and 0.76 WHIP. Mo is a five-time World Series champion and was named MVP of the 1999 Fall Classic. He was also ALCS MVP in 2003. Rivera finished 78 games for the Yankees in 16 postseason campaigns.
Arguably the greatest pitcher in baseball history, Rivera has long been thought to be a good candidate to become the first player unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame. That may prove to be an unreachable goal unless the voting process changes. At least one voter turns in a blank ballot every year, making a unanimous election impossible under the present circumstances. Other problems with the system may even put Rivera’s election on the first ballot in jeopardy. Still, he will ultimately gain admission.
A Pair Of Aces
Rivera’s long-time teammate on the Yankees, Andy Pettitte, makes his debut on the ballot in 2019. A fellow member of the vaunted Core Four, Pettitte is the winningest pitcher in postseason history. The left-hander won 19 games in 14 postseason campaigns. Contemporary playoff standouts John Smoltz (15 wins), Tom Glavine (14), and Greg Maddux (11) have all been enshrined in Cooperstown in recent years.
A five-time World Series champion, three-time All-Star, and two-time 20-game winner, Pettitte led the league with 21 wins in 1996. He was a top-finisher in the Cy Young Award balloting five times and received MVP votes in two seasons.
Pettitte’s 256-153 career record is noteworthy. Only 27 pitchers in baseball history have finished their careers at least 100 games over .500. Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, and nineteenth-century hurler Bob Caruthers are the only ones without a Hall of Fame plaque.
Joining Pettitte on the 2019 ballot is right-hander Roy Halladay. “Doc” is the only pitcher in history besides Don Larsen to throw a no-hitter in the postseason, having done so during the 2010 Division Series. He pitched a perfect game earlier in the year, thus becoming the first hurler to spin two no-hitters in a season since Nolan Ryan did it in 1973.
Halladay was an eight-time All-Star, led the league in wins twice, and won two Cy Young Awards. He also had five other top-five finishes in the Cy Young Award balloting and received MVP votes in two seasons. With a career record of 203-105, Halladay would be a posthumous Hall of Fame inductee. He died last November in a tragic plane crash.
Other Noteworthy Newcomers
A member of the famed “Killer B’s” lineup, Lance Berkman will seek to join long-time Astros teammates Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell in the Hall of Fame when he makes his first appearance on the ballot in 2019. Berkman was a six-time All-Star who received MVP votes in seven seasons, including a pair of third-place finishes. A .293 career hitter, Berkman finished with 366 home runs, 1,234 RBIs, 1,905 hits, and a .943 OPS.
A lifetime .316 hitter, first baseman Todd Helton played his entire 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies. He was a five-time All-Star who received MVP votes in six seasons, won three Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger Awards, and was the 1998 runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting. Helton finished with 369 home runs, 1,406 RBIs, 2,519 hits, and a .953 OPS.
Six-time All-Star and 2002 AL MVP winner Miguel Tejada also joins the ballot. The shortstop received MVP votes in seven other seasons and won two Silver Slugger Awards. Tejada retired with 307 home runs, 1,302 RBIs, 2,407 hits, and a .791 OPS.
Roy Oswalt is the only other newcomer to the ballot with a career WAR of at least 50. The right-hander was a top-finisher in the Cy Young Award voting six times and was also runner-up in the 2001 Rookie of the Year voting. He was a three-time All-Star who received MVP votes four times. Oswalt finished with a 163-102 career mark across 13 seasons.
Bonds And Clemens Inch Closer
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens lead the list of milestone-achieving holdovers. Bonds received 56.4% of the vote, while The Rocket garnered 57.3%. Both will make their seventh appearance on the ballot in 2019.
Bonds received MVP votes for 15 of his 22 seasons, winning the award a record seven times, including four consecutive years. He was also a two-time runner-up. He was a 14-time All-Star, won eight Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Slugger Awards, and three Hank Aaron Awards.
His career home run total of 762 is the most in baseball history, as is his 2,558 walks. His 162.4 career WAR is second all-time behind Babe Ruth (183.7) among position players. Bonds is third on the all-time list with 2,227 runs scored, fifth with 1,996 runs batted in, and finished 65 short of the 3,000 hit plateau.
Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards and had five other finishes in the top six. He received MVP votes in 10 seasons and is one of only three pitchers in baseball history to have won the award. He was an eleven-time All-Star and won the pitching Triple Crown twice.
The Rocket paced the league in wins four times, strikeouts five times, and ERA seven times. His 140.3 pitching WAR is third all-time behind Cy Young (168.5) and Walter Johnson (165.6). His career strikeout total (4672) is third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). With a record of 354-184, Clemens is the only pitcher in the live-ball era besides Lefty Grove to finish his career at least 150 games over .500. Clemens is ninth on the all-time win list but is third behind Warren Spahn (363) and Greg Maddux (355) for the live-ball era.
Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa will also appear on the ballot for the seventh time. Schilling stands closer to induction, having been named on 51.2% of ballots, while Sosa received only 7.8% of the vote. Schilling (3,116) is one of only 16 pitchers in baseball history to record over 3,000 strikeouts, while Sosa (609) is one of nine members of the 600 home run club. Gary Sheffield (509) and Manny Ramirez (555) are two members of the 500 home run club returning to the ballot. Sheffield received 11.1% of the vote in his fourth year on the ballot, while Ramirez got 22.0% in his second.
Mike Mussina will make his sixth attempt, as will Jeff Kent. Moose appears headed for induction, having gotten 63.5% of the vote. Kent, however, looks like a long shot after falling to 14.5%. Defensive wizard Omar Vizquel made a strong showing in his debut (37.05) on the ballot, while Scott Rolen (10.2%) and Andruw Jones (7.3%) received enough support to stick around for another year. Billy Wagner received 11.1% in his third attempt and Larry Walker got 34.1% in his eighth.
Edgar Martinez and Fred McGriff will appear on the ballot for the tenth and final time in 2019. McGriff looks like a long shot for election, having only garnered 23.2% of the vote. Martinez, on the other hand, fell only 20 votes short of induction. The Seattle Mariners icon was named on 70.4% of ballots, his highest tally to date.
Flaws In The Voting System
According to the Hall of Fame tracker provided by Ryan Thibodaux, 317 of 422 voters have chosen to make their 2018 ballots public so far. The candidate who showed the biggest gains from returning voters was Vladimir Guerrero, with the addition of 56 votes obviously enough to gain him induction. After Guerrero, Walker (40), Martinez (36), and Mussina (31) showed the biggest net increase.
Walker, however, did not fare well with first-time voters, having received only 15.4% from that group. Bonds, Clemens, Martinez, and Mussina all received the 75% required for induction from first-time voters. That quartet appears to be trending toward induction. The big question is, will they cross the 75% threshold needed before they fall off the ballot?
Last week, we examined the flaws in the current voting system and pointed out how a simple fix is available. The biggest problem facing voters is that they can only name a maximum of 10 players on their ballots, even if they would like to vote for more. This prevents writers from voting for candidates that they feel are worthy of enshrinement.
The BBWAA has already voted to expand ballots to 12 slots. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame’s board of directors ignored the request. The IBWAA already allows its members to vote for up to 15 candidates, but voting from that organization is not recognized by the Hall. Another fine idea has been floated, which would allow each writer to give an up or down vote to each candidate on the ballot. This may be the best idea yet, as it would allow each player to be considered on his merits, rather than be affected by artificial limitations placed on voters.
Would such changes make a difference? Undoubtedly, the answer is yes. Of the 317 public ballots from 2018, 173 contained the maximum number of candidates. Among voters taking the time to answer the poll, 54 of them stated that they would have voted for more than 10 players if they weren’t prevented from doing so by the system in place.
Without changes to the process, it’s impossible to predict how the 2019 balloting will go. By my count, 22 candidates will garner significant support. That is to say, each will either gain enough votes for induction or at least the 5% needed to remain on the ballot. (Except, of course, the ones who reach the 10-year limit.)
Next year could be a record Hall of Fame class. Or it could be a dumpster fire like what occurred in 2013. That year, 18 candidates earned enough votes to remain on the ballot, with eleven of them being named on between 33% and 68% of ballots cast. Not one reached the 75% required for induction. Six of those players were later voted in, with seven others remaining on the ballot to this day. There wasn’t a shortage of qualified candidates in 2013. On the contrary, there were too many.
That could very well happen again in 2019. We’ll have to wait and see if changes are made to the system before ballots are sent out on December 1st. We can only hope.