Recently, we’ve talked in the comments a little about how much harder it is going to be to get anybody into the Hall of Fame in future ballots because the BBWAA has clogged it up with very legitimate candidates. I’ve seen expectations here and elsewhere that Maddux will get in for sure next year. Normally, I’d agree that he, at the very least, should have no problems at all. Normally. But these are not normal times on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot.
Maddux should absolutely be good enough to be a “first-ballot” Hall of Famer. 355 wins, 3,371 strikeouts, 4 Cy Young Awards, about a billion Gold Gloves, and absolutely no suspicion of PEDs use (that I am aware of). If that can’t get you in on a first ballot, I don’t know what would.
I think that is a very reasonable conclusion to draw based on what we’ve seen on how voting has tended to go in the past ballots. But here is the problem that nobody seems to be dealing with or wrapping their heads around. Where are these votes coming from?
I went back to the 2000 Hall of Fame balloting to see if we can determine how many votes we can expect to be cast overall:
Over this time, there was a mean average of 5.97 votes cast per ballot and a median average of 5.965, so I’m perfectly willing to just call it 6 per ballot. I’ll also further concede that the BBWAA may actually realize that there is a glut and attempt to vote for more players than they normally would and I’ll say next year they’ll average 7 votes per ballot, breaking the record high average for this time period by a relatively huge margin.
Assuming there are 569 ballots cast again next year (seems as good a guess as any), that means there will be 3,983 votes to spread among the 18 returning candidates plus Maddux, Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, Frank Thomas, and many others we won’t even consider for this exercise but this year actually accounted for 70 votes, or almost the equivalent of Sammy Sosa‘s vote total.
If we reduce every returning candidate’s support by 10% we get 3,221 votes cast for those 18 returners and only 762 votes left to split amongst Maddux, Glavine, Kent, Mussina, and Thomas. If we assume Maddux is a “no-brainer,” he has to get at least 427 of those votes to get in, leaving only 335 to split up among the other four. That doesn’t seem likely.
If we reduce every returning candidate’s support by 15% we get 3042 votes cast and still only 941 to split up among the newbies. Maddux gets his 427 and the others split 514 between them.
Maybe these scenarios don’t seem unlikely to you, but if we compare how many votes similar players got this year we can see the numbers aren’t adding up. I’d put Glavine and Thomas in the “eventual, but not first-ballot Hall of Famer” category, so you’d think their support would be near Biggio’s vote total of 388 this year. I think Jeff Kent is one of the best hitting second basemen ever (if not the absolute best, I haven’t looked it up), so I’m comparing his first attempt to Piazza’s 329 votes this year as the best hitting catcher ever. I’m comparing Mussina with Schilling since he was damn good, but when put amid names like Clemens, Maddux, and Glavine, you probably don’t fully realize how good. Schilling got 221 votes this year.
So in theory, those five guys could realistically expect ~1300+ votes between them. Even by degrading everyone by 15% we still have a 500 vote gap. There aren’t enough votes to go around. We’d have to wipe the lowest supported candidates, Larry Walker (123), Fred McGriff (118), Mark McGwire (96), Don Mattingly (75), Sammy Sosa (71), and Rafael Palmeiro (50) completely off the ballot to come up with the missing votes. While it may come to the point where they don’t survive to see the next ballot, they’re not ALL going to get shut out.
The only realistic scenario is that the vote totals are just going to get thinned out all across the board and I don’t know if we can even consider Maddux a lock in this atmosphere.
Maybe the BBWAA will drastically step up the number of votes they cast per ballot, but as we saw in the OV balloting, even averaging almost 8.5 votes per ballot resulted in a vote this year that was so spread out we only elected three candidates and didn’t have Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams fall off the ballot.
It’s crazy, but if I had to bet money on a result for next season, I’d probably put Maddux’s shot at induction at no better than 50%.