It’s very, very early in the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot reveal process. Early enough that some of what we see we can’t get excited over. But that still leaves some things we can get excited about—and alternatively, some things we can be bummed about.
So far, Ryan Thibodaux has collected 16 public and two anonymous ballots. And those 18 ballots allow us to glean some positives and negatives. That’s why I’m here.
1. Mussina continues to flip voters: It’s tempting to look at the overall percentage of ballots a player is on, but for all non first-timers, the real key is turning former “no” voters into “yes” voters. For example, Jeff Kent is at 28%, which is an improvement over his 16% from 2016. The problem for Kent is, this same group of voters did the exact same thing last season. He hasn’t actually improved, he’s just had a favorable section of 18 voters turn in their ballots.
Mussina on the other hand has already flipped three voters from no to yes. (He’s also had one go in the other direction, but as I said in our last article, this is likely a temporary move to create space for Tim Raines, who is in his last year on the ballot). Moose still has to flip about 140 more voters, but so far, his surge isn’t looking like a one-year blip.
2. Pudge is sitting pretty: It was hard to know how the voters would respond to the steroid whispers about Ivan Rodriguez. It’s possible they could have left him hanging in limbo—and with Bonds, Clemens, and Manny (more on them later) already hanging out there, that would lead to a lot of the ballot being tied up with guys who had no hope of being elected.
But Rodriguez is sitting at 83%, it seems like the voters aren’t buying into the whispers. One of the best-hitting catchers ever is looking like a first-balloter, and since Mussina’s still going to be on the ballot next season, it might mean one less player on the ballot.
3. Bagwell is slowly gaining: Jeff Bagwell doesn’t need to gain a lot of votes—give or take 15—in order to get elected, so the fact that he’s already flipped one voter is a good sign. If Bagwell and Rodriguez get in, you’re going to have four big names off the ballot next year. That’s a lot of space.
4. The Rock is rolling: Tim Raines is going to be off the ballot either way next year, but we’d like to see him sent off in fashion, with a plaque. He’s gained two votes already, so things are looking great.
5. Vlad’s strong debut: I said I wasn’t sure how voters would respond to Vlad, whose analytical case wasn’t strong, but who the writers have traditionally liked. He’s at 72%, and while that may not wind up being enough to get him in on the first ballot, it’s unlikely he’s going to be on for long.
1. Hoffman stuck in neutral: Ugh. I’ve made my thoughts about closers clear. I don’t think a closer of Hoffman’s caliber deserves to be in over a starter of Mussina’s, but I recognize that I’m in the minority on that. The problem is, if Lee Smith is our guide, closers can have trouble changing people’s minds. Smith debuted at 42% and never moved above 50%. If Hoffman followed a similar trend, his nice 65% debut will be meaningless. So far, Hoffman’s flipped two voters to yes, but lost two as well.
One of those lost votes was George Willis, and it might be strategic, as I alluded to. Still though, the fact that Hoffman’s not made any net gain has me worried.
2. Mad about Manny: Look, Manny Ramirez was never getting elected. His absolute ceiling was that of Bonds and Clemens, and it was likely he’d wind up worse than them. And that’s what we’ve seen. All eight of Manny’s voters have voted for Bonds and Clemens, but Ramirez has also failed to gain the support of six of Bonds’ and Clemens’ voters. So now, we’re going to have not two, but three players sitting on the ballot who have no hope of being elected or dropping off, thanks to off the field issues.
3. Schilling sliding: Did I say three? I meant four. Look, we’ve been over our thoughts on Schilling, but he’s already lost two voters who voted for him last season. Now, it’s possible that Schilling’s massive jump last year may not last. Having this much of the ballot be reserved for an argument about ethics and morals just sucks, given that…
4. We still have a crowded ballot: Thus far, nine ballots have used up all ten spots. That means we’re still looking at the possibility of voters not having enough room to vote for everyone they find deserving. This is a stupid problem to be having in 2016.
Now we’d like to hear from you. What are your takeaways from this early glance at the ballots?