After receiving 67.3% of the vote last year in his first time on the ballot, conventional wisdom is that Trevor Hoffman is going to be elected this season. My view is that, being totally objective, you shouldn’t vote for him. He may not be among the 200 best pitchers ever. And even if you ban Bonds, Clemens, Manny, Pudge, Sheffield, and Sosa for steroid concerns, he’s not one of the top-10 on this ballot. And if you really need another relief pitcher, just be patient. Mariano is only two years away.
But I digress. This post isn’t about Trevor Hoffman not being good enough to get into the Hall. It’s about the ballot crunch and whether or not a vote for Hoffman is a good idea if you don’t believe he is qualified.
The Recent Past
In 2015, voters listed 8.42 names per ballot. I think there were eighteen qualified players. Doing a little division (8.42/18), we’re at votes for 46.8% of the players I thought were qualified. Randy Johnson (97.3% of the vote), Pedro Martinez (91.1%), John Smoltz (82.9%), and Craig Biggio (82.7%) dropped off the ballot because they got into the Hall. Don Mattingly (9.1%) saw his 15th and final ballot, and 30 other votes (5.5%) left because they didn’t get enough support. That’s four deserving guys being removed from the ballot and a few other votes freeing up.
Last season, only two qualified players made their debuts, Ken Griffey and Jim Edmonds, and the BBWAA circled 7.95 names per ballot. My math (7.95/16) says they were 49.7% of the way there last year. So even though there were fewer names, they got closer to the number of names they should have had than the year before. Griffey (99.3%) and Mike Piazza (83%) got in, so we’re not dealing with them any longer. The qualified Edmonds (2.5%) didn’t receive enough votes to remain on, and Alan Trammell (40.9%) and Mark McGwire (12.3%) saw their final ballots. Others falling off received 16 votes (3.7%).
In my mind, there are fourteen qualified candidates for my ten voting slots. Newbies Vladimir Guerrero, Ivan Rodriguez, and Manny Ramirez are all over my line. Add to them returners Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa. And I’m not a bit Hall guy. Given a Hall the exact size it is, all fourteen of those guys are qualified. Jorge Posada, by the way, is very, very close.
And if voters select 50% of qualified candidates, that means 7.00 votes per ballot. I actually think it will be higher than that, though lower than the last two years. In other words, I think voters are generally doing their jobs, even if it’s not voting for the guys I would. The backlog has gotten less bad over the last couple of years, if only a little.
The last two years are the last two years. Leaving the ballot this year will be Jeff Bagwell (he’s getting in), Tim Raines (he’s either getting in or getting kicked off after ten tries), and Lee Smith (final ballot). Maybe Manny Ramirez doesn’t see a second ballot, but I think he will. Vlad and Pudge will too. And I think there’s a good shot Jorge Posada does. In other words, the backlog will go in the wrong direction next year.
In 2018 we add votes for Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, and Johan Santana, all of whom I think are qualified. Omar Vizquel will get votes too. So will Johnny Damon and Jamie Moyer. Basically we’re going to be in worse shape than, perhaps, we’ve ever been in.
We’re finally at the point of today’s post – Trevor Hoffman. I don’t want to see him on the ballot next year. That’s because I don’t think he belongs in the Hall. But the only way he won’t be on the ballot is if he gets elected.
There are four voter/result possibilities:
- You vote for him, and he gets in.
- You vote for him, and he doesn’t get in.
- You don’t vote for him, and he gets in.
- You don’t vote for him, and he doesn’t get in.
Voting straight up, not gaming the ballot, means you’re okay with either of the last two options. You’re doing the right thing by voting your conscience. Whether or not he gets in is up to the electorate, not just up to you.
If you game the ballot, you really want the first option to occur. And if I were gaming the ballot, here’s who would get my vote:
- Jeff Bagwell: he needs to get in.
- Tim Raines: he needs to get in.
- Sammy Sosa: I worry he’ll fall off the ballot.
- Many Ramirez: I worry he’ll fall off the ballot.
- Jorge Posada: I worry he’ll fall off the ballot.
- Larry Walker: I just want to be safe.
- Curt Schilling: He deserves it and needs momentum.
- Mike Mussina: He deserves it and needs momentum.
- Barry Bonds: I like him more than Roger Clemens.
- Trevor Hoffman.
The reason to vote for Hoffman is this: (1) he’s going to get in anyway; (2) if #1 is true, then the sooner the better; (3) we need to clear players off the ballot so deserving candidates can be supported moving forward.
This has been 900 words of build up to get to a very simple point. In the end, I wouldn’t game the ballot. I couldn’t. If I had a vote, I’d select the ten most deserving players. I wouldn’t be doing what I perceive is my job if I did otherwise.
But I don’t have a ballot, so even though I don’t think he deserves it, I hope Trevor Hoffman gets elected in January.