Punch line: the early-disclosed Hall of Fame votes make me, finally, optimistic about Mike Mussina and Tim Raines, not this year but next year – when Jorge Posada will have as good a shot as possible in his first eligibility year. Last year, an absurdly low 24-25% of Hall of Fame voters cast votes for Alan Trammell, Mussina, and Edgar Martinez. But with the 7 inductions in 2014-15 de-crowding the ballot, Ryan Thibs’ Hall of Fame Vote Tracker shows, among the first roughly 60 disclosed ballots (a decent early sample of the expected total of 400-450), Tram/Moose/Edgar roughly doubling their support, to roughly 50% each. That could overstate their support a tick: historically, the undisclosed votes drag down about 5% the totals of candidates who do better with advanced stats than with traditional stats, because the voters who decline to disclose their votes on the interwebs are disproportionately grumpy anti-stat folk (a) who don’t appreciate stats more modern than RBI and wins, and (b) who vote for very few players, because ain’t no kids today like that Musial feller, I tell ya!
So I’m unoptimistic that everyone worthy gets in this year, but next year looks really good for, finally, ending the backlog – including for some former Yankees. I view the best-case scenario this year as electing Ken Griffey, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, and Trevor Hoffman. The first three deserve it and look likely this year; Raines deserves it but the odds look middling. I don’t consider Hoffman worthy, but he’s running surprisingly strong in his first year, so I’d rather he get in now than debut at maybe 60%, then perpetuate a backlog by soaking up 70-75% the next 1-2 years.
If those five (or even four) get in, then next year’s ballot won’t be as crowded, because pickings are slim among the new Hall candidates next year. Ivan Rodriguez should be a first-rounder; Vladimir Guerrero has about the same case as Jim Edmonds, and a worse one than Larry Walker, and could get more support than either, but likely not close to enough. Manny Ramirez will fall into McGwire/Sosa limbo. So if Raines gets to 65% and Mussina 50% this year, I like the odds that next year – Raines’s last! – Raines gets in and Mussina reaches the 60s, setting him up for election pretty soon.
That one other interesting new candidate next year is Jorge Posada. As a Yankee fan, I’d love seeing him voted in, but I see him as, at best, only almost-Hall-worthy. He’s just 19th in career WAR for catchers, behind the underrated Ted Simmons and Thurman Munson, and barely ahead of non-luminaries like Jason Kendall and Darrell Porter. If you put Munson in one telepod and Kendall in another, I don’t think their fly-like merger in the third tele-pod yields a Hall of Famer.
But a bunch of stars are aligned for Posada to get as good a chance as possible next year. His first year of Hall eligibility arrives (a) with a weak first-year class, (b) as the first 1990s dynasty Yankee member to be a plausible Hall candidate, (c) after Hall voters spent several years paring down a crowded-ballot backlog. So Posada’s long shot Hall case is positioned as well as it can be next year, and I’m really curious to see what happens.