Posted January 08, 2014

JAWS and the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot: Five things to know on Election Day

Hall of Fame, JAWS
Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine

Longtime Braves teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine look to be locks to headline the 2014 Hall of Fame class. (Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

The following article is part of my ongoing look at the candidates on the BBWAA 2014 Hall of Fame ballot. For a detailed introduction to JAWS, please see here. For the breakdowns of each candidate and to read the previous articles in the series, see here.

At long last, the voting results for the 2014 BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot will be announced at 2 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Unlike last year, when the voters pitched a shutout for the first time since 1996, we should be in for a bumper crop of honorees to join Expansion Era selections Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre in Cooperstown come July 28.

What follows is a quick look at five things to watch for regarding the outcome of the voting. I’ll be back to break down the actual results here later on Wednesday afternoon.

1. The largest class elected since at least 1999

As of 7:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, 194 publicly revealed ballots had been tallied by Baseball Think Factory, a number that accounts for 34.1 percent of the electorate based upon last year’s total of 569 votes. According to those ballots, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas are all virtually assured of gaining first-ballot entry. All three players have received at least 90 percent of the vote thus far, well above the 75 percent needed for election. That would make this the first time since 1999, when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount gained entry, that more than two players have been voted in by the writers, and it will rival not only that class but also the class of 1991 (Rod Carew, Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry) among the best of all time. Meanwhile, Maddux and Glavine will be the first teammates elected in the same year since Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford in 1974.

But wait, there’s more! Second-year candidate Craig Biggio is polling at 78.4 percent among that segment of the voting pool; he was well above 80 percent until a flood of ballots was revealed on Monday and Tuesday, and it now appears as though he could be in for a close play at the plate. If he does gain entry, this will mark the first time since 1955 (Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance) that the BBWAA has elected four players.

Things could really get crazy if both Biggio and fellow second-year candidate Mike Piazza make it; Piazza was up to 72 percent early Monday but has since slipped back to 68.6 percent, so he’s probably a longshot. If he somehow does get in, it will mark the first time since the inaugural class of 1936 that the writers have voted in five players.

2. No unanimity for Maddux

Cliff Corcoran covered this one already, noting that MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick revealed that he voted for just one player, Jack Morris. Gurnick rejected all other candidates no matter how qualified, explaining, “As for those who played during the period of PED use, I won’t vote for any of them.”

In doing so, Gurnick became the first voter — again, out of 194 thus far — to reveal that he had not tabbed Maddux, thus continuing a grand tradition of idiocy when it comes to the BBWAA voters. Nobody — not Babe Ruth, Cy Young, Ted Williams, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Cal Ripken — has ever gotten 100 percent of the vote. As NBC Sports’ Joe Posnanski wrote of this trend, “There are people — sort of like the Brotherhood that protects the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movie — who think it is their duty to make sure no one gets in unblemished.”

Gurnick depriving Maddux of unanimity is one thing, and in the end it may not matter much; recent history suggests we should expect at least a few blank ballots, which also count against each player’s percentage. What’s more distressing is whatever combination of naiveté and intellectual dishonesty Gurnick concocted to single out Morris (whose career ran from 1977-94) as somebody who didn’t play in the PED era and whose time was somehow more pure than that of the other 35 candidates on the ballot.

First, amphetamine use throughout the game was widespread from the 1960s until they were banned in 2006, and stars such as Mays, Aaron and Mantle are among those said to have used them. Amphetamines don’t add muscle, but they do allow players to weather the daily (and — ahem — nightly) grind of the long season, playing in more games than they otherwise might have and thus padding their season and career totals.

Furthermore, steroids had long since infiltrated the game by Morris’ time. Back in 2005, former Braves pitcher Tom House, who caught Aaron’s 715th home run in the Atlanta bullpen in 1974, estimated that even back in the ’70s, “six or seven pitchers on every staff were ‘fiddling’ with steroids or growth hormone.” House even admitted to using them himself. “I pretty much popped everything cold turkey… We were doing steroids they wouldn’t give to horses.”

As early as 1988, crowds were chanting “steroids, steroids” at Jose Canseco, whom Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell had recently singled out as a user. Doubtless there were more by the time Morris finished his career; none of which is to say that the pitcher himself used, but we know that many pitchers did, just as hitters did.

3. Close but no cigar for Morris

In his 15th and final go-round in front of the writers, it appears that Morris won’t get over the top; he’s gotten 61.3 percent of the vote thus far, and while he has tended to overperform by about six percent relative to his pre-election polling in years past, it doesn’t appear as though he’ll do much better than the 66.7 percent of the vote he received in 2012 or the 67.7 percent he received last year.

That will mark the end of one of the most polarizing candidacies in recent memory, one that can be viewed as part of the anti-sabermetric backlash in the wake of Bert Blyleven’s 2011 election on his 14th try. It won’t totally doom Morris’ chances to get into Cooperstown, though. History shows that just about any player reaching at least 50 percent of the vote will get in eventually; outside of the players currently on the ballot who have crossed that rubicon — Biggio, Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Lee Smith being the others — Gil Hodges remains the only one to not wind up enshrined eventually. Morris will be eligible for consideration on the 2017 Expansion Era ballot, assuming that process remains the same, and given the number of old-school thinkers who usually salt that committee, he may stand a better chance there than he did on this crowded ballot.

4. No clarity on PED-linked candidates

Despite overwhelming statistical credentials, neither Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds will come close to being elected this year; the former is polling at 40.7 percent, the latter at 42.3 percent, for a gain of about five percent apiece. That’s still a whole lot better than Mark McGwire (10.8 percent), Sammy Sosa (7.7 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (6.2 percent) are faring; any or all of those candidates could fall off the ballot if their final totals fall below 5.0 percent.

5. No one-and-done for Kent or Mussina

Contrary to former Hall of Fame researcher Bill Deane‘s mid-December forecast of single-digit percentages for Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina, both candidates appear as though they’ll retain eligibility with plenty of room to spare, thus avoiding the fate of Kenny Lofton last year, not to mention many fine ballplayers who merited a longer look but didn’t get one.

Mussina, whom my JAWS system identifies as the 28th best starting pitcher of all time, solidly above the Hall standard, is polling at 26.3 percent, roughly four times Deane’s estimate; he already has enough votes banked to ensure his return. Kent, who’s short on the JAWS front but stronger on the more traditional merits, is at 15.5 percent — 30 votes — which means he’s clinched a return as well.

Of the non-PED related candidates, the ones who may not be back for an encore are Don Mattingly (5.2 percent thus far) and Larry Walker (8.1 percent). The former is short on the JAWS front and has just one more year of eligibility anyway, so that would be no loss, but the latter clears the bar in rightfield yet has been supplanted by stronger candidates on ballots where space is at a premium.

33 comments
RD
RD

Maybe it's time to take away Ken Gurnicks voting rights because it's obvious that he's not all with it.  Either that or this is one way to get some press for himself.  He probably is thinking, "Why should all these great athletes get all the press?  It's hard for some of us nerds who can't play baseball and since we throw like sissies to see these guys get into the Hall Of Fame.  Sitting in an air conditioned press box, eating nacho's, drinking beer and downing all these hotdogs while watching baseball is harder than being a world class athlete and I deserve some press too."  

Just read where Gurnicks is going to stop voting for the HOF in the future.  I guess he figures he's done enough damage and that, now, some people know of a loser writer named Ken Gurnick so his work is done.

sfarris.math@gmail.com
sfarris.math@gmail.com

Wait-  They might actually elect a player to the Hall of Fame?  Won't that player invariably have played with a player who played with a player who played with a player,......, who played with a player, who played with a player suspected of having used performance enhancing drugs?

ineedataxi
ineedataxi

Wasn't JAWS the villain in James Bonds Moonraker ??

ineedataxi
ineedataxi

I'm just glad Jim Leyland finally was fired

I mean retired

BigSteve46
BigSteve46

How can anyone who sees PEDs as an absolute disqualification for the HOF, possibly vote for (or be in favor of) the admission of Tony LaRussa? LaRussa was Mark McGwire's manager for almost his entire career - he didn't notice any changes with the guy? It always amazes me how the owners and their stooges (managers, coaches, announcers, commissioners) get a free pass on this issue. Money was being made on the PED guys and that's all that mattered - and is still all that matters. P.S.: I also hold LaRussa largely responsible for the epidemic of look-how-smart-I-am (although not smart enough to notice McGwire turning in the Hulk right before his eyes) over-managing infecting the game today. 

Still a fan, anyway: can't wait for the pitchers and catchers to report.

HerbPetry
HerbPetry

so this voter Gurrick is not going to be voting for the next 20 years?   maybe someone else should take over for him.  

trooper707
trooper707

Mussina at 27% and Glavine a lock. What a joke. Mussina was a better pitcher than Glavine in every pitching category and by a wide margin.

j7apple
j7apple

Ken Gurnick has no business being a voter. 


The board of directors at the Hall of Fame is responsible for choosing the best way to select honorees. Currently, they have decided that the BBWAA is the body best-suited to vote, but the Hall of Fame board is free to make changes as it sees fit.


They need to re evaluate their member voting criteria when quacks like Gurnick has a hand in the selection process.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

You say: 

"Amphetamines don’t add muscle, but they do allow players to weather the daily (and — ahem — nightly) grind of the long season, playing in more games than they otherwise might have and thus padding their season and career totals."

So you equate uppers with PEDs.  Wrong and dishonest! 

Uppers let you push the limits of your NATURAL ability -- which can cause serious injury.  (Joe DiMaggio incessantly drank coffee during games, which energized him to play flat-out--but he was also hurt a lot.  Do the math.)  I suspect injuries from sustained "max RPM" performance are worse than a run of the mill injury.

PEDs transform your body beyond what nature intended, and help you heal faster.  In other words, the exact opposite of uppers.

Ordinary people understand the dishonesty of equating steroids to greenies.

Yet self-righteous elitists (stats-geeks most of all) keep trying to tell us poor unwashed peasants that we're wrong, all to elect guys to the HOF that your precious JAWS and WAR and whatever other nonsensical alphabet soup you're using say belong there -- regardless of reality outside your convoluted equations.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@BigSteve46 

I agree with you wholeheartedly.

LaRussa was manager in Oakland when the PEDs stuff was going on.  Then he was manager in St. Louis, and had Superman Albert Pujols playing for him -- until Pujols signed with the Angels, where he started to break down constantly, the way PED-users do after awhile.


bhayes420
bhayes420

@trooper707 Did you even WATCH baseball in the 90's?  No way Mussina was "better" than Glavine.  Now, Moose deserves to be in, but he wasn't better.  

danfromfreddybeach
danfromfreddybeach

@trooper707Glavine only beats Mussina in trivial categories such as Wins, ERA, Innings Pitched, Complete Games, 20+ Win Seasons, Number of Years Leading the League in Wins, CY Youngs. 

Believe it or not, Hall voters take these things into account.

Mussina got to play with a Yankees offense supporting him. Glavine had to pitch with a Mets offense supporting him.

joshuadwatson
joshuadwatson

@trooper707 You do not really justify your argument well, but you are not far off in your conclusion. Mussina had 35 less wins, but he also started 146 less games than Glavine. Even with that many less games started, he still had more strike outs. You cannot argue Glavine is a HOFer. The guy won two Cy Youngs, a World Series, had 300 wins, and won 20+ games in 5 different seasons. He is definitely worthy. He had a better career than Mussina, but I actually agree that Mussina might have been a better pitcher. Unfortunately Mussina's career stats fall in the borderline category. I for one hope he gets in.

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@trooper707   It is sad.  Moose deserves to be in the HOF, but so does Glavine.  Moose is better, but Glavine is above the cutoff to make the hall.


It isn't Glavine's fault that the hall voters are not voting for Moose.

tootallgoof
tootallgoof

@j7appleWhile I thought this for a little while also, it is a slippery slope.   For example, if I believe as a member of the HOF Board believe Jack Morris (or anybody else for that matter) should get in, can I try to revoke the voting privilege of a BBWAA member?

therednorth1
therednorth1

@MidwestGolfFan Even if you ignore the point about amphetamines, the writer's initial point still stands--to suggest Jack Morris didn't play during the steroid era is incredibly naive, as it is fairly common knowledge that Jose Canseco was using as early as 1988.

Junk
Junk

@MidwestGolfFanYou're only looking at half of the picture. NATURAL ability includes the not only physical attributes but mental ones as well.  Players taking amphetamines were able to play at a higher level because of the mental boost that the amphetamines gave them.  It is logical that a pitcher taking them would feel less mental fatigue and because of that perform better.  If not, why did so many players take them?

ikcelaks
ikcelaks

@MidwestGolfFan Greenies and steroids are BOTH performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Steroids are more effective for sure, but it seems extremely silly to say that they are morally worse simply because they're more effective.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@danfromfreddybeach@trooper707 

Careful...don't quote wins as a stat.  JAWS-boy who wrote this article (and his buddy Cliffy elsewhere on this site) don't consider that a valid metric.

FWIW, I tend to agree with everything you've said.

Doctego
Doctego

@danfromfreddybeach@trooper707 Glavine pitched 24% of his games for the Mets so I don't see how that really applies.  The most impressive part of Mussina's career to me was that he pitched his entire career in the AL East.  That said, you either need to dominate for a shorter period or compile enough to reach certain milestones (300 wins, etc.).  Mussina didn't do either.

tootallgoof
tootallgoof

@joshuadwatson@trooper707Glavine has a better chance because compilers have a better chance than shorter better careers.  Look at Albert Belle.  He was potentially the best hitter in the sport for a decade. For a season (162 games), he averaged 40 homers, 41 2B, 102 RS, and 130 RBI.  He will never get in the HOF partially because he only played 12 seasons.  He was crazy at times and there is no evidence he used PEDs. Now lets look at Biggio.   Belle has better numbers is a much shorter career but he will be in in the next 3 years.

j7apple
j7apple

@tootallgoof @j7apple Good grief, we are not talking about an average player, or a player with skeletons. Maddux over his career is a hands down HOF person, and it goes to the competency of a voter to say NO ..not on my watch..He played with the wrong types of people. Really?  Yes, in this case it would be the responsible thing for the HOF board to say you are not worthy to vote. 

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@tootallgoof@j7apple 

This guy has been trolling the HOF posts putting down Gurnick savagely and saying unpleasant things to anyone of a different mind.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@therednorth1@MidwestGolfFan  

This has NOTHING to do with Jack Morris. I'm addressing drug use.

You want to respond to that, fine.  But you anti-Morris zealots are getting tiresome.  You inserting ol' Jack everywhere, relevant or not.  It's kind of a sick obsession.


MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@Junk@MidwestGolfFan 

I'll concede your point about mental enhancement.

That said, anyone who's ever taken a cold/allergy remedy knows:  it hypes you up, and you feel great, but then you crash.  Take it more than once, and you know it's coming.  That's always hovering in the background.  Yes, it's a boost, but you also know it's not "real," and have to be careful not to tap yourself out.

Steroids transform the body permanently.  Guys who take them feel no constraint about pushing themselves, because their bodies respond in ways they never could before.  If uppers make you feel on top of the world, you always know in the back of your mind it's temporary and you've gotta be careful; steroids make you feel utterly invincible -- period.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@ikcelaks@MidwestGolfFan 

Your argument is dishonest.

Steroids change your body and let you heal (and later, destroy your liver and give you weird cancers).  Uppers let you explore the outer boundaries of your ability -- but at your own very great peril.

Not the same at all.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@tootallgoof@joshuadwatson@trooper707 

For better or worse, only transcendent players (guys who are "something special" beyond stats, and everyone knows it) get in with short careers.

Belle was a great hitter, but I remember all the stories about how bad he was in the clubhouse -- a really rotten teammate.  I, for one, wouldn't vote for guys like that.

j7apple
j7apple

@MidwestGolfFan @tootallgoof @j7apple No Midwest, it is folks like you that people live in mediocrity. If something is not right and a person is in part responsible for it, we should not accept the status quo  and say nothing.


No, we speak up, especially when someone is given the responsibility to give someone a reward as a pinnacle of their career, and says NO you played in the wrong era...That is plain wrong.


MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@MattEm@MidwestGolfFan@Junk 

Dishonest argument.

Steroids make good athletes great, and great athletes transcendent.

And it's not how nature intended it to be.

Why don't YOU learn to argue honestly and rationally.  You could be taken seriously then.

MattEm
MattEm

@MidwestGolfFan @Junk MIdwest, why don't you just take some steroids and break some home run records, if that's all it takes.  You could be rich and famous.

MidwestGolfFan
MidwestGolfFan

@scBlais@MidwestGolfFan@ikcelaks 

Uppers don't change your outer limits. They allow you to operate at the outside of your envelope, but at great risk.  And you always know it's going to wear off.

Steroids push your outer limits beyond anything you could imagine, AND make you feel permanently invincible.

So yeah, I'd say there's a pretty big difference.

scBlais
scBlais

@MidwestGolfFan@ikcelaksWow.  Steroids help you train harder, longer and more frequently allowing you to build speed and strength at a far faster rate than normal.  Essentially like you say about uppers, pushing you to the outer boundaries of your abilities that could never be reached without them.