The announcement of baseball’s latest Hall of Fame class takes place at 2 pm EST on Wednesday on MLB Network. Candidates need to be listed on at least 75% of the ballots from the roughly 550 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who vote. This year’s ballot features a bevy of superstars who are eligible for the first time. An early look at the voting indicate at least three and as many as five players will get the call this year after the BBWA failed to elect a single player last year. Enshrinees will join managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, who were all selected by the Expansion Era Committee last month. The 2014 class will be inducted into the Hall in Cooperstown in July.
Every year Baseball Think Factory compiles the totals for publicly released ballots, which were due at the end of 2013. BTF collected 194 ballots or 34% of the total based on last year’s voting. Four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux is in. The much accomplished pitcher, who racked up 355 wins and 18 Gold Gloves, was viewed potentially as the first unanimous selection in the history of the Hall of Fame. Tom Seaver (1992) and Nolan Ryan (1999) hold the record with 98.8% of the vote. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, and formerly the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, controversially put an end to that speculation when he announced he only voted for Jack Morris, who is in his 15th and final year of eligibility and fell 42 votes short last year. Gurnick said Tuesday that he excluded “everybody from the steroid era.” He added, “I just don’t know who did and who didn’t.” Without Gurnick’s support, Maddux is named on 99.5% of the ballots, according to Baseball Think Factory.
Maddux’s longtime Atlanta Braves teammate should stick by the phone today as well. His name is on 95.4% of the publicly revealed ballots to date. The lefty who made 10 All-Star teams and won two Cy Youngs during his 22 seasons is potentially baseball’s final 300 game winner. He’s a slam dunk.
Baseball Think Factory also says Frank Thomas is a no doubter with 89.7% of the early vote. The “Big Hurt” is the only player with seven straight seasons of a .300 batting average, 20 home runs, 100 walks and 100 RBIs. The back-to-back MVP was also one of the lone voices speaking out against steroids when it was not in vogue to do so.
This is where the voting gets a little trickier. Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio is expected to squeak in with 78.4% of the vote. Some writers hold back from voting for players in their first year of eligibility, which seemed the case last year for Biggio when he got 68.2% of votes in his inaugural season on the ballot. But 3,000 hits and the most doubles by any right-handed hitter in the history of the game should be enough this year.
The early returns have Mike Piazza (68.6%) and Morris (61.3%) coming up just short. Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting catcher in the history of the game, but PED suspicions follow him despite a lack of evidence. Morris got 67.7% of the vote last year. The only player in baseball history to get more than 50% of the Hall vote and not eventually get enshrined was Gil Hodges. Other players to be elected in their 15th and final year on the ballot include Jim Rice (2009) and Red Ruffing (1967).
The PED poster children continue to get little support despite the lack of admissions or failed drug tests. Barry Bonds (42.3%), Roger Clemens (40.7%) and Sammy Sosa (7.7%) are all expected to come up short this year. Sosa and his 609 home runs is in danger of not getting the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot next year. The same fate could befall Rafael Palmeiro (6.2%) and Don Mattingly (5.2%).