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2018 Hall Of Fame Voting Sets Up 'Perfect Storm' For Next Few Years

February 16, 2018
Before trying to get a grip on what has all the indications of being an unconventional spring training, there is a little unfinished business worthy of addressing -- how the most recent announcement figures to impact future Hall of Fame elections.

Truth be told, the pro and con attitudes about steroid use appear headed for a perfect storm scenario with the next few years. 

There were no great surprises when Chipper Jones and Jim Thome easily surpassed the 75-percent majority needed for election, or that Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman made the expected move after close calls in 2017. Significant jumps in popularity by Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina presented strong evidence it was only a matter of time before they got the call from Cooperstown, N.Y., but it was the movement further down the list that has drawn the most attention.

The continued steady increase in votes by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who were almost after thoughts in their early years on the ballot, is seemingly enough indication that it is a question of when, not if, they are elected to the Hall of Fame. Both have shown steady percentage increases during the last couple of years, enough so that the "when" in this equation could present an interesting dynamic for the Hall of Fame -- and its members, many of whom have strong feelings against allowing steroid users into their hallowed hall.

Next year's freshman class is headlined by Mariano Rivera, universally acknowledged as the best relief pitcher of all time, one who will certainly inflame the debate over the possibility of an unprecedented unanimous vote. If recent numbers hold true, it is unlikely that Bonds and Clemens, a former teammate of Rivera, will advance enough to make next year's election perhaps the most controversial in history.

But even falling short, it is extremely possible they could advance to Cooperstown's door step, which would put them in position for election in 2020, which probably wouldn't qualify as perfect vision for those running the show in Cooperstown.

That just happens to be the year that The Captain, Derek Jeter, becomes eligible for the first time. The impact of a Hall of Fame class that included Bonds, Clemens and Jeter is almost beyond comprehension.

A lot of Hall of Famers have vowed to boycott any induction that includes Bonds and Clemens, but would they do that if Jeter is on center stage? For some, the possibility of an atmosphere so charged, and so mixed, probably looms as a potential nightmare. For those who relish the idea of baseball squirming on its brightest stage, the thought undoubtedly would leave a delicious taste. 

The makeup of the next two classes is not likely to be a determining factor, but the two elections after 2020 present interesting possibilities. There is no standout candidate for the 2021 class, which conceivably could present a unique opportunity for the two poster players of the PED era to share a stage alone -- a possible, but not likely scenario.

But the following year, 2022, presents the most intriguing possibility of all. That would be the 10th and last year of eligibility for Bonds and Clemens. 

It would also be the first year of eligibility for Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, so you can only imagine those dynamics. Bonds, Clemens on the ballot for the first time, with A-Rod and Big Papi making their debut -- just imagine.

***

As promised, and in the interest of full disclosure, my ballot this year had the usual complement of 10 names. In addition to the four electees, Martinez, Mussina, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner completed the list.

The latter four are intriguing candidates in their own right -- McGriff was one of the most underrated hitters of his era; Sheffield put up the kind of power numbers that would normally assure election, but he's on the perimeter of the suspicions that cloud Bonds and Clemens. Kent was a productive hitter who served as protection behind Bonds during his run at the career home run records.

But it is Wagner who presents the biggest dilemma for this voter. He doesn't have the saves or the innings pitched that Hoffman had, but his overall numbers are off the charts. In a way, he is much like Mussina -- a victim of his own decision to retire at the top of his game. Mussina called it quits after winning 20 games for the only time in his career.

Like Mussina, Wagner announced early in the season that 2010 would be his last year, and his only with the Atlanta Braves, who signed him that year as a free agent. He went 7-2, with 37 saves, an 0.865 WHIP -- and called it quits, perhaps prematurely but most certainly permanently.

Jim Henneman can be reached at JimH@pressboxonline.com