This week, the Baseball Writers' Association of America mailed out the 2012 Hall of Fame ballot to "approximately 600 voting members".*
* In case you're wondering, a "voting member" isn't the same as an "active member". There are also approximately 600 "active members" of the BBWAA, including Robert J. Neyer and Amy K. Nelson. But one doesn't become a "voting member" until one has been an "active member" for 10 years. Meanwhile, a significant number of "voting members" haven't actually written or thought about baseball for some years. But so it goes. Pobody's nerfect.
What makes next year's ballot less interesting than most: None of the new names on the ballot are going to garner significant support from the voters.
Here are the 13 new names. Stop reading when you see a deserving candidate...
The best of those players was Bernie Williams. The worst of them was ... Nah. That would be mean. Brad Radke was a lot better than people remember, and Tim Salmon somehow never played in an All-Star Game. Terry Mulholland was almost impossible to steal against. All of these guys were good baseball players, in their own ways.
But Williams is the only one who's going to get any love at all from the voting members.
And you know, there's a case to be made for Bernie Williams. For roughly 15 years, he played center field for an excellent team. He scored 100 runs eight times, and drove in 100 runs five times. Sure, his teammates helped in those areas. But Williams' .297/.381/.477 line is quite lovely for a center fielder.
The problem for most of the voters will be Williams' counting stats. Because he didn't really become an every-day player until he was 24 and was finished at 37, he didn't pile up a ton of hits or homers or RBIs. And while he does have nearly a full season's worth of postseason statistics -- for which he deserves some credit -- he has few memorable October moments and overall his stats are right in line with his regular-season numbers.
That's why he won't get much support from the voters.
Should he, though? Based purely on his position and his hitting, I would rate him a borderline candidate. The problem is that his defensive statistics were terrible. Yes, I know he won four Gold Gloves. Derek Jeter won five. These facts say a lot more about the idiocy of the process than about Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, Williams was a slightly below-average center fielder. According to FanGraphs, he was a terrible center fielder. Oddly, though, both sites come up with the same answer about his overall value: 47 or 48 Wins Above Replacement. And that's just not a Hall of Famer.
Of the holdovers from last year's ballot, only five candidates received at least 30 percent support a year ago: Barry Larkin (62 percent), Jack Morris (54), Lee Smith (44), Jeff Bagwell (42) and Tim Raines (38).
I could make cases for all of those guys. Not bullshit cases. Reasonable cases. All of them. That's just where we're at right now, with a ballot loaded with candidates who meet reasonable historical standards for the Hall of Fame.
If I were a voting member, I certainly would vote for Larkin, Bagwell, Raines, and Trammell. And I would agonize for many, many hours over the rest of them.
In any event, I do expect Larkin to be elected. The rest of these guys are in real trouble, though. You think this is a crowded ballot? Next year, these worthies will be joined by Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Craig Biggio. And then the fun really starts.