This story has been brewing for a while, but we brilliant humans have a tendency to ignore brewing stories until they've actually come to a head. And this one's coming to a head ...
If the 10 player ballot HOF holds, next year is going to be a disaster: Maddux, Thomas, Mussina, Glavine become eligible.— David Cameron (@DCameronFG) November 29, 2012
As I said, this shouldn't surprise anyone who's been paying attention. You don't even have to do any actual work, as Baseball-Reference.com publishes lists of eligible Hall of Fame candidates some years in advance. For example, the 2016 ballot will include first-timers Ken Griffey, Trevor Hoffman, Billy Wagner, and Jason Kendall. Oh, and a WHOLE BUNCH OF OTHER GUYS.
Which is the problem, assuming that you're a fan of the greatest players getting elected to the Hall of Fame with some degree of timeliness.
This season, there's a large ballot with a huge number of candidates who will receive significant support. I would vote for eight candidates with no compunction: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Curt Schilling, Alan Trammell, Tim Raines, Craig Biggio, and Mike Piazza. Before you yell at me, I would also spend a great deal of time considering Larry Walker, Kenny Lofton, Mark McGwire, and Edgar Martinez.
We know that Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Fred McGriff, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Rafael Palmeiro, and Bernie Williams will all receive -- because they have before -- meaningful support to various degrees.
The more candidates on the ballot who will draw meaningful support, the lower the chance of any particular candidate actually getting elected. We can actually surmise that this year's balloting will result in the election of either one candidate (Craig Biggio) or perhaps two (Biggio + Jack Morris).
We might assume that Maddux and perhaps Glavine will be both be elected, and maybe Thomas.
The year after that, Morris will be gone (either having been elected, or dropped off because his eligibility has expired) .. but Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Gary Sheffield will arrive.
Twenty-five candidates who will receive significant support from the voters, and many of whom you and I would probably vote for. And while the flood of qualified first-timers will slow, the wealth of remaining candidates will probably prevent the list from getting steadily whittled down, with three or four new Hall of Famers every year. With all those candidates getting votes, we might see elections with just two candidates getting the required 75 percent. Or one candidate. Or none.
Which brings us back to Cameron's tweet, in which he says if the 10-player ballot holds. There's nothing magical about that number. It's little better than nine, little worse than 11 (or maybe vice versa, I'm not sure). And if the number was larger, more players would be elected. That's just science.
But should it be larger? The Law of Unintended Consequences would predict that if the number is increased with the idea of electing more deserving candidates, it's almost inevitable that more undeserving candidates will be elected, too. You want Mike Piazza and Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame? Fine, but that means you get Jack Morris and Lee Smith, too.
Especially down the road. Granted, the Hall of Fame can do whatever it wants. As we've seen with the Veterans Committee(s), the Hall is perfectly willing to monkey around with the rules with great frequency. To this point, they haven't changed the procedures regarding the BBWAA ballots in many years, but that doesn't mean they won't every change them.
While a change might be in order, I hope the Hall is able to resist for at least a few years. I believe it's unjust and ridiculous that Roger Clemens won't be in the Hall of Fame next summer. But I also believe he'll be there someday, and that someday is what matters most.