Over at Sports on Earth, the estimable Will Leitch writes about the Hall of Fame's logjam of candidates, which will only get more loggier and jammier in the coming years:
Bill Deane is a former senior research associate at the Baseball Hall of Fame but is probably better known to serious baseball fans as the guy who is brilliant at predicting who is going to make it into the Hall of Fame each year. Over 33 years, Dean has an 80 percent success rate at, as he puts it, "guessing the fate of men who finish within 10% either way of being elected (i.e., who receive between 65-85% of the vote)." That's terrific. Last year, he was one of the few who clearly saw that no one was getting in; he's someone who can be trusted.
So pay attention to what he says is going to happen this year, and be afraid. According to Deane, Greg Maddux will make it into the Hall of Fame. And that's it. In fact, he only has one person (Tom Glavine) within 10 percentage points of the 75 percent threshold. No one else comes even close. Frank Thomas? 63 percent. Craig Biggio? 61 percent. Jack Morris, in his last try? 58 percent. Mike Piazza, at 54 percent, is the only other player to crack 50 percent.
Bill Deane is fantastically well-versed on this subject, and also you should buy this tremendous book he wrote. But while we probably wouldn't have anything like the precision Bill does, anyone who's been paying any sort of attention at all would reach essentially the same conclusion: Next year, it's probably Maddux and Maddux alone. Which is better than what happened this year, when none of a million good candidates were elected.
As Will points out, by 2019 there will be a HUGE number of good candidates on the ballot. Even with Maddux, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Junior Griffey nearly mortal locks for quick election, there will still be approximately 25 good candidates on the ballot that year. Then come Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, too. After which the flood slows to a trickle. And with a number of good candidates coming off the ballot because their 15-year window has expired, the logjam won't seem quite as unmanageable.
But it will remain unmanageable.
Leitch concludes, "The only way it seems like this logjam is going to be resolved would be to vote in one of the PED players, likely Bonds or Clemens, whose credentials are so overwhelming that you have to be a particularly fierce moralist to deny them... We keep talking about history judging this era down the line. But it's not down the line anymore. It's right now."
Well, of course it's that the judging is happening right now. But that hardly precludes more judging in the future. It will simply have to take a slightly different form. The BBWAA will have done their judging, and judged that many players with tremendous numbers don't belong in the Hall of Fame, even those with negligible or even nonexistent ties to sports drugs. But then others will have their chances. The Hall of Fame might design a special process, lasting just a year or two or three, to reconsider the dozens of good candidates out in the cold. Because it won't make any sense to allow the BBWAA to suddenly create a Hall of Fame that doesn't suddenly doesn't have room for someone like Curt Schilling.
Failing that, all of these candidates will eventually be considered by an Expansion Era Committee or whatever they're calling it by then. Granted, those ballots would be overstuffed, too. Which would once more make it very difficult for any one candidate to stand out. But once the Hall of Fame decides on the desired result, it's not difficult to design a process that leads to that result. Seven years ago, the Hall decided they needed more figures from black baseball. A new committee was formed and just like that, the Hall had 17 new members (including its first female but not including Buck O'Neil; hey, no process involving actual humans gives you exactly what you want).
This or something like it will happen again. It must. You might think the Hall of Fame & Museum exists to celebrate baseball's grand history. It does not; the Hall's wonderful efforts are merely a happy outgrowth of its primary (if unstated) mission, which is to protect its own existence. Just like any other institution, the Hall of Fame will change when it feels threatened. And while it's made no public admission, I am fairly sure the Hall does feel threatened. Every time some jerk like me says the Hall of Fame has taken another small step toward irrelevance, somebody in Cooperstown is reading, and wondering if maybe, just maybe I'm right and something should be done.