Did you enjoy this year's Hall of Fame balloting?
If so, I've got some fantastic news for you: Next year will be a whole lot more of the same.
Next year, there will be four first-timers worth talking about: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield.
This year, there were five first-timers worth talking about: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent.
This year, Maddux and Glavine were elected; next year, Johnson and Martinez will be elected. This year, Kent fared poorly; next year, Sheffield will fare poorly. This year, Mussina was unfairly neglected. I'm not quite as sanguine about Smoltz's case -- the starter/closer/starter equation makes it trickier -- but I do believe he's got a good case, and I don't believe he'll be elected, at least not quickly.
The comparison breaks down with Frank Thomas, who cleared the bar with ease on his first try; qualitatively, the nearest analogue is Jeff Bagwell, who will be on his fifth ballot next year and still won't get elected. Craig Biggio, who fell just two votes short this year, will be elected next year. (Hey, welcome back Mr. Comparison! We've got three new Hall of Famers this year, and we'll have three next year!)
We'll get a small break in 2016, when only two viable candidates join the ballot: Ken Griffey and Trevor Hoffman. Griffey's a lock. I don't know what the voters will do with Hoffman, but I suspect his 601 saves will be enough. There might also be room for Piazza. And then in 2017, Ivan Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are the only new candidates with big numbers. Ramirez has no chance. Pudge is probably in trouble, too. While there's no official evidence of drug use, the list of circumstantial evidence is substantial. I'll bet he's not elected in 2017, which (again) opens the door for a holdover ... except if Piazza's elected in 2016, there might not be anything like a consensus for one of the holdovers in '17.
So by 2017, I believe the Hall of Fame will include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey, Trevor Hoffman, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, and John Smoltz. And as long as the BBWAA is electing a couple of candidates per year, the Hall of Fame's management won't feel any real need to change the system. Even with the distinct possibility that nobody gets elected in 2017. And 2018 looking pretty thin, too.
The Hall could look to the future, just as I have, and identify some concerns. Could even consider addressing them. Probably not, though. If history's any guide. Suddenly 2018 doesn't seem so far away. It does seem highly predictable, though. And it's difficult for me to think about the continuing moratorium against Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, and the continuing neglect of Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina. Even with two or three candidates elected per year, the logjam's still not going away for a long while.