(Seattle Times staff photo)
The 2012 Hall of Fame ballot is being mailed this week to qualified members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (those with 10 years in the organization). The results will be announced Jan. 9, with Barry Larkin the best bet for selection after getting 62.1 percent of the vote last year. History shows that when someone gets that close to the necessary 75 percent, they usually go over the top the next year.
I’ve felt all along this is a key year for Edgar Martinez’s candidacy, because it is the calm before the storm. By that I mean, it’s not a particularly strong class of first-year candidates. The best of the bunch is Bernie Williams, but I don’t see him getting huge support. Beyond that, it’s a pretty weak group, relatively speaking: Bill Mueller, Ruben Sierra, Vinny Castilla, Tim Salmon, Javy Lopez, Tony Womack, Terry Mulholland, Brad Radke, Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Jordan, Eric Young, and Phil Nevin. I don’t see much more than token votes for any of them.
Martinez, in his third year on the ballot, needs to make some substantial progress, because the storm I alluded to is brewing. Next year’s ballot will feature, for the first time, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Curt Schilling. It will be easy for someone like Edgar to get lost in the shuffle with all the furor over the Cooperstown merits of that crew. And the year after, here comes Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Mike Mussina — another pretty powerful group of names.
I feel strongly that Martinez is a Hall of Famer, but I also acknowledge that he’s a tweener, by virtue of the fact he was a designated hitter for so long, and didn’t accumulate the career totals that many voters look for. The voting patterns the first two years have proven that it’s not going to be an easy road. Two years ago, in his first time of the ballot, Edgar receiving 195 of 539 votes — 36.2 percent. Last year, he dipped to 91 of 581 — 32.9 percent. It’s unrealistic to expect he’s going to jump to 75 percent, but I’m hoping he can make a big leap forward.
As I wrote last year, Bert Blyleven’s slow path to Cooperstown should provide some comfort for Edgar. Blyleven had just 14.2 percent of the votes his second year on the ballot, but was finally elected last year, in his 14th try. That prompted me to do some extensive research on the voting patterns for Hall of Famers, which offered some hope for Edgar (but no guarantees). Here was Edgar’s reaction to last year’s vote.
I still think Martinez has an excellent chance to eventually get to 75 percent. As I’ve said before, I think the sophistication of statistical analysis helps him, because the closer and deeper you look at his career, the more you realize just how good he was. More on that in the coming month. I think that helped Blyleven, who was going nowhere until some influential writers and bloggers re-examined his career and began lobbying for him.
Just for the record, here was my ballot last year:
I’m not going to commit to anything right now, because I have until Dec. 30 to mull things over. I’ll say again: Voting in the wake of the so-called steroids era — particularly when suspected (or proven) users are involved — has taken much of the fun and excitement away from what used to be a highly anticipated and exhilirating process. And next year’s ballot is going to one heck of an ordeal.