Seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens failed to crack 40 percent in his first year on the ballot. (John Iacono/SI)
The votes have been counted, and the result is a shutout. At 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson announced that none of the 37 candidates on the 2013 BBWAA ballot had received the 75 percent of the vote necessary for election to Cooperstown, with Craig Biggio's 68.2 percent leading the field but still 39 votes short. Four other candidates — Jack Morris, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Tim Raines — received more than 50 percent, led by Morris with 67.7.
This is the first time the writers have pitched a shutout since 1996 (the last time the ballot had this many candidates) and the second since 1971, though they were much more common in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite assertions to the contrary, the world won't end, and while a flood of worthy new candidates will hit the ballot in 2014, making it even harder for anyone to reach the threshold necessary for election, we can at least look forward to some writers dropping their first-ballot resistance to worthy 2013 newcomers, and others mothballing their fainting couches over the number of players connected to performance-enhancing drugs.
A few quick and somewhat scattered thoughts on the results:
1. Mr. 3,000: Biggio is just the second player to reach 3,000 hits since the end of World War II and not gain first-ballot entry, the other being Rafael Palmeiro, who failed a drug test and has now gone three cycles without being elected; (Career hits leader Pete Rose was banned for life due to gambling before he became eligible to receive votes.) With the ballot more crowded next year, Biggio won't be an automatic entry, but some of the resistance-for-the-sake-of-resistance against his candidacy should drop. Of the five players who received between 65 and 74.9 percent in their first year of eligibility since the Hall went back to annual voting in 1966, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Carlton Fisk and Roberto Alomar went in on the second ballot, and Gaylord Perry on the third.
2. The not-so-inevitable: Morris isn't an automatic for 2014 either. He gained just one percentage point over last year, and will need to find 42 more votes while being pitted head-to-head with other strong candidates among former pitchers like holdovers Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling and 300-win newcomers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and another Schilling-like (high strikeout total, non-300 win) candidate in Mike Mussina. Jim Rice went in on his 15th try in 2009, but he only had to climb from 72.2 percent, and first-ballot entry Rickey Henderson was the only newcomer who even received five percent of the vote that year.
3. The black sheep: Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds received less support among those who didn't publish their ballots than the straw polls — which had them around 45 percent — would have suggested, finishing at 37.6 percent and 36.2 percent, respectively. That rebuke will be painted by some as the definitive defeat of PED-tinged candidates, but again, there's a first-ballot bias to bear in mind, and many of the voters who went against those two left the door open to reconsider their candidacies in the future. Meanwhile it's worth noting that in modern voting history, 10 previous candidates have debuted with between 30 and 40 percent of the vote, with Rich Gossage, Eddie Mathews and Lou Boudreau eventually elected by the writers, Enos Slaughter, Pee Wee Reese and Jim Bunning going in via the Veterans Committee, and Edgar Martinez, Maury Wills, Al Lopez and Luis Tiant failing to gain entry at all. Clemens and Bonds have definitively stronger statistical cases than any of those 10, so I suspect they'll gain entry, but the timeline is going to be longer than I previously estimated — perhaps until the end of the decade.
4. Just say no: Mark McGwire (16.9 percent), Sammy Sosa (12.5 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (8.8 percent) may fall off the ballot before resistance to PED-related candidates softens enough. McGwire is now seven years into his candidacy, and his share of the vote has fallen in each of the past three years since he admitted to using steroids. Sosa's first-year share looks a lot like that of Palmeiro two years ago (11.0 percent) despite having not officially failed a drug test (he reportedly failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test). Palmeiro, who fell from 12.6 percent last year, may well fall below 5.0 percent next year. Based on voting share alone (not on the PED allegations), history suggests that at best, he'll be a Veterans Committee selection.
5. Top newcomers: Mike Piazza made a strong debut at 57.8 percent, though perhaps not as strong as initially anticipated. Modern voting history suggests he'll get in via the BBWAA vote, though it could take as long as five years to build enough support. Schilling's 38.8 percent puts him in the Clemens/Bonds camp with regards to historical voting trends for similar debuts. Though he has no known PED connections, he may suffer in comparison to the coming flood of pitchers, which include not only Maddux, Glavine and Mussina in 2014 but also Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz in 2015.
6. Top holdovers: Bagwell gained a bit of ground in his third year of eligibility, going from 56.0 percent to 59.6 percent, suggesting he too will gain entry via the writers within a few years. Raines, in his sixth year of eligibility, crossed the 50 percent threshold, climbing from 48.7 percent to 52.2 percent, making his eventual induction a likelihood. Among the candidates to receive at least 50 percent at any point in the BBWAA process, only Morris, Bagwell, Lee Smith and Gil Hodges have failed to gain entry either via the writers or the Veterans Committee, and all but Hodges still have a fighting chance, as they remain on the ballot.
7. Lesser holdovers: Smith (47.8 percent), Edgar Martinez (35.9 percent), Alan Trammell (33.6 percent), Larry Walker (21.6 percent), Fred McGriff (20.7 percent) and Don Mattingly (13.2 percent) all fell back a few points relative to last year, with Smith slipping under 50 percent after crossing it for the first time in 2012, his 10th on the ballot. At best, these players can hope for Bert Blyleven-like builds to eventual election, but it's getting late for Trammell, and it's almost certainly out of the question for Mattingly
8. A fond farewell: Holdovers Dale Murphy and Bernie Williams fell off the ballot, as did 18 of this year's 24 newcomers. In his 15th and his final year of eligibility, Murphy received just 18.6 percent of the vote, his highest share since 2000 but just a four-point gain over last year despite the additional publicity. In his second year of eligibility, Williams dropped from 9.6 percent to 3.3 percent, below the 5.0 percent needed to remain under consideration. Eleven of the 24 newcomers received no votes, five others (Julio Franco, David Wells, Steve Finley, Shawn Green and Aaron Sele) received between one and six votes, with only Sandy Alomar Jr. (16 votes, 2.8 percent) and Kenny Lofton (18, 3.2 percent) rising above that significantly among the group. Lofton, a candidate who via JAWS ranks among the top 10 centerfielders in history, deserved better. While his JAWS is a bit below the Hall average at the position, it's still above the median, but alas, he's been lost in the flood of more popular candidates, and now joins Bobby Grich, Lou Whitaker and Ted Simmons among the bigger one-and-done travesties.
Yrs on ballot
Sandy Alomar Jr.