By Bill (with special guest snarking from The Common Man)
You might remember that a little over a month ago, I wrote about Bill James' 1994 predictions for the BBWAA Hall of Fame voting covering the next 25 years: 1995-2019.
I had a lot of (respectful) fun pointing out James' hits and misses, in what was essentially an impossible exercise, so TCM and I thought it only fair to try the same impossible exercise ourselves. We've each made our own lists covering the next 25 years of BBWAA voting -- 2012-2036 -- and as you'll see, our lists are very different, even as to players who have already retired (I can't wait to see what happens when we're dealing with guys currently in their early twenties). We'll be unveiling and discussing our lists in five five-year segments in the coming days and/or weeks. Today, the immediate next five years, 2012-2016, which covers the first ballot for every player who has already retired (2010 retirees will be eligible in 2016). (Also, here is Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, as well as our wrap-up).
A word on methodology. James picked two inductees for every season, which makes sense; historically, there have been either one or two BBWAA inductees in virtually every year, and since it's almost entirely guesswork anyway, why not make it uniform? But on the other hand, there are a ton of worthy candidates coming up, and you do see three in a class about once every ten years (see 1984, 1991, 1999). So we decided to limit ourselves to two candidates (or fewer, though I chose never to pick fewer) in every year, with the exception of two seasons, in which we could name three. For a 25-year stretch, that seems reasonable.
So, onward. I'm handling the main commentary this time, with TCM injecting comments as he sees fit, and we'll switch next time. Here's hoping that in fifteen years, someone will care enough about us to come back to this list and have a good laugh at our expense:
Bill: Barry Larkin, Jack Morris
The Common Man: Larkin
Larkin isn't quite a sure thing to get in next January, but having received 62.1% with no particularly strong new candidates coming up, he's got an excellent shot. A number of voters explicitly said that they couldn't vote for Larkin until Alomar was in (which I think is silly for many reasons, but there you have it), so I think the chances are even stronger than they would be normally.
I guess that I'd probably give Morris less than a 50/50 shot of getting in (and lord knows I hope he doesn't), but at 53.5% in 2011 and with Blyleven now in, there's some significant chance he does, and I wanted to pick two inductees in every year for the same reasons I presume James did. You have to come into it with the understanding that we're necessarily over-picking, since (it appears to me) the BBWAA averages something fewer than two picks a year, and our average here is going to be a touch over two.
TCM says: On the other hand, The Common Man doesn't really have a problem with Morris' induction, should it happen. But it won't. So there.
Bill: Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza
TCM: Biggio, Piazza, Barry Bonds
It wasn't long ago that milestones like 3000 hits, while they always guaranteed you enshrinement, didn't by any means guarantee first-ballot. Biggio, who was looked at (fairly or not) as sort of a second-class star for most of his career, got to that number, and now (after fellow members like Molitor, Winfield and Yount all got in with no waiting) he seems like a first-ballot lock. It helps that he's got this inexplicable aura of innocence around him, almost unique among his peers -- I guess grit, hustle, pine tar-covered helmets and PED use just don't go together or something. Regardless, he's in on the first try.
We're also agreed on Piazza, though of course it's more up in the air for him. Best hitter and one of the three or four best overall players at his position + Murray Chass + backne should still = HOF.
Bonds, though? TCM is nuts. Look, I'd love it if Bonds sailed in on the first try, but it's not happening. It might be that 75% of the writers will vote for him, but once you subtract the sizable, silly portion who will withhold at least their first vote as punishment for his alleged wrongs, he's just not even close.
TCM says: Indeed, TCM is crazily optimistic here. He recognizes that. But he also believes that a) Bonds was the most or second-most dominating hitter of all time, b) that Bonds had a Hall of Fame career even before he's supposed to have started using PEDs, and c) that enough of the writers will realize that to overlook their piercing hatred of Bonds and all that he stands for. Yeah, that is nuts. Oh well.
Bill: Bonds, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine
TCM: Maddux, Glavine, Frank Thomas
I feel overly optimistic in placing Bonds here, but at least I'm not the schmuck who said he'd go first-ballot. I have to believe (in order to retain some sliver of faith in humanity) that three-quarters of the voters will be willing to put him in eventually, and I know a large percentage of the voters place an unjustifiable special significance on the first ballot, so I'm hoping enough of them come around to get in on ballot two.
Maddux, of course, is the surest thing in any of the five parts of this series. There's some speculation that he might actually go in unanimously, but there are always three or four loonies. (Besides, who knows? Someone might find some ridiculous way of raising some PED suspicion between now and then.) We're also agreed on Glavine, who is much more in the mold of a Don Sutton (who took five ballots to get in despite over 300 wins), but I figure the allure of inducting the Maddux-Glavine tandem together will just be too much for the voters to pass up.
TCM says: Maddux and Glavine were in the Chicks Dig the Long Ball commercial. They are complicit in the Steroid Era! Boom, they're gone! You're welcome, Bill.
Bill: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Thomas
TCM: Johnson, Roger Clemens
I originally had Johnson-Pedro-Clemens here, which would just be too cool -- the top 3/4 of a dream all-time rotation, all on the same stage? But I decided that with a presumptively "clean" slugger like Thomas still out there, the voters would still be too haughty to give Clemens the nod here.
One thing I categorically disagree with -- if Clemens is going in here, Pedro is also going in here. No way the voters are looking at two of the best right-handed pitchers they've ever seen -- one who is 5'2", 95 pounds and one who is a 'roided-up pharmacological Frankenstein's monster who eats kittens for breakfast and children for lunch (the writers' brains' words here, not mine) -- and pick only the latter. No way. Besides, Pedro was Sandy Koufax at a time and place in which even Koufax couldn't have been Koufax. That's a first-ballot type of peak, to these voters.
On the other hand, if it's only Unit and Clemens on the stage, they might steely-glare holes right into each others' foreheads, so that would be interesting.
TCM says: Like Bonds, Clemens had a Hall of Fame career before he's supposed to have started using, and TCM thinks enough voters will compare him and Pedro and feel ashamed enough The Rocket isn't in yet that they'll put him in first. Yeah, nuts.
Bill: Ken Griffey, Alan Trammell
TCM: Griffey, Pedro
2016 is Trammell's fifteenth and final bite at the apple. He's peaked at only 24.3% two-thirds of the way through, but I'm banking on a big internet-zealot-driven push to get him over the top. And once at the podium, he makes an impassioned plea that wakes the Veterans' Committee up to his old teammate Lou Whitaker's (obvious) case. It's a long shot, but hey, it's my list.
Griffey, of course, is very nearly as obvious as Maddux. You can look forward to a whole bunch of sanctimonious garbage about how he played the game the right way and was a throwback in a time of juiced-up cheaters and all that stuff. Yay!
TCM says: TCM recognizes Trammell's excellence as much as the next sabermetric geek out there, but there's no way you get 75% of the electorate to agree on this. Pedro's a shoo-in here, if he doesn't get in on his first go-round, and if he doesn't actually come back this summer.
So that's our list. What's yours? Check back sometime in the next few days for the next in our series of ridiculous picks, this one covering 2017-2021.