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Reading the tea leaves of Hall of Fame voting trends

By January 10, 2013

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It's going to be a poor year to be a travel agent or hotel owner in Cooperstown, N.Y. But what the baseball writers did this year isn't likely to keep anybody out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. After all, the last time the writers failed to elect anybody (1996), the top three that year all ended up getting in the Hall in future years. In many ways it isn't fair, but that's the imperfect world we live in.

Let's look at the remaining players on the ballot (with their ballot percentage from this year in parentheses) and look at the trends, ranking the players on the ballot from most likely to eventually make it to least likely:

Craig Biggio (68.2%): He'll get in next year. There's always a second-year bump, especially for players with the career benchmarks like 3,000 hits. Biggio is one of just three eligible players with 3,000 hits to not get in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot; Paul Waner and the tainted Rafael Palmeiro (tested positive for PEDs) are the others. Waner (3.152 hits) didn't make it until his fifth try.

Mike Piazza (57.8%): No steroid charges have ever stuck to Piazza, who produced during his entire career in huge markets, but still seemed to be punished. But he'll almost certainly make it, and probably in just a few years.

Jeff Bagwell (56.0%): I think more writers will come on his side over time, and he did get a bump in his third year. But it's going to be at least a few years.

Tim Raines (52.2%): A stealthy candidate. He's always compared to Rickey Henderson because their careers overlapped so much, and he lacks in the comparison to the first-ballot Hall of Famer. But sabermetrics are kind to Raines-- he always got on base, hit .294 in his career, and his 808 stolen bases is fifth all-time. It's going to be another six or seven years, but he'll creep toward 75 percent.

Curt Schilling (38.8%): Bert Blyleven, who made the Hall, started with just 17.5 percent. Jack Morris, on the cusp next season, started with just 22.2 percent. So Schilling has to feel pretty good about his chances someday. But it will be a long slog.

Jack Morris (66.7%): I think it's 50-50 next year for Morris, perhaps the best big-game pitcher of his generation. Will Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine steal some votes from him next year? Maybe. And that would be a shame.

Barry Bonds (36.2%) and Roger Clemens (37.6%): If the Hall of Fame eliminates its character clause, their chances leap dramatically. Otherwise, they'll languish in the middle of this ballot until 2027.

Sammy Sosa (12.5%): His low percentage is worse than expected. Even his buddy Mark McGwire got more support this year. Doesn't make it without dumping the clause.

Edgar Martinez (35.9%): Martinez was a true DH, and he's being punished for it. He actually lost votes this year, which is a shame.

Lee Smith (47.8%): His time as a real candidate has come and gone. He'll have four more chances, but won't make it.

Fred McGriff (20.7%): Actually lost 3.2 percent of his vote this year.

Mark McGwire (16.9%), Don Mattingly (13.2%), Rafael Palmeiro (8.8%): No chance.

See: Hall of Fame players sorted by years on ballot

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