By David Moriah
Fans always speculate and debate the next class of HOFers: Who’s a shoo-in among the newly eligible, who’s on the cusp and who will finally cross the magic 75 percent line amongst the holdovers?
This reporter has made predictions the last few years, and for the class of 2016 he scored two right, one wrong. I accurately predicted a first-ballot victory for Griffey Jr., though that
wasn’t exactly genius prognostication, as Griffey turned out to be a near-unanimous selection. I also predicted Piazza would cross the threshold after his three previous attempts fell short.
Where I went wrong was predicting Trevor Hoffman would be a first-ballot selection. Hoffman finished strong with 67.3 percent of votes but short of the magic 75 percent.
Looking Ahead to 2017
As we head into 2017, balloting predictions become more difficult. Among the 32 newly eligible candidates, those with the strongest records are Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez,and Vladimir Guerrero. All three compare favorably with current HOFers in baseballreference.com’s list of similarity scores to other players.
Ramirez played in the spotlight with Red Sox world championship teams, even earning a World Series MVP award in 2004. Ordinarily, his lifetime 555 home runs combined with a .312 batting average would mean automatic election, but multiple suspensions for PED involvement, along with his often-bizarre personality and work ethic challenge the assumption of automatic election.
Rodriguez was never suspended or officially cited for PED use, but suspicions have haunted him, and he was named a user in Jose Canseco’s controversial book about the steroid era. In a similar category to Piazza in that regard, with a similarly impressive career as a slugging catcher, Rodriguez is likely to suffer a similar fate of waiting a few years before being allowed in the door.
Guerrero’s career was not tainted by allegations of performance-enhancing drugs. On the other hand, though a dominant player of his era, he labored in some obscurity due to not being on high-profile teams. He had only one token appearance in the World Series as his career wound down.
Potential Inductees Among Holdovers
As for holdovers, three loom large. Hoffman came close at 67.3 percent, but was bested in 2016 voting by Jeff Bagwell (71.6 percent) and Tim Raines (69.8 percent).
Raines will be in his 10th and final year of eligibility, Bagwell in his seventh.
This reporter’s prediction? Guerrero will just make it over the line as a first-ballot inductee. Rodriguez will finish high but fall just short. Raines will leap over the line, along with Bagwell, while Hoffman will inch up but have to wait another year or two before his time comes.
Finally, there may be entrants coming from the latest iteration of what has long been called the “veterans committee,” which looks at players who didn’t make the cut before their eligibility expired, as well as managers, umpires and executives.
Eyeing New HOF Selection Process
The new process, which was unveiled during induction weekend by the HOF, is now titled the “Eras Committees” and considers candidates from four distinct eras of the game – Today’s Game (1988-2016), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Golden Days (1950-69) and Early Baseball (1870-1949). Candidates will be placed in an era based upon when they made their “greatest contributions to the game.” This leaves it a bit unclear for players whose careers spanned two eras.
The first committee up that will be considering candidates for 2017 entry is Today’s Game. Clearly in that camp is steroid-tainted player Mark McGwire and perhaps Jack Morris, depending on which era he is assigned. Looming figures from the executive ranks include recently retired commissioner Bud Selig, and again depending upon the era he is assigned, George Steinbrenner.
This reporter’s final prediction – Selig gets a plaque while Steinbrenner waits.
The Class of 2017 – Guerrero, Raines, Bagwell and Selig. You read it here first!