Breaking down HOF election returns
January, 9, 2014
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com
Whew. Another year. Another batch of Hall of Fame election results to sift through.
So what do you say we stop shouting at each other about Jack Morris, Craig Biggio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and, of course, Dan Le Batard -- and start breaking down these fascinating election returns in gory detail:
Legends of the fall
For months, we've been wondering what kind of impact the arrival of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent would have on the other names on this ballot.
Well, now we know. And I bet it isn't what you expected.
As I wrote Wednesday, it wasn't Bonds or Clemens or Mark McGwire whom this year's group wound up hurting. It was mostly a bunch of great players, with legitimate credentials and no apparent PED stains, who probably never saw this coming.
It's not unusual to have a few players lose votes in big, star-studded election years. But now that I've spent way too much time looking at the history of Hall voting, I can officially announce that this year is an all-timer. Let's sum up the carnage:
Nine players lost at least 30 votes since last year. Six players lost at least 50 votes. Four dropped by at least 60 votes. And one (Lee Smith) saw 101 votes subtracted. More on him in a minute.
We've never witnessed anything like this, not in any of the 25 elections I've voted in, anyway. So let's delve even further into what happened.
Those six players who lost 50 votes or more were six times as many players as had suffered that fate in the previous 24 elections combined. In other words, since 1990, only other one player had ever seen 50 votes or more disappear on him in any one year.
That was Jim Rice, who took a 57-vote tumble in 1999 (and later made the Hall, anyway). But, incredibly, all six of these men suffered that fate this year:
Lee Smith: minus-101
Alan Trammell: minus-72
Larry Walker: minus-65
Edgar Martinez: minus-60
Curt Schilling: minus-54
Fred McGriff: minus-51
Those aren't a bunch of stumblebums at the bottom of the ballot. That's a group we ought to be seriously considering, each player having collected more than 130 votes in previous elections.
They didn't play in a single game since last year's election. And they still lost a combined 403 votes. Which has to be up there with the greatest feats of their careers.
You can connect the dots directly to the 10-player ballot limit. Thank you very much. Their credentials didn't change. Only the other names on the ballot did.
As I mentioned, nine players lost 30 votes or more just in this election. Which is amazing, when you consider that there had been nine in the previous 24 elections put together. Here are those nine:
57 Jim Rice (1999)
49 Don Mattingly (2002)
46 Tommy John (1999)
45 Steve Garvey (1999)
42 Garvey (2002)
38 Rice (2002)
36 Bernie Williams (2013)
32 Orel Hershiser (2007)
30 Jim Kaat (2002)
Trammell had been climbing steadily in these elections -- until the onslaught of megastars arrived on the ballot. And that overload has caused him to plunge from 211 votes to 119 in just two years.
No player had taken a 70-vote fall since Luis Tiant suffered an 85-vote wallop to the noggin in 1989 (when he careened from 132 to 47). But Trammell's 72-vote belly flop has inflicted serious damage on his candidacy, which moves into its 14th year of limbo next year.
And then there's Lee Smith. He may have lost his "all-time" saves record. But now he has another record to call his own:
Largest one-year vote drop (by vote total) in Hall of Fame history.
I never thought it was possible for any candidate to have 100 votes magically disappear on him in one year -- maybe because no one had ever pulled that off.
But Smith's 101-vote nosedive shows us that just about anything is possible these days. I checked every player who ever got 100 votes in any election. And Smith now sits at the summit of this not so prestigious Top 10 Vote Drop list:
101 Lee Smith (2014)
85 Luis Tiant (1989)
76 Luis Aparicio (1981)
72 Alan Trammell (2014)
65 Larry Walker (2014)
62 Mickey Lolich (1989)
60 Edgar Martinez (2014)
57 Jim Rice (1999)
54 Max Carey (1956*)
54 Curt Schilling (2014)
(* before modern voting system began in 1968)
The only good news I could dredge up for Smith was this: At least he didn't set the record for biggest drop in percentage of the vote.
Yeah, luckily, that 17.9 percent fall of his (from 47.8 percent last year to 29.9 percent this year) only ranks him third on the percentage list. Ahead of him: Aparicio (22.2 percent) in 1981 and Tiant (20.4 in 1989). And if you're calculating along at home, you know there were, obviously, fewer voters then.
Poor Jack Morris. Reached 67.7 percent last year -- and then actually went backward (to 61.5 percent) this year. Well, you don't see that much.
In the history of modern voting, only one other player had ever gotten to 67 percent or higher in one election -- and then boomeranged downward in the next. That was Jim Bunning, who faded from 74.2 percent in 1989 to 63.3 in 1990 (and, like Morris, then had to have his Hall of Fame fate decided by the Veterans Committee).
The only other player, under this voting system, to reach 65 percent and then lose votes the next year? That was Phil Niekro, who dropped from 65.7 percent in 1993 to 59.9 percent in 1994.
Got change for three grand?
It was a rough election to be a member of the 3,000-hit club.
Craig Biggio missed getting elected by two votes. Rafael Palmeiro stumbled off the ballot completely by submerging below 5 percent (to 4.4). And here's what that means:
Assuming Biggio gets elected eventually, he'll become the third 3,000-hit man ever to have to go through at least three Hall elections to make it to the podium. But both of the others came before the dawn of the modern election system:
Paul Waner (sixth election), 1952
Eddie Collins (fourth election), 1939
As for Palmeiro, you don't need to consult any descendants of Tris Speaker to know he's the first 3,000-hit man and first 500-homer guy ever to appear on the ballot and then drop off for lack of support. Here's that leaderboard:
Most career hits, dropped off the ballot
Rafael Palmeiro 3,020 (after four ballots)
Harold Baines 2,866 (after five ballots)
Vada Pinson 2,757 (after 15 ballots)
Al Oliver 2,743 (after 1 ballot)
Rusty Staub 2,716 (after seven ballots)
Most career homers, dropped off the ballot
Rafael Palmeiro 569 (after four ballots)
Jose Canseco 462 (after one ballot)
Dave Kingman 442 (after one ballot)
Juan Gonzalez 434 (after two ballots)
Darrell Evans 414 (after one ballot)
Three tidbits you can file under Useless Cooperstown Information:
• Before this year, the writers had elected precisely one starting pitcher (Bert Blyleven) to the Hall of Fame in this millennium. There's now an excellent chance we could have five elected in just two elections (Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine this year, then Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz next year). We'd had five in the previous 20 elections (Blyleven, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro and Steve Carlton).
• Only once in the previous 38 years had the writers voted in two starting pitchers in the same year (Fergie Jenkins and Gaylord Perry in 1991). And before that, it had happened only twice since 1947 (1972, with Sandy Koufax/Early Wynn, and 1976 with Robin Roberts/Bob Lemon). Then, amazingly, came this year, when the writers elected two (Maddux/Glavine) from the same team.
• And baseball writers sure take a beating every year this time. But they've been way more discriminating about whom they elect than you'll find in the other major sports. Even with three players elected Wednesday, here's how the MLB elections compare to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in recent years:
Players elected in past six elections
So if anybody is "cheapening" the Hall of Fame, it isn't the baseball writers, OK? It's official.
Finally, I'd like to thank Armando Benitez, Jacque Jones and Kenny Rogers for stopping by the clubhouse of one of my favorite, human-trivia-question All-Star teams:
The All-I-Got-Exactly-One-Vote-in-a-Hall-of-Fame-Election Team. I've been updating this team every year. So here comes the distinguished 2014 edition -- a roster any 165-homer man would be proud to be a member of:
1B – George (Boomer) Scott
2B – Chuck Knoblauch
SS – Walt Weiss
3B – Tim Wallach
LF – David Justice
CF – Chet Lemon
RF – Jacque Jones
C – Javy Lopez
Starting rotation: Kenny Rogers, Dock Ellis, Chuck Finley, John Candelaria, Pat Hentgen
Bullpen: Armando Benitez, Al Hrabosky, Jesse Orosco, Steve Bedrosian, Clay Carroll
All-Postgame Interview Team: Jim Deshaies, Bret Boone, Darren Daulton, Jay Buhner, Eric Young.
Broadcast booth: John Kruk, Mike Krukow, Ron Darling
Disabled list: Danny Tartabull, David Segui
Parole Board Division: Lenny Dykstra