Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Will Barry Larkin save the Hall in 2012?
This will be a good year for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
Oh, it won't be a great year. Not a year like 1999, when first-ballot enshrinees Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount packed the house. Not a year like 2014, when Upstate New York might be overwhelmed by Georgians celebrating the elections of Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
A good year, though. Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar certainly have their fans, both are highly qualified for the Hall of Fame, and there's going to be a wonderful weekend for Pat Gillick and his family. The process worked well, and everybody is going to make money this summer.
Next year, though, isn't looking so hot.
Given the history, there's a pretty good chance that the Veterans Committee process won't elect anyone. Which leaves only the BBWAA ballot, and there is an excellent chance that the BBWAA will, in all its collective wisdom, fail to elect anyone.
Yes, "fail" is a loaded word and not necessarily the appropriate word.
In this case, though, it's highly appropriate. Because even after electing Alomar and Blyleven, and even considering that Bernie Williams will be the best new candidate on the ballot next year, there will still be a long list of highly qualified players on the ballot. And it's quite possible that none of them will be elected.
Which means a bad year for the Hall of Fame. For one thing, the Hall of Fame (and the Village of Cooperstown) relies on visitors, and visitors are attracted by new Hall of Famers; the Hall's biggest weekend (by far) every summer is Induction Weekend. For another thing, it hurts the credibility of the election process -- and ultimately the Hall itself -- when the process so obviously fails.
Granted, the process fails every year, to some degree. Every year, some deserving Hall of Famer isn't elected; occasionally, some non-deserving Hall of Famer is elected. Every year that Ron Santo has been considered but not elected, the process failed.
But when two deserving Hall of Famers like Blyleven and Alomar are elected, it's easy to forgive the voters for missing on Jeff Bagwell, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Tim Raines. If nobody is elected next year, forgiving will be very difficult.
Will anyone be elected next year? Larkin is the only viable candidate. One year ago, he drew the support of 52 percent of the voters; this year he moved up to 62 percent. At that rate, we would expect him to move up again next year, but perhaps fall a little short of the required 75 percent.
However, Larkin will have two things working in his favor next time. He'll benefit from the paucity of new viable candidates; at least a few voters who didn't have room on their ballots this time because they voted for Blyleven and/or Alomar will find room for Larkin next time. And as the top non-electee this time, Larkin will receive somewhat more attention from the voters who didn't vote for him ... which can only help, considering just how qualified for the Hall of Fame he actually is.
Just to review: Larkin was an 11-time All-Star, won nine Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove Awards, and one National League Most Valuable Player Award. Shortstops who hit nearly 200 home runs and steal nearly 400 bases don't exactly grow on trees. Not even in Cooperstown.
The Doomsday Scenario is fun to think about, but Epic Failures are inherently interesting. But I don't think the BBWAA will whiff next year. Sure, they'll still miss on something like half a dozen highly qualified candidates. But I will predict today that Larkin saves the day in 2012.