2016 Baseball Hall of Fame Preview

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Making the Hall of Fame in any sport is rarely an achievement that most players think about when they first enter the league.

Instead most players enter the league just hoping to make a team and play a few years before they are cut or are deemed not good enough.

It isn’t until someone’s career is coming to an end that they may begin thinking of making the Hall of Fame or if they have done enough to be one of the best of all time.

In baseball that dream is slightly different as Cooperstown is a notoriously hard place to get to as an MLB player.

In many other Hall of Fames the list of finalists contain a number of great players that most will say should deserve a spot.

They will also include some that are on the edge and others that are simply never going to make it into the hall.

In baseball it seems like every player that goes up for the Hall of Fame is a “yea…but” player.

In a game where numbers are taken so seriously and where stats continue to evolve into complicated formulas every player comes under major scrutiny based mainly on their numbers.

They are compared to players of the past or players in their position or now given new stats that never existed in the past to see if they are worthy.

Almost every player that enters the ballot seems to be good enough to make it until the one stat or one aspect that people bring up.baseball-sidebar

Every player seems to have that one reason as to why they should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame and more often than not the Baseball Writers Association of America takes those aspects into account.

The BBWAA has not issue in letting absolutely nobody into Cooperstown and they have done it six times since the hall of fame was established.

They also have no problem in electing a class that only includes one player as they have some very strict requirements.

The BBHOF is the toughest hall of fame to get into and this year as the official Class of 2016 is announced the debates will continue over who deserves a spot in the hall.

The election of hall of famers has only been more complicated in recent years as the debate over who is worthy has involved a lot more.

Instead of just the stats, which continue to rule the minds of many, the conduct off the field is being more scrutinized than ever before.

The steroid era is still in full focus every year while only a few players enter every year as seemingly good bets at making it.

Meanwhile more players will take their first shot and hope to at least get the 5% that keeps them on the ballot if they can’t find their way to the hall.

Among the group may be hall of famers and this year one seems to be all but guaranteed to get the 75% of votes to make it into Cooperstown.

Then there are those players who are about to find themselves on the outside and despite some believing they should have made it they will see their candidacy end this year.

It will be the last year that they get a shot and will need to be elected by the Veterans committee if they want to make the hall of fame.

This year is just as complicated as the last few but there seems to be sentiment that unlike in 2013 at least one player will be named to the half if not a handful of very controversial players that may just find their way in after a few years waiting for their spots.

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It is, and might be for a very long time, the biggest debate when the Baseball Hall of Fame announces their class of athletes. The Steroid Era in baseball was one of the biggest black eyes the league has ever suffered with only the “Black Sox” scandal matching the damage. During this era offence was at an all-time high and baseball was getting a boost in fans from the skill level. Then Jose Conseco released a book indicated multiple stars of the era as being drug users along with himself. It forced the league to investigate and the Mitchell report was released naming multiple superstars as PED users included some of the best players in the game. That era is over, although there are still PED issues in the league, but in the hall of fame that era is just beginning. Without the steroid era hanging over their heads there is little doubt that the all-time home run leader or a 7-time Cy Young Award winner were going to make the hall of fame. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were two of the best players in their era and are two of the best players to ever play in the MLB. The problem is that they have been accused of using steroids and although nothing has been solidly proven there is an assumption that both did use PEDs. Without them they may have been hall of famers or been given serious consideration for the hall of fame but now nobody truly knows if their other-worldly numbers were true talent or if they received a boost. That debate has been going on for three years since both were put on the ballot and the debate continues between the writers. Clemens has received 37%, 35%, and 37% of the vote while Bonds has received 36%, 34%, and 36% of the votes. Neither have been close to election but neither have been close to being off of the ballot either. Clearly some believe they belong while others believe they are not worthy but this year there seems to be a sentiment that they may just earn the votes needed to make it into Cooperstown. It will remain a debate whether they make it or not this year as some will say nobody implicated in using steroids should be in and others will say that the accusations have never been proven and that great players like them deserve the benefit of the doubt. One way or another one side will be proven correct and the other will need to stand by as the see what they believe pushed to the side.

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It is not entirely rare but it doesn’t happen every year when one player enters the hall of fame finalist ballot and is considered a sure thing. That is what seems to be happening this year when Ken Griffey Jr. was named a finalist for the Class of 2016. It is not guaranteed as nothing in the baseball hall of fame is but this is as close to a sure first balloter as there has been for a while. It takes a special player to be named a first ballot hall of famer and Griffey just might be that special player. In this era of sports the hype machine works overtime in trying to find the next great player or the new star in the league. These stars are built from the start of their very young careers to be the player that everyone will watch throughout their careers. It is such a common thing now with even baseball, a sport that takes years to develop talent, has taken part. They may not be the league with young stars taking over but when Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg making Sports Illustrated covers before they were even drafted the league is showing that young stars are flooding the league. That wasn’t the case in 1989 though as young players were almost never seen. Then came the son of an MLB player who had been raised as a baseball player with the only option for him to play in the MLB. Griffey was one of the few players who came into the league as a teenager and made his way through the league from that point on as one of the best players in the league. That is far from an easy thing to do as Griffey was only 19-years-old when he began his career in the MLB and played until he could no longer provide the pop he used to. He saw multiple eras in the league and played through the steroid era without ever being implicated in any steroid investigation. Yet without the extra help he was the guy that continued to put up big numbers with a swing that everyone wanted to attempt. He became the face of the league with a great smile and a friendly demeanor that helped him get his own video game series. He was the golden boy in one of the biggest eras in the MLB and that has to mean something along with his numbers. Numbers alone will get you into the hall but numbers and being the name that an entire generation grew up on makes a first ballot hall of famer.

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It is one of the toughest things to do when you are a retired player that seems to have the numbers to make their way to the Hall of Fame and yet never gets the call. Making that list every year and waiting for the call while never getting it is a hard thing to deal with. That is especially true when a retired player continues to hear that they are good enough to make it and yet never get the votes needed to get in. They still get those votes that keep everyone wondering if they have the chance as they are far above the 5% required to stay on the ballot. Players can only stay on a ballot for so long though no matter what percentage of writers believe they belong and for three players this year time is running out. There is Mark McGuire who is now in his 10th year of eligibility after receiving 10% of the vote last year. It is a concerning patter for McGuire but one that has implications for other players on the ballot. McGuire is one of many implicated in steroid scandals, although he has admitted his steroid use, and although he has the stats to make it he doesn’t seem like he is going to make it in even though he has five years of eligibility left. There is Lee Smith who last year received 30.2% of the vote and is not entering his 14th year of eligibility. The closer is third in all-time saves and clearly has some support earning a good percentage of the vote. Outside of his save stats there isn’t a lot though and for that he may not get the call and next year could see his final year come and go without a call. The final one is Alan Trammell who received 25% of the vote in 2015 and is in his last year of eligibility. He might be one of the more frustrating members of the trio as many believe that he has numbers comparable to those in the hall right now. He still doesn’t get the recognition though and continues to receive far less votes than he needs to get in to the hall. 25% is not promising and if he can’t get at least 50% more he won’t be making the hall of fame from the BBWAA and will need to rely on the Veteran’s Committee to earn a spot. It is a frustrating spot to be in and many times they can be forgotten easily with new players entering the ballot every year.

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Ken Griffey Jr. is the first ballot hall of famer that everyone is watching but he is far from the only first ballot nominee. There are plenty of first year nominees and although many will not receive the 5% they need to stay on the ballot let alone get into the hall of fame. Many will get the honour of being considered but won’t be talked about for much longer after this year in terms of making a trip to Cooperstown. It doesn’t mean that all won’t be though as there are a few players that could receive far more than the minimum requirement to stay on the ballot with a smaller amount having shot at joining the likely hall of famer, Griffey. Most notably two relief pitchers will fight for respect among the Hall of Fame voters. Billy Wagner was one of the best and most consistent performers in his era and finished his career among the top five in saves. He enters his first year of eligibility but it could be a tough one as he will need to compete with one of the greatest closers of all-time. Trevor Hoffman will enter his first year of eligibility and has a shot at making it as the man who the National League reliever of the year award is named after. Still both have to fight what amounts to the equivalent of a kicker trying to make it in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Relievers are a big part of the game but when compared against other pitchers they don’t have the same stats. They aren’t the guys going out their every five days and pitching more than five inning with some only coming in for one inning. Relievers don’t get the same recognition as starters and both Wagner and Hoffman will have to fight against that. They both could do it and become part of the few to make it as a reliever but Hoffman is far more likely to make and might not do it this year. With Griffey in the mix as a first ballot hall of famer there isn’t a lot of room for more especially when there are so many issues with either of these pitchers. They may have to wait but both should be on the ballot next year and might be able to get in in the next few years. Both pitchers are right behind Griffey in the first ballot members and will all be notable people in this year’s vote. Meanwhile players like Jason Kendall, Jim Edmonds, and Brad Ausmus may get just enough to stay but likely won’t be in the hall any time soon for the new group of nominees.

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