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A Hall of Fame shutout

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  January 9, 2013 01:28 PM

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No one? Not one? No fun.

For all of the drama and controversy and, yes, embarrassing sportswriter self-aggrandizing in the build-up to this year's Baseball Hall of Fame voting, it's a letdown, albeit not an unexpected one, that no contemporary player among this year's 37 candidates earned the requisite 75 percent for election Wednesday.

The ballot debate this year made the Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera MVP argument look like a friendly conversation among buddies in the bleachers, and the result was more frustrating. I'm glad it's over and yet bummed by the outcome.

But hey, should be a great turnout in Cooperstown this summer to celebrate Pre-Integration Committee selections Jacob Ruppert, Deacon White, and Hank O'Day, none of whom lived into the 1940s. Maybe they can hologram 'em up, Tupac-style, to give their speeches.

As for those who any of us actually saw on a baseball field live and in color, none were particularly close to election.

Craig Biggio, the durable Astros catcher/second baseman/center fielder, was tops in his first year on the ballot with 68.2 percent, leaving him 39 votes shy of election. He will get in someday, and I suppose it would be appropriate if it happens the same year as longtime teammate Jeff Bagwell (third in the balloting in his third year, 59.2 percent), one of the finest all-around first baseman ever (149 OPS+) and definitely better than Scott Cooper.

Jack Morris was second, up one percent from last year at 67.7 percent. Say this: He gives you lots of years on the ballot and a chance to get elected.

The most encouraging sign -- and I suppose even occasional visitors to this corner of Boston.com can guess what's next -- is that Tim Raines made the biggest leap among players who will be on the ballot next year, jumping from 48.7 percent to 52.2. Only Dale Murphy, in his 15th and final year, saw a greater increase in support, and it's not unjust to suggest that was a sympathy/farewell boost for one of the most gracious players of any generation.

Raines seems to be swaying veteran voters -- my colleagues Bob Ryan, Dan Shaughnessy, and Nick Cafardo voted for him, and I'd bet none did when he was first eligible. (Peter Abraham has been on board longer.) Jonah Keri, North America's Official Go-To Expos Dude, told me this morning he'd throw a parade if Raines got to 60 percent, but was hoping for 55. The bump wasn't quite so big, but it was nonetheless encouraging. He's getting in eventually. To me, that's about the only good news of the day.

A couple of other quick thoughts:

Conclusions we can draw from the first year of eligibility for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa, a.k.a. the PED 3? Well, I thought Clemens and Bonds would end up right in that 35-40 percent range, and they did. I was surprised that Clemens (37.6 percent) topped Bonds (36.2), the all-time home run king. (Insert your own asterisk here). Imagine there's an element of the voting base that confused him being found not guilty on perjury charges with never having had Brian McNamee jab him with a needle.

I think we can conclude that Sammy Sosa, who had three 60-homer seasons yet got just 12.5 percent of the vote, is never getting in, the perception being that his greatness wasn't previously established before the PED allegations as it was with Clemens and Bonds. Which is probably fair.

Thumbnail image for niekrophilfinn.jpg.pngThis is the first time since 1996 that no player was elected. That ballot included six future Hall of Famers -- Don Sutton, Bruce Sutter, Phil Niekro, Ron Santo, Tony Perez, and Jim Rice, who received 35.3 percent of the vote on his second year eligible. (Bill Buckner received 2.1 percent, for what it's worth.) Of course, you could argue that all six of those players -- three of whom received below 40 percent of the vote that year -- are fringe Hall of Famers at best. I actually like this year's class much better in terms of actual qualifications, and I'd bet the Bagwell, Biggio, Raines, Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, and Mike Piazza all make it in someday. Perhaps Edgar Martinez (35.9 percent) as well.

Meanwhile, Alan Trammell (33.6 percent) got nearly half the votes of his '80s Tiger teammate Morris despite having 27.8 more Wins Above Replacement (baseball-reference version) over his career. And Fred McGriff (20.7 percent) continues to be overlooked and underrated. It's a crime, dog.

loftonfinnhall19.jpgStunned that Kenny Lofton is one-and-done on the ballot, earning just 3.2 percent. I'm not sure I would have ever actually voted for him, but there can be legitimate comparisons drawn between his career and Raines's. His dismissal after a single year isn't as egregious as Lou Whitaker's (2.9 percent in '01, top career comp: Ryne Sandberg) or Bobby Grich's (2.6 percent in '92), but it's certainly curious. You'd hope it's not the case, but it's easy to wonder whether Lofton's well-earned reputation as a pain-in-the-Assenmacher with the media cost him a little bit.

If I were going to sneak one "no chance" guy onto my hypothetical ballot, it probably would have been Julio Franco, who played until he was 48 and was always a fun player to watch. (I'd never have done it over a qualified candidate, though.) Franco got six votes, which is six more than Todd Walker -- a brief pause to acknowledge his superb performance in the '03 postseason -- or 300 HR/300 SB guy Reggie Sanders, or slugger Ryan Klesko, or a handful of other quality players who went oh-fer on their lone at-bat on the ballot.

Who Voted For Aaron Sele? Sounds like next summer's cheesy ABC mystery soap-opera. What a cliffhanger. Just hope it wasn't someone I know.

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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