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Hall of Fame Eve

not this year, but one year...maybe, hopefully
The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) announced the Hall of Fame class of 2016 tomorrow afternoon. I will be teaching when the inductees are formally announced. I may or may not post tomorrow depending on how interesting the results are.

Honestly, I probably will post something tomorrow. The early indications suggest a very interesting vote.

Let's start close to home with the story that I, personally, thought would not be a story.

Ken Griffey Jr. is going to make it into the Hall of Fame. That has been unofficially known for years, and will be made official tomorrow. However, as of this evening, Griffey is listed on all the publicly disclosed ballots.* Nobody has ever been a unanimous hall-of-famer and Tom Seaver's record percentage might be in reach. We won't know how historic Griffey's vote total is until the final voting is officially revealed.

*Side note: I love how many ballots get leaked publicly. I think it increases intrigue around the Hall of Fame voting. The BBWAA has accidentally stumbled into a beautiful system that gives us a chance to make educated guesses on Hall of Fame voting while still not knowing final answers until the official reveal.

Both Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines project to be right on the razor edge for enshrinement this year. Their vote totals hover near the 75% threshold as of now, but both also exhibited some of the largest gaps in voting patterns between public and secret ballots. Their percentages will almost assuredly go down, and if the splits from last year hold true, their percentages should sink enough to keep both out of the Hall of Fame another year.

However, there is a pretty strong reason to believe that secret ballot voting patterns will change noticeably this year. The BBWAA amended their rules for who gets to vote and essentially did not mail out ballots to 100 old-time writers who have not covered the sport for over a decade.

It's impossible to say exactly how this will change voting, but the candidacy of Bagwell depends on wading into the murky waters of the PED "era" and differentiating within the large cloud of suspicion and shame that sits over that time in baseball history. The candidacy or Raines depends on advanced analytics much more than traditional statistics. Neither of these topics seem to be the types of things that a writer whom stopped covering baseball years ago would go to incredible effort to investigate and understand. This might go a long way towards explaining the huge gaps between the public and private voting patterns for Bagwell and Raines too, given that one of the largest motivators for revealing Hall of Fame ballots is through blog posts published for the teams, papers, and websites that active reporters write for.

It is vitally important, at least in my eyes, that Bagwell and Raines get in sooner rather than later. Edgar Martinez is not getting in this year, but he has gained more votes among returners to the ballot than anybody else, which is saying something because a handful of players are poised to make significant strides. My hypothesis is that the historically large class of 2015 helped clear out some needed ballot spaces. In other words, I think a number of the votes Edgar will pick up this year come from people who have always considered Edgar a hall of famer but squeezed him off the ballot in favor of others. Another historically large class would help clear the ballot further and get the BBWAA members back to a point where they are simply asking themselves if a player is a Hall of Famer or not, instead of also feeling pressure to rank who deserves a vote or not.

Tomorrow will be a significant day in Mariners history no matter the outcome of the 2016 Hall of Fame vote. The only question is how significant. Ken Griffey Jr. will become the first player in the Hall of Fame displaying a Mariners cap. As much as I love Dave Neihaus and Randy Johnson, the Hall of Fame is about the players and those caps. The Mariners become a little more concrete and everlasting once that trident gets chiseled on a Cooperstown plaque, and that will finally happen tomorrow. It will be a great moment in Mariners history that has been a long time coming.

How special will that moment be? Will it also be historic within the grand context of Hall of Fame voting? It very well could be. And how many others will join Griffey in the class of 2016? There is a real chance that the Hall elects another quartet, which would be good news for Edgar's continued campaign.