So yesterdays Hall of Fame news was disappointing, to say the least. Astros fans can't seem to catch a break. But can we at least take solace* in the fact that Biggio will get in next year? Well, maybe. But I don't think its guaranteed.
Biggio fell just 39 votes short. There were at least 39 voters that did not vote for Biggio because they felt he was a Hall of Famer, but not a first ballot Hall of Famer, whatever that means. It stands to reason, then, that he should get in next year. And that's still probably true.
However, this year was an undeniably crowded ballot, particularly for those willing to vote Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, et al. The BBWAA reported that 22% of voters used all 10 spots. The average ballot used 6.6 spots, which includes the blank ballots and those that listed only one or two players. I thinks it fair to say that at least 40% of ballots used 8, 9 or 10 spots. That number might be higher.
And its only going to get worse. Next years class includes Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, and Jeff Kent. I expect Maddux to be named on over 90% of ballots, Glavine and Thomas on 60-80% and Mussina and Kent over 50%. The big hall group that voted for 8+ this year is very likely to be adding at least three more names. That means someone is going to have be cut.
I think the majority of voters will cut someone else besides Biggio. I expect the majority of the chops will be to those who did not get over 50% of the vote last year. Sadly, I expect Bagwell to lose some votes next year, and Tim Raines as well. But what if 5% of the voters drop Biggio. That's 11 votes. Now he needs to pick up 50 from the group that left him off their ballot the year before. What about 10%. He would then need more than 60 votes. Put another way, would we still expect Biggio to be a slam dunk next year if he was 60 votes short this year? That's less than 65%.
That's what really bugs me about the voters who decided Biggio was not a first ballot Hall of Famer. It was so shortsighted. Two facts were patently obvious before voting began this year. It was going to be very tough for anyone to be elected this year, and if no one was elected, the ballot was about to get really crowded. This should have surprised no one. Yet you had a large contingent of voters who looked at Biggio, acknowledged he was a Hall of Fame caliber player, and still voted no. There is no "first ballot Hall of Famer" distinction. They don't get a separate room. It is not mentioned on the plaque. Why were they so keen on protecting an honor that doesn't actually exist? And the cost was very real. This was Biggio's best chance. The crowded ballot is not going to get any better any time soon.
That being said, it could all work out. There has been a lot of talk on getting rid of the 10 vote limit, which only makes sense. There also might be more of an incentive to keep Biggio on the ballot, considering he is so close. Its still more likely than not that Biggio will go in next year, and if not next year, then the year after that. Only one person (Gaylord Perry) who debuted with greater than 65% of the vote failed to be elected the very next year, and it only took him one more try. I'm confident we will have an Astro in the Hall of Fame soon. Sorry to be such a downer. I guess being a Houston sports fan has bred a little pessimism in me.
*Another point to consider. If he goes in next year, Biggio will likely be inducted with at least one, probably two, Braves, which means someone will do the deplorable Tomahawk Chop, which will severely dampen the joy I will have that day.