The Hall of Fame announced this weekend that they were making a very significant change to the voting process. The Hall has decided to drop the 15 years eligibility to 10, with only Mattingly, Trammel and Lee Smith grandfathered in. The biggest loser in all of this is Mark McGwire who now only has two more years to change the hearts and minds of the BBWAA about steroids, and Tim Raines, who now has three to change the hearts and minds of the BBWAA into believing that he was actually really, really good.
But, seeing as how this is Astros County, I want to take a look at how this will effect Bagwell. (If this effects Biggio at all, something has gone horribly wrong. You could argue something has already gone horribly wrong, and you would be absolutely right. Moving on.)
Bagwell will be going into his 5th year on the ballot in 2015, and dropped from 59% to 54%, due mostly to the stacked ballot. Bagwell would have had his eligibility expire in 2025. Now, it will be 2020. What does this do to Bagwell's chances to make it to the HOF via the BBWAA?
I think it will cut both ways. There have been many who have been on the fence about Bagwell, and have leaned on the 15 year period as an excuse to not make up their mind. There are some who just feel sure that there is some evidence of steroid use that someone credible has been sitting on for over 20 years, and won't vote yes until they are certain there isn't. You could argue that the lack of urgency has been hurting Bagwell more than anything. Now that the urgency has been increased, you might see more deciding they can't keep out a top 10 all time first baseman based on whispers and innuendo.
Problem is, the ballot is not going to get any less stacked over the next few years. In 2015, here is a list of players that will likely get some support. Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, R. Johnson, P. Martinez, Mussina, Schilling, Bagwell, Trammell, Smoltz, Raines, E. Martinez, Sheffield, Piazza, Sosa, Kent, L. Smith, McGwire, Mattingly, McGriff, Sosa, Walker. That's 22 names, all of whom have cases with strong supporters. Mattingly will definitely drop off, as 2015 is his last year of eligibility. Biggio, R. Johnson, P. Martinez and possibly John Smoltz will likely be elected. Sosa and McGwire could potentially drop below 5%.
2016 adds Griffey, Jim Edmonds, Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner, with the latter three likely to stay on the ballot for several years. 2017 adds M. Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez and Vlad Guerrero, none of whom will make it in their first year, but will likely stay on the ballot. 2018 adds Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones and Omar Vizquel. 2019 add Roy Halladay, Lance Berkman, Mariano Rivera, Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte. 2020 adds Derek Jeter at least.
Maybe Bagwell can make it through that slog before he reaches 2020. His best chance to pick up steam is 2016 and 2017. If he can get to 65-70% in those two years, I think he'll get in in 2019. But, if he doesn't, here is my best guess for the ballot he'll be facing in his final year. Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Schilling, Smoltz, Sheffield, Edmonds, M. Ramirez, I. Rodriguez, Guerrero, Thome, Rolen, A. Jones, Vizquel, Halladay, Berkman, Helton, Pettitte, Jeter.
He'd make my 10, but can he make the 10 of 75% of the electorate? Even in his last year of eligibility, Jack Morris lost support facing a stacked ballot. Bagwell's 2020 ballot could be even worse. Of course, Bagwell's case is stronger than Morris's. One thing that he has going for him is, based on WAR, he will always be in the top 10 candidates in every class he is in. Per Baseball Reference, he will outrank every new addition to the ballot except Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Chipper Jones and Ken Griffey Jr. (Fangraphs actually swaps Bagwell and Griffey). On my theoretical 2020 ballot, he'd rank 5th, behind Bonds, Clemens, Mussina and Schilling. That is becoming more important to the electorate, which will hopefully continue as the years progress.
Having Bagwell go to the various Veterans Committees will be one of the BBWAA's greatest shames. The new 10 year rule, unfortunately, makes that a tick more likely to happen.