But a heck of a lot closer. I know Jeff Bagwell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. You know Jeff Bagwell deserves to to be in the Hall of Fame. I won't recount his numbers here, except to point out the very true and also slightly misleading point that Jeff Bagwell has a slightly higher fWAR than the new record holder for highest percentage of Hall of Fame votes, Ken Griffey Jr.
But still, as far as Bagwell is concerned, yesterday was a lot better than this time last year. For one, 71.6% is a whole lot closer to 75% than 55% is. (Don't let anyone tell you I can't do the maths.) Bagwell got 315 votes, whereas 330 were needed. 15 votes is nothing.
There has only been one time in Hall of Fame election history that a player has received 70% of the vote and not been elected the following year. Jim Bunning's vote totals from 1987 to 1989 must have been agonizing for Bunning partisans.
1987 - 70%
1988 - 74.2%
1989 - 63.3%
He would not be elected by the BBWAA, and was inducted by the Veterans Committee.
But Bunning spent 1985 to 1988 as the undisputed best starting pitcher on the ballot, and his vote total rose accordingly. He was 4 votes short in 1988, and then Gaylord Perry and Ferguson Jenkins joined the ballot. Jim Palmer the next year. Bunning no longer looked like as strong a candidate. All other times, 70% one year meant election the next.
Nothing like that is on the horizon for Bagwell. He is closer now than Piazza was last year, and Piazza sailed in with 83%. I see no reason not to expect a similar result for Bagwell next year.
Secondly, Piazza's election means the logjam is thinning. The BBWAA, for all of their faults, has managed to elect nine players the last three years. In addition, Mark McGwire, Allan Trammel fell off the ballot this year. The logjam will not fully resolve as long as Clemens and Bonds continue to the same large percentage of votes, without ever getting closer, but there should be room on the ballot next year. I see Pudge and Vlad getting a large number of votes next year, without getting in, and Manny picking up the same 10% line that Sosa and McGwire trend at. None of that will prevent enough voters from checking Bagwell's name.
And what do you call a player elected to the Hall of Fame in his 7th year of eligibility?
A Hall of Famer.