Hall class size should rise to historic level
The last time four players were simultaneously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame was 60 years ago. The time to break that streak could be now.
With the announcement of the results in the balloting by Baseball Writers' Association of America coming Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET, there is, as usual, no shortage of eager anticipation regarding the outcome.
From the fans' standpoint, one rule of thumb for this election is the more the merrier. The more candidates elected, the more fans of individual players and their teams get to rejoice in this ultimate career recognition. You can easily recall the general letdown for the 2013 election in which the number of candidates chosen for the Hall was zero.
But not this time. There exists a genuine opportunity for four completely deserving candidates to be elected. There are many more than four candidates who deserve election to the Hall, but realistically, there are four players who are more than capable of gaining the 75 percent of the vote required for election.
Craig Biggio garnered 74.8 percent of the vote last year, missing election by only two votes. He tied a record for being the closest to election. But history says that he is now a question of when, not if. Fifteen players have previously missed election by a single-digit margin. They were all subsequently elected to the Hall.
Three first-year candidates bring Hall-worthy pitching credentials to the 2015 election. They are Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz. Their stellar accomplishments require no further examination at this date.
Again, the number of players on the current ballot who could be considered genuine Hall of Fame candidates is safely into double digits. This discussion is about the likelihood of election this year.
There are few certainties regarding any Hall of Fame election, but we can identify those few. One is that the writers view themselves as guardians of the Cooperstown gate. They are a tough crowd for potential Hall candidates. The arguments that follow these elections are almost invariably about exclusion, not inclusion. After the ballots are counted, the question that will be most frequently asked is: "Why didn't he get in?"
This is the most exclusive Hall of Fame in North American professional sports. And it should remain that way.
The ballot is particularly crowded now, and the Baseball Writers' Association of America has recommended to the Hall of Fame that the maximum number of candidates that voters can select in one year be raised to 12, up from the current 10. That could theoretically alleviate the overcrowding.
The other sure thing is that, while I cannot possibly speak for the more than 500 other voters, I voted for the four people in this discussion. I did so without a shadow of a doubt regarding their merit. This act was at once a solemn obligation and a real pleasure.
But 75 percent is a steep hill to climb. That 1955 class of four was suitably outstanding: Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance.
The only time that five candidates were elected in the same year, came in the Hall's original vote of 1936. Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner were the first class to enter the Hall.
It would be difficult to top either that quantity or that quality in a single class. But this year, both circumstance and achievement indicate that four candidates not only could be, but should be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.