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Hoffman will enter Hall, but not when he should have

Missed first-ballot induction by 34 votes of 440
San Diego Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Am I disappointed that Trevor Hoffman fell short of being a first-ballot pick for the Hall of Fame?

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Am I disappointed that Trevor Hoffman fell short of being a first-ballot pick for the Hall of Fame?

:: 2016 Hall of Fame ballot results ::


But Hoffman's bid hasn't been rejected ... just delayed.

The members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America did Hoffman an injustice today.

In my mind, the first closer to 600 saves -- and a member of the Padres Hall of Fame -- had all the credentials necessary to go into the National Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.

Hoffman will be a Hall of Famer. Likely much sooner than later.

Still, justice delayed is justice denied.

So, I am upset -- and disappointed with the 144 voters who elected not to put a check mark next to Hoffman's name on their Hall of Fame ballot.

I am a staunch supporter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. I have been a member of the BBWAA since 1983 and served as the national president in 2002. It is an excellent organization of devoted writers and columnists who cover baseball for organizations throughout the land.

But there are times that I just don't understand how members of the BBWAA determine how they vote on key issues. Not just the Hall of Fame, but on matters like the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winners in each league.

Let's, however, start with the bottom line.

Trevor Hoffman will be going into the Hall of Fame. He was supported by 67.3 percent of the voters this year. He needed 75 percent, so he fell 34 votes short.

But no player who has received two-thirds of the vote in his first year of eligibility has been permanently shut out of the Hall of Fame. Most players who receive 50 percent in their first year eventually make it.

Hoffman has nine more years of eligibility.

So I see Hoffman's cup as being mostly full. He's going to get in ... very likely next year.

Which raises the question of why didn't he make it this year.

For one, there is a bloc of voters in the BBWAA who seldom vote for a player in their first year on the ballot. They view first-ballot acceptance as a bonus for only the very elite.

Tony Gwynn was a first-ballot pick. So was Ken Griffey Jr. this year, with a record 99.32 percent.

But this year's other inductee was Mike Piazza. And the former Padre made it in his fourth year on the ballot. Piazza's count during his first year on the ballot: 57.8 percent. Another first-timer with Piazza on that 2013 ballot was Craig Biggio at 68.2 percent. Biggio was voted into the Hall of Fame last year.

So, the bottom line is that Hoffman is headed to the Hall of Fame. Not just as soon as we would have liked -- or he deserved.

Of course, the first-ballot bloc is not the only hurdle Hoffman has to clear.

There are some voters out there who believe modern "specialists" -- such as the closer and the designated hitter in the American League -- should not be considered for the Hall of Fame. Perennial All-Star designated hitter Edgar Martinez garnered only 43.4 percent of the vote this year. There are even a couple of voters who earlier last year stated they wanted former Yankee Mariano Rivera to be the first "closer" to be voted into the Hall of Fame. The next closer in will be the first who spent the majority of his career as a last-inning specialist.

So, Hoffman got dissed when he shouldn't have.

Still, he finished fifth in the voting. Griffey and Piazza made it. Former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell finished third with 71.6 percent -- missing the magic 75 percent by 15 of the 440 possible votes. And Tim Raines got 69.8 percent.

The next most popular player behind Hoffman was pitcher Curt Schilling at only 52.3 percent.

Perhaps the biggest crime by the voters this year was reserved for Kearny High grad Alan Trammell. The former Padres coach was a contemporary of Ozzie Smith. And while Trammell was a superior offensive talent to Smith and nearly the same defender without the back flip, the former Tiger received only 41 percent of the vote on his last shot at the Hall of Fame.

Hoffman will get into the Hall of Fame. Trammell won't -- until the Veterans' Committee addresses that miscarriage of justice.

San Diego Padres