Because of the release of ballots over the last few weeks, we’ve had a pretty good idea that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas would get elected into the Hall of Fame on their first attempt. Today, that was made official, as all three cleared the 75% threshold and are now members of the Hall. All three are more than deserving, and raise the level of the Hall of Fame by their enshrinement.
Because today should be about celebrating greatness, here is my homage to Greg Maddux and Jeff’s tribute to Tom Glavine, with a similar piece on Frank Thomas on the way. These players are worth celebrating.
Of course, as is often the case with announcements of this sort, the players who missed can overshadow the players who made it, and the vote total for Craig Biggio is probably going to be the story that gets the most traction. Biggio received 427 votes out of a possible 571, putting him at 74.8%, just two votes shy of election. It is the most narrow miss in HOF voting history, tying him with Nellie Fox and Pie Traynor, both of whom ended up getting elected later. Biggio is basically a mortal lock to get elected next year, but that he missed by two votes this year is going to be the source of a lot of consternation for the next 12 months.
And really, it is perhaps the perfect example of why the 10 player limit on the HOF ballot needs to be removed immediately. There are
almost certainly confirmed more than two voters who did not include Craig Biggio on their 10 player ballot because there were 10 players they felt were more qualified on this particular ballot, but would have voted for him had the 10 player limit not been in place.
Craig Biggio missed Hall of Fame by 2 votes. I didn't vote him b/c 10 is max. He was 11 on my ballot. Time for BBWAA to change max rules?
— Rob Maaddi (@RobMaaddi) January 8, 2014
@KeithLaw I voted 10 and took Biggio off at last minute for Walker. Ugh! I would have voted for 14 guys this year.
— Jon Becker (@JonBecker28) January 8, 2014
12.26.13 re: Biggio & 10-vote limit http://t.co/nHByUkUa2A
— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) January 8, 2014
In other words, more than 75% of the voters would vote yes for Craig Biggio if that was the only question that was posed to them, but the limit means that is not the question they were asked, and they had to weigh his candidacy against the many other deserving candidates who made up this historically crowded ballot.
The fact that more than 75% of the voters would vote for Biggio, but could not because of an archaic rule that serves no purpose, but he did not get elected because of that rule, is reason enough to discard it post haste. Craig Biggio is, in the minds of 75% of the HOF voters, a Hall of Famer, but is being kept out by a technicality.
While I do not wish to be morbid, it is possible that Biggio does not live to see the 2015 Hall of Fame class get announced, and the Hall could be forced to posthumously elect a player that has already exceeded the threshold of 75% support among the voters. That would be a travesty, and motivation enough to remove the 10 player limit before we actually have a situation where a player is honored after he passes simply because the BBWAA is clinging to an outdated rule that has no use.
I believe the 10 player limit will be changed before next year’s ballot. Craig Biggio’s two vote miss ensured that this issue will not go unstudied, and once it becomes clear that indeed more than two voters would have voted for him if they could have, change will essentially be forced. In that sense, this is a good result for the Hall of Fame, even if it means another year of frustration for Biggio himself.
Overall, though, this is nearly as good of a result as could be hoped for, given the current rules and electorate. Three deserving players got in, no undeserving players are going to lower the Hall’s standard for future enshrinement, and a bad rule will now be heavily scrutinized. The process still needs improvement, but this is a much better day for both the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA than last year’s announcement.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.