By Bob Elliott
If voting for the Hall of Fame was made public Tuesday -- it does not -- hotel rooms would be sold out in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Ken Griffey, Mike Pizza, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines are projected to receive the required 75% of the ballots ... sort of.
They will according to polling by Ryan Thibodaux, who tracks ballots and compiled 166 made public (36.9%) of the roughly 450 voters this year.
Griffey has 100% so far, followed by Piazza, the near miss from a year ago at 86.7%, Bagwell who has 80.1% and Raines at 78.3%.
A lot can happen between 36.9% of the voting electorate and Wednesday’s finish line. Many voting members the Baseball Writers of America Association with 10 years experience, prefer to write about who they voted for after Wednesday night’s announcement.
On the weekend Raines sat at 80.1% (141 ballots). Two days later his slice of the voting pie had shrunk.
Two years ago Craig Biggio was a lead-pipe cinch the day before. He didn’t make it until last year.
The numbers for both Bagwell and Raines are not exactly comfy and assuring. Especially when you hear those lines at the end of most poll results which goes something like “polls have a 3% margin of error?”
Nelle Fox gained 74.7% of the vote in 1985 and the figure was not rounded up. He was later inducted by a veteran’s committee after he died.
What we are watching are three factors tied to one another to a certain degree.
What you are seeing is form of ballot cleansing, a drastic change of the voting electorate and maximum, blanket voting:
_ Seven players (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas in 2014, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Biggio last year) were elected the past two summers which is the most since 1954-55. And it equals the number for the previous six years (Barry Larkin, Robbie Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice and Goose Gossage). Still exit polls show a glut of talent remains.
_ The Hall of Fame, which cut the number of years for player eligibility from 15 years to 10 two years ago, changed the electorate to those who have held active status within the last 10 years. Having a Hall vote used to be like appointed to the senate. The electorate (10 years required) changed each year with some becoming eligible while others passed away, however this is drastic change. A total of 475 ballots were sent out compared with to 575 last year, the lowest since 2003.
_ Are voters getting soft or are there that many great players still on the ballot? Last year 51% of the voters used all 10 slots on the ballot, up from 50.4% the year before. In 2013, 23% of the voters used all 10 spots. The only other year 20% voters used all 10 slots was in 1999 as Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount were elected in their first year.
An average of 8.32 names appeared on ballots last year — most since 1960 — and the fourth year in a row that the number rose. This year the average number of names on the public ballots is 8.33.
Raines is in his ninth year on the ballot after receiving 55% last year. If Raines, a minor league instructor in the Blue Jays system, does not make it Wednesday, next year is his final year as he tries to have a plaque in upstate New York like former teammates Andre Dawson and Gary Carter.
Last year Piazza was named on 69.9% of the ballots missing by 24 votes. Now, in his fourth year of eligibility the former 52nd round draft choice who has been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs is now close to preparing his induction speech.
Bagwell had 55.7% of the vote last year his fifth year on the ballot.
It is doubtful Griffey will gain 100% -- for the simple reason no one has -- and there will be angst over why not? It’s like 2010 when Alomar missed by eight votes. Does anyone remember the near miss? No. They introduce him as Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar.
Griffey has an excellent chance to break Tom Seaver’s record mark of 98.84% (425 of 430) for highest percentage. The top 10 highest vote percentages:
1. Tom Seaver: 98.84
2. Nolan Ryan: 98.79
3. Cal Ripken: 98.5
4. Ty Cobb: 98.2
5. George Brett: 98.2
6. Hank Aaron: 97.8
7. Tony Gwynn: 97.6
8. Randy Johnson: 97.3
9. Greg Maddux: 97.2
10. Mike Schmidt: 96.5
And then arguments will start over next January when Vladimir Guerrero, Jorge Posada, Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez hit the ballot for the first time.