For the first time in more than a decade, Orioles fans will have a reason to care about the Hall of Fame ceremony this coming summer. Mike Mussina, the greatest O’s pitcher of the last 30 years, was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in his sixth year on the ballot. Mussina will join a class of BBWAA electees that includes longtime Mariners DH Edgar Martinez, legendary closer Mariano Rivera, and the late Roy Halladay.
Martinez was elected in his tenth and final year on the BBWAA ballot, while Rivera and Halladay each were elected in their first go-round. Mussina, who received a paltry 20.3% from the uninformed Hall of Fame electorate of 2014, has steadily increased his vote totals ever since until finally crossing the 75% threshold in this round of balloting.
Voting for the Hall of Fame is limited to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have been active for at least ten years. Those whose careers have taken them away from baseball writing or into retirement must have been active within the past ten years to retain votes.
Voters are limited to selecting ten players per ballot, and any player who is named on at least 75% of ballots is elected. This year, that meant being named on 319 ballots.
Mussina has been a Hall of Fame-caliber player since the day he retired. The only question has been when a significant percentage of the ostensibly-informed voting population would get their heads out of their butts long enough to recognize his readily-apparent greatness. Weak arguments against his candidacy, including that he didn’t win 300 games, didn’t win a Cy Young award, only won 20 games in a season once, and didn’t win a World Series, have held less sway as the years have passed.
Heading into the results announcement, Mussina looked to be in good shape based on the tabulation of publicly-released ballots done by Ryan Thibodaux and his team at the Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker. However, a phenomenon over several years has been that late-revealing voters and voters who choose not to be accountable about their choices are less likely to support Mussina.
That proved to be the case this year, as Mussina was comfortably at about 82% for much of the period of public ballots, but once the secrecy crowd got their say, he fell to “just” 76.7% - good enough to squeak in by seven votes. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. The percentage doesn’t really matter. Still, nearly a quarter of voters persist in being wrong.
The BBWAA inductees will join a pair of surprise inductees selected by the Veterans Committee, who surprised most observers by electing former Orioles Harold Baines and Lee Smith into Cooperstown last month. You can add together the career WAR of Baines and Smith and still be more than 20 WAR short of Mussina’s 83 career WAR. This did not prove significant to the decision of that panel of baseball insiders.
Farther down the ballot, some of the results:
- Curt Schilling - 60.9%
- Roger Clemens - 59.5%
- Barry Bonds - 59.1%
- Larry Walker - 54.6%
- Omar Vizquel - 42.8%
- Fred McGriff - 39.8%
...and on down to the eleven players who received zero votes. Those named on less than 5% of ballots do not carry over to next year, including former Oriole Miguel Tejada, who somehow received five votes. Neither will McGriff, who made a big gain in 2019 voting but is in his tenth and final year of eligibility. Presumably, the Veterans Committee will usher him in at their earliest opportunity.
Walker, the Rockies great, was another big gainer, jumping from 34.1% last year to his 54.6% in the 2019 balloting. He needs to get that support in a hurry as next year will be his final year of eligibility.
Bonds and Clemens continue to suffer under the minority of anti-PED crusaders. Those two greats only gained about 2-3 percentage points compared to last year. They each have another three years to be elected in this way. We’ll see if attitudes change more as they get closer to their final years on the ballot.
People keep voting for Vizquel for some reason. It’s weird. He gained from 37% last year to where he is now.