FOR THE SECOND straight year, I’ve been obsessively clicking on sportswriter Ryan Thibodaux’s baseball Hall of Fame voting tracker a half dozen times a day looking for updates.
So far, it’s looking very encouraging for longtime Mariner Edgar Martinez. God, could this be the year he finally gets in? I’m almost afraid to hope.
At the moment I’m writing this, Martinez is receiving 84.7 percent of the vote to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame — a vote of 75 percent is needed.
I keep waiting for that number to drop every time I click on Thibodaux’s site (https://tinyurl.com/HallOfFametracker). But, it isn’t dropping. In fact, a few days ago, he was sitting at 82.7 percent and thus he’s actually ticked upward a little.
Last year, Martinez was likewise doing well in the early vote (on Tuesday, 17.3 percent of the Hall of Fame ballots have been turned in), but his numbers dropped toward the end of the voting, which will be announced Jan. 24.
I have a theory for this. Right now, ballots are being counted that have been voluntarily made public by sportswriters. A lot of last-minute ballots continue to be anonymous and they also tend to be older, crustier voters — i.e., voters that have an irrational bias against designated hitters being in the Hall of Fame because they believe a DH “isn’t a real position.” (I put it in quotes because it’s a stupid opinion as far as I’m concerned. The DH has been around for 44 years — it’s long past time to accept it.)
However, Martinez wasn’t doing quite this strongly last year. He was hovering around 70 percent and with those last-minute anonymous votes, he dropped down to 58 percent at the end. Martinez can still drop 9 percent in the vote and get in for the 2018 class.
I’ve been lobbying for Martinez to get in the Hall of Fame ever since he became eligible nine years ago. He was simply the best hitter I’ve ever seen. And I think the bias against DHs is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard when lousy defensive players (Reggie Jackson), one-dimensional singles’ hitters (Tony Gwynn) and guys that pitch 60 innings a year (Mariano Rivera) have been and will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Here is a very encouraging sign for Martinez: So far, out of just 72 votes cast, 13 voters who did not vote for him last year voted for him last year (while, inexplicably, two voters who voted for him last year didn’t vote for him this year … that makes no sense.) Other than Larry Walker, Martinez is getting the most switched votes of any candidate on the ballot.
I predict it’s going to be very close, unless that vote keeps defying my expectations and keeps inching up. (Every time I see that vote trickle upward, I squeal like a 49ers schoolgirl watching Jimmy Garoppolo).
This is going to be a weird vote this year because it looks like at least four guys get in and possibly at least seven guys get over 60 percent. Almost for sure getting in this year are Jim Thome (97.2 percent), Chipper Jones (97.2) and Vladimir Guerrero (91.5). Getting four guys in in one year on the writers’ ballot is really rare. It’s only happened once since 1955. Other guys who are close to getting in are Roger Clemens (73.2), Barry Bonds (71.8), Mike Mussina (69.0) and Curt Schilling (69.0).
It’s just unprecedented to have eight guys that close to being voted in, but I suspect with the secret ballots from older voters, there’s more antagonism toward players implicated in steroids such as Bonds and Clemens and their vote totals should drop. It’s interesting how Schilling is doing. His vote total dropped last year a lot because he retweeted a joke about lynching journalists. It appears that a few journalists have forgiven him for that after a year.
However, as an aside, one reason I think their votes are strong so far this year was because of a poorly thought-out letter from Joe Morgan more or less attempting to order sportswriters not to vote for people implicated in steroids. Well, journalists on the whole don’t take orders well — even from editors — and might be voting for Clemens and Bonds as a reaction to Morgan’s letter.
Anyway, I love what Thibodaux is doing. I think making the votes public perhaps helps encourage other voters who haven’t cast their ballots yet to perhaps rethink their votes or to give candidates like Martinez a bit of extra thought. (As an aside, I think this is interesting, Tim Booth, an Associated Press sportswriter who covers the Mariners in Seattle, voted for Martinez). I encourage you to check out the Website and follow the vote along with me.
This is Martinez’s ninth year on the ballot. He only gets 10 years on the ballot, then no matter how close he comes, he’s off the writers’ ballot. Though, he could still get in the Hall through a Veterans’ committee vote a few years later, and that in its own right is a flaky process, just ask Gil Hodges’ family.
Hopefully, it won’t go down to the wire for a 10th year. Hopefully on Jan. 24, we’ll all be celebrating for Edgar.