MLB

Baseball Hall of Fame vote: Analyzing chances of Barry Bonds, Fred McGriff, more on Contemporary Era ballot

When most people think about the vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame, we think about the BBWAA vote where there are hundreds of writers and the players need to get 75 percent of the vote. It’s what gets the most coverage because media members write about their own votes and most give their rationale, plus, it’s the quickest and easiest way for most players to get in. I’ve already done a breakdown of 10 things to know on this year’s ballot, but we won’t know the results until mid-January. 

But there’s another way for former players to get into the Hall of Fame and there’s a vote on Sunday. Results will be revealed at 8 p.m. ET. 

A group known as the Veterans Committee is another avenue for those who have been shut out in BBWAA votes for decades. The Hall of Fame has broken things up into the Era Committees now. The vote this season is the Contemporary Era, which is for players whose greatest contributions came from 1988 to 2016 (the vote next year will cover managers, executives, and umpires in that timeframe). 

The players on the Contemporary Era ballot this year: 

  • Albert Belle
  • Barry Bonds
  • Roger Clemens
  • Don Mattingly
  • Fred McGriff
  • Dale Murphy
  • Rafael Palmeiro
  • Curt Schilling

The committee voting on these players: 

  • Hall of Famers: Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell
  • Executives: Paul Beeston, Theo Epstein, Arte Moreno, Kim Ng, Dave St. Peter, Kenny Williams
  • Media: Steve Hirdt, LaVelle Neal, Susan Slusser

Unlike the BBWAA vote, where writers are on their own, this group meets together and discusses — or even debates — the candidates before voting. Any player getting at least 12 of the 16 votes gets inducted into the Hall of Fame. Voters can select anywhere from zero to three, so it’ll be tough to get to 12 votes. 

Let’s run through a quick breakdown with analysis on each. 

Albert Belle

Belle hit like a Hall of Famer through the ’90s, but was it too short-lived? From 1993-99, he hit .308/.391/.602 (156 OPS+) while averaging 41 doubles, 41 homers, 127 RBI and 106 runs per season. It’s an absurd stretch, but it was seven years and he wasn’t all that great otherwise. With no MVPs and no World Series rings, I’m inclined to believe this player-heavy committee will pass on Belle without a ton of debate. 

Barry Bonds

There’s no reason to run down the case with Bonds. We’ve done it to death and everyone has already made up their minds. I guess we’ll find out if 12 of the 16 people here are in his corner. I’m inclined to guess no, especially with the hulking presence of Frank Thomas on the committee, long outspoken against PEDs (going back to 1995) and as well respected a voice among former players you’ll find. Even if Thomas wasn’t there, I can’t imagine the presence of seven current Hall of Famers who were believed to be clean bodes well for anyone connected to PEDs. 

Roger Clemens

See above. Clemens is essentially the pitching version of Bonds. 

Don Mattingly

Mattingly won an MVP and finished second in voting once. He was one of the best and most recognizable players in baseball … for four years. 

That run was amazing. Mattingly hit .337/.381/.560 (155 OPS+) while averaging 46 doubles, 30 home runs, 121 RBI, 102 and 6.3 WAR per year, but it was only four years. Back injuries zapped his power, though he held on long enough to gather 2,153 hits and is a career .307 hitter. But 442 doubles, 222 homers and 1,099 RBI doesn’t really cut it at first base. He was an exceptional defender and the respect of his peers — like we will discuss with McGriff — could weigh in here. 

It’s possible Mattingly gets in, but I think he’s overshadowed by the man below. 

Fred McGriff

Here’s your favorite. 

As for the case, I did all I could for McGriff during his time on the BBWAA ballot (here’s the case from his final try). Definitely read that if interested in the numbers. 

As for the connections here, they look great for McGriff. First off, there’s the PED stuff. Unlike several others on the ballott, McGriff is pretty much universally considered to be as clean as it gets and has the utmost respect from his peers. That probably earns bonus points with the players on the committee. 

Morris missed McGriff by a few years in Toronto, but word gets around about well-respected teammates who were among the best players in the league. Morris and Trammell played together a while in Detroit, too. 

Maddux and McGriff were together for about 4 1/2 years in Atlanta, though, winning the 1995 World Series as teammates. Take out 1994 and Jones was with them, too. 

We should also point out that Smith and Maddux overlapped with the Cubs while Sandberg and Maddux had lots of time together with the Cubs. It might not matter, but also, there are times that former teammates who got along will put a lot of trust in each other’s opinions. More specifically, let’s say Maddux is a big advocate for McGriff in that room Sunday. It’s easy to see how he could persuade the likes of Jones, Smith and Sandberg and maybe Morris and Trammell, too, if they were already on the fence or leaning that way. 

Now, the executives and media form 9/16 of this committee, but I’m banking on the players making a strong case for how good and how respected McGriff was and, really, it might not even be necessary. 

I think he is getting in, though it’s incredibly difficult to handicap these things. 

Dale Murphy

He feels similar to Mattingly, right? Murphy is a two-time MVP whose peak was short. From 1982-87, he hit .289/.383/.531 (145 OPS+) while averaging 28 doubles, 36 homers, 105 RBI, 110 runs, 18 steals and 5.7 WAR per season. 

I wonder about the career batting average of .265 hurting Murphy with a panel that could skew old school, though. He got to 2,111 hits, but that’s not overwhelming, and he fell short of 400 doubles (350) and homers (398). The 1,266 RBI and 1,197 runs are good but don’t leap off the page. And while Murphy is a bit of a Braves legend, he played there during a lot of lean years while the team became one of the best franchises in baseball after his departure. 

This isn’t to besmirch the great career of Murphy. I’m just pointing out I think it’s an uphill battle. Among the non-controversial candidates, I’ll guess he’s definitely below McGriff and probably below Mattingly, which means it’s difficult to see a road to 12 votes. 

Rafael Palmeiro

The PED conversation above on Bonds and Clemens? Yeah, that. Palmeiro was a lesser player than those two and failed a test after quite the performance in front of Congress. He’ll fall way short and might even get zero votes. I’m surprised he was on this ballot, frankly. 

Curt Schilling

There’s a chance Schilling gets in here, though, again, it’s very hard to handicap these votes. I’m simply not sure how it’ll shake out with McGriff, Mattingly, Schilling and maybe Murphy. 

The Schilling case isn’t very interesting anymore. There was a divide when he first came on the ballot that had absolutely nothing to do with politics or his personality and over the course of 10 painstaking years with him on the ballot, he did everything he could to make it about politics and his personality all the while playing the part of innocent victim. His attacks on the writers became especially hilarious when he said in 2021 that he doesn’t believe he should be a Hall of Famer and still got 71.1 percent of the votes from the BBWAA (so what’s the issue with the vote?). 

The question here is whether at least 12 of the 16 members of the committee will 1) believe his baseball resume is worthy of the Hall (and while I’ve long said he’s a “yes” for me, it’s not a slam-dunk case) and 2) look past everything else and vote for him. 

If I had to guess, there’s a real chance a good number of the players on the committee look past any personality stuff and vote for him (as noted, I’d still have voted for him, so I’m not blaming them). There’s also the chance that some don’t like him at all and think his numbers aren’t good enough anyway. 

I also wonder about Epstein’s presence on the committee and if he’ll be an advocate for Schilling. Remember, Epstein acquired Schilling for the Red Sox after the 2003 season and the rest, as they say, is history. 

It’s hard telling how this is going to go. Schilling is the hardest one here for me to handicap. 

If I had to wager, I’d say he misses the cut by a nose (with 10 or 11 votes), but I won’t be surprised in the least if he gets to 12 and, honestly, I think the opposite is also possible — that he doesn’t get all that close with something like four or five votes. Like I said, this is a difficult one to figure. 

I do think Schilling has a lot better chance than Bonds and Clemens, but I could be wrong. We’ll find out Sunday night. 



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