When the 2016 Hall of Fame voting is revealed on Wednesday (6 p.m. ET, MLB Network and MLB.com), the baseball world will find out which candidates have reached the 75-percent threshold for induction. At the same time, other players will have come up short of the 5 percent needed to avoid falling off the ballot prior to the 10th and final year of eligibility.
Most players in the latter category will be those whose stellar careers merited inclusion on the ballot but clearly don't measure up to the high standards of Cooperstown. For example, the list of eligible names in 2016 includes first-timers such as Luis Castillo, David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek.
But the Baseball Writers' Association of America voters are allowed to select only 10 players per ballot, and because the group of solid candidates has become backlogged in recent years, some players who deserve more consideration also could be in danger. Among them is a first-timer, Jim Edmonds, who was polling at only 2.5 percent among the 158 public ballots -- a little more than one-third of the total -- collected as of Monday night at Ryan Thibs' Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker.
Edmonds certainly could get the votes he needs from private ballots, but it's unfortunate that a player with a legitimate case for induction faces elimination from contention so quickly. While Edmonds' case might best be described as borderline, an eight-time Gold Glove center fielder with nearly 400 career homers and 60 wins above replacement (WAR) deserves better.
In fact, if Edmonds does come in below 5 percent, he likely would go down as one of the most accomplished players to permanently fall off the BBWAA ballot in his first year of eligibility. Here is a look at the best of that group, which doesn't include some prominent players (Minnie Minoso and Ron Santo, for example) who later were reinstated.
1. Bobby Grich, 2B, 1970-86
HOF result: 2.6 percent in 1992
If Grich went on the ballot today, there is little doubt he would do considerably better with an electorate less reliant on traditional stats. The six-time All-Star for the Orioles and Angels batted only .266 with 1,833 hits and 224 home runs, but his .371 on-base percentage helped him post a 125 OPS+. Since World War II, the only Hall-eligible second basemen to do better over at least 5,000 plate appearances were Joe Morgan and Jackie Robinson. Also a strong defender, Grich piled up 70.9 WAR, per Baseball-Reference.com, which ranks eighth all-time among second basemen. Of the top 11 players on that list, only one besides Grich is not in Cooperstown.
2. Lou Whitaker, 2B, 1977-95
HOF result: 2.9 percent in 2001
The other odd man out among that top 11 is Whitaker, who actually ranks just ahead of Grich with 74.9 WAR, thanks to a career that lasted almost 400 more games. Whitaker also beat out three recent Hall of Fame second basemen who were inducted by their third ballot: Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio. Certainly, WAR isn't everything, but a capable defensive second baseman with nearly 2,500 hits and 250 homers, plus more than 400 doubles and a 117 OPS+ deserves a longer look. Unfortunately, both Whitaker and longtime Tigers double-play partner Alan Trammell -- now in his final year on the ballot -- will have to rely on the Veterans Committee.
3. Kevin Brown, SP, 1986-2005
HOF result: 2.1 percent in 2011
Brown wasn't the most popular guy in the game, and he didn't come particularly close to 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts. It's still odd that there was so little support for a pitcher with the 25th-most pitching WAR (68.5) since 1901, virtually tied with Don Sutton and Jim Palmer. Among pitchers with 3,000 innings over that span, Brown ranks 16th in ERA+ (127). He also enjoyed an elite-caliber peak from 1996-2000, averaging 242 innings, a 164 ERA+, a 2.87 FIP, 212 strikeouts and 7.4 WAR, second only to Pedro Martinez. His pair of ERA titles included a 1.89 mark in 1996, and he threw a no-hitter the next year.
4. Kenny Lofton, CF, 1991-2007
HOF result: 3.2 percent in 2013
Here is the recent precedent for a center fielder of Edmonds' caliber falling off the ballot in the first year. Lofton is fifth in Total Zone fielding runs above average in center (since 1954) and 15th all-time in stolen bases (622), and he came up just a touch shy of batting .300 with 2,500 hits. The six-time All-Star owns a career .372 OBP, and is one of nine players with 600 steals and 600 extra-base hits. His 68.2 WAR is eighth among center fielders, just ahead of Duke Snider.
5. Ted Simmons, C, 1968-88
HOF result: 3.7 percent in 1994
It might have hurt Simmons that several of baseball's best catchers played at roughly the same time, including Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk. Yet the switch-hitter stacks up well at the position overall, ranking 10th in WAR (50.1). If Mike Piazza is elected this year, each of the nine eligible catchers ahead of Simmons will be enshrined in Cooperstown. Simmons also ranks second at the position in RBIs (1,389), hits (2,472) and doubles (483), seventh in OPS+ (118) among those with 7,000-plus plate appearances, and 10th in homers (248). An eight-time All-Star during his time with the Cardinals and Brewers, Simmons hit better than .300 seven times, topped 20 homers six times and joins Bench, Fisk and Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers with 12 seasons of at least 3.0 WAR.
6. David Cone, SP, 1986-2003
HOF result: 3.9 percent in 2009
Cone came up short of even 200 victories, and his time as a productive pitcher really lasted only 12 seasons (1988-99). But during that period, only Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux beat his 59.9 WAR, as Cone averaged 15 wins, 206 innings, 194 strikeouts and a 131 ERA+. The righty made five All-Star teams, led the league in strikeouts twice and won the 1994 AL Cy Young Award with the Royals. For good measure, he is one of 21 pitchers to throw a perfect game since 1900 and one of seven to strike out at least 19 batters in a game. He also won five championships, posting a 2.12 ERA over six World Series appearances (five starts).
7. Buddy Bell, 3B, 1972-89
HOF result: 1.7 percent in 1995
Bell wasn't particularly successful as a manager with the Tigers, Rockies and Royals, but his playing career is underrated, as is the case with many other top third basemen. Bell was carried by his defense, as he won six straight AL Gold Gloves from 1979-84 and ranks second to Brooks Robinson in career Total Zone fielding runs above average at third, along with ninth at all positions. But Bell also topped 2,500 hits, posting a 114 OPS+ from 1976-87, and his 66.1 WAR ranks 11th among players who spent at least half of their careers at the hot corner.
8. Sal Bando, 3B, 1966-81
HOF result: 0.7 percent in 1987
Bando comes in a bit behind Bell in total value, but put together a slightly more impressive peak (5.6 WAR average from 1969-78) and got more of his overall production from his bat. Bando's .254 average is deceiving, especially in a poor offensive era, as he put up a .352 OBP and 119 OPS+, including 127 during that 10-year stretch. With the A's, Bando had back-to-back seasons (1969-70) with 110-plus walks and a .400-plus OBP, and later three straight years (1972-74) in which he made the All-Star team and won the World Series.
9. Rick Reuschel, SP, 1972-91
HOF result: 0.4 percent in 1997
Reuschel is roughly tied with Brown in pitching WAR (68.2) following a career spent mainly with the Cubs, Giants and Pirates. The right-hander topped 200 innings 12 times and a 110 ERA+ 11 times. In 1977, he finished second among all players in WAR (9.6), winning 20 games with a 2.79 ERA, and even at age 40 in 1989 he was a rotation leader for the NL-champion Giants.
10. Reggie Smith, OF, 1966-82
HOF result: 0.7 percent in 1988
A seven-time All-Star who split the bulk of his career between center and right, Smith ranks eighth all-time among switch-hitters in home runs (314) and fourth in OPS+ (137), behind Mickey Mantle, Lance Berkman and Chipper Jones. During an 11-season run beginning in 1968's Year of the Pitcher, Smith batted .291/.371/.503 (141 OPS+), averaging 23 homers and 80 RBIs. Smith's 64.5 career WAR ranks 23rd among outfielders since World War II, tied with Hall of Famer Andre Dawson and just ahead of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
* * *
Andrew Simon is a Sports on Earth contributor and a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.