By Dalton Mack
People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do: I stare at Ryan Thibodaux's tracker and wait for more ballots to come in.
I don't recommend this -- your eyes will glaze over, your back might get sore, and depending upon your leanings, your blood pressure might rise. Perhaps you'll develop gout.
Maybe it's about time I stop taking it so seriously. After all, this is just a game, right?
Yeah, don't hold your breath. While I could write a novel about this year's ballot, that area has been covered expertly by Jay Jaffe, MLB.com and our own Will Leitch. Instead, I'll look ahead to the next few ballots to see if this historic logjam ends anytime soon (spoiler alert: probably not).
Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza got in this year, with Jeff Bagwell missing out by a thin margin and Tim Raines not too far behind him. Nomar Garciaparra fell off in his second year, and Jim Edmonds got just halfway to 5 percent, which is entirely due to the 10-player limit and not Mr. Edmonds' shortcomings.
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With apologies to players like Melvin Mora and Arthur Rhodes, whom I've removed for space purposes, here is the projected 2017 Hall of Fame ballot, including both the holdovers and notable newcomers. And you know what? I'm leaving Edmonds on. Make the voters think about what they've done.
Cooperstown Bound: Jeff Bagwell (sixth ballot, 80 percent), Tim Raines (10th and final ballot, 78 percent)
Whisper campaigns be damned, Bagwell finally gets his due in next year's cycle following a narrow miss this time around. The lifetime Astro is perhaps the best post-World War II first baseman not named Albert Pujols, and he had 10 seasons with double-digits in homers and steals. The closest any other first baseman has come was 19th-century Hall of Famer Roger Connor, who achieved the feat seven times.
Raines, thanks to the new rules put in a place a couple of years ago by the BBWAA, will have his 10th year on the ballot be his last. Fortunately for Rock, it will be the one that sees the second-greatest leadoff hitter of all-time get the requisite 75 percent, but just barely. I'd recite his list of credits, but Sporting News contributor Ryan Spaeder has done that work for me. Years from now we'll wonder why it took so long for Raines. I wonder that now.
Newcomers likely to stick around
• Ivan Rodriguez: By Jaffe's JAWS metric, Rodriguez ranks as the third-best catcher of all-time, trailing just Johnny Bench and Gary Carter. A 14-time All-Star and 13-time Gold Glove winner, I-Rod will not be a first-ballot player given his connections to performance enhancing drugs. Named in Jose Canseco's "Juiced" and on record as giving a cagey answer about steroids will surely make him tainted to a sizable portion of the electorate.
• Manny Ramirez: Whether coming from a traditional numbers or sabermetric perspective, Ramirez is a clear-cut Hall of Famer. However, the failed PED tests will surely keep Manny out despite his 555 long balls and 69.2 WAR. I see him faring a bit better than someone like Gary Sheffield -- always enough to stick on the ballot, but immensely short of even 50 percent.
• Vladimir Guerrero: Vlad feels like a steady build kind of candidate, one who should debut in the 30-45 percent range and incrementally climb before a sixth or seventh year enshrinement. Hard to believe he ended his career with 449 homers, 1,496 RBIs and a .318 average, yet never finished top-two in any given season.
• Jorge Posada: The numbers say no, but it's hard to overlook a strong offensive catcher with five World Series rings, especially when you consider that there are presently just 13 enshrined backstops in Cooperstown. He won't make it through the writers, but if he did, he'd hardly be the worst catcher in the Hall.
• Javier Vazquez: Became MLB's active strikeout leader in 2011.
• J.D. Drew: Finished with 8.3 WAR in underrated 2004 season in Atlanta.
• Mike Cameron: One of just 26 retired outfielders with at least 70 Batting and Fielding Runs Above Average.
• Magglio Ordonez: His .363 average in 2007 was the highest for a qualified Tiger since Charlie Gehringer 70 years prior.
• Derrek Lee: Led National League in Offensive WAR in 2005.
• Tim Wakefield: Sixth-most recent pitcher to accumulate 200 career wins.
• Jason Varitek: He was the captain. People like that.
Cooperstown Bound: Chipper Jones (first ballot, 88 percent), Trevor Hoffman (third ballot, 81 percent)
Even with the modern crop of stingy voters, Jones is a slam dunk. After Stan Musial retired, just six players (although Joey Votto appears likely to be No. 7) posted a .300/.400/.500 slash line for their entire career. Chipper is one. The career Brave drew MVP votes in 13 seasons, winning in 1999. Although his defense hovered around league average, Jones has a case to be considered the fifth-best third baseman of all-time on the strength of his offense, trailing just Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs and George Brett, although Adrian Beltre is close behind.
Hoffman is Lee Smith with a more compelling case. And in this, Smith's first year off the ballot, Hoffman will gain enshrinement. While there is no "magic number" for saves -- like what 3,000 hits or 500 homers once were -- the fact of the matter is only two pitchers have 600 saves, and one of them could be a near-unanimous Hall selection (Mariano Rivera). While Hoffman does not have Mo's postseason resume, two Cy Young runner-ups as a relief pitcher and a career 2.87 ERA spanning perhaps the biggest 18-year chunk of offense in baseball history make Hoffman an inevitable Hall of Famer. Although he debuted with an impressive 67.3 percent in his first cycle, I don't see him getting in on the second go, instead following the Craig Biggio path (68.2, 74.8, and 82.7).
Newcomers likely to stick around
• Jim Thome: On paper, Thome is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but I just don't see it happening. There's a sense that he may be too much of a one-dimensional player in an era that is starting to appreciate more well-rounded guys. Zero top-three MVP nods, just five All-Star appearances and a .211 postseason batting average could cause Thome to post a first-year voting percentage in the high-sixties despite a homer tally (612) that ranks seventh all-time. And you just know someone's gonna start a whisper campaign, solely because the first baseman from Peoria was a big fella and came of age in the 1990s.
• Scott Rolen: Rolen seems like the sort of player who would fare not dissimilarly to Alan Trammell. Both were incredible talents who were very good at everything, rather than great at one thing. One invaluable resource, Adam Darowski's Hall of Stats, has Rolen as the eighth-best third baseman in history, and it's hard to argue, given he combines a 122 OPS+ (17th at his position) and 175.4 fielding runs (third). Plus, it's time to get some more third basemen in the mix -- just 12 have ever been enshrined.
• Andruw Jones: Likely to suffer from the same lack of respect as Edmonds. The other Jones from the incredible Atlanta clubs of the late 1990s and early 2000s, he has a legitimate claim as the greatest defensive center fielder of all-time. He also happened to belt 434 homers in 7,599 at-bats, but the career .254 average and the lack of an MVP or World Series ring will likely cost him. Just 15 position players since Integration accumulated more WAR through their age-30 season, and all are either Hall of Famers or "tainted."
• Jamie Moyer: Yeah, Moyer was a compiler who was never truly great, but there's something mesmerizing about a player who was in the Majors until the age of 49 and tallied 269 wins in an age when pitchers rarely accumulate even 200. Still, an ERA and FIP well over 4.00 and a lack of dominance might make him fall off in his second or third year. Also holds the "honor" of allowing more homers than any other MLB hurler.
• Omar Vizquel: There are people who probably thought Vizquel retired 10 years ago, and there are some who might think he's still playing. His MLB career spanned 24 seasons and featured 2,877 hits and a nine-year Gold Glove streak at the most demanding infield position. However, his stat sheet screams "compiler," and few players ever cost their team more at the plate across a career than Vizquel.
• Johan Santana: Koufax-lite throughout his peak, accumulating 35.4 WAR from 2004-08 with a pair of Cy Young wins.
• Johnny Damon: Historically great baserunner, rather average across the board otherwise.
Cooperstown Bound: Mariano Rivera (first ballot, 94 percent), Jim Thome (second ballot, 83 percent)
Rivera will enter
Sandman the Hall of Fame on his first ballot with the highest percentage for a relief pitcher ever, far eclipsing Goose Gossage (85.8 percent in 2008 on his ninth ballot). We've never quite seen a pitcher like Mo, and we may never again. The Panama native ranks first all-time in saves, games finished and ERA+, while putting together an unreal postseason resume (0.70 ERA, 42 saves, 0.76 WHIP, two homers allowed across 140 playoff frames). The best ever to play his position, he's in. No questions asked.
Thome will get his due on his second ballot, much like former infield mate Roberto Alomar. Few players have homered at a more prolific rate than Thome, whose 13.8 at-bats per home run rank fourth all-time. Sure, he may sit second in whiffs, too, but the player ahead of him (Reggie Jackson) was a Hall of Famer and the pair are separated by just 0.9 WAR. It's sad that Thome has to deal with an overly skeptical and stringent voting body, but it's simply the reality of the situation. It'll rob him of the honor of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Also, this is the ballot where Edgar Martinez runs out of time, having not reached 75 percent. Shame, really.
Newcomers likely to stick around
• Roy Halladay: As it stands right now, Halladay is the best starting pitcher to debut after 1992, although Clayton Kershaw and perhaps Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez will soon pass him by. Having said that, 1993-2003 is quite a long span for player debuts, and Doc is the best of the bunch. His 65.6 career pitching WAR is 41st all-time among hurlers, and most of the 16 other hurlers to win two or more Cy Youngs ended up in Cooperstown. Halladay will eventually get there, perhaps three or four years down the line.
• Andy Pettitte: Pettitte ranks a not-so-distant second in the Halladay Span, debuting in 1995 and recording 60.9 pitching WAR. There's a lot to Pettitte's candidacy, where on one hand there's the five World Series rings, but also the specter of HGH use, which the southpaw copped to in 2007. That transgression, much like David Ortiz's name popping up in the 2003 random steroid testing, has been largely swept under the rug, and Pettitte should register a strong percentage in his debut showing.
• Todd Helton: He was not quite the player Larry Walker was, yet I suspect he'll end up faring better due to a longer career and slightly less time playing in Coors Field (88 games fewer than Walker) in the pre-humidor days. Like Walker, he was also one of the .300/.400/.500 guys, and he outpaced his former teammate in the former two categories. Plus, there's something subconsciously pleasing about a one-franchise player.
• Roy Oswalt: From 2001-10, Oswalt's 48.8 pitching WAR ranked third in the Majors. He accumulated just 1.1 the rest of his career.
• Lance Berkman: The .943 OPS, somewhat a product of a high-offense era, ranks 26th all-time.
• Miguel Tejada: Missed just two games in an impressive seven-year peak that saw him average 29 homers and 116 RBIs per season while batting.297 and playing shortstop. Known to have trouble with microphones.
• Michael Young: One of just 13 players with at least 2,300 hits and a .300 average in the past 30 years. Historically poor defense, however, led him to have just 24.2 career WAR.
Cooperstown Bound: Derek Jeter (first ballot, 98 percent), Ivan Rodriguez (fourth ballot, 79 percent), Curt Schilling (eighth ballot, 78 percent)
Growing up in the New York area, you couldn't avoid The Captain. Jeter was as remarkable for thriving under the pressure that comes along with being the centerpiece of the Yankees as he was for avoiding controversy for some 20 years as an icon in the Big Apple. Forget the glove that grades out as perhaps the worst in history; Jeter was one of the three or four best hitters to ever play his position, ended his career sixth on the all-time hits leaderboard and excelled in the postseason en route to five rings. He and Griffey Jr. may end up being the closest things to unanimous selections we've ever seen.
Fourth Time Around is more than just a Bob Dylan song -- it's likely to be I-Rod's fate as far as Cooperstown is concerned. Much like it took Jon Heyman until his fourth ballot to vote for Barry Bonds, I figure that Rodriguez will likely have a similar struggle to gain enough votes for election. The link to steroids will prove too weak, and his outstanding offensive output (2,844 hits, 311 homers, 572 doubles) and unreal defensive numbers (led AL in caught stealing percentage nine times, all-time leader in Total Zone Runs at catcher) will eventually get Pudge in.
Schilling may have rubbed voters -- and anyone who liked his page on Facebook and the state of Rhode Island and presumably family members at Thanksgiving -- the wrong way, but he's a no-doubt Hall of Famer, and this is the year that it happens for him. I mean, three 300-strikeout seasons in an era when no one threw 300 innings (he topped out at 268 2/3), three runner-up Cy Young Award finishes to teammate/Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and the following numbers and honors in the postseason: 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 120:25 K/BB ratio, 0.97 WHIP, 1993 NLCS MVP, 2001 WS co-MVP. Oh, and lest we not forget the bloody sock.
Newcomers likely to stick around
• Bobby Abreu: One of those pesky players to do several things well, but nothing truly great, Abreu is one of just five players with at least 275 homers and 400 stolen bases. When he still had fresh legs, he combined his offensive and defensive prowess to post between 5.3 and 6.5 WAR in seven consecutive seasons in Philadelphia. A patient eye led him to reach base 3,979 times in his career, putting him 37 behind Rogers Hornsby and 24 ahead of Tony Gwynn.
• Jason Giambi: Giambi runs the risk of being one-and-done, but a jovial nature in his later years endeared him to a number of writers, who may opt to look past the PED usage and instead focus on the 440 homers, three seasons with seven-plus WAR and a .399 on-base percentage that ranks 59th all-time. From 1998-2006, only Manny Ramirez had a higher OPS+ among American Leaguers.
• Alfonso Soriano: One of four players to ever post a 40-homer/40-steals season, achieving the feat during his lone year in Washington (46 homers, 41 steals in 2006).
• Paul Konerko: A (mostly) one-team player, Konerko has a World Series ring, more than 400 homers and little chance of getting Hall votes.
• Adam Dunn: The owner of a whopping 462 career homers, Dunn's one-dimensional game led the big slugger to have just one season with a WAR above 3.0.
• Cliff Lee: Posted 37.4 pitching WAR in a six-season span.
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As far as 2021 is concerned, we don't have a firm grasp on which players will have played their final game in 2015, apart from the ones who have officially retired, a group featuring Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, Torii Hunter, Mark Buehrle, Aramis Ramirez and Dan Haren. However, we may finally see the likes of Halladay or Mike Mussina finally get in on their third and eighth ballot, respectively.
Perhaps I'll be wrong. In fact, I truly hope I am -- far more than 11 players deserve to get in over the next five election cycles. I'd argue that significantly over 20 players have earned it. But hey, I guess that's why I don't have a vote.
P.S. To the three voters who failed to put a check in Ken Griffey Jr.'s box, I have a message for you.
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Dalton Mack is a contributor to Sports on Earth and MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @dalton_mack.