Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Shutout Will Affect Mike Piazza's Eventual Induction

Shale Briskin
Assistant Editor

Not seeing Mike Piazza getting inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year was very tough for me to endure. He was my childhood hero growing up, back when I really started following the Mets in 1998 at the young age of 7.

Arguably the best hitting catcher of all time, Piazza redefined the offensive standards at the position throughout his career. His 427 career home runs are by far the most of any catcher, with 396 occurring while behind the plate. His .308 lifetime average, .922 career OPS, 12 All-Star Game nominations and 10 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards (1993-2002) would prove that Piazza is indeed a genuine Hall of Famer.

The 2013 Hall of Fame voting process was rather unique, simply because of the "Steroid Era" and how the players of that generation would be looked at due to possible steroid usage. Some writers with Hall of Fame votes, such as Howard Bryant and T.J. Quinn of ESPN did not even turn in ballots, while others simply didn't vote for Piazza because of speculation that he may have used performance enhancing drugs at some point in his career.

The fact of the matter is that there is no legitimate PED or steroid evidence against Piazza. He was not mentioned in the Mitchell Report and never tested positive for any substances. The only real speculation of possible steroid usage has come from this article famed writer Murray Chass wrote in 2009. Other than that, there really isn't any concrete evidence that proves that Piazza indeed used any performance enhancing drugs.

With all this being said, it's inevitable that Piazza will eventually get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He got 57.8% of all votes on his first ballot this year. This means that he is in great shape to be elected in the near future. The only question now is when will it happen?

Piazza's future on the Baseball Hall of Fame will actually be affected by the status of other eligible members at least as much, if not more than his own credibility and all the negative "Steroid Era" rumors he has been tied to. The next few years will include quite a few worthy players that played at the same time as Piazza in the 1990s and 2000s.

Here is a breakdown of all the remaining and upcoming eligible members for the Hall of Fame.

Remaining Eligible Players Through the 2013 Ballot (Year of Eligibility in 2014 in parentheses):

- Jack Morris (15th Ballot and Final Year of Eligibility)
- Don Mattingly (14th Ballot)
- Alan Trammell (13th Ballot)
- Lee Smith (12th Ballot)
- Mark McGwire (8th Ballot)
- Tim Raines (7th Ballot)
- Edgar Martinez (5th Ballot)
- Fred McGriff (5th Ballot)
- Jeff Bagwell (4th Ballot)
- Rafael Palmeiro (4th Ballot)
- Larry Walker (4th Ballot)
- Craig Biggio (2nd Ballot)
- Barry Bonds (2nd Ballot)
- Roger Clemens (2nd Ballot)
- Mike Piazza (2nd Ballot)
- Curt Schilling (2nd Ballot)
- Sammy Sosa (2nd Ballot)

Notable First Year Players on the 2014 Ballot

- Tom Glavine
- Luis Gonzalez
- Jeff Kent
- Greg Maddux
- Mike Mussina
- Kenny Rogers
- Frank Thomas

Notable First Year Players on the 2015 Ballot

- Carlos Delgado
- Nomar Garciaparra
- Randy Johnson
- Pedro Martinez
- Gary Sheffield
- John Smoltz

Notable First Year Players on the 2016 Ballot

- Ken Griffey Jr.
- Trevor Hoffman
- Billy Wagner

Notable Players on the 2017 Ballot 

- Vladimir Guerrero
- Manny Ramirez
- Ivan Rodriguez
- Miguel Tejada

The recently retired Chipper Jones will be eligible for induction starting in 2018.

As shown here, the 2014 and 2015 classes are quite loaded, when combined with all the holdovers from previous years. It will be very difficult for voters to decide on who should be inducted and when. The fact that no one got inducted this year will make the next few years that much more difficult for the baseball writers.

If I were to predict what would most realistically happen in future elections, I would say that Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas will all get inducted on their first ballots in 2014. Maddux and Glavine are two of the greatest pitchers to ever live and by far two of the best throughout the 1990s. Thomas was one of the best hitters in the 1990s and has 521 career home runs. None of these three players have ever had any performance enhancing drug rumors tied to them, so it's pretty much inevitable that all three will be enshrined a year from now.

Craig Biggio could join them as well, being that he got 68% of all votes this year and fell just short of induction. Jack Morris is on his final ballot and could possibly get more votes, although a future induction through the Veterans Committee is more likely to occur for him.

As for Piazza, he could possibly get inducted in 2014. However,with Maddux, Glavine and Thomas all shoe-ins for induction, plus Biggio likely to get more votes, those four players could push Piazza back another year.

The last year in which the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) elected three players in the same year was in 1999, when George Brett, Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount all got inducted. The BBWAA though has not elected four players in one year since 1955. Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Bill Terry were the four inductees that year. This history could even work against Biggio in 2014, which means he could get pushed back from induction as well.

As for 2015, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez will both get inducted that year for sure, as they were two of the very best pitchers of their generation. John Smoltz could also be inducted right away, but he's not as much of a definite first ballot inductee compared to Johnson and Martinez. If Smoltz does not get inducted in 2015, the chances of either Biggio or Piazza getting inducted will certainly rise. If Piazza does get inducted in 2015, that would be great, but if not, there are still many years to go.

In 2016, Ken Griffey Jr. is a shoe-in for a first ballot induction, being that he was one of the best overall position players in the 1990s. He has no links to possible steroid use as well. Trevor Hoffman is very deserving for the Hall of Fame as well, but it's not certain he will be inducted on the first ballot.

Thus, it would be fair to predict that if Piazza is not inducted in 2015, 2016 will be his year. If he is not surrounded by Johnson and Martinez for his induction, Griffey and Biggio will probably be the two players in his induction class.

All I'm really trying to say is that if Piazza's induction does not occur until a few years from now, it will not be due to possible performance enhancing drug rumors like it was this year. The upcoming Hall of Fame ballots will simply be loaded with deserving players and the automatic inductions of some of these players will simply push Piazza back by default. Furthermore, history has proven that it's rare now to see the BBWAA elect three players in one year, and extremely rare for four or more players to get inducted in the same year.

Be patient fellow Mets fans! Piazza will get inducted within the next three or four years. How it all plays out though beginning a year from now will be very fascinating to see.

I was planning on going to Cooperstown again this summer to see Piazza's induction, but with not even one new person getting inducted this year, I will postpone my trip until 2014. But when Piazza finally gets elected, I will look forward to seeing you in Cooperstown because I would not miss his induction for anything in the world.

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