Schmuck: The stage will be crowded for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony in July

It’s hard to take issue with the decision of the voters who elected Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For one thing, it was no surprise. Everything pointed to those four getting in this year. For another, each one has unassailable Hall of Fame credentials.

Jones got 97.2 percent of the vote his first year of eligibility. Guerrero was chosen on more than 90 percent of the ballots. Thome, the other first-timer, was checked on 89.8 percent and Hoffman 79.9 percent in the voting conducted among eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Of course, no sooner were their names announced than the speculation began about the 2019 class. Edgar Martinez passed the 70 percent level, which often is a precursor to election the following year, but Mike Mussina was chosen on just 63.5 percent of the ballots, which might mean he will have to wait a little longer.

Maybe not. Next year’s ballot includes only one slam-dunk player, and all-time major league saves leader Mariano Rivera has a chance to get the highest percentage of votes in the history of the BBWAA election.

But there is room behind him for a couple more inductees, which could enable Mussina to make a bigger-than-usual surge in his percentage of votes.

The other big question going forward is the likelihood that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds will get in before they exhaust their 10 years of eligibility for the BBWAA ballot.

It appeared in the preliminary count of revealed ballots this week that both might make a leap above the 60 percent level, but they ended up falling back in the final tally and made only a slight improvement over last year’s percentages.

They still have a chance to make a surge next year, because the ballot will not be nearly so crowded with strong candidates. Boston Red Sox World Series hero Curt Schilling finished behind both of them at 51 percent, which doesn’t bode well for him in 2019.

Schilling’s total jumped up from 45 percent last year, but last year’s total fell sharply from the year before, so it’s hard to predict how he’ll be viewed by future voters.

There are going to be a lot of speeches on July 29 at Cooperstown, with the four inductees joining Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, who were elected in December by the Hall’s Modern Era Committee.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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