It would be hard to take serious issue with the three baseball greats who were elected to the Hall of Fame by the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but the selection process always seems to create several levels of intrigue.
Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas all seemed like obvious first-ballot guys, and they will join managers Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox to form the largest group of living inductees in decades at this year's Hall of Fame weekend (July 25-28) in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Craig Biggio needed his name to be checked on just two more ballots to meet the 75 percent requirement for induction, tying him with Nellie Fox (1984) and Pie Traynor (1947) for the nearest miss in the history of the balloting.
So, it's fair to say that the makeup of the 2013 ballot will force Biggio to wait at least one more year for his chance to stand on that stage at the Clark Sports Center, and that is not an unusual occurrence.
The number of slam-dunk candidates has always impacted the vote totals of the lesser players under consideration, which is one of the variables inherent in a voting system that allows qualified electors to check the names of up to 10 players on the ballot. When that ballot is top-heavy with obvious first-ballot guys as it was this year, it tends to diminish the chances of the players whose qualifications are more debatable.
Conversely, when the ballot is thin, that can create a greater opportunity for a player who might otherwise be overlooked, though that wasn't the case last year, when no one was elected in the BBWAA vote.
Biggio got the highest percentage in that vote (68.2 percent), followed closely by Jack Morris (67.7), but their vote totals moved in opposite directions this year. Biggio's vote total increased and will make him a favorite to gain induction next year, while Morris lost ground in his final year of eligibility. He now must wait at least until 2016 for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee.
What does all this mean?
It means that there are 570-plus individual voters whose opinions on individual players can evolve or devolve in any given year for any given number of reasons, not the least of which is the composition of each ballot.
Even though there is no distinction between Hall of Famers once they get their plaques, the voting process separates them by the percentage of ballots they are named on and the number of years they require to get the percentage necessary for induction. That probably wasn't the original idea, but the system has worked pretty well to protect the exclusivity of the Hall of Fame.
Whether that's the best way to populate it is a fair subject for discussion, since there are aspects of each year's results that are easy to question.
For instance, how could Glavine get named on 92 percent of this year's ballots and Mike Mussina on only 20 percent when you can make the case that Mussina's career numbers stand up pretty well against Glavine's?
Glavine won 35 more games (305 to 270), but he pitched four more years and made 146 more starts. Mussina pitched 851 fewer innings, but struck out 206 more batters. Glavine had five 20-win seasons to Mussina's one and is considered the greater pitcher, but Mussina had a much higher winning percentage while pitching entirely in what has perennially been considered the toughest division in baseball.
Don't misunderstand. No one is saying that Mussina deserves to get the same vote total as Glavine, who was part of the greatest one-two pitching punch of the past generation, but how do you make sense of one guy beating the other guy by more than 70 percentage points?
If you're a Mussina fan and you want to make your head explode, go a step further and compare his career numbers with Morris' numbers, then try to figure out why a guy with fewer wins, fewer strikeouts, no Gold Gloves (Mussina won six) and a much higher ERA over a career of similar length got three times as many votes this year.
It defies science.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun