Why this year's Baseball Hall of Fame class could be big

They may have to build a bigger stage in Cooperstown come July 29.

It could well be that five baseball greats will join Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in upstate New York that Sunday.

Morris and Trammell, stalwarts of the Detroit Tigers in the 1980s, were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Modern Baseball Era Committee in December.

The Baseball Writers Association of America may elect five more players when results are announced Wednesday: Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Edgar Martinez and Jim Thome.

In ballot tracking by Ryan Thibodaux — @NotMrTibbs on Twitter — Jones was polling at 98.2 percent, Guerrero 94.7, Thome 92.9, Martinez 77.3 and Hoffman 77.8 with 53.1 percent of the ballots known by late afternoon Tuesday.

To get in, nominees must get at least 75 percent of the vote by eligible BBWAA members. Jones, Guerrero and Thome look safe, but it figures to be a cliffhanger for Martinez and Hoffman.

Still on the outside looking in, if ever so closely, are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (both at 64 percent), Mike Mussina (70.7) and Curt Schilling (60.9). Former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa is way out of the picture at 10.7 percent.

Clearly, this is now the era of the “big ballot.”

In 2000, the average number of players named per ballot was 5.64. That has jumped in recent years, with it going to 8.42 in 2015. Last year the average was 8.13 names per ballot. As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of votes-per-revealed-ballot was 8.8.

Times have changed, and there probably are several reasons. From 2000-13, no more than two players were inducted by the BBWAA. It reached a head in 2013, when no players were voted in.

In recent years, BBWAA members have been required by HOF rules to register to vote each fall, and members who haven't covered the game regularly in recent years have been purged from voting rolls.

The so-called Steroid Era added another dimension, with players such as Bonds, Clemens and Sosa still on the ballot after players such as Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire fell off.

The Hall, clearly uncomfortable in dealing with that era, has reduced eligibility time on the ballot from 15 to 10 years.

Bonds and Clemens saw upward bumps in their votes last year, following the election of former Commissioner Bud Selig to the Hall by the Today's Game Committee.

Many voters reasoned that Selig benefited handsomely from the Steroid Era, and that if he is in, so should players who have been linked to use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Over the past several years, Thibodaux has gained acclaim as BBWAA voters have made their ballots public early.

“I got especially interested in the Hall of Fame and the election process when my boyhood hero, Jeff Bagwell, came on the ballot for the 2011 cycle,” Thibodaux said in an email interview. “When he wasn't immediately elected, I wanted to understand why.

“A Twitter user, @leokitty, and a writer at Baseball Think Factory, Darren Viola, already had been doing versions of vote tracking for several years at that time. I began following them closely and started helping them find ballots that had been revealed by voters.

“It was a fun way to pass the time in baseball's off-season. In 2014, I launched my own tracker that has evolved into what it is now.”

No matter how the vote turns out this year, one thing remains certain: Despite its up and downs, baseball's Hall of Fame is like no other in inspiring debate and discussion.

Part of that is due to baseball's long history and tradition. Part is because of the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, in bucolic Cooperstown, New York.

Statistical comparisons, advanced metrics and social media also have contributed to the annual spectacle around voting for the Hall of Fame.

“I think Baseball's Hall of Fame remains so relevant for numerous reasons,” Thibodaux said. “More than any other sport, part of the fun of baseball fandom is comparing players across eras and comparing numbers of current players against greats of the past.

“There's also more argument among baseball fans (and Hall voters) about what the Baseball Hall of Fame is, what it should represent and who should be in it, than any other sport.

“Not least, as someone who has visited most of the major sports halls of fame, Cooperstown is easily the most magical and awe-inspiring. I think most baseball fans who make the trek there hope to have the sports equivalent of a religious experience, and unlike many things in life, their hopes are rewarded with an unforgettable experience.

“The endless debates and controversies surrounding the Baseball Hall of Fame may grow tiresome for some, but for me and many other fans, it never gets old. I hope it never does.”

• Twitter: @BruceMiles2112

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Our National Baseball Hall of Fame votes

Here's a recap of the Baseball Writers' Association of America votes cast by Daily Herald writers for the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Writers may select up to 10 players. For more commentary, check out our Dec. 31 report at

Scot Gregor, White Sox beat writer: Vladimir Guerrero, Edgar Martinez, Jim Thome, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Omar Vizquel and Chipper Jones.

Bruce Miles, Cubs beat writer: Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Mussina, Omar Vizquel and Trevor Hoffman.

Mike Imrem, former columnist: Barry Bonds, Chipper Jones, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Mussina, Sammy Sosa and Trevor Hoffman.

Barry Rozner, columnist: Barry Bonds, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens, Chipper Jones, Curt Schilling, Vladimir Guerrero, Jeff Kent and Jim Thome.

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