If this year’s Hall of Fame voting was any guide, next year’s is going to be one wild ride.
There are no sure-fire candidates among the first-time eligible candidates in 2017, with the top names being steroid-tainted stars Manny Ramirez and Ivan Rodriguez, plus slugger Vladimir Guerrero and former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.
Add those Hall of Fame ballot rookies to holdovers Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Trevor Hoffman — all of whom came close to the required 75 percent this year — and steroid-linked superstars Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, and the 2017 ballot could be one of the most wide-open ever.
Many players could go in next year. Or none at all.
Start with the holdovers. Bagwell, the former Astros first baseman, was named on 71.6 percent of the 440 ballots cast by a redesigned voting segment of the Baseball Writers Association of America. That’s 15 short of election.
Raines, the darling of Sabermetric types, missed by 23 votes with 69.8 percent. Hoffman, the all-time National League saves leader, got 67.3 percent in his first year on the ballot — 34 votes short of a place in Cooperstown.
A change imposed by the Hall of Fame on the BBWAA purged about 100 non-active writers from the voting rolls. That seems to have led to a higher percentage of checkmarks for Clemens and Bonds, with the theory being older voters may have taken a harder line on suspected steroid users.
That, however, is just a theory, because Hall of Fame voters do not have to reveal their ballots, though many do.
Clemens saw his share of the vote increase from 37.5 percent in 2015 to 45.2. Bonds went from 36.8 to 44.3.
Clemens and Bonds will both be in their fifth years of eligibility next year. Players are removed from the ballot after 10 years or after a year in which they receive less than five percent of the vote.
Two candidates dropped off the ballot after their 10th year. Former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell got 40.9 percent while Mark McGwire — another steroid-tainted slugger — received just 12.3 percent.
Both players have another road to Cooperstown, however. They will be eligible for consideration by the Expansion Era Committee in 2019.
Sammy Sosa, who along with McGwire electrified the nation with their home-run hitting exploits in 1998, got 7.0 percent in his fourth year on the ballot. Sosa has also been stained by accusations of performance-enhancing drug use.
Among the other notables who will be back on the ballot next year are Curt Schilling, who received 52.3 percent; Edgar Martinez (43.4), Mike Mussina (43.0), Gary Sheffield (11.6) and Billy Wagner (10.5 in his first year of eligibility).
Former Mets second baseman Luis Castillo was one of seven players who were on the ballot but received zero votes.