MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Notebook: Crowded ballot brings intrigue to '15 election

Notebook: Crowded ballot brings intrigue to '15 election

The Hall of Fame ballot has become a victim of overcrowding.

Veteran Baseball Writers' Association of America members can vote for up to 10 players. There are arguably at least 15 worthy candidates among the 34 names on this year's ballot.

That's led the BBWAA to recommend to the Hall of Fame that the selection process be adjusted to allow for a voter to list as many as 12 players.

What the Hall of Fame Board of Directors has to consider is whether there is a short-term glut of candidates -- created by some voters' protest two years ago about players who have been linked to steroids, which led to no inductions in 2013 -- or a long-term problem.

The Board also has to weigh how many of the voters would actually take advantage of the expanded ballot.

A year ago, when Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected to Cooperstown, 288 of the 571 voters (50.4 percent) had 10 names on the ballot. That, however, was the first time as many as 30 percent of the ballots had 10 names.

Adjustments

The Board of Directors did make an adjustment beginning this year. A player will have only 10 years of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot instead of the previous maximum of 15 years. The Board grandfathered three players in for the 15-year maximum -- Don Mattingly, who is in his 15th and final year; Alan Trammell, on the ballot for the 14th time, and Lee Smith, a candidate for the 13th time.

Only 11 of the 115 players elected to Cooperstown by the BBWAA were in their 11th year or later on the ballot, including Jim Rice -- who was in his 15th and final year of eligibility when he was selected in 2009. Dazzy Vance was elected in 1955 in his 16th year on the ballot during a time when a player could remain on the ballot for 20 years. The change to 15 years was made in 1962.

Other players elected in their 11th year on the BBWAA ballot or later were Bert Blyleven (2011), Rabbit Maranville and Bill Terry (both 1954), who were on the ballot for the 14th time; Bruce Sutter (2006) and Ralph Kiner (1975), 13th year; Bob Lemon (1976), Gabby Harnett (1955) and Harry Heilmann (1952), 12th year, and Duke Snider (1980), 11th year.

Honored

Only eight pitchers have won three or more Cy Young Awards. Five are in the Hall of Fame -- Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux with four apiece, and Sandy Koufax, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver with three apiece. The other three are on the ballot this year -- Roger Clemens (seven), Randy Johnson (five), and Pedro Martinez (three). This is the first year for Johnson and Martinez, and the third year for Clemens, who has been suspected of PED use.

Traveling men

Gary Sheffield and Smith, both of whom played for eight big league teams, are the most traveled of the 34 players on this year's ballot. By contrast, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, with the Astros, Edgar Martinez, with the Mariners, Mattingly, with the Yankees, and Trammell, with the Tigers, spent their entire careers with one franchise.

Among players already in the Hall of Fame, Dan Brouthers played with a record 10 teams. Next in line are Goose Gossage, Rickey Henderson, Deacon White and Hoyt Wilhelm, with nine teams apiece. Jim O'Rourke and Gaylord Perry played for eight big league teams during their Hall of Fame careers.

Left out

Jack Morris, who wasn't elected in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot a year ago, was on 67.7 percent of the ballots cast two years ago -- the strongest support received by a player who has not been enshrined. The only other player to top 60 percent and not be elected was Gil Hodges, who was on 63.4 percent of the ballots cast in 1983, his final year of BBWAA eligibility.

Sizable classes

Since 1936, when there were five players elected in the original Hall of Fame class (Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson), the largest classes of BBWAA-elected players consisted of four inductees in '47 (Mickey Cochrane, Frankie Frisch, Lefty Grove and Carl Hubbell) and '55 (Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance).

Look ahead

Top first-year candidates in the next five elections include:
2016: Ken Griffey, Jr., Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner
2017: Pudge Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Jorge Posada
2018: Chipper Jones and Jim Thome
2019: Mariano Rivera and Todd Helton
2020: Derek Jeter

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.