MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

A bigger vote? Hall class size may drop jaws

A bigger vote? Hall class size may drop jaws

PHOENIX -- It is a week before the National Baseball Hall of Fame announces the remainder of its Class of 2017, and the way the ballots are tracking, it's possible that five players could get in. That would match the inaugural 1936 class for the most ever voted in by the Baseball Writers' Association of America in one year.

According to early tracking done by Ryan Thibodaux, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez are all well above the requisite 75 percent threshold. Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman are also close to the threshold, with 193 public ballots counted.

Thibodaux's ballot tracker
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In recent years, the early public ballots have tended to feature more players and have a more sabermetric bent. In other words, a player's final percentage usually ends up being a bit lower than on the publicly collected tracker.

Last year, 440 ballots were filed by eligible members of the BBWAA. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were elected.

This year's results will be revealed next Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m. ET. A news conference introducing any of the new inductees will be staged the next day at the St. Regis Hotel in New York at 3 p.m. ET.

The induction is scheduled for July 30 behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y. Any new electees will join former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and Braves vice chairman John Schuerholz, who were elected last month by the 16-member Today's Game Committee.

The new class could be massive. Six were inducted in 2014, including 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and slugger Frank Thomas, who were voted in by the BBWAA, plus managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. A year later, the inductees included pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, plus Craig Biggio, the multi-positioned former Astro who amassed 3,060 hits. The largest class overall was in 2006, when reliever Bruce Sutter was voted in by the BBWAA and 17 Negro League greats were also inducted.

The more inductees, the merrier, Smoltz said during a conference call on Wednesday.

"Oh, there's no doubt. All you have to do is ask Barry Larkin," Smoltz said, referring to the Reds shortstop who was the sole inductee in the Class of 2012. "There's no doubt you're connected to the guys you go in with. Forever I'll be linked with Maddux and Glavine for my playing years with the Braves, but I'll also be linked to Pedro and Biggio and Randy for that induction year. And that will always be something special."

The pre-announcement tracking of the ballot has also revealed some interesting patterns. Big gains have been made already in the early public voting for Hoffman, Raines and Bagwell. Bagwell, who fell just 15 votes shy of the 330 needed last year, has already made up a net 16 votes this year. Raines, who fell 23 votes short last year, has already gathered 25 new votes. Hoffman, who needed 34 more votes his first time on the ballot, has already made up 17 of those votes this time around.

Guerrero and Rodriquez are making their debut on the ballot. Raines is in his 10th and final year and all indications right now are that at 91.8 percent he will be elected.

"I've always been a big Tim Raines fan," Kevin Millar, a former player and currently an analyst for MLB Network, said on the conference call. "It's always been intriguing to me that you sit around and in time all of sudden you become a Hall of Famer. I thought he was a Hall of Famer from the get-go, and I sure hope he gets in. If I had a vote, he'd be on my ballot, 100 percent."

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two no-doubt Hall of Famers if not for their suspected use of performance enhancing drugs, have leapt to 64.4 percent and 63.9 percent, respectively. Two years ago, Clemens, a 354-game winner, was floundering at 37.5 percent. Bonds, the all-time leader with 762 homers, was at 36.8 percent.

Thibodaux expects their percentages to drop slightly in the final results. They won't get in this year, but with five years of eligibility remaining for each, it's possible to project that they eventually will be elected.

Smoltz said he'd have no problem welcoming both players into the Hall.

"Oh, I'd welcome anybody in," he said. "I'm a rookie. I just got off my rookie year. Barry Bonds -- I've said this every time and I'll say this every time for the rest of my life -- is the greatest player I've ever played against.

"People ask me [who was] the greatest hitter I ever faced. Tony Gwynn. The greatest player I've ever faced? Barry Bonds."

Designated hitter Edgar Martinez and right-hander Mike Mussina are also continuing to track upward. Martinez, behind a big push on social media from Mariners fans, is at 66.5 percent, a net increase of 30 votes. He had 43.4 percent last year and 27 percent in 2015. Mussina, who had 270 wins and a 3.30 ERA while spending his entire career in the tough American League East, is at 60.8 percent. Two years ago, he was at 24.6 percent.

Conversely, Curt Schilling, the right-hander who has been beset by bad publicity during the last year because of some of his political statements and tweets, has suffered a net loss of 10 votes, placing him at 52.1 percent, virtually his same percentage as last year.

"Look, I played with Curt [Schilling]," said Millar, who was a teammate on the 2004 Red Sox's team that won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. "He was the best pitcher I've ever been around in a big-game situation. In his time, he was one of the toughest around."

And finally, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada is in danger of falling off the ballot after his first year on it. Despite his status as one of the top offensive catchers of his era, a member of the Core Four and four Yankees' World Series winners, Posada's candidacy has earned little traction and only nine votes. His name needs to appear on five percent of the ballots for him to carry over to next year.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.