Big Day For Bronx Baseball

Tuesday’s annual announcement of the Baseball Hall of Fame class, as voted by the Baseball Writers Association of America, is shaping up to be a great one for New York Yankees fans.

All-time saves leader Mariano Rivera, a career Yankee, has a chance to become the first unanimous selection in the history of Cooperstown. Longtime teammate Mike Mussina may also join him in the Class of 2019. According to the unofficial Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Tracker, which tracks disclosed ballots from BBWAA voters and as of noon Monday included 50.2 percent of the expected total ballots, they are poised to be joined by Edgar Martinez and the late Roy Halladay. The official announcement program begins at 6 p.m. on MLB Network.

Rivera and Mussina’s pending, deserved selections rightly will dominate the Cooperstown conversation in the Big Apple this week, but ahead of the announcement seems like as good a time as any to make further observations about the current state of the known ballots listed at BBHOF Tracker. amNewYork will have more to say on Rivera after Tuesday’s announcement, but read on for observations on the 2019 vote.

  • It’s going to be close, but it’s about time Mussina gets in. That it has taken until his sixth season on the ballot is silly, considering his status as an elite starting pitcher first with the Baltimore Orioles and then the Yankees. Not only was he either top six in AL Cy Young voting (the 1999 runner-up) or an All-Star in 10 of 18 seasons, he won seven Gold Glove awards.
  • Halladay’s likely posthumous election — he died on Nov. 7, 2017, when the amphibious plane he was flying crashed into the Gulf of Mexico — by such a comfortable margin in his first year on the ballot is a mild surprise. Although clearly among the dominant pitchers of his era, his counting stats are on the low end for Hall of Fame arms. This shows modern voters aren’t fixed on the old milestones such as 300 wins; Halladay finished with 203 in a career spent mostly with the Toronto Blue Jays and capped by a brief-but-brilliant Philadelphia Phillies tenure.
  • Martinez’s wait took way too long, too. His 18-year career, all with the Seattle Mariners, was one of distinguished skill at the plate. There’s a reason the top designated hitter is handed the Edgar Martinez Award. He appeared a likely selection in his 10th and final year of eligibility even before fellow DH Harold Baines’ surprising Hall election by the Today’s Game Era Committee last month. That development had to have sealed it.
  • Fred McGriff, the other final-year candidate, did not come close to election. Although he swatted 493 homers, he never played more than five seasons with any one team. However, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him voted in by the same committee that put Baines in. His Hall case appears far more compelling than that of Baines. That subcommittee’s next vote takes place in late 2021.
  • Larry Walker, who starred for the Colorado Rockies in the 1990s into the early 2000s, has received a massive jump in voters’ support in his penultimate year on the BBWAA ballot. He picked up 44 votes from the known ballots, with nobody dropping him — the largest known jump in support. This looks like a precursor to joining Cooperstown in 2020. It’s an all-too-familiar pattern for players who aren’t clear first-ballot Hall of Famers, even if Walker is a former NL MVP and three-time batting champion with a career .313 average.
  • Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will continue to wait. They have three more chances before falling off entirely, with little chance for sympathy from the Today’s Game Committee. Links to performance-enhancing drugs during their careers clearly are the only thing keeping either from Cooperstown. They’re basically a package deal for most voters.
  • Curt Schilling, like Bonds and Clemens, won’t get in this year but has three more chances. Of the currently known ballots, he picked up a net of 16 votes from returning voters. With the potential selections of Rivera, Halladay and Mussina (and excluding PED case Clemens), Schilling will become the best eligible pitcher not yet elected. He’s one of the best postseason pitchers in modern history, with regular-season performance to back it up. If not for his outspoken right-wing politics hurting his case, he might have been in already. Still, he also is trending toward eventual election. Perhaps next year.
  • Longtime Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte could remain on the ballot beyond Year 1, despite his own admitted used of PEDs. It will be close, however, considering his current 6.8 percent support is barely above the five percent threshold to stay alive. Don’t expect him to ever reach the Hall of Fame, but perhaps he can pick up more support over the next few years.
  • The most notable first-timer expected to fall off the ballot is Roy Oswalt, who was among the best arms of the first decade of the 21st century mostly for the Houston Astros. Other than being just the second-best pitcher named Roy, he was either top-six in NL Cy Young voting or an All-Star in seven of his first 10 seasons. While his relatively brief career (341 starts, 49 fewer than Halladay) likely precludes induction, it’s surprising he looks unlikely to stay on for at least one more year. He received only two votes from the first 202 disclosed ballots.
  • Others with New York ties expected to remain on next year’s ballot are Andruw Jones (Yankees), Jeff Kent (Mets), and Gary Sheffield (both).
  • Speaking of 2020, next year’s vote will be another big one for New York, when Derek Jeter surely will approach or attain unanimous support from the BBWAA. Other notable first-year candidates will include former Yankees and Phillies outfielder Bobby Abreu, 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and former Yankees and Oakland Athletics slugger Jason Giambi.