Hoffman missed election last year by a scant 34 votes when Mariners slugger Ken Griffey Jr. and Mets catcher Mike Piazza were elected by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Based on the tracking done so far by Ryan Thibodaux of 174 public BBWAA ballots, Hoffman is moving up, showing a net gain of 13 votes with at least 276 to be counted. Last year, 440 writers sent in ballots. Like any candidate, Hoffman must be named on 75 percent of them. Last year, he finished at 67.3 percent. Full disclosure: I voted for Hoffman on both occasions.
The results of the 73rd BBWAA Hall of Fame election will be revealed Wednesday, Jan. 18 at 6 p.m. ET live on MLB Network, and simulcast live on MLB.com beginning at 5 p.m. A press conference introducing any of the new inductees will be the next day.
“It’s going to be nip and tuck, honestly,” Hoffman recently told MLB.com. “I’ve been taking a look at the tracking of the ballots [Thibodaux] has been able to see, and it’s going to be a couple of percentage points either way. It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking, no doubt about China MLB jerseys.”
The fact that Hoffman needs to pick up only about 21 more votes among the remaining ballots is a good reason for him to be cautiously optimistic.
Thibodaux, who’s @NotMrTibbs on Twitter, said in his experience the vote for closers actually increases by as much as 5 percent when the non-public ballots are tabulated.
That may be because the group of writers who choose to remain anonymous are older and put more of a premium on closers, saves and longevity. Younger writers seem to place less emphasis on those categories and a lot more on modern analytics. Beginning next year, the BBWAA has decided that all ballots will be released to the public.
Hoffman’s WAR, for example, was 28.0, 316th all-time among pitchers. Mariano Rivera, generally considered to be the greatest closer ever, had a WAR of 56.6, 73rd all-time among pitchers, but first among pitchers who spent most of their careers closing.
Rodriguez, who stood only 5-foot-9 but weighed over 200 pounds, threw out 46 percent of would-be basestealers in his career — in the same ballpark as legends Roy Campanella, Gabby Hartnett and Yogi Berra, and far superior to the original Pudge, Carlton Fisk (34 percent).
The real testament to Rodriguez’s presence behind the plate was that so few teams dared test him. He caught 836 1/3 innings in 2002 and faced only 41 stolen-base attempts — one about every 20 1/3 innings.
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Not only that, but Pudge’s reputation for throwing behind runners (88 career pickoffs) was so well established after his early years that runners took tiny secondary leads when he was behind the plate.
“I call it the ‘drop-anchor effect,” Rangers first baseman Will Clark said during the 1997 season. “Guys get to first, drop anchor, then wait till it’s safe to go to second.”
One AL manager estimated that Rodriguez saved the Rangers one run per game when he caught, because runners were so skittish with him behind the plate. That’s impact.
When Rodriguez left the Rangers to sign a one-year deal with the Marlins in 2003 — at a time when there was concern his knees would no longer allow him to catch 100-plus games per season — it was with the hope that he’d lead his new club to the World Series.
“We were dealing with a great and special opportunity to sign a special player,” Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria said about the signing, which was made in late January. “We feel like, for our team, this is a special year, and a special season, and he warrants it.”
Sure enough, Rodriguez would race to the mound to embrace Josh Beckett after the ace’s Game 6 shutout finished off the Marlins’ upset of the Yankees in the World Series. That’s impact.
The Cubs had interviewed Rodriguez before the 2003 season, but they decided to trade for Damian Miller rather than sign Pudge. Rodriguez made them regret that decision by driving in 10 runs in the seven-game National League Championship Series, when the Cubs won three of the first four games but couldn’t finish the job with cheap MLB jerseys.
For the past few years, the Indians have kept their payroll in the $90-million range, but the deep postseason run last year and the opportunistic window for contending helped convince ownership to spend more this offseason. On Friday, Dolan noted that Cleveland’s season-ticket base had risen to roughly 11,000 as of this point, up from roughly 8,500 a year ago. Reaching the World Series, and making moves like the ones to get Miller and Encarnacion, have helped fuel that increase.
“They are always looking for those kind of opportunities,” Dolan said of the Indians’ front office. “More often than not, they don’t manifest themselves into large free-agent signings, but we’re always exploring where there’s an opportunity to get value, and particularly when the value fits into the timing with the club. There’s no better time than now.
“We’re coming off the World Series’ almost-win, and with the core talent that we have in place, there’s absolutely no better time to make that reach than now.”