After reviewing the 2005 writers' Hall of Fame vote, I thought it would be interesting to look at next year's first-year class, a particularly weak one. Given that the nominating committee casts a rather wide net, here are the top candidates (min. 75 Win Shares):
I think that the 15 remaining players from this year's ballot will probably be joined by at least 12 of the potential cabdidates. Clark, Gaetti, Belle, Hershiser, Gooden, Jefferies, Guillen, Aguilera, and Wetteland should be locks. Given the caliber of player that gets run up the Hall flagpole to see if anyone salutes, there are another half-dozen that could join them.
That said, the ballot should be a bit longer than this year's rather short 27-man ballot though there is no clear-cut first-ballot Hall of Famer like Wade Boggs this year or Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley last year. Will Clark could sneak in but is just the third-best candidate by Win Shares behind Andre Dawson (340) and Bert Blyleven (339), who finished seventh and eighth in the writers' vote this year.
In 2006, the best candidates (according to Win Shares) will not be on the ballot. They have already been dropped from the ballot in previous seasons because the writers evidently found them lacking (unlike Willie McGee—huh?!?). They are Darrell Evans (363), Rusty Staub (358), Lou Whitaker (351), and Dwight Evans (347).
Of course, 2006 might be the only vote with any drama for some time given that 2007 features three extremely strong candidates: Cal Ripken (427 Win Shares), Tony Gwynn (398), and Mark McGwire (343). All seem excellent first-ballot candidates. 2008 features a great candidate in Tim Raines (390) but the drama there will be whether the voters can see his greatness or consign him to the Evansonian purgatory. Then there's Rickey Henderson, a sure-fire first-balloteer, in 2009.
So what are the odds next year for the four men who garnered at least 50% of the vote in 2005? They are: Bruce Sutter (66.67%), Jim Rice (59.50%), Rich Gossage (55.23%), and Andre Dawson (52.33%). Sutter should be a lock given that he was just 43 votes shy this year, right?
Let's take a look. Of the 80 men who amassed at least 60% of the vote in one year, 45 were elected the next year. That's only 56.25%. That's not too encouraging. Though of the candidates reaching 65%, 31 of 47 (65.96%) did go into the Hall the next year. So it seems to be far from a lock.
And for Bert Blyleven fans, those quixotic few, keep in mind that just 3 men out of 1571 have gained election after receiving less than 50% of the vote in the previous year.
As for the other three candidates, only seven of 83 candidates (8.43%) with between 50 and 60 percent of the vote made it in the next season. So what do I think will happen? I feel pretty good about Sutter, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was the only one enshrined in 2006, at least by the writers' vote. Then again Rice, Gossage, and Dawson all have better odds of making it than McGee has of staying on the ballot again.