What I haven't seen discussed is the special Negro League vote. Rob Neyer's addressed this a couple times and there could be 10-12 NLers. It's hard to say they "don't deserve" recognition or how it may affect the votes.
Oh, I hadn't even considered the Negro League/Veteran's Committee guys. My vote for Vet Committee/Negro League guy goes squarely to Orestes "Minnie" Minoso. He played two years in the Negro Leagues (46-47), was one of the first wave of black players to player in the Majors (Indians, 1949), was the first black Latino to play in the Majors, and the first black man period to play for either Chicago team (1951). During the 1950s there was no greater Latin player in MLB. (Maybe Aparicio, but he came out in the second half of the decade...Vic Power was good but didn't have his first big season 'til 1955, and Cepeda didn't break out until 57-58, and Clemente, though he arrived in '55 didn't bust out 'til 1960.)
Here's a good question: after Minoso, who was the next great Latin or black player to debut in the AL? (Other than Aparicio or Power?)
The age question--was Minoso 25 or 28 or 29 in 195--effects his HoF merits for some, but to me, the guy missed potential MLB seasons to racism. Maybe he wouldn't have been ready in 46-47, but I have to think that 48, and at least 49 and 50, where he tore up the Pacific Coast League, would have been productive years in the majors.
Bottom line, the guy was a pioneer, whose reputation kind of morphed into one that Louis Armstrong faced during the 1960s--his old school, people-pleasing persona became unfashionable in light of more modern Latin sensibilities like Power and Clemente and Cepeda. Minoso's long career, and stunt pinch-hitting appearances in 1976 and 1980 did not help him either--he's viewed more as a clown than as a legend. But put him up against Larry Doby, and the dude should be inski.
As for Minoso, James has written extensively on him, and he is one of the best players after age 30 ever in the game. I think given that and his circumstances, one could make a very strong case for his candidacy. Then again, I'm still shocked Bobby Grich isn't in.
For all the talk about the bar being too low at the Hall of Fame, the percent of the vote required to get in requires an awfully high consensus. And although many voters seem to have blinders on, they also seem to have acquired their blinders from competing blinder boutiques. I sense no widespread rallying cry for anyone, no agreement that "It's time John Wayne got an Oscar." Guys like Gossage and Rice could get an extra look (Blyleven almost seems too polarized at this point - he's the Hee Seop Choi of the candidates), but this could just as easily simply be a Negro League year.
The bar has not gotten lower. It's gotten much, much higher for expansion-era players. The problem stems from the bifurcated system. The writers have always had a very high standard. However, the Vets have let much less deserving players in the back door. However, now that they have established a de facto standard, they no longer adhere to it.
The Vets Committee is in the process of withering away and dying, while the writers harangue deserving candidates like Gary Carter and Ryne Sandberg. The problem isn't that a few guys like Blyleven and Santo are not getting in. The problem is that whole swaths of guys like the Evans boys, Bobby Grich, Sweet Lou Whitaker, Allan Trammell, etc. barely get a passing notice whereas in years past, they would get in.
It has to do with the 15-year eligibility rule and having to get enough votes from year to year to remain eligible. In the past guys would languish at under 5% of the votes and then eventually muster enough to go in. Now, they get jettisoned from consideration. For a time, they weren't even eligible for consideration by the Vets Committee. That's been addressed somewhat with the changes to the committee a few years ago, but given that they increase the size of the committee from Ted Williams and a couple of old cronies to everyone who has ever visited Cooperstown, it's almost impossible to get a consensus.
And you know, there'd be tremendous justice in that [i.e., this "simply be[ing] a Negro League year"]. While I have my folks I'm rooting for off the regular ballot, I think it would be fitting, and certainly appropriate, to give the Negro Leaguers inducted through this special election their own day.
By the way, the special ballot was flawlessly researched. Well, not exactly--the pre-NLers are spotty. I wanted to see Moses Fleetwood Walker, Bud Fowler, and George Stovey. But the only NLers I was disappointed to not see was "Gentleman" Dave Malarcher, a Rube Foster protégé.
The fact that they included individuals like Effa Manley, C.I. Taylor, and J.L. Wilkinson, architects of the NLs and prominent team owners, was tremendous. Manley could become the first woman enshrined, and Wilkinson the first non-African-American to go in as a NLer. Rube Foster is the only executive from the NLs to gain admittance to Cooperstown and he deserved to go as either a pitcher, a manager, or an executive.
There are easily a dozen or so guys who could go in. I'm pulling for Sol White who seemed to be involved in every early development and wrote the Rosetta Stone of early black baseball history.
Whatever happens, the biggest development could be that they put this one category to bed. Then they can set up special committees to review 19th century players, and then any guys missed from 1900 to expansion. That would allow the Vets to focus on more recent players and maybe elect someone some day. Ironically, the first vets committees were set up to be short-lived initiatives. They were supposed to close the book on the 19th century. Then they were commandeered to get some new HoFers, any new HoFers, when the writers' ballot was too crowded with deserving players in the Forties for them to pick anyone.