Hall of Fame 2018: The urgency is growing for these candidates

Editor’s Note: Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting results are coming Jan. 24. To get you ready, we’re breaking down this year’s ballot in a five-part series. We’ve already covered the players who should fall off the ballot and those who need a strong surge to get in. Now we’ll break down players who are getting close or running out of time to get in.

Time is a big topic in baseball these days with MLB moving towards instituting a play clock. When it comes to the Hall of Fame though, time has always been critical.

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To be elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, candidates must be named on 75 percent of the ballots turned in by qualified voters. If they don’t receive the necessary votes after 10 years on the ballot, their name comes off and their fate will be determined down the road by a veteran’s committee.

Not everyone likes or agrees with that system. Many believe it creates a logjam on the ballot that makes it impossible for candidates who are on the fence to gain traction. What’s not debatable is that it makes each passing year more urgent for those who aren’t in.

There are plenty of urgent cases this year. Of the 33 players on the 2018 ballot, 14 have already fallen short on previous ballots. Today, we’ll turn our attention to the candidates who will require a strong surge in support to get in this year, or at risk of seeing their 10-year time frame elapse without being elected. In some cases, those circumstances overlap.

Here’s a look at the candidates who fall into this category:

These players are getting close or running out of time to make the Hall of Fame. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
These players are getting close or running out of time to make the Hall of Fame. (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

Edgar Martinez
Now in his ninth year on the ballot, Martinez is the most urgent case among this year’s candidates. According to Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, there’s reason for optimism as he’s named on 81 percent of the known ballots. However, history shows that percentages often fall when unreleased ballots are tallied. With 46 percent of the ballots revealed, Martinez’s case could come down to just a few votes.

Seattle’s hitting machine will always be the face of the designated hitter debate. Martinez staked his claim as one of the game’s best pure hitters, putting up consistently strong offensive numbers for the vast majority of his 18-year career. However, his limited time in the field has cast enough doubt over his overall contributions to at least slow down his election.

If Martinez finally gets in, it will mark a turning point in the voting. He’ll become just the second primary DH to get in, joining Frank Thomas. It will also clear his name from the ballot potentially helping others on the list to gain more support in the years ahead.

Trevor Hoffman
Time is not as critical for Hoffman. This marks just his third time on the ballot, so he’ll still have seven shots at it beyond 2018. Still, his election this year would be big for him on a personal level, and for the entire Hall of Fame landscape as it would free up votes for other candidates next season. For that to happen, Hoffman will need a strong finish. He’s pushing 78 percent right now, which will put him right on the fence again after falling just short with 74 percent last year.

Of course, relief pitchers are a lot like designated hitters when it comes to the Hall of Fame debate. While they may have dominated at their one specific task, there’s always debate over whether that task led them to make a big enough impact to deserve the Hall of Fame honor.

No one knows that debate better than Hoffman, who after recording 601 career saves and earning a pair of runner up finishes in the Cy Young award voting, still finds himself on the outside looking in. It will be interesting to see if that changes sooner than later.

Mike Mussina still has plenty of time to get in the Hall of Fame, but his election could change the landscape for other candidates. (AP)
Mike Mussina still has plenty of time to get in the Hall of Fame, but his election could change the landscape for other candidates. (AP)

Mike Mussina
The former Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees right-hander already had one of the more fascinating cases on the ballot. Now it’s starting to become an urgent case too.

Now in his fifth year on the ballot, Mussina does seem to be on the radar of more voters. He’s seen steady increases, going from 24.6 percent in 2015 to 43 and 51.8 percent percent respectively the last two years. He’s looking at an increase this year too as he currently sits at 73.5 percent.

The problem, as we said about Mussina last year, is that there are so many wide-ranging opinions about his career. Ask any 10 voters and they’re likely to have 10 entirely different perspectives. It boils down to balancing consistency and longevity (17 straight seasons with double-digit wins and at least 24 starts). To his credit, they were all in the AL East, but he’s missing the accolades and milestones that often tip the scales. That’s a difficult task, and it could ultimately leave Mussina’s Hall of Fame status in a perpetual state of limbo.

Fred McGriff
Few players had a career peak as strong as the “Crime Dog.” McGriff, who finished only seven homers shy of 500 for his career, hit 242 long balls between the ages of 24 and 30.

Though his production didn’t decline as sharply as many others at the end of his career, it wasn’t strong enough to boost his case. McGriff, who’s in his ninth year on the ballot, will easily stick around his tenth and final bid. That alone could be a nod to a very good career. But with only 18.5 percent, his Hall of Fame fate is pretty much sealed.

Former Expos and Rockies star Larry Walker is running out of time on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)
Former Expos and Rockies star Larry Walker is running out of time on the Hall of Fame ballot. (AP)

Larry Walker
It’s getting to be now or never for Walker, and unfortunately the latter appears to be the likely outcome. The former Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies star is in his ninth year on the ballot, and he’s still a long ways off with only 41 percent of the vote. Obviously, he’s not getting in this year. Now he’ll need a monster surge in his final year to have any chance.

A final year surge helped Tim Raines get in in 2017. It’s not impossible, but Raines was already in good position after receiving 69 percent in 2016. Walker has a lot more ground to cover, and a lot less buzz than Raines did when his clock was running out. If only Walker could have stayed healthy more often during his career, his status might not be a question at all.

Curt Schilling, Rogers Clemens and Barry Bonds
We’ll have more on these three when we look at the controversial candidates next week. Each fits in this category too though because they’re all in their sixth year on the ballot and just under 70 percent. It might seem like voters have their minds made up on these guys, but things can change as new voters come in and old names fall off the ballots. That makes these three names to focus on leading in to 2019.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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