For once, the predictions were correct. As most experts had anticipated, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were the two and only two baseballers Wednesday elected to the sport's Hall of Fame.
Why was it predictable? Because of last year's vote. Both Blyleven and Alomar finished just short last January, and never had any player come so close to induction and not eventually made it; most such players went in the next year. A simple understanding of statistics was all you needed to see this result coming.
Of course, these statistics have nothing to do with baseball. Blyleven retired in 1992. What has he done in the last 18 years -- other than repeatedly lobby for his candidacy -- to become more deserving to go to Cooperstown than he was before? I'll never understand or agree with this trend.
Alomar got 74 percent of votes last year; this year he received 90 percent. Why? Did 16 percent of voters not bother to look up Alomar's stellar career record in time for last year's vote? Did they wait until this year to read up on the player? Did they simply change their mind?
It's confusing enough trying to analyze why voters see candidates differently even when they've been retired for years. But how about the Steroid Era? Looking at Jeff Bagwell's meager 41 percent vote total in his first crack at the ballot makes me think that voters are writing their own personal, unsubstantiated Mitchell Reports.
Bagwell isn't Mark McGwire, an admitted user. Or Rafael Palmeiro, who flunked a test just weeks after swearing to Congress that he hadn't used. No, Bagwell was just a hulking hitter who writers apparently have assumed used steroids. Maybe he did, but there's no known evidence of it. I guess there doesn't need to be in this process.
In the years to come I don't know where these votes are headed, with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and many other great players yet to be judged. So far I think the results are pretty clear: If you really want to make the Baseball Hall of Fame, you'd better be skinny. Bodes well for Pedro Martinez.
Quick Hobby note: Blyleven's rookie card is from the epic 1971 set (card #26). This set is an all-time great, largely because of its slick design and foray into more action shots. It happens to be my birthyear too, but I digress.
Strangely for such a great and huge set (752 cards), until Wednesday there were no Hall of Famers whose rookie cards hailed from it. Anticipating Blyleven's election, some friends and I tried to think of as many Hall of Famers in the set as we could. We thought of about 30, then after looking through it we counted 41! Here's the list:
This list does not include Pete Rose, a non-Hall of Famer for infamous reasons; Joe Torre, who would seem headed there in time as a manager; Gil Hodges, a great Dodgers slugger and manager of the '69 Miracle Mets; or Tim McCarver, who may make it as a broadcaster. Or Billy Martin. Or Ron Santo. Or Lou Piniella.
Also, none of these cards is the best card in the set! That honor belongs to Thurman Munson, whose play-at-the-plate, second-year card remains a Hobby favorite.
Who knows, someday there might be 50 Hall of Famers in this set!