The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday, where Mike Piazza found himself for a fourth year. On numbers alone, it would've been hard to argue against the 12-time All-Star's case from the get-go. But by virtue of playing when he did, admitting to taking androstenedione and other then-legal, since-banned substances, and having back acne that one time, Piazza has yet to hit that coveted 75-percent threshold.
He's come close and is trending the right way. Piazza scored 57.8 percent on his first ballot, 62.2 on his second—the second man out behind Craig Biggio—and 69.9 percent last year, the highest vote-getter of all non-inductees. While the annual uptick is promising, it's not the only tell-tale sign of Piazza's imminent Hall of Fame induction in 2016. Thanks to a confluence of factors and convincing historical precedence, here's why the former Met and Dodger great will grace Cooperstown next summer.
Unlike recent years, no more than two candidates will further populate the logjam that's plagued writers' ballots since Steroid Era-talent has become Hall-eligible. Ken Griffey Jr. (630 HR, .284/.370/.539/.907) is a veritable lock and Trevor Hoffman, just one of two pitchers ever with more than 600 saves, stands a fighting chance. Beyond that, longtime Cardinal outfielder Jim Edmonds might be the only newcomer who gets serious consideration.
Compare that to last year when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz, all perceived and actual first-ballot Hall-of-Famers, ate up ballot spots. Or to 2014, when Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux could not be ignored. Much of Piazza's fellow first-year talent on the 2013 ballot—Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens—theoretically would've crowded others out if not for extracurricular issues, alleged or real.
But there are no Pedros or Madduxes joining Piazza this year. Just a Griffey, who if he's taking anyone's spot on writers' ballots, likely won't be Piazza's, but a perennial also-ran who didn't just miss induction by 5.1 percent last year. Names like Billy Wagner, Luis Castillo, Garret Anderson, Brad Ausmus, Mike Hampton, and Troy Glaus will not crowd out Piazza.
Thinning Out the Electorate
In July the Hall of Fame announced a key change to its voting contingent, deeming BBWAA members who are no longer active in the game and are more than 10 years removed from it ineligible to vote.
Hall of Fame voter roll purge ... pic.twitter.com/VeKTyEnizr— Adam Rubin (@AdamRubinESPN) July 28, 2015
Revoking lifetime voting rights assures that the writers voting on Piazza's Hall-of-Fame fate will have actually seen him play. That it weeds out writers presumably more reluctant to weigh analytics and advanced stats is crucial, but less important than getting rid of hardliners who did not closely follow baseball in the 1990s and 2000s and have been withholding Piazza and his peers from their ballots because they're carrying pitchforks for the witch hunt on an entire generation of ballplayers.
According to Rubin, roughly 475 ballots were sent this year, as opposed to 549 in 2014. The numbers, and the rap on the since-whacked portion of the electorate, work in Piazza's favor.
21 of 22 players to clear 69 percent and miss induction were inducted the following year.
If history is any indication, Piazza will be inducted this year. Or at least next year. According to Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe (via Rubin), 21 of 22 players to clear a 69-percent vote and miss induction reached the 75-percent threshold the following year. The outlier is Dodger great Roy Campanella, who appeared on 69.9 percent of ballots in 1967 and just 72.4 percent the following year. He finally hit 79.4 percent in '69.
That last 5.1 percent is coming for Piazza, and it's coming sooner rather than later.