I'd bet good money that there probably will be some new arrivals in Cooperstown next summer, because this year's crop has some notable additions. The names which leap out off it are pitchers Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina and Eric Gagne, first baseman-designated hitter Frank Thomas and second baseman Jeff Kent.
Maddux, in particular, seems a first-ballot lock, with over 104 career bWAR. That's slightly more than Randy Johnson, and just about every eligible pitcher with more than even 80 bWAR is in Coopertown, save Roger Clemens (139.4) and Curt Schilling (80.7). Maddux doesn't have the steroid taint of the former, and was considerably better than the latter. That mark is perhaps also good news for Mussina (82.7 bWAR), with Maddux's Atlanta colleague, Tom Glavine, slightly further back on 74.0 bWAR. For relievers like Gagne, the rule doesn't apply, but considering Gagne isn't even in the top 50 for career saves, I doubt he'll get in. Great at his peak, but not good enough long enough.
The same mark of 80 bWAR seems roughly to work as a "can't miss" figure for hitters, with Barry Bonds the only eligible player on the outside to have posted as much value over his career. Indeed, I suspect that even having more than double that (162.5 bWAR) probably isn't going to get him through the door, given he received 36.2% of ballots last time round, less than half the 75% needed for election. On that basis, Thomas's 73.6 bWAR is somewhat fringey (I wonder if the BBWAA will penalize him for DHing?), and Jeff Kent probably isn't going to make it, being all the way down at 55.2 bWAR.
Of the three Diamondbacks, there'll be most interest in Luis Gonzalez, but his bWAR tally is in the same ballpark as Kent's, which is not a good omen. The only position player to be elected with a career bWAR of less than 60, and whose career ended after 1989, was Kirby Puckett. Even Twins fans have some qualms about his credentials for Cooperstown, and it seems likely his case was helped by sentiment over the glaucoma which cost Puckett the vision in one eye, and prematurely ended his career. I think Gonzalez may well receive a vote or two, but I'm not certain he'll even reach the 5% mark needed to return the following year.
Richie Sexson... No. Just... no. 300 HR is nice, but that's only a career 120 OPS+, and with a reputation for having hands of stone at first-base, his overall value falls far short of even the most optimistic campaign. I would be quite surprised if he receives any votes at all. He needn't prepare a speech - at least, until they open a Hall of Fame for monstrous home-runs, in which case his shot off the Jumbotron in Phoenix, which traveled 415 feet and was still 82 feet off the ground when it hit the screen, would seem like a first-ballot candidate.
Of the returnees, we'll see if Schilling has any more luck the second-time around. As noted above, his overall bWAR should make him a more than credible candidate, but that wasn't reflected in the results the first time around, when he was named on 38.8% of submitted ballots. Other returnees of interest include Craig Biggio, who's 68.2% topped the list in this year's voting, and Jack Morris, who is in his 15th and final year of eligibility, and received 67.7% of votes last time. Will 42 more members of the BBWAA have been converted to his side in the past 12 months? If not, it's off to the Veterans Committee with him...
Writers must return their ballots with a postmark on or before December 31. Results will then be announced at noon, Arizona time, on Wednesday, January 8, with the event being broadcast on the MLB Network and results also appearing on the web sites of the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA. Hopefully the latter will be better able to handle the traffic than it was during awards week! Today's poll: how many people do you think will be elected to Cooperstown this time around?