A recent article posted by ESPN examines how legitimate each Hall of Fame is in regards to the four major sports of baseball, basketball, football, and hockey. To come to their conclusions, they used a number of factors such as the likelihood of any one specific player making the Hall of Fame due to the size of their sports league. They also looked at some of the people who possibly shouldn’t have been admitted to the Hall of Fame to begin with, and they used a poll of 193 sports experts to finalize their rankings.
Below, we’ll look at a few of their conclusions regarding the Hall of Fame for each league. More importantly, we’ll discuss some of the rumors pertaining to which athletes might be next in line for induction. We’ll be putting these entries in order from that which ESPN considered to be least legitimate to that which ESPN considered to be most legitimate. For each Hall of Fame, we’ll look at a few of the top candidates and make a prediction as to who is likeliest to be inducted based upon ESPN’s observations regarding how that particular Hall of Fame conducts its business.
Baseball Hall of Fame
This Hall of Fame is arguably the most popular, but ESPN actually rated it as the least legitimate. Many of those polled believed that the selection process was not only unfair, but that the criteria for induction were not entirely clear. This is understandable, given the inclusion of Candy Cummings. He was inducted in 1939 due to the belief that he invented the curveball, but that distinction is dubious at best. First of all, the first demonstration of the pitch was made by Fred Goldsmith. Second, Cummings himself actually credited the invention to Phonney Martin.
Four athletes have already been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this year: Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Many had wondered if Pete Rose would make the ballot, but his chances are slimmer now than ever. Not only did it surface that he lied about the extent of his betting, but he now has a much more nefarious scandal to contend with. However, some think there’s at least still hope for Barry Bonds in 2016, as his run with performance-enhancing drugs does not change the fact that he had an amazing home run record and was still a dominant player for at least two years before his steroid use came to light.
Roger Clemens is another MLB athlete that many would like to see inducted into the Hall of Fame. Much like Bonds, however, he barely received support from more than a third of voters this year. A pitcher with seven Cy Young Awards seems like a no-brainer, especially since he denied his alleged use of steroids and was found not guilty when his case went to trial. Stigma and suspicion, however, have kept his induction at bay.
A much stronger candidate would be Mike Piazza, who we mentioned in an earlier article as the first victim of the Mets’ Bobblehead Curse. Like the others, he was suspected of using banned drugs during his career; however, he has a lot more support. In fact, he only missed induction this year by a voter gap of 5.1%, which he could easily overcome next year with a bit more support. He was the only candidate who missed inclusion in the Hall of Fame by less than one hundred votes, so his chances remain strong.
Our prediction is that Mike Piazza will almost definitely make the Hall of Fame next year. And he won’t be alone. Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and there’s really no reason to suspect that he won’t be voted in. We’re talking about a guy who stayed in his prime for roughly a decade. Some suspect that he might not make the Hall of Fame so that other players can be voted in before they’re excluded from the ballot for good. But we actually had a relatively big pool voted in this year, so it could easily happen again in 2016.
Basketball Hall of Fame
Considering that Dennis Rodman somehow greased his way into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, it isn’t too surprising that ESPN rated the Basketball Hall of Fame as being only slightly more legitimate than baseball’s. Another major problem that their experts saw with the Hall of Fame is that it does not distinguish between the NBA and the NCAA. That means that there’s a much greater pool of talent from which to choose, to the extent that barely more than a tenth of ESPN’s respondents felt as if the voting criteria was made clear.
Although this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony will not commence until September, the inductees have already been decided and announced. The five direct-elects are Louie Dampier, John Isaacs, Tom Heinsohn, George Raveling and Lindsay Gaze. Later elects include John Calipari (coach of Kentucky’s nearly undefeated season last year), Jo Jo White, Spencer Haywood, Dikembe Mutombo, and referee Dick Bavetta. Interestingly, Bo Ryan, whose Wisconsin team is responsible for putting a stop to Calipari’s undefeated season, did not receive the 18 votes necessary to get inducted this year.
Ryan wasn’t the only potentially deserving candidate to get shafted this year. Tim Hardaway was already snubbed last year, and he failed once again to receive the requisite number of votes this time around. But Hardaway is certainly deserving. He’s a highly decorated player, having made numerous All-Star and All-NBA teams. He also broke 5000 career points faster than almost any other player in the history of basketball (only one athlete has ever done it faster). Since we don’t know how many votes Hardaway has fallen short for the past two years, it’s difficult to predict whether or not he’ll be inducted to the Hall of Fame next year. We can only hope.
Of the players who are currently eligible for the 2016 Hall of Fame (it’s a pretty long list), Buck Williams has arguably greater stats than any of them with an impressive 120.1 win shares. Plus, since he retired in 1998, he has been eligible for quite some time. A writer for NBA.com’s Hoop discovered that there are only 37 players with more win shares, and they’re all either ineligible or are already in the Hall of Fame. If separating the Hall of Fame between the NBA and NCAA would raise Buck’s chances, it’s safe to say that many would back the decision.
Hardaway might have slightly better chances than Williams of making it into the Hall of Fame next year, simply because he hasn’t been shafted quite as many times. But our top prediction for the Class of 2016 has to be first-year candidate Allen Iverson. He may not have as many win shares as some other names on the list, but he’s made a contribution to the sport. And no, we’re not just talking about the fact that he popularized the arm sleeve as a fashion accessory. There are others who believe that he could easily become a first-ballot Hall of Famer due to his 24,368 career points and his 26.7 career points per game. Very few players have achieved stats similar to Iverson’s, and most of them are in the Hall of Fame. In other words, his chances are pretty solid.
Football Hall of Fame
According to ESPN, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a bit more legitimate. Some of ESPN’s respondents felt that there were not enough voters, and that the selection process could be a bit unforgiving. It was also expressed that some of their inductions may not have been completely fair, even though the Pro Football Hall of Fame was deemed by respondents the fairest Hall of Fame on this list. Nonetheless, they did not feel as if Joe Namath deserves to be inducted while Kenny Stabler is excluded. They are not alone in this. Bleacher Report ran the numbers back in 2010 and concluded that Stabler was every bit as good as Namath, if not better.
Respondents also expressed feelings that the Hall could use more kickers. But they won’t be getting their wish this year. Not one kicker is on the list of inductees to be enshrined as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015 this weekend. The inductees will be Mike Tingelhoff (center), Charles Haley (defensive end), Will Shields (guard), Junior Seau (linebacker), Tim Brown (receiver) and Jerome Bettis (running back). Next year’s pool will include first-time candidates Alan Faneca, Brett Favre, and Terrell Owens.
SB Nation notes that Favre and Owens might not have the easiest time getting voted in. Just as Bleacher Report indicated that Stabler may have been snubbed due to his notable proclivities for women, Owens is known for a bit of a temper that has not always given him the best reputation in the eyes of the public. Favre has also been criticized, less for his behavior off the field and more for the high number of interceptions he has thrown. That said, we’re going to go ahead and predict that both players (especially Favre) have a high chance of becoming first-ballot Hall of Famers.
Orlando Pace is another strong prediction for the Class of 2016. According to ESPN, one of the primary reasons that Pace didn’t make the Hall of Fame this year was simply so that Will Shields could get the turn he’d been waiting for. Pace was a major contribution to his team throughout his career, helping his offense to achieve top-ten rankings on more than half a dozen occasions. Now that Shields has already been inducted, there’s really no reason to keep Pace out of the Hall of Fame for another year. He should be a shoe-in.
There are other talented players up for the Hall of Fame in 2016, but our last top prediction would have to be Kurt Warner. This was the three-time MVP’s first year on the ballot, and he was well-received as a finalist despite ultimately being passed over. He’s led multiple teams to Super Bowls and division titles, and has generally excelled in his sport despite entering the game at a slightly older age than is generally expected. It isn’t wholly surprising that he wasn’t inducted to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (it’s rare, especially in football). Even second-ballot inductions are not exceedingly common. Nonetheless, there’s a good chance that he can pull it off.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame was deemed by ESPN’s respondents to be the most legitimate. Not only did over half of their respondents agree with the general selections (while still somewhat criticizing the voting process), but even more of them believed that selections have been getting more legitimate in recent years. The only real argument against a specific selection that ESPN made was Chuck Rayner. Despite being on one of the Original Six teams, Rayner managed never to win a Stanley Cup while only maintaining a .422 winning percentage. That said, he made some indisputable accomplishments as a three-time Second Team All-Star, not to mention as one of the first wandering goalies in the sport of hockey. He was simply unfortunate enough to play for some less than stellar teams.
The Class of 2015 for the Hockey Hall of Fame includes defensemen Phil Housley and Chris Pronger, along with teammates and three-tip Stanley Cup winners Sergei Fedorov and Nicklas Lidstrom. The Hockey Hall of Fame is not restricted to the NHL, allowing four-time Olympic medalist Angela Ruggiero to become the fourth female inductee in the Hall’s history. Former Hall of Fame CEO Bill Hay is also one of the newest inductees, as is accomplished team owner Peter Karmanos Jr. Some are disappointed that Mark Recchi was not inducted. He has been eligible since 2014, and is one of less than a dozen players with a career point total of 1,533 or higher. He’s also had three 100-point seasons, during one of which he managed a total of 53 goals.
A lot of people have been saying for the past two years that Chris Osgood deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. But while he has good numbers, the primary argument against him is that his team was strong regardless of his contribution. In other words, it’s hard to gauge his actual success as a goaltender. That’s why we’re more inclined to put our money on Curtis Joseph. He has the fourth most wins in the history of the sport, and everyone who comes anywhere close to his record is either already in the Hall of Fame or is greatly expected to be inducted when eligible. Granted, Osgood is tied for the tenth most wins, so he would deserve induction by the same logic. Still, we’d predict Joseph’s induction happening before Osgood’s.
As far as players who should’ve already been in the Hall of Fame, our top selection is obvious. In fact, it’s been pointed out by other journalists that he could’ve already been in the Hall of Fame, since only five players were inducted this year and there is room for six player inductions. And the player that many would have liked to see inducted this year was Eric Lindros. In his prime, he was one of the best forwards in the NHL. The former MVP has a Hart Trophy, not to mention seven All-Star teams under his belt with 760 games that netted him 865 points. If anyone who’s been denied a deserving turn, it’s Eric Lindros. Maybe his career wasn’t that long, but that makes his accomplishments all the more impressive.
As for first-ballot predictions, we really don’t have any. Jason Arnott will be eligible, as will Milan Hejduk and Jose Theodore. Each of these players has a fair number of accomplishments, and certainly deserves to be remembered in one capacity or another. But that doesn’t make them first-ballot Hall of Famers, and some don’t believe they should be in the Hall of Fame at all. Roman Hamrlik did pretty well in an online poll, but it isn’t really up to the fans. Some believe that Zigmund Palffy is underappreciated, and we’re inclined to agree. Which is why we aren’t about to predict him as a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As for Vinny Prospal, the last first-year candidate, your guess is as good as ours. Of the first-year candidates, Hamrlik has the best chance. But it’s unlikely that we’ll see a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016.