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What happens to Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire after falling off the Hall of Fame Ballot?

Jim Edmonds and Mark McGwire are off the Hall of Fame ballot. They must now pursue the route of the veteran's committee.

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Yesterday, the Hall of Fame results came out and they were not kind to former Cardinals. Mark McGwire received just 12.3% of the vote from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA). As it was his tenth year on the ballot, and the current rules allow only ten years on the ballot, McGwire's days of eligibility have passed. Jim Edmonds did not make it the full ten years on the ballot. Despite a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, Edmonds received just 2.5% of the vote. As the rules require five percent of the vote to remain on the ballot, Edmonds, too has been shoved aside. The two players might still make the Hall of Fame, but they will have to take another route: the veteran's committee.

The veteran's committee has been around almost as long as the Hall of Fame itself, originally intended to find players worthy from early days of baseball, it later became a way to fill in the cracks where the writers had overlooked someone. The committee has generally been a small one, with 10-15 voting members, electing a few players at a time over the years. Some of the players they have selected have been among the very best players of all-time, even among Hall of Famers.

Players like Roger Connor, Johnny Mize, Joe Gordon, Ron Santo, George Davis, and Arky Vaughan are among those who have been voted into the Hall of Fame by the veteran's committee. The committee has undergone changes over the years that have made it far more difficult to gain induction. After Frankie Frisch helped a bunch of teammates get induring the 1970s, a decade that saw 22 players get elected by the veterans, things slowed down a bit. In the 1980s, twelve players were elected from the veteran's committee, including Red Schoendienst. They picked back up in the 90s as 20 players were elected from 1990-2001, with Bill Mazeroski making it in as the century turned.

Since Bill Mazeroski was elected the veteran's committee has been ground to a halt in terms of players. The only players to get elected by the veteran's committee (now called the Eras committee) in the last 15 years are the aformentioned Joe Gordon and Ron Santo as well as Deacon White, whose last three teams were the Bisons, Alleghennys, and Wolverines, and his picture at Baseball-Reference looks like this:

Deacon White BR

Needless to say, the veteran's/eras committee has not been very active in terms of players over the past decade. Whether that will continue when players like Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Mark McGwire become eligible is another question. To be eligible, according to the Hall of Fame website:

(A) Eligible candidates must be selected from managers, umpires, executives and players, who meet following criteria related to their classification:

  • Players who played in at least 10 major league seasons, who are not on Major League Baseball's ineligible list, and have been retired for 16 or more seasons

The first two parts of that requirement are simply general requirements for the Hall of Fame. The last one is the relevant portion. Mark McGwire has been retired for 14 seasons. In two years, he will be eligible for the eras committee votes. However, the committee is meeting this year and meets only every third year for expansion-era players. For McGwire, he will not be up for election until 2019, thus he could not possibly be inducted until 2020.

For Edmonds, falling off the ballot is very harsh for him, as he will not be retired for 16 years until 2027. One of the benefits of remaining on the Hall of Fame ballot is not just the chance to get elected to the Hall of Fame, but that the player remains in the collective consciousness of the public at large as their name gets discussed every year. Edmonds will not get that benefit, and unless the rules are changed, he is not likely to have his Hall of Fame case heard again for more than a decade.