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January 08, 2015

Will Piazza have to wait past next year to make Hall of Fame?

Twenty eight. That's how many votes separated former Mets catcher Mike Piazza from Cooperstown.

When the Baseball Hall of Fame's newest class was unveiled on Tuesday, Piazza's name was not among the four -- the most since 1955 -- players selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). That honor belonged Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio.

Piazza, arguably the greatest hitting catcher ever to play the game, received the fifth-most votes (69.9 percent), but failed to reach the 412 votes (75 percent of total voters) necessary. 

The 46-year-old Norristown native didn't seem too upset either, but he's not likely to voice that publicly either way.

Piazza, however, isn't a robot* and went on to tell the New York Post that he's "a little bit disappointed. ... But on the same note, there’s a positive message in here. It’s going the right way, and I’m optimistic for the future.”

*Unlike Chase Utley

The good news Piazza is alluding to is the fact that he's trending in the right direction, up 7.7 percent from 2013 (62.2 percent).

So what kept Piazza out?

It could be a straight numbers game. The BBWAA rules state that each voter is limited to only 10 players on his or her ballot. 

As Cork Gaines of Business Insider points out, this rule likely contributed to Piazza falling short.

With a pool of candidates that was the deepest in recent memory and a Hall of Fame class that will be the largest in 60 years, there is good evidence that voters being limited to just 10 votes forced a lot of writers to leave players they deemed worthy off their ballots.

According to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times, 51% of the writers voted for 10 players and the average ballot included 8.4 votes. Two years ago, just 22% of the ballots had 10 names.

A simple bell curve would suggest that if about 280 voters thought there were 10 worthy candidates, a large chunk of those voters actually believe there are more than 10 worthy candidates and would have voted for more. This suggests that a lot of players who deserved votes didn't get them because of an arbitrary rule set forth by the BBWAA. [via]

Another theory involves the era in which Piazza played. While he has never formally been accused of using PEDs, voters may be shying away from certain players during that time for reasons of their own, or simply not voting for any of those players. It's unfortunate, and just one of the many reasons that the entire voting process is flawed.

This doesn't spell the end for Piazza. Far from it.

He will return to the ballot in 2016 and the competition isn't nearly as tough. First, there's Ken Griffey, Jr., who should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. There's also former all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, another potential 2016 inductee. After that, Piazza's career stacks up favorably against the remaining newly eligible players, including Jim Edmonds and Billy Wagner.

Despite a .308 career average and 427 home runs, Piazza won't be headed to Cooperstown this summer, but he likely won't have to wait more than a year to get the call.