The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot was unveiled on Monday, November 16. We always know who will be eligible for the ballot, so no surprises among the names included.
For the past seven years, at least one first-year eligible player has been elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. A total of 13 players in those seven years are first ballot Hall of Famers. That run comes to an end in 2021, as there are not any names that will make it in. First timers on the ballot include: Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramirez, and Barry Zito.
Could this be a year that nobody gets enshrined from this list of names? It very well could be, but unlikely in my opinion. I think one player be elected in this class and it will be on his ninth ballot: Curt Schilling.
Schilling was very close being elected in 2020 receiving 73.7% of votes (75% is needed). With a few first-time voters and a lack of shoo-in candidates, Schilling should get to that threshold of 75% and get in.
What about Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? These two are tied together because both have the shadow of alleged steroid use and they entered Hall of Fame ballots for the first time in 2013. Bonds and Clemens have two years left on the ballot. Last year, they reached only 64.1% and 63.8%, respectively. My thought is each will gain a few more votes, but fall shy of election this year. Next year could very well be the year Bonds and Clemens get into Cooperstown – which will be their final year of eligibility.
The rest of the field is a toss up. Scott Rolen? Omar Vizquel? Rolen will eventually get in. I think Rolen will be the next Larry Walker in that he will continue to gain votes year after year and eventually be enshrined. This year marks the fourth year on the ballot for both Rolen and Vizquel. Rolen received 39.8% of votes last year and Vizquel acheived 52.7% a year ago.
Todd Helton and Gary Sheffield both received a little more than 30% of votes last year, and Jeff Kent and Manny Ramirez hovered on the under side of 30%.
I expect all of the aforementioned players to gain ground on last year’s vote totals, but fall short in the end. My prediction is Curt Schilling is the only player on the list that exceeds 75% of the vote, with Bonds and Clemens getting closer but fall short. The others continue to gain ground and may get the call in a few years.
That’s my prediction on how things may shake out with the actual Hall of Fame voters. What if I had a vote? I would select nine players. Why not 10? Last year, I felt there were about 15 players I would have voted for, but not this year. Here’s what my ballot would like.
First ballot Hall of Famer in my opinion. Bonds was a no doubt Hall of Famer before he allegedly took performance enhancing drugs. Now we know that PED’s were rampant in the game during the 1990’s. The Baseball Strike of 1994 hurt MLB greatly and fans did not return until 1998 for the home run chase. The home run chase was likely fueled by those PED’s and a blind eye was turned. Fast forward a few years and now it’s a scarlet letter for any player even rumored to have been around players that were guilty of using. Let them in!
Clemens was a pitcher. He had to face many players that either tested positive or strongly rumored to have used PED’s. And he still put up Hall of Fame stats. Let him in!
Another deserving player that should be enshrined in Cooperstown. Schilling was so close to election in 2020. It seems his politics and Twitter account likely turn off many voters. But look at his 20-year career: 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts, Cy Young runner-up three times. How about this clutch postseason line: 11-2, 2.23 ERA, 120K/25BB in the MLB Playoffs.
After the first three players above it gets a little murky for me, so I am not going to rank them in order on where they stand. Todd Helton is one of those players that you can convince me he’s a Hall of Famer…and you could convince me he falls short of enshrinement. Helton was among the game’s best for a 5-year stretch from 2000-2004 where he appeared in every All Star Game during that time (the only five appearances in his 17-year career), and was a top-10 National League MVP vote getter three times.
His career stats don’t scream Hall of Famer: 2,516 hits and 369 home runs, but does hold a very impressive .316 lifetime batting average. When you check his player similarity scores on Baseball Reference the list of 10 players contains six Hall of Famers. Helton, to me, falls into that category where I think he should be in because other players are enshrined (Harold Baines in the Hall of Fame has started many of these arguments).
Okay…less murky after looking over the stats for Manny Ramirez. He’s a lock for me. That is because I’m okay with the PED guys getting in. It’s not allegedly for Manny Ramirez as he was suspended twice for testing positive for PED’s. Still…555 career home runs, 12-time All Star, a batting title, and a top five finisher for league MVP in four seasons he has my (non existent) vote.
Another guy with sneaky good stats. Rolen has a Rookie of the Year (full disclosure: so does Bob Hamelin), eight gold gloves, and seven All Star Game appearances. He also has a career WAR 70.1 with 316 home runs and a lifetime .281 batting average.
Gary Sheffield will likely never be enshrined in Cooperstown because he wins the triple crown in categories that keeps players off of ballots: Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report after adamantly denying his use of PEDs, he was not well liked by the media, and he was a clubhouse cancer in multiple stops during his career. Since my ballot is strictly on numbers, I’ve got Sheffield on mine with his batting title, 509 home runs, and 253 stolen bases.
A bit of bias here since Sammy Sosa was the player that brought me back as a fan of baseball during the summer of 1998. Sosa was a prima donna and likely didn’t make many favorite teammate lists. Of course, he also has that steroid cloud hanging over him. But let’s look at the numbers: 609 home runs, 1,667 RBI, a seven-time All Star and National League MVP winner. Those are good credentials. I doubt Sammy Sosa ever gets elected, but I would at least like the organization to welcome him back as part of the Cubs family.
Another guy I think will eventually get elected to the Hall of Fame. Might as well do it now. His career stats won’t be changing. If he’s not a Hall of Famer now, what makes him a Hall of Famer a few years down the road? That’s one thing I never understood about the voters. If there is a logjam of Hall of Fame talent on the ballot…sure, but there’s usually not. Vizquel has respectable numbers mostly known for his defense (11 Gold Gloves). He falls into the “If Harold Baines is in…” category.
Why Am I Wrong?
This is the fun part. Hall of Fame ballot reaction. What do you think of my nine selections? Why not a 10th? Who did I snub? Who doesn’t belong? Let me know your thoughts.