The 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 25, 2021, in Cooperstown, NY. I love the optimism of that statement, given the fact that the 2020 event was canceled because of COVID. Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, plus Ted Simmons and the late executive Marvin Miller in a separate process, were selected for 2020 and will be included in the 2021 event, assuming it takes place.
There are no real standouts among the players who are eligible for the first time, those who retired in 2015. I suspect none will be selected this year, which hadn’t happened since 2013. In the previous balloting, there were 35 people to consider. This time there are only 25, which should benefit many of the candidates. Now if I had a ballot, and these were the candidates, here are the players I’d pick.
Curt Schilling (70.0% of the vote last year, with 75% needed for induction; 9th year on the ballot). His Twitter feed is full of Trumpian drivel about the notion that Biden didn’t win the election. Someone described his awful politics as “xenophobic, transphobic and conspiratorial memes.” This is clearly still true. I find him to be a loathsome individual. But he deserves to be in the Hall, as this 2015 article notes, in large part because of his post-season success. He has the highest strikeout-to-walk rate of any pitcher with 3,000 innings (4.38). This is the year he likely gets in.
Barry Bonds (60.7%, 9th year) and Roger Clemens (61%, 9th year). The alleged performance-enhancing actions that the best outfielder and best pitcher on the ballot were not actually banned at the time. Bonds was a 14-time All-Star, eight-time Gold Glove Award winner, seven National League MVP. Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards.
Gary Sheffield (30.7%, 7th season). He hit 509 home runs in his career, but for a power hitter, didn’t strike out much and walked frequently. When he retired Sheffield hit his 500th home run on April 17, 2009. As of his last game, he ranked top five among all active players in RBIs (1,676) and hits (2,689)
He too was mentioned in the investigations with respect to the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But as Jay Jaffee of Sports Illustrated noted, there is “a distinction between allegations stemming from the ‘Wild West’ era before testing and penalties were in place [c. 2004] and those that resulted in actual suspensions.”
The less controversial picks
Jeff Kent (27.5%, 8th year). Over 17 seasons, Kent posted a .290 batting average and .500 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .978 fielding percentage. Kent hit 351 HR as a second baseman, the most in MLB history in either league.
Billy Wagner (31.7%, 6th year). Of ALL pitchers with at least 800 innings pitched, Wagner’s 11.9 strikeouts per 9 innings and 33.2% strikeout rate are both the highest in major league history. Opposing batters hit for only a .187 average against him, with 5.99 hits per nine innings, both the lowest in MLB history.
Omar Vizquel (52.6%, 4th season). He had a lengthy (24 year) solid career with over 2800 hits. He was a great defensive player at shortstop, winning 11 Gold Gloves.
Scott Rolen (35.3%, 4th year). Does he suffer by comparison to a previous Phillies 3rd baseman, Mike Schmidt? Yes, but he was an eight-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star.
Todd Helton (29.2%, 3rd year). Five-time All-Star. He suffers from having played with the Colorado Rockies in their mile-high environs.
Andy Petitte (11.3%, 3rd year). He holds all-time postseason records for wins, innings pitched and games started. I may have a slight bias. He was a member of the Albany-Colonie Yankees in the early 1990s. His A-C and NYY teammates, Mariano Rivera and Jeter, got into the Hall in the past two years.
Not this time
I’m leaving off outfielder Manny Ramirez (28.2%, 5th year) despite his mostly stellar career. His drug transgressions – two suspensions, in 2009 and 2011 – make voting for him more difficult. I also passed on outfielder Andruw Jones (19.4%, 4th year), he of the great defense but diminishing hitting.
Sammy Sosa (13.9%, 9th year), and his 1998 home run competition with Mark McGwire, was exciting. He drove in a lot of runs for someone who led the league in being struck out three years in a row; maybe next year.
An odd stat about two of the first-time nominees. They both have an ERA of 0.00. Michael Cuddyer and Nick Swisher each pitched one inning, gave up a walk, and one or two hits but no runs. Of course, both were emergency pitchers. And neither will likely receive the 5% of the vote to make it onto next year’s ballot.
The results will be announced on Tuesday, January 26, 2021.