There’s one thing no amount of 2020 weirdness can stop — arguing about who should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 2021 ballot was released on Monday, starting the annual cycle of re-legislating the steroid era and wondering which more recent retirees are worthy of a spot in Cooperstown. The list of new names on the ballot is full of “I didn’t realize that guy had been retired long enough” stars.
Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher and Barry Zito are the most recognizable new names, while Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds return as the highest vote-getters from last year.
Since there was no induction ceremony last year for Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller because of COVID-19, any candidates elected this year would be inducted with them in July — but this year’s ballot could actually be a shutout, with no sure-thing candidates. Results will be announced Jan. 26.
Here’s a look at this year’s ballot:
New names on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot
To be on the ballot, a player must have played in 10 big league seasons and have been retired for five years. To get into the Hall of Fame, a player needs 75 percent of the vote, as cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Here are the new names for 2021:
• Mark Buehrle
• A.J. Burnett
• Michael Cuddyer
• Dan Haren
• LaTroy Hawkins
• Tim Hudson
• Torii Hunter
• Aramis Ramírez
• Nick Swisher
• Shane Victorino
• Barry Zito
There are no sure things here — perhaps no even possible things. Of the list, only Buehrle, Hudson and Hunter had a career WAR over 50, and even that is marginal for a Hall of Famer at most positions. Even if there’s a future Hall of Fame in the bunch, Cooperstown votes from years past would seem to suggest that it may take a slow climb over multiple years to reach 75 percent.
Hall of Fame cases up for debate again
Here are the carryovers from the 2020 ballot, their results and their year on the ballot. Players are eligible for election for 10 years. Many of the big names have one year left after this.
• Curt Schilling - 70.0% (9th year)
• Roger Clemens - 61.0% (9th year)
• Barry Bonds - 60.7% (9th year)
• Omar Vizquel - 52.6% (4th year)
• Scott Rolen - 35.3% (4th year)
• Billy Wagner - 31.7% (6th year)
• Gary Sheffield - 30.5% (7th year)
• Todd Helton - 29.2% (3rd year)
• Manny Ramírez - 28.2% (5th year)
• Jeff Kent - 27.5% (8th year)
• Andruw Jones - 19.4% (4th year)
• Sammy Sosa - 13.9% (9th year)
• Andy Pettitte - 11.3% (3rd year)
• Bobby Abreu - 5.5% (2nd year)
We’ve seen this part of the movie a lot over the years — it’s the usual arguments about Bonds, Clemens and Schilling. Schilling is the closest to the 75 percent threshold. Normally when a player gets to 70 percent, there’s a good chance he reaches 75 the next year. But Schilling is so polarizing, norms may not apply here.
Vizquel may be the most interesting name on this year’s ballot. He’s gotten a healthy amount of support over the years and the ballot isn’t as full of worthy candidates as it has been in the past.
Will anyone become a Hall of Famer?
We may be looking at the first year since 2013 with no new Hall of Famers from the BBWAA ballot. Schilling has the best chance in theory, but beyond him, there’s not a first-timer like Jeter, Mariano Rivera or Chipper Jones.
The BBWAA was historically stingy with its Hall of Fame votes in the past, but the new inductees have been plentiful since that 2013 shutout. They’ve voted in 22 players in the past seven years compared to 10 in the seven years before 2013.
Looking at this ballot, that wave might have ended.
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