It’s Baseball Hall of Fame voting season and, one way or another, this year’s ballot will be a decisive one.
A group of controversial candidates — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa — are in their 10th and final year of eligibility and will either be elected to the Hall or eliminated from BBWAA consideration. That will ease ballot clog and allow big-hall-leaning voters, capped at 10 selections per year, to ponder alternative candidates. And it will force the Today’s Game Era Committee — scheduled to meet next December — to consider whether any member of the group who doesn’t surpass the 75 per cent ballot threshold deserves to be a Hall of Famer anyway.
Thanks to the diligent and indispensable work of Ryan Thibodaux and his Hall of Fame tracking team, we can glean a decent idea of what will happen when voting results are announced on Jan. 25. As of Jan. 20, Thibodaux and company had logged 163 public ballots in their 2022 Hall of Fame tracker, representing an estimated 44.1 per cent of the electorate. Utilizing their data, let’s look at who’s trending to get a plaque, who’s headed to the Eras Committee, and who’s surviving to fight another day.
TRENDING TOWARD ELECTION
(83.8% of public ballots)
This one will be close. Ortiz’s name has appeared on 83.8 per cent of public ballots thus far, which looks good at face value. But, considering voters that don’t reveal their ballots before results day tend to be disproportionately unlikely to vote for players linked to performance-enhancing drug use, it might not be enough. It seems safe to assume Ortiz’s vote share will decrease. The question is by how much.
Private voters also tend to be stingier in voting for first-time candidates and designated hitters, of which Ortiz is both. Clearly, he has the best odds of anyone based on what we know now. That’s why he’s in this category. But the smartest bet might be that Ortiz narrowly misses the required 75 per cent threshold, and the BBWAA chooses not to elect a player to the Hall for a second consecutive year.
TRENDING TOWARD MISSING ELECTION
(and dropping off the ballot)
Barry Bonds (77.5% of public ballots)
Roger Clemens (76.3%)
Curt Schilling (60.1%)
Sammy Sosa (24.9%)
Mark Buehrle (5.2%)
Tim Lincecum (3.5%)
Tim Hudson (2.9%)
Joe Nathan (2.3%)
Ryan Howard (1.7%)
Torii Hunter (1.7%)
Justin Morneau (0.6%)
Jonathan Papelbon (0.6%)
A.J. Pierzynski (0.6%)
Mark Teixeira (0.6%)
Carl Crawford (0%)
Prince Fielder (0%)
Jake Peavy (0%)
So, about that controversial foursome in their final year on the ballot. Due to the PED penalty private voters have historically applied, neither Bonds nor Clemens is likely to be elected despite strong representation on public ballots. Schilling — a generational on-field talent prone to espousing loathsome off-field opinions — has already lost a net of 21 votes on public ballots this year versus last, and would require a groundswell of late support from voters who haven’t revealed their ballots, which seems unlikely. And with support from only 24.9 per cent of public voters, Sosa can be mathematically eliminated.
But although none of those four is likely to be elected next week, they will have another chance at December’s Winter Meetings when the Today’s Game Era Committee will meet and consider the eligibility of individuals who played from 1988-2016 but have dropped off the BBWAA ballot. That committee will consist of 16 people, including Hall of famers, MLB executives and veteran media members, as appointed by the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.
Of course, that committee will be navigating its own substantial ballot clog with a 10-candidate maximum and a wide field to consider including managers, umpires and executives. There’s no telling how players linked to PEDs such as Bonds and Clemens will fare with the committee. But it’s worth noting that Mark McGwire has twice been passed over by it.
Meanwhile, a trio of players who earned the five per cent of votes necessary to remain on the ballot in 2021 — Mark Buehrle, Tim Hudson and Torii Hunter — are at risk of missing that threshold this year. All three have netted fewer votes than they received on public ballots in 2021, a consequence of a strong field and the fact voters are capped at 10 selections.
It’s still possible any of those three could earn the support they need when private ballots are revealed next week. Buehrle needs 11 votes, Hudson needs 15 and Hunter needs 17. Buehrle may just narrowly surpass the cut-off. But, based on what we know now, Hudson and Hunter are in real danger of coming up short.
And, finally, several players are trending toward elimination from the ballot in their first year of eligibility: Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Teixeira.
TRENDING TOWARD MISSING ELECTION
(and remaining on the ballot)
Scott Rolen (69.4% of public ballots)
Todd Helton (56.6%)
Andruw Jones (49.1%)
Billy Wagner (48%)
Gary Sheffield (46.2%)
Alex Rodriguez (41%)
Manny Ramirez (38.2%)
Jeff Kent (30.6%)
Bobby Abreu (11%)
Andy Pettitte (11%)
Jimmy Rollins (11%)
Omar Vizquel (11%)
As the BBWAA electorate progressively trends younger and more open-minded, vote shares for underappreciated stars such as Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones and Billy Wagner continue to increase. All four are netting substantial vote increases on public ballots this year versus last and their totals could take off next year with Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa removed from consideration.
Rolen, in particular, appears headed for an inevitable election in years to come, netting a 12-vote year-over-year increase and appearing on 69.4 per cent of public ballots. Helton has also been steadily gaining ground, netting an 11-vote increase on public ballots this year. But he’ll need a further injection of big-hall voters in subsequent years to get closer to the 75 per cent threshold.
Next January will be a decisive one for Jeff Kent, who will be in his 10th and final year of eligibility and currently appears on 30.6 per cent of public ballots. Gary Sheffield, meanwhile, will be making his ninth appearance in 2022 and has a stronger base of support with 46.2 per cent of public voters ticking the box next to his name.
Finally, Alex Rodriguez and Jimmy Rollins won’t be elected in their first year of eligibility but have done enough to remain on the ballot. They’ll join a cluster of returning players with underwhelming overall support — Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez and Omar Vizquel — who will be back again next year.