The MLB Hall of Fame is one of the most polarizing discussions across sports, as it will be the last year of eligibility for players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Curt Schilling. This year will also mark the first year of eligibility for David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. With the ballots distributed last week, select analysts from The Athletes Hub will answer some of the most important questions regarding the Hall of Fame ballot.
First, let’s go over the general rules of the MLB Hall of Fame voting process:
- Voters are able to vote for a maximum of 10 players.
- Eligible candidates need 75% for election (without rounding up). For example, 74.9% of votes does not permit Hall of Fame enshrinement.
- To remain on the Hall of Fame ballot, a candidate needs at least 5% of votes.
Will Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, or Curt Schilling be enshrined in their last ballot this year?
Davis Byrd: I think Bonds and Clemens have the greatest chance of these four candidates to get in. It could be a tough proposition though, as the voters who hadn’t voted them in by now still need to be swayed. Sosa isn’t going to get in, as he’d need a major swing from 17% to that 75% mark and it’s just too big a leap to be realistic. Curt Schilling won’t get in on the writer’s ballot and has said he doesn’t want to be, as he’s content with being a Veteran’s committee guy. Therefore, a lot of ballots will omit him.
Jake Crumpler: Each of these players brings with them all sorts of controversy, whether that stems from PED use, corked bats, domestic abuse, or detrimental opinions voiced on social media. While all of these players deserve to be inducted based solely on their on-field performance, the interpretation of the character clause will be the ultimate decider on the status of their enshrinement.
Personally, I believe that Bonds and Clemens should have already been inducted because of their otherworldly numbers and the impact they have had on the game, positively or negatively. While I’m not sure how the BBWAA will take PED use and domestic abuse into consideration this time around, I do think that they will finally elect the all-time leaders in MVP and Cy Young Awards to the Hall of Fame.
Although Sosa was one of the most recognizable players in the ‘90s and early 2000s, his stats don’t stack up to all-time greats like Bonds and Clemens, with PED allegations and a corked bat incident tainting his resume. His 609 home runs are ninth all-time, but the rest of his stats are far from Hall-worthy, and his 58.6 career bWAR makes him a borderline Hall of Famer. I believe Sosa will miss out on enshrinement in his final year on the ballot.
Schilling is the most difficult player to predict in this aspect. His playing career is fully worthy of enshrinement, but since retiring, he has said some heinous, destructive, and offensive things that call the character clause into play. On top of that, after not being elected last year, Schilling publicly requested that his name not be included on future ballots. He was trending in the right direction, but with his tweeting and public bashing of the BBWAA, I think they will heed his request and leave him off their ballots.
Matt Partridge: While it’s impossible to overlook the talent of each player, you cannot advocate selection to the Hall of Fame based on the strong links to steroids. As Joe Morgan once said, “We hope the day never comes when known steroid users are voted into the Hall of Fame. They cheated. Steroid users don’t belong here”. It would be interesting to see how the committee would deal with this type of situation.
What percentage of votes will Alex Rodriguez receive?
Davis Byrd: Alex Rodriguez will probably receive around 55-60% of votes. The problem that sits with Rodriguez is that he was a steroid player, but he wasn’t necessarily a steroid ERA player. He got caught and suspended when the precedent had been set and that’s not acceptable. On his resumé alone, he should be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, but I think he’ll have to wait until next year.
Jake Crumpler: Rodriguez is a tough case to crack. His stats would easily be good enough to get him in if he didn’t admit to using PEDs and if he wasn’t disliked by media, fans, and teammates during his career. He has done his best to repair his image, but there is a possibility it’s not enough and he misses out on being a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It will depend on how heavily writers ding him for cheating.
Bonds, in a similar situation and with a comparable resume, received 36.2% of votes in his first year of eligibility. Right now, the Hall of Fame tracker, provided by Ryan Thibodeaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter), has Rodriguez on four of the ten public ballots, aligning with the support that Bonds received in his first year. Therefore, I see Rodriguez finishing the voting process around that same percentage, somewhere between 35% and 45%, as voters mull over his legacy.
Matt Partridge: Back in February of 2009, Rodriguez admitted to knowingly taking performance-enhancing drugs between the years 2001-03 while with the Texas Rangers. Having just signed a record $252 million contract, one could argue that the pressure to play like at a high level may have ushered Rodriguez down the rocky road of steroid abuse. Fans will forever be speculating on what could have been he maintained a clean career, posting a .933 OPS with 148 home runs and 111 steals over a four-year period while with the Seattle Mariners. Following his year-long ban in 2014 after the 2009 revelations, Rodriguez returned to MLB, managing a further 42 home runs and seemingly schmoozing his way back into favor and zeroing in on an ESPN homecoming. I think Rodriguez will get a surprisingly high 50% of votes in the Hall of Fame ballot.
Will David Ortiz be a first-ballot Hall of Fame candidate?
Davis Byrd: I don’t think so. Both himself and Rodriguez are more likely to get in on their second year of eligibility. He has the steroid cloud above his head, but it was on an anonymous and voluntary test. Ortiz has never served a suspension for PED’s, but the question may still be there for voters. Based on his stats and playoff hitting resumé, he’ll get in, but I’m not so sure it’ll be this year.
Jake Crumpler: As a full-time designated hitter, Ortiz’s Hall of Fame candidacy is sure to be linked to that of fellow DH and 2019 Hall of Fame inductee, Edgar Martinez. Martinez had a similar career to Ortiz, but he lasted the maximum amount of time on the ballot, waiting ten years to finally be enshrined. The Mariner legend appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010 and was checked off on just 36.2% of ballots.
Ortiz has one of the most incredible postseason resumes, increasing his likelihood of getting in, and commissioner Rob Manfred, in 2016, denounced the drug testing process that tarnished his legacy. Manfred’s statement may be enough to assuage the fear of Ortiz being unjustly linked to PEDs, but I’m not sure his postseason resume will impact the voters enough to include him on their ballots more than they did with Martinez in his first year.
Especially with other controversial players in their final year of eligibility, Ortiz will probably be left off ballots in favor of candidates with less time left to be enshrined. Appearing on just half of the ten public ballots so far, Ortiz is trending towards needing a surge of support to push him closer to 75%, leading me to believe that he won’t be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Matt Partridge: Ortiz has a good shot at being a successful first round candidate. He never failed an official PED test, but was named in an MLB survey taken in 2003 which linked players to positive testing. He did most of his damage as a slugging DH after 2005 when testing was tightened up, and his career stat lines of .141 OPS and 541 home runs live long in the memory. With voting leaning toward the DH role since the approval of both Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez, Ortiz should get in the first time.
Which player with multiple years of eligibility left is most likely to be enshrined?
Davis Byrd: Scott Rolen. There is no reason he isn’t already in. He has six years of eligibility left and should get in. Rolen finished his MLB career an an eight-time Gold Glove winner and seven-time All-Star. Unlike other candidates, Rolen had no PED allegations or any off the field issues.
Jake Crumpler: While Andruw Jones and Todd Helton have solid cases to be inducted and have received plenty of support on public ballots (60% and 70% respectively), I think third baseman Scott Rolen is the most likely candidate with multiple years of eligibility remaining on the ballot to be enshrined. Rolen’s candidacy is rooted in the incredible defense that earned him eight Gold Glove Awards throughout his 17-year career. At the plate, Rolen was not as impressive as he was in the field, but he was more than competent. For his career, he was 22% better than the league average by wRC+, his 316 home runs are the 16th-most all-time by a third baseman, and his 517 doubles are the sixth-most by a third baseman. His other accolades include a Rookie of the Year Award, a 2006 World Series ring, a Silver Slugger Award, and seven All-Star selections. Overall, his combination of fielding and power helped him rack up the tenth most bWAR (70.1) at his position. JAWS (a metric that measures a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness) agrees with the notion that Rolen makes the cut, rating him as the tenth-most Hall-worthy third baseman, above the average JAWS score of the 15 third baseman already enshrined. Additionally, Rolen appeared on 52.9% of ballots last year and has appeared on 70% of public ballots so far this year, further supporting the likelihood that the third baseman will be inducted in his fifth year of eligibility.
Matt Partridge: I would argue the case for Scott Rolen to be trending in the right direction to secure enshrinement in the coming years. Securing a 53% vote in his fifth year, his stock will continue to rise as a result of his 70.1 career WAR garnered while playing the hot-corner. His record as a seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner will be smiled upon by the purists. With 316 home runs and a .281 career batting average, he should have enough to get him over the line.
Who’s the most overlooked Hall of Fame candidate in this class?
Davis Byrd: Billy Wagner and Joe Nathan. If Wagner eventually gets in, then you can make the argument that Nathan deserves to be in as well. I’m all for relievers getting in, as Wagner and Nathan are two of nine pitchers with 900 innings pitched and an ERA+ over 150. Wagner received 46.4% of the votes needed to get in last year. Neither will make it in this year, but should make strides towards getting in.
Jake Crumpler: Players with good on-base stats and modest counting numbers have been historically overlooked in the Hall of Fame voting process. That reasoning has caused right fielder Bobby Abreu to be overlooked during his first two years on the ballot. With voters becoming familiar with advanced statistics and more appreciative of players with adept on-base skills, Abreu could see a big bump up from the 8.7% of support he received last year.
Abreu has been unjustly cast aside in favor of other players in the past, suggesting that he is, at best, a borderline Hall of Famer — I think he’s more than that. In terms of power, speed, and OBP, the level at which Abreu performed has rarely been matched. Among right fielders, Abreu and Bobby Bonds are the only players to have reached 200 HR and 400 SB. Among the same group of fielders with at least as many seasons in the MLB as Abreu’s 18, only Elmer Valo, Paul Waner, Mel Ott, Stan Musial, and Babe Ruth have a higher career OBP than Abreu’s .395. Ultimately, Abreu is the 19th best right fielder by bWAR (60.2) and 20th by JAWS, putting him in between Dave Winfield and Vladimir Guerrero Sr. (both HOFers) on the latter leaderboard. While his stats suggest worthiness, I don’t think Abreu makes the jump to cross the threshold for enshrinement this year, but as he remains on the ballot, he will gain more support as his resume becomes more appreciated, eventually getting him into the Hall before his time runs out.
Matt Partridge: I can’t help thinking that Torii Hunter gets penalized in this class due to his majority time being spent with the small market Minnesota Twins. Though garnering an impressive nine consecutive Gold Glove awards from 2001-09 and being featured in five All-Star games, he has to be considered one of the leading two-way players of the game. With career numbers of 353 home runs and a .277 batting average alongside a .990 career fielding percentage, he is surely worthy of a bump up from the 9.5% of votes from last year.