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What We Can Take From ‘21 HOF Results?

For the first time since 1960, 2021 welcomes no new inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But this year’s results pose even more quandrys worth exploring.

Milwaukee Brewers v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

With the recent announcement of the class, or lack thereof, of inductees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021, the discussions that preceded Tuesday’s results only seemed to further fester. One would have to go back to 1960 to find the most recent case of no new elected players to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

This year’s most topical case, the always-outspoken Curt Schilling, received 71.1 percent of the vote in his 9th year of eligibility, the most of any player on the ballot, and just 16 votes short of the required 75-percent needed.

As for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, their 9th year on the ballot only saw slight, but not encouraging vote ascendance, with the two finishing with 61.8 and 61.6-percent, respectively. Like Schilling, the two are left with one year ballot before their fate falls in the hands of the Veterans Committee.

Scott Rolen made positive leeway, with the 4th eligible third baseman garnering 52.9-percent of the vote. If voting trends hold steady, Rolen should find himself in the Hall within the next year or two.

Todd Helton’s 3rd year saw the longtime Colorado Rockies’ first baseman net 44-percent of the vote. Helton and the prior-mentioned Rolen appear to be on a Larry Walker-like trajectory, with their cases being fleshed out thanks to extensive advocacy.

As we previously spoke on, former Marlin Gary Sheffield projected to benefit from what was a weak first-year class, and as luck would have it, the former right fielder managed 163 votes, good enough for a ballot-best 40.6-percent of the vote. With three years left on the ballot, Sheffield’s best comp is Edgar Martinez, who finished with 43.4-percent in his 7th year of eligibility.

Closer Billy Wagner also netted a personal best in his vote total, finishing his 6th year with 46.4-percent. While his career bWAR of 27.7 would read as a lowering of the bar should he be inducted, further peripherals point to Wagner as an all-time great relief pitcher. Among pitchers with at least 900 innings pitched, his 187 ERA+ trails only Mariano Rivera all-time.

First-timers Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, and Torii Hunter all managed the necessary 5-percent to remain on the ballot, with Buehrle leading the pack with 11-percent of the vote. While the totality of each of their respective careers don’t merit induction, no crime exists in giving their statistical cases an extended look.

More than any year prior though, the results from 2021 reflect a drastic shift in voter mentality. While the likes of Schilling, Bonds, and Clemens held relatively steady from the previous year, the concept of a Hall of Famer has further began to encompass behavior off the field.

On a statistical level, no one questions the merit of the aforementioned three, but Schilling has, for lack of sounding original, “tweeted himself out of the Hall of Fame,” while Bonds and Clemens have seemingly been held out over suspicion surrounding late-career success associated with use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Bonds posting a 214 OPS+ and winning four successive MVP’s over an 8-season stretch to end his career makes this suspicion warranted, as does Clemens winning 2 Cy Young Awards and pitching to a 136 ERA+ after the age of 40.

Having either of these three share the stage with 2020 inductees Derek Jeter, Walker, and Ted Simmons - all whose inductions reinforced a narrative of positivity across the sport - would come off bittersweet.

Simply put, those who vote on the Hall of Fame seem to value character almost as much as they do on-field production.

This may explain Omar Vizquel falling from 52.6 to 49.1-percent from last year voting. Last month, the longtime shortstop was accused of domestic abuse by his now ex-wife.

But were Hall of Fame voters to succumb to the appeal-to-nature fallacy that is this recent-adherence to a strict character clause, would holding out the likes of Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, Sheffield, and eventually, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz matter if the likes of Ty Cobb, Kennesaw Mountain Landis, and several other rabble-roussers all have plaques adorning their likeness?


Should anyone have been elected to Cooperstown in 2021?

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