The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its 2021 class Tuesday night. Notable names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen are among the players on this year’s ballot, but it’s possible no players will be voted in this year. The full 2021 ballot can be viewed here.
The rules: A player is eligible to be placed on the ballot after five years of retirement. Players getting at least 75 percent of the returned ballots from qualified BBWAA voters gain entry to the Hall of Fame. Those who get below five percent fall off the ballot. Those between five and 75 percent can remain on the ballot for up to 10 years. BBWAA members who are active and in good standing and have been so for at least 10 years can vote for anywhere from zero to 10 players each year.
And here are the details for the selection show:
2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class announcement
- Time: 6 p.m. ET
- Date: Tuesday, Jan. 26
- TV channel: MLB Network (coverage starts at 3 p.m. ET)
- Live stream: fuboTV (try for free)
Below are six storylines to watch for as the vote totals get unveiled Tuesday night.
(NOTE: When talking about “early returns,” I’m generally referencing the indispensable Vote Tracker from Ryan Thibodaux and his team.)
1. Penultimate chance for big-name trio
The top three candidates on the ballot this year among holdovers are Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds. The on-field resumes, in terms of the stats, say Clemens and Bonds are among the very best players to ever play while Schilling is a legitimate Hall of Famer.
And yet, here we are.
Bonds and Clemens are both tied to the use of performance-enhancing drugs in addition to being accused of serious off-field indiscretions. Schilling got less support in his early years on the ballot and as things have lingered he’s made his road incredibly difficult with inflammatory rhetoric.
Last year, Schilling got 70 percent of the vote while Clemens was at 61 and Bonds checked in at 60.7.
The modest gains of Clemens and Bonds in recent years suggest they’ll fall short again. Schilling has already shown losses this time around from people who used to vote for him.
The best bet is none of the three make it, judging from early returns.
This is the ninth time on the ballot for all three, setting them up for one last go-round on the 2021 ballot.
If they do miss, it’s likely that no one makes it …
2. It could be empty class
It is rare to have a ballot where the BBWAA doesn’t elect anyone, but it’s not without precedent. The last time there were no players voted in via this method was 2013. It also happened, in reverse chronology, in 1996, 1971, 1965, 1960, 1958, 1950 and 1945.
This election has a very good chance of joining that group with no players getting 75 percent of the vote.
Take note that this would not mean a totally empty ceremony in Cooperstown this summer, assuming the COVID-19 situation gets under enough control to have one. That’s because the 2020 ceremony was canceled last July and that class has Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller still getting enshrined this year.
Still, if there’s no BBWAA class for 2021, it would be the first totally empty class since 1960. I’ve already expanded on the history behind this here.
3. Will any first-timers survive?
Let’s keep in mind that it’s incredibly tough just to make it onto the Hall of Fame ballot before we soak in the sentence I’m about to write. A player has to be in the majors for 10 years and even then he is not guaranteed to make it on. Dan Uggla, C.J. Wilson and Adam LaRoche were among the players eligible for this ballot who were excluded. Again, please keep that in mind when I say the following:
This first-year class was one of the weaker ones we’ve seen in recent memory. It’s possible every newcomer becomes a one-and-done.
Early returns suggest there’s a chance that Mark Buehrle gets above five percent, though he has little hope of getting all the way to 75 percent, even if he gets 10 years. He’s likely the only one with a chance to remain for a second year and even he could miss the cut.
Torii Hunter and Tim Hudson also have seen enough early support that there’s a shot they hit the five-percent mark, though the smart money is on them falling well short.
Aramis Ramirez, Shane Victorino, A.J. Burnett, Barry Zito, Nick Swisher, Dan Haren, Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins will definitely fall short in their one chance. To reiterate, that’s far from an insult. It’s a great compliment to their admirable careers to get on the ballot.
4. Who has momentum?
We’re now past the part of the falling short and falling off guys and moving into what the returns mean for future years. For Hall of Fame junkies like myself, this is the fun part.
It’s possible the following players have enough momentum to believe Cooperstown is within reach.
- Scott Rolen is in his fourth year on the ballot and it looks like he’ll break 50 percent after debuting with just 10.2 percent. He got a touch over 35 percent last year and a move to over 50 with six years left means he’s a good bet to make it eventually.
- Todd Helton went 16.5 percent and then 29.2 percent in his first two years. Especially with Walker now in and hopefully the Coors Field stigma starting to wear down a bit, look for another big jump. If he moves to over 50 or even just 40-plus percent, the odds of making it soon would be great. I doubt he’ll need all 10 years, but still keep an eye on his percentage.
- In his first three chances, Billy Wagner was between 10.2 and 11.1 percent. Then he went to 16.7 and 31.7. This is his sixth try, so it’ll still be a tall order, but another big gain on the percentage front would give Wagner a real shot here with four years left. Again, keep an eye on this one. I’d say he needs to see at least 40 and probably even closer to 45 percent to feel optimism of eventually enshrinement.
- Gary Sheffield went through five voting cycles not even getting 14 percent of the vote, but jumped to 30.5 percent last year. He only has three chances left, so it’s still an uphill battle, but getting up into the mid-40s would be reason for hope — and we all know “hope is a good thing,” as Red once learned.
- Andruw Jones‘ first two years showed 7.3 and then 7.5 percent, but he went up to 19.4 percent last year and it looks like he’s primed to make another significant jump. With six years left and a possibly surging vote percentage, seeing something 30-35 percent here would lead me to believe he’s on track.
- Andy Pettitte went from 9.9 percent to 11.3 percent and needs a much bigger boost than that moving forward for a shot. He’s more of an “old-school” candidate than many on here and that means he could end up showing much higher than we’ve seen on the publicly made ballots so far. If he cracks 20 percent here, he’s a legitimate candidate moving forward.
- Bobby Abreu got just 5.5 percent of the vote in his first try last year, but there seems to be a bit more movement toward him. Keep an eye out here. Might he jump to close to 15 percent? If so, chances move into realistic long-shot territory.
5. Who’s losing steam?
On the flip side, Omar Vizquel seems to be losing what looked like a Hall of Fame trajectory in voting. In just three years, Vizquel went from 37 to 42.8 to 52.6 percent, but he’s showing a decent number of lost votes so far. Vizquel is currently under investigation by Major League Baseball over domestic violence allegations.
6. And who is stagnating?
The following players seem to be just treading water until their 10 years on the ballot are up.
- Manny Ramirez has two PED-related suspensions from his playing days and in four chances on the ballot has only increased his percentage from 23.8 to 28.2. There seems to be a plateau in there for players connected to PEDs and given that he’s the only one on this ballot with a PED suspension, it’s likely this thing is just playing out as a formality. If he somehow moves up over 35 percent I’ll pay more attention.
- Jeff Kent through six cycles never cracked 18.1 percent, but did rise to 27.5 percent last year. Early returns suggest he’s not going to make another big dent, though, and there are only two years left after this one.
- Sammy Sosa is on his ninth ballot and last year topped out at just 13.9 percent. He might go up, but he’s not getting close to the needed 75 percent.
There you have it. You are now ready to see the full voting results on Tuesday evening with a good idea on what it all means past the rudimentary “who is in and who is out?” We’ll have full coverage on the fallout after the vote is unveiled.