The 2019 baseball Hall of Fame ballots are in the hands of voters, who are to submit them by December 31st. Results will be announced on January 22nd, with induction ceremonies in Cooperstown slated for July 21st.
Thirteen of the 35 players on this year’s BBWAA ballot wore Yankees pinstripes for at least part of their careers. Headed by Core Four members Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, nine of them are appearing on the ballot for the first time. Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens are among four returnees.
In order to gain induction, candidates must be named on at least 75% of ballots cast, and players need a minimum of 10 years of MLB experience to appear on the ballot. Considering all the youngsters who play in the minors and never make it to big leagues, what a small percentage of the ones who do manage to stick around for 10 years, it’s quite an honor just to appear on the ballot. Let’s take a look at the candidates.
Returnees to the ballot
Mussina makes his sixth appearance on the ballot, having been named by 63.5% of voters last year. The right-hander pitched for the Yankees during eight of his 18 big-league seasons, appeared in 17 postseason games for the Bombers, and helped them win two American League pennants.
A five-time All-Star who won seven Gold Glove Awards, Mussina was a top-six finisher in the Cy Young Award balloting nine times, including a second place finish. “Moose” also received MVP votes three times.
Mussina compares very strongly with pitchers already enshrined in Cooperstown. Except for Roger Clemens, every single pitcher in major league history with a higher WAR than Mussina (83.0) has already been enshrined, with more than two-thirds of them having compiled a lower WAR. Mussina’s 123 ERA+ is a better mark than more than half of the pitchers already inducted.
Only five pitchers in baseball history tallied at least 400 career decisions and finished with a higher winning percentage than Mussina. Just 27 pitchers have finished their careers at least 100 games over .500, and Mussina, Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and nineteenth-century hurler Bob Caruthers are the only ones without a Hall of Fame plaque.
Clemens makes his seventh appearance on the ballot, having been named by 57.3% of voters last year. “The Rocket” pitched six of his 24 seasons for the Yankees, appeared in 17 postseason games for them, and helped the Bombers win four AL pennants and two World Series Championships.
Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards, and had five other finishes in the top six. He received MVP votes for 10 seasons, and is one of only three pitchers in baseball history to have won the award. He was an eleven-time All-Star and won the Triple Crown twice.
His 140.3 WAR ranks third all-time among pitchers behind Cy Young and Walter Johnson, while his 4,672 career strikeouts rank third behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. With a record of 354-184, Clemens is the only pitcher in the Live Ball Era besides Lefty Grove to finish his career at least 150 games over .500. Clemens is ninth on the all-time win list, but is third behind Warren Spahn and Greg Maddux for the Live Ball Era.
Sheffield played three of his 22 seasons for the Yankees, and was an All-Star, Silver Slugger, and MVP-vote recipient for two of them — including a second-place finish in 2004.
Overall, Sheffield slashed .292/.393/.514, and amassed 2,689 hits and 509 home runs. Sheffield makes his fifth appearance on the ballot, having been named by 11.1% of voters last year.
Jones makes his second appearance on the ballot, having been named by 7.3% of voters last year. He was a 10-time Gold Glove Award winner, five-time All-Star, and won a Silver Slugger Award. He played the final two seasons of his 17-year career for the Yankees.
Newcomers on the ballot
Rivera played his entire 19-year career for the Yankees, and is the most prominent newcomer on the 2019 ballot. I presented a detailed case for the legend’s induction here.
Pettitte, a member of the Core Four, played 15 of his 18 seasons for the Yankees. I presented a compelling case for the southpaw’s induction here.
Berkman played part of one campaign for the Yankees, after they acquired him via mid-season trade for the 2010 postseason push. Across his 15-year career, Berkman slashed .293/.406/.537, clubbed 366 home runs, and was a six-time All-Star.
Youkilis was a three-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion, and Gold Glove Award winner who finished among the top six in MVP Award voting twice. He spent the final season of his 10-year MLB career playing for the Yankees during an injury-shortened 2013 campaign.
Lowe appeared in 17 games for the Bombers in 2012, mostly performing mop-up duty. The high points of his 17-year career include a third-place finish in the Cy Young Award balloting in 2002, and a World Series championship with the Red Sox two years later.
Garcia played for the Yankees from 2011-12. His 17-year MLB career peaked early, as he finished second in the Rookie of the Year Award voting in 1999 and third in the Cy Young balloting two years later. Garcia was named to the All-Star team twice — in 2001 and ‘02.
Wells played part-time for the Yankees in 2013 to finish his 14-year MLB career. He was a three-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and won a Silver Slugger Award.
Lilly was acquired by the Yankees as a prospect in a deal that sent Hideki Irabu to Montreal. The southpaw appeared in 42 games for New York over three seasons, before being traded for Jeff Weaver in 2002.
Hafner appeared in 82 games for the Yankees in 2013, concluding his 12-year MLB career. “Pronk” saw his career peak early, as he received MVP votes three straight years from 2004-06. He led the league with a 1.097 OPS in 2006.
Of all the former Yankees on the 2019 BBWAA ballot, Rivera stands the best chance of getting elected, with Mussina not far behind. The Veterans Committee already elected one former Yankee who will be inducted at the ceremony next summer. Well-traveled reliever Lee Smith appeared in eight games for the Bombers in 1993, notching three saves.