It’s that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, the desire to stay indoors is growing, and baseball writers are getting preemptively testy on some corner of the internet. On Monday, the National Baseball Hall of Fame released their 2021 ballot, opening up debate that will last months until on the results are unveiled on January 26th.
Since the 2020 Hall of Fame ceremonies were postponed a year due to COVID-19, anyone inducted in 2021 will be joined on the podium in Cooperstown by last year’s honorees (Derek Jeter, Larry Walker Ted Simmons, and someone representing Marvin Miller). Ryan Thibodaux always does an expert job of gradually tracking the ballots and presenting everything in an easily digestible format, so I’ll let him take it away:
Eight Yankees will be considered for 2021 induction in a group led by Roger Clemens. He’s running out of time with only one year of BBWAA ballot eligibility left after this, and while he crept over the 60-percent threshold last year, his year-to-year increases since 2018 have been quite small. Clemens obviously has the numbers for the Hall, but like Barry Bonds, voters have always had trouble squaring them with his link to PEDs.
The same could be said of Andy Pettitte and Gary Sheffield, though their career statistics didn’t sniff Clemens or Bonds, and while they’ve earned enough votes to consistently stay on the ballot, they have a tough road ahead. Although Pettitte will be on the ballot for just the third time, he sat at a distant 11.3 percent of the vote in 2020. On the other hand, Sheffield did take a big step forward last year, jumping from 13.6 percent to 30.5 percent, but with just four years of eligibility left, he’ll need a Walker-like surge to make it. While Sheffield might be a long shot, he could very well make it in a couple years. (He’d have my vote for sure.)
Other less-connected Yankees returning to the ballot are Bobby Abreu and Andruw Jones, each more well-known for their time in the NL East than its counterpart. The OBP king Abreu just barely survived his ballot debut in 2020 at 5.5 percent of the vote and will need every vote he can find to remain in consideration. Jones has been a tricky case throughout his time on the ballot since he had such a strong early peak before his career abruptly wrapped up in New York at age 35, but he’s been making headway. He jumped from 7.5 percent in 2019 to 19.4 percent in 2020. Given a lighter ballot competition this year, he could possibly make some headway.
One of the reasons that names like Sheffield and Jones could make big strides in 2021 is that this is an especially weak first-year class joining them on the Hall of Fame ballot. Not a single name among the bunch is a slam-dunk, and honestly, it might be an upset to see even one of them survive to 2022. That’s where the last three Yankees under consideration are: Nick Swisher, A.J. Burnett, and LaTroy Hawkins. I’ll always remember everything that Swisher and Burnett did to give the Yankees their 2009 World Series championship, but they’re almost certainly one-and-done here.
There’s a very real possibility that no one crosses the 75-percent threshold needed for induction from this ballot, and the sad thing is that the one man who hit 70-percent last year and might make it is, well, this piece of garbage. Womp womp. Happy days!
Shooting from the hip, my initial ballot would absolutely include Clemens, Bonds, Sheffield, Jones, Scott Rolen, Manny Ramirez, Billy Wagner, and Todd Helton. I could probably be pushed to include at least a few of Pettitte, Abreu, Jeff Kent, and Sammy Sosa, too.
Who would be on your ballot?