Both the 2021 MLB season and the vast majority of its award season are history, so now it’s time for the non-transaction/labor portion of the baseball offseason to move on to an even large scope of history. The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced its official 2022 ballot that will go out to eligible BBWAA voters. Anyone who hits the 75-percent threshold will be inducted next summer.
It’s pretty easy these days to forecast exactly which players will make it through the screening process, but it still has to be a gratifying feeling for most of the men to see their names alongside some of the best to ever play the game — from their generation or otherwise. That’s especially true for players under Cooperstown consideration for the very first time.
The pair of Yankees from that batch of 13 ballot rookies are quite notable indeed: Álex Rodríguez and Mark Teixeira, two vital cogs from the 2009 championship team. Here’s the full list, courtesy of ballot tracking expert Ryan Thibodaux:
Anyone remotely familiar with this goofy game knows that A-Rod is one of its true all-time inner-circle talents. The dude hit 696 homers with a 140 OPS+, tallied 117.5 WAR, made an absurd 14 All-Star teams, and was a three-time MVP. He also caught fire during the 2009 World Series run, stole 329 bases in his career, and proved himself to be a terrific shortstop before moving to third after his 2004 trade to the Yankees to accommodate Derek Jeter.
The rub is, well, everything else A-Rod, especially his season-long suspension in 2014 in connection to the Biogenesis PED scandal. Given how the voters have made fellow controversial names Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Manny Ramírez wait, it seems inevitable that at the very least, A-Rod will have to wait awhile to make headway (media career notwithstanding).
Teixeira on the other hand has no controversy but probably not a strong enough case, given the plethora of first baseman already in Cooperstown. He was one of just five switch-hitters in MLB history to reach the 400-homer plateau and was arguably the best defensive first baseman of his generation. Tex mashed for years and really only slowed down after a freak wrist injury in 2013 that limited him to just one good season in the last four of his career; he was never really the same.
The 2009 champion finished his career with 50.6 WAR, but will frankly be lucky to reach even the five-percent threshold needed to remain on the ballot next year. He’s your classic “Hall of Very Good” guy.
The other first-time nominees are David Ortiz, Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, and Jimmy Rollins. They all had terrific careers, but really, only Ortiz will end up with actual consideration. Honestly, he may very well get in on the first ballot, even as a DH and with the failed 2003 drug test that was anonymously leaked. Commissioner Rob Manfred has cast skepticism on the reliability of that result, and with primary DHs Edgar Martinez and Harold Baines making it to Cooperstown in recent years, Ortiz is likely a lock to make it at some point. It’s just a matter of time.
The ballot returnees associated with the Yankees include Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones, and Bobby Abreu. Pettitte’s the fan favorite, but he’s barely gained traction in his three years; he peaked last year with a distant 13.7 percent. Abreu was even lower at 8.7 percent, barely hanging on. Sheffield and Jones have made strides in the past few years, with Sheff hitting 40 percent for the first time last year and Jones nearly doubling his support to 33.9 percent. Neither will reach 75 percent this go-around, but with a few more years, they may get there.
Clemens is the closest at 61.6 percent, but like Bonds, this is his final year on the ballot and both have yet to make significant headway with the BBWAA bloc that refuses to consider them due to their PED associations. Maybe they’ll get some extra votes with some voters trying to mentally justify voting for Ortiz and not them, but I don’t think either reaches 75 percent.
The remaining returning nominees and their 2021 percentages are as follows: Tim Hudson (5.2%), Torii Hunter (9.5%), Mark Buehrle (11%), Sammy Sosa (17%; final year), Manny Ramírez (28.2%), Jeff Kent (32.4%), Todd Helton (44.9%), Billy Wagner (46.4%), Omar Vizquel (49.1%), Scott Rolen (52.9%), and — sigh — Curt Schilling (71.1%). Like Sheffield and Jones, the Helton and Rolen blocs have taken great steps in recent years, but won’t hit 75-percent this year.
Instead, after all that, the most likely outcome of this BBWAA ballot is one of the following possibilities:
1) For the second straight year, no one hits 75 percent.
2) The only inductee is Schilling or Oritz.
3) The two inductees are Schilling and Ortiz.
Needless to say, after all the fun with Derek Jeter last summer, I seriously doubt that any Yankees fan will bother making the trip to Cooperstown for enshrinement weekend in 2022. There’s an outside chance that Roger Maris or Allie Reynolds makes it from one of the “Veterans Committee” votes, but other than that, this is as former PSA scribe Greg Kirkland once said, peak bleak.