MLB Hall of Fame Early Returns

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It is that time of year when eligible journalists will cast their ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s time again for those with high aspirations to sweat out the vote. For many, it has become an annual ritual, which can be tortuous. On the other hand, there are 11 players who are making their first appearance on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot. In any case, it is a time for fans to enjoy the anticipation, especially those with a vested interest.

First Timers on MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

As mentioned, there are 11 newcomers on the ballot this year. None of the first year eligible players has an overwhelming case for selection, according to most experts. Here are the names of those 11 first time candidates: Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramirez, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino, and Barry Zito. Remember these names, as many are likely to be one and done when it comes to Hall of Fame eligibility.

Veterans On MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

There are also 14 veterans on the MLB Hall of Fame ballot for 2021. Some of them may be nearing the end of their eligibility, and others have seen their vote totals increasing in recent years. Among these players are names such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, and Billy Wagner. These players and their MLB Hall of Fame vote history will be discussed in the following sections.

MLB Hall of Fame Eligibility Requirements

In order to be elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, a player must meet two basic requirements. First, he must have been retired for at least five years, and, second, he must receive a minimum of 75% of the ballots submitted by voters. On the other hand, a player must receive at least 5% of the the votes to remain on the ballot the next year. Any player receiving less than 5% will fall off the ballot forever.

Falling off the ballot does not necessarily doom a player’s chances to make the MLB Hall of Fame. There is a second chance for players who fail to meet the 5% threshold. The MLB Hall of Fame has a Modern Games Committee, which considers the eligibility of those who failed to garner the necessary 75% vote to earn induction. The most recent inductees who were enshrined in Cooperstown via this process were Harold Baines and Lee Smith.

Veterans To Watch On MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

One recent phenomenon for the MLB Hall of Fame has been to release vote numbers before the deadline of December 31st. While this break from tradition has upset some members of the of the BBWAA, it is of great interest to fans who can’t wait to see who will make the cut. At this time, 33 votes out of approximately 396 have been tabulated. Here are the very early votes for some veterans of interest as of yesterday.

Barry Bonds has 69.7% of the votes, as compared to the 60.7% he received last year. This represents a sizable jump, but still falls short of the 75% needed. Perhaps the voters will decide that this is the year for Bonds, but it is far too early to know.

Roger Clemens also has 69.7% in the early vote, up from 59.5% last year. His numbers seem to be almost mirroring those of Bonds. It may well be that voters are slowly coming around on these two who have at least the perception of PED use in their past.

Manny Ramirez has seen his numbers jump somewhat so far this year. After being mired in the 20’s, with a high last year of 28.2%, he has tallied 48.5% so far. He is another player who compiled a solid career, but also carries his own baggage.

Curt Schilling hit a high of 70% last year, but the early numbers this year give him 66.7%. While that is a modest decrease, the numbers still are not overly encouraging. It may be that some of his prior votes are going to the likes of Bonds, Clemens, and Ramirez.

Gary Sheffield experienced a big increase last year, from 13.6% to 30.5%. Yet, in early voting this time around, he is at 33.3% of votes tallied. Again, these counts represent less than 10% of the total expected ballots, but the early returns are not encouraging.

Sammy Sosa, for all of his statistics, has struggled to gain traction among Hall of Fame voters. Last year, in his 8th year of eligibility, he managed to show up on only 8.5% of the ballots cast. This year, in early voting, he is at a meager 13.9%. Time may be running out for Slammin’ Sammy.

Billy Wagner makes the list because of his overall body of work. Wagner compiled 422 saves in his career, putting him 6th on the all-time list. He also compiled just under 1,200 strikeouts in 903 innings. Hall of Fame voters are not impressed, apparently. While Wagner inched up from 31.7% to 39.4% this year, he is nowhere near the requisite 75%.

Other notables and their early counts include Todd Helton at 51.5%, Andruw Jones at 30.3%, Scott Rolen at 60.6%, and Omar Vizquel at 54.5%. None of these players are a threat to enter the Hall next summer.

What Does It All Mean, Anyway?

At this point, the numbers are preliminary, at best. Then again, they may be enough to produce trend lines, and predict overall results. If that is the case, none of the players named above will be going to Cooperstown this time around. If these numbers are outliers, then maybe one or more of these players will have their numbers called with the happy news. Nobody knows for sure, but some of these stars. along with a cast of baseball fans, will no doubt be waiting with anticipation for the big announcement on January 26th.

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Mike Fisk is a lifelong baseball fan. For him, there is nothing like being at a baseball game, with the sights, the sounds, the smells. Writing about baseball is a bonus!