On Tuesday night, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced one newcomer in the 2022 class: Boston Red Sox legend David Ortiz.
As most baseball fans are aware, eligible candidates who receive 75% of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s (BBWAA) support in any cycle over a 10-year period are elected to the Hall of Fame. If an eligible player fails to receive 5% of the vote at any point, that player is no longer considered for induction.
In some years, the BBWAA has voted no one into the Hall (like last year). The Golden Days Era Committee can select rejected candidates much later down the road.
This year, there were 394 ballots submitted (including six blank forms), and nominees required 296 votes to be elected. Ortiz, in his first time on the ballot, received 307 votes from the baseball writers, which accounted for 77.9% of the total.
Players’ use of PEDs and Hall of Fame voting
Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds and former New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens received 66% (257 votes) and 65.2% (260 votes). They fell short in their 10th and last year on the ballot. Both have publicly been accused of using steroids. The two provocative figures did improve on their 2021 voting percentages, which were 61.6% (247 votes) for Clemens and 61.8% (248 votes) for Bonds … but they ran out of time.
The 16-member Golden Days Era Committee will be meeting in December, and the committee members could decide to review their cases and elect them. For this to happen, three-quarters of the committee (12 members) would have to vote them in. This is a high bar and clearly not a given.
How well did other former Yankees players do in the voting?
In addition to Clemens, six other former Yankees players were on the ballot this year. The vote totals for these players were:
- Andruw Jones: 41.1% (163 votes)
- Gary Sheffield: 40.6% (160 votes)
- Alex Rodriguez: 34.3% (135 votes)
- Andy Pettite: 10.7% (42 votes)
- Bobby Abreu: 8.6% (34 votes)
- Mark Teixeira: 1.5% (6 votes)
The future for the other Yankees on the ballot appears grim right now, and it’s uncertain whether any of them will ever equal or exceed the minimum 75% vote margin necessary for selection to the Hall.
Controversy has followed Alex Rodriguez’s baseball career. Given his sordid history with PEDs and the public and legal debate surrounding his drug use, it was no surprise that he polled poorly in his first year on the ballot.
By comparison, Clemens received 37.6% (214 votes) and Bonds received 36.2% (206 votes) the first time they were on the HOF ballot (in 2013), both a little higher than A-Rod.
This year’s vote for Clemens and Bonds suggests that writers as a group have become increasingly forgiving about these two players’ drug use over the previous 10 years. So, maybe there’s some hope that Rodriguez will eventually be elected to the Hall.
At the same time, Rodriguez’s candidacy is arguably more intricate and complex, and right now, it appears that he may have an even steeper mountain to climb. Of course, the climate could continue to change for him during his next nine years of eligibility.
Younger writers tend to be more forgiving about steroid use, and enough young writers would have to replace veteran writers for A-Rod to be voted into the Hall, along with enough older writers changing their opposition to him.
If the Golden Days Era Committee selects Clemens and Bonds for the Hall at the end of this year, BBWAA members might be more comfortable supporting Rodriguez’s election to the HOF in the future.
Sheffield received the identical vote percentage in 2022 (but three fewer votes) as he received in 2021. This was his eighth year of consideration, and it’s doubtful he’ll be able to increase his support among the writers by approximately 35% over the next two years of his remaining eligibility.
Jones improved his vote total in 2022 by 7.2% from last year. Next year will be his sixth year on the ballot, and he will have to increase his vote total each year by roughly the same margin to gain entrance over the next five years of his eligibility. A significant challenge, to say the least.
As far as the remaining three former Yankees are concerned, Pettitte lost 3% of his support this year compared to last year. He’s obviously going in the wrong direction. Abreu barely made the 5% threshold to remain on the ballot another year, and poor Mark Teixeira only received six votes despite his solid career stats playing first base. Teixeira probably fared terribly because other first basemen already in the Hall have much better hitting numbers than him.
The curious case of Curt Schilling
This was former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s last year of eligibility. As most fans are aware, the former Yankees nemesis has caused a great deal of trouble for himself by spouting offensive, prejudicial public comments. He was a terrific pitcher, and someone with his stats would normally have been elected to the Hall by now. In fact, his vote totals have been increasing every year, and he was nearly elected last year after garnering 71.1% (285 votes) of the ballots.
Following the 2021 vote, Schilling asked that his name be removed from the ballot for his final year of eligibility. The Hall of Fame considered his request, but rejected it. Given how close he was to the required 75% threshold, many analysts thought he would be voted in this year despite his past behavior.
His support among the writers dramatically dropped in 2022, and he only received 58.6% (231 votes) of their votes. Perhaps many writers felt that if he really doesn’t want to be in the Hall of Fame, why should we vote him in? It’s anyone’s guess how the Golden Days Era Committee will view his polarizing candidacy.
But in the end, we face a long road ahead, now that Ortiz’s election as a first balloter has complicated everything in the realm of steroids since he tested positive in 2003, whether it was legitimate or not.