The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
HOF voters faced with big decisions for 2021 class

The 2021 class of HOF-eligible players is not very strong this year. The probability of seeing a first-ballot election is practically nil. There are no Mariano Rivera or Derek Jeter-caliber players making their ballot debut this year. In fact, I don’t think any of the new entrants will ever get serious consideration. In my opinion, first-timers Tim Hudson, Mark Beuhrle, and Torii Hunter were decent players, but are not Hall-worthy. So, how should voters look at years like this, when even many of the eligible carryover players (from previous years) are on the fence of being Hall-worthy?

Given the above situation, should voters give more consideration to the PED era players on the ballot? Several of them, namely Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Manny Ramirez, were top echelon players when it comes to the Hall of Fame’s statistical standards. However, if a voter continues to take the stance of omitting all suspected or positive-tested PED users from his ballot, does he then cast a vote for a borderline player instead? Or cast a ballot with less than ten votes?

The baseball writers who make up nearly 400 voters have some tough choices to make this year. If any of them are looking for inputs, here’s my two-cents worth.

My carryovers from the 2020 class include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Todd Helton, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, and Jeff Kent; and I’m sticking with them.

As I stated in my blog last year about the Hall of Fame voting, I’ve put the PED era stigma behind me. I’ve always believed Bonds and Clemens should be elected, and then last year I added Manny Ramirez. I no longer tried to differentiate players who were suspected of PED use versus those who actually tested positive.

Bonds and Clemens seemed to have stalled out in their percentage of votes in the 2020 class balloting. Neither of them substantially increased their percentages from the year before. They have only one more year after this one to reach the minimum 75% of the votes. It would be very telling if they stayed at the same percentage again this year.

Schilling got to 70% last year and appears to be on track to be elected this year. It’s been a long struggle for him. I believe the baseball writers ultimately came to appreciate his post-season performances (in 19 games, he posted a 11-2 record, 2.23 ERA, and 0.968 WHIP for three different teams).

I’m definitely in the minority in voting for Sheffield. In his six years on the ballot, he’s managed to get to only 30.5%. I believe he’s been negatively affected by PED suspicion, but when you look at his slash line (.292/.393/.514) and OPS+ of 140, (not to mention his 509 home runs and 1,675 RBIs), he’s hard to ignore. The fact that he played for eight different teams during his career may have contributed to the perception of him as a journeyman ballplayer.

Todd Helton had a ten-year period when he had an impressive slash line of .332/.432/.585 and averaged 30 home runs and 108 RBIs. He was at 29.2% after his second year of eligibility. I think he’ll have a big increase this year.

I voted for Vizquel and Kent for the first time last year, but admittedly I included them only to fill out my ballot with ten votes. Kent’s in the top three second basemen in history for slugging percentage. However, like Sheffield, he’s only garnered 27.5% after seven years on the ballot. Vizquel is arguably the best defensive shortstop in history although he never hit for much power in an era when shortstops were expected to contribute offensively. However, he managed to get 52.6% in his third year. Vizquel’s percentage could be hurt by recent negative press regarding alleged physical abuse of his wife.

The top of this year’s list of new eligible players includes Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, Barry Zito, and Aramis Ramirez. They were all-stars during their careers but were hardly of the superstar category. I’m not voting for any of them.

That leaves two more votes I could add. I’m of the opinion that a Hall of Fame ballot should include the top ten players eligible that year. My rationale is that one can’t reliably predict the worthiness of Hall of Fame induction of players up to ten seasons in the future, so one should pick the best currently eligible players. That implies one or more of the players may not be on a voter’s list in a subsequent year, if indeed more worthy players come along. The argument against this approach is that a player is either a Hall of Famer or not—that voting for them shouldn’t depend on who else is eligible in a given year. Thus, one could wind up with less than ten votes.

So, my last two votes go to Billy Wagner and Andruw Jones.

Of the top thirty relief pitchers with a minimum of 300 saves (which includes seven existing Hall of Famers), Wagner has the third-best ERA (2.31) and third-best strikeout percentage (33.2%), while being tied for third-best in batting average of balls in play (BAbip) with .265. His career WHIP was 0.998. He collected 31.7% of the votes in his fifth year of eligibility.

Jones is one of the best defensive centerfielders of all time. He was a Gold Glove winner in eleven consecutive seasons (1997-2007), while averaging 30 home runs and 100 RBIs during the same period. He garnered 19.4% of the votes in his third year of eligibility, so he would have to make a big jump this year to stay in the hunt.

The PED era remains on trial during this year’s voting. The outcome could have a direct bearing on two of next year’s eligible players, Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, both connected to PED use. This could be the year in which several players will gain significant ground in reaching 75%, due to a relative shortfall of viable candidates. Let’s see what happens.

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