For much of his 20-year career, David Ortiz commanded attention. From the pitchers charged with getting him out to the fans who dared not leave their seats nor change the channel, nobody looked away when Big Papi came up to bat.
This week, the baseball universe will fix its gaze on him once more.
The Hall of Fame voting results will be revealed at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and the occasion is light on suspense. Thanks to the disclosures of nearly half the voting body and the work of industrious ballot-tracker Ryan Thibodaux, it’s apparent that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens won’t get the three-quarters majority required for election in their final year of eligibility via the writers’ ballots. Ditto for Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa. And Alex Rodríguez will be nowhere near the 75% threshold in his first year go-around.
Only Ortiz stands in the way of a second consecutive year without an inductee by the writers. He was trending favorably (83.6% with 166 ballots known through Saturday), but Thibodoux’s accounting shows that players often fare better on public ballots. Percentages typically decrease when the final tally is announced, leaving Ortiz with some breathing room, but not much.
Regardless, the results will demonstrate more than merely who will be feted in July in Cooperstown, N.Y., including whether any of the seven former Phillies on the ballot stand a chance at future enshrinement. Here is some of what we expect to learn Tuesday:
Did the Hall run out the clock on Bonds and Clemens?
Long-standing members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America comprise the electorate, but the Hall of Fame sets the rules, from designating the voters to choosing the candidates. And in 2014, the Hall decided to reduce the maximum number of years on the writers’ ballot from 15 to 10.
The timing was suspicious. Bonds and Clemens, the greatest hitter and pitcher of their generation but stained by connections to performance-enhancing drugs, were entering their third year on the ballot. By shortening the term limit, wasn’t the Hall of Fame decreasing the likelihood that they would ever get to 75%?
Bonds made his biggest one-year jump in 2017, going from 44.3% to 53.8%, but meager gains since en route to 61.8% last year. Clemens has been in virtual lockstep, topping out at 61.6% last year. Both had picked up only three votes among returning voters but 11 from first-time voters through Saturday, according to Thibodoux’s tabulations.
At that rate, Bonds and Clemens won’t reach 75% this year. Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten there by 2027 either. Maybe most of their detractors will never change their minds. But Jim Rice was at 54.5% after his 10th ballot and made it on his 15th; Bert Blyleven seemed stuck at 47.7% in his 10th year and got elected in his 14th.
Could Bonds and Clemens have followed those paths, especially if they inch closer to 65% this year? We’ll never know.
Has Schilling chirped his way out of Cooperstown?
After falling 16 votes shy of election last year in his ninth bid with the writers, Schilling asked to be removed from the ballot. The Hall of Fame denied his request.
Now, the writers are poised to reject the former Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox ace one last time.
Entering the weekend, 23 voters were known to have dropped Big Schill from their ballots after checking his name last year, turning him from a near-miss to a long shot. Their motivations undoubtedly vary. But it may be that voters who for years held their noses and backed Schilling for the Hall despite his objectionable tweeting and messages of intolerance that got him fired from an analyst job at ESPN could no longer separate the person from the pitcher.
At least Schilling will get his wish to be judged by one of the Hall’s 16-member era committees, which are made up of Hall of Famers, executives, and media members. But will he fare any better with that group?
Is Scott Rolen the next Phillie to get into the Hall?
It sure looks that way.
After debuting on the ballot in 2018 with 10.2% of the vote, Rolen jumped to 17.2% in 2019, 35.3% in 2020, and 52.9% last year. He has picked up 13 votes from returning voters, according to Thibodoux’s tracker, as appreciation keeps growing for his combination of 316 career home runs, 122 OPS+, and eight Gold Gloves at third base.
Rolen probably won’t reach 75% this year, but it’s possible he climbs above 60%. With five more years of eligibility, the only question seems to be whether his messy separation from the Phillies (he got traded at the deadline in 2002) and his World Series triumph with the Cardinals in 2006 will result in a St. Louis cap on his plaque.
Can Jimmy Rollins and Bobby Abreu stay on the ballot?
The Hall stipulates that a candidate may remain on the ballot by polling at 5% or better. It may be close, but Rollins and Abreu, in their first and third years of eligibility, are on pace to eclipse that threshold. Ryan Howard, a first-timer, seems likely to fall short.
Rollins, in particular, has a debatable Hall of Fame case. While the analytics crowd dings him for his OPS+ (95) and Wins Above Replacement (47.6), he holds the Phillies record for hits (2,306), snatched four Gold Gloves at shortstop, and was the engine for teams that won five consecutive division titles, two pennants, and a World Series.
If J-Roll falls short of being a Hall of Fame-level player, it isn’t by so much that he should join the ranks of recent undeserving one-and-dones, notably Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton.
Besides, with Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa coming off the ballot and no slam-dunk newcomers next year (Carlos Beltrán would be but for his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal), players such as Rollins and Abreu may receive more consideration in a less overcrowded field.
What about A-Rod?
If neither Bonds nor Clemens, who played most of their careers in the Wild West days before MLB instituted drug testing, couldn’t reach 75%, well, good luck to Rodríguez, who lied about using PEDs before getting suspended for the entire 2014 season.
A-Rod was tracking at 40.6% through Friday. It will be interesting to see if he can top Bonds’ 36.2% showing as a ballot rookie. Voters generally seem less forgiving of the cheaters who kept cheating after baseball finally began cracking down. Just ask Manny Ramírez.