We’ve looked at the first–year players on the BBWAA’s Hall of Fame ballot, with Red Sox slugger David Ortiz being a possibility for induction, so now let’s check out the returning names before any new Cooperstown members are announced Tuesday.
None of the holdovers are good bets to get the necessary 75% of the vote, judging by how the public votes cast are being tracked. And these are some of the biggest names in MLB — like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are likely to fall off the ballot this week.
No matter, let’s review who is left and look at their chances in the short term and long term.
He finished second in Cy Young voting three times, made six All-Star teams, won World Series MVP in 2001 and has one of the most extensive postseason resumes in MLB history. He's 57th all time in adjusted ERA, struck out 3,116 batters (15th all time) and is 99th in career innings pitched. Jay Jaffe's JAWS system ranks Schilling as the 21st-best pitcher of all time after he put in 20 seasons with five teams, most notably with the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox.
In the context of his career, the BBWAA made a mistake in not electing Schilling to the Hall of Fame. He has the numbers; the voters just blew it. Ever since Schilling became a candidate, long before he became a social pariah (in some circles), it's been easy to find voters who didn't think he was good enough. So, to say that Schilling has been rejected only because of his off-the-field issues is false.
Ball writers vote for candidates who have conservative political ideologies all the time. They also continue to vote for worse human beings than Schilling. They vote for people who are anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-journalist or anti-democracy. Schilling's HOF vote count actually went up the more repugnant his internet posts got. That's not to say he didn't lose potential voters, but most of them ignored Schilling's outbursts. Rules allow voters to consider "character" considerations. If only more voters also paid more attention to credible domestic violence accusations against other candidates. And there's no rule saying you must vote for someone if you just don't want to.
Cooperstown chances: Shortly after results were announced a year ago, when he fell short with 71.1%, Schilling asked that he be removed from the ballot. The BBWAA denied his request. Even if he were to gain induction in his final year (which seems unlikely given that Schilling is tracking around 60%), would he accept? It's an unfortunate circus no matter how you look at it. Someday, it's possible or even likely that a historical committee will emphasize Schilling's contributions to the game and forgive (or ignore) his behavior out of it and vote him in.
He's the best hitter of all time, ranking No. 1 with 762 home runs, 2,558 walks and all kinds of other crazy numbers, but he's also an admitted user of PEDs. For enough voters, that's unforgivable and enough to keep him out. Most probably believe Bonds to be a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player regardless, but enough are withholding their votes because he is credibly accused of cheating. Rarely (if ever) do the credible charges against Bonds that he repeatedly beat his ex-wife ever get linked to someone not voting for him.
Cooperstown chances: In his final season on the BBWAA ballot, he's tracking at over 77% — but based on how the non-public ballots have gone, he'll likely finish short of induction. Someday, a historical committee might admit him.
A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens is one of the three or four best pitchers of all time. But he also was credibly accused by his former personal trainer (and others) of being a PED user. Almost never will anti-Clemens voters discuss the inappropriate relationship Clemens had with country star Mindy McCready that includes grooming allegations when she was 16 years old and he was in his 30s. McCready, who did not refute the allegations when given a chance, later took her own life.
Cooperstown chances: He and Bonds are in lock-step in the voting tracker, so Clemens probably will fall off the ballot next year. As with others, Clemens probably will have opportunities for the Hall with future voting committees.
Finally, someone who just played ball (as far as we know). A seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glove winner, Rolen might be the best defensive third baseman of his era and was one of the best of all time. He was a strong hitter, too, batting .281/.364/.490 with 317 career home runs over 17 seasons with the Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds. JAWS regards Rolen as the 10th-best third baseman of all time.
Cooperstown chances: Tracking at nearly 70% in his fifth year on the ballot, Rolen has made big strides the past two seasons and probably figures to get over the hump next time.
We're coming to understand and appreciate the totality of the Coors Field effect. While it's obvious that it's a hitters ballpark, evidence is mounting that playing in half of your games a mile high can have an adverse effect on your road performance. Taking ballpark effects into full consideration, Helton was a better all-around player than many thought over 17 seasons with the Rockies.
A five-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner who won the batting title in 2000 and was top-10 in National League MVP voting three times, Helton batted .316/.414/.539 with 369 homers (81st all time) and 592 doubles (20th). He's also 62nd in total bases and 37th in walks. JAWS ranks him 15th among all first baseman.
Cooperstown chances: He's tracking at nearly 57% in his fourth year after gaining about 15% every year on the ballot. If voters stay informed about the total effects of Coors Field, Helton has a chance to pass 75% someday.
Perhaps the first truly modern pitcher close to reaching the Hall, Wagner logged just 903 innings in his 16-season career. Mostly a one-inning-at-a-time guy, only two Hall of Famers are credited with fewer innings than Wagner — Negro Leaguers Hilton Smith and Leon Day. It is certainly due in part to incomplete record keeping. Wagner was one of the most effective closers ever, finishing sixth in saves, 44th in Win Probability Added, and he would easily have the best strikeout percentage (33.2%) of anyone in the Hall.
Cooperstown chances: He's tracking about 48% in his seventh season on the ballot after making a big jump in votes a year ago. He's a long shot now but a good bet with a future historical committee when the perceived value of relievers presumably increases.
An 11-time Gold Glove winner, Vizquel ranks ninth all time in defensive bWAR among all players regardless of position. Seven of the players ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Offensively, Vizquel was less exceptional, even among shortstops, which historically have been light hitters. Even accounting for Vizquel's defense, he's ranked just 42nd overall on JAWS.
Cooperstown chances: Vizquel had been trending upward, reaching 52.6% in 2020, but a year ago, he dropped to 49.1% after credible domestic violence allegations were made against him by his ex-wife. Additional allegations of abuse against a bat boy also became public. This season, his fourth, he's cratering in the tracker with about 11% of the vote. He might last a while longer on the ballot, but he's likely finished among BBWAA voters.
A nine-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger winner, Sheffield ranks 23rd all time in JAWS among right fielders. In 22 seasons and with eight teams, he batted .292/.393/.514 with 509 career home runs (26th all time). He's also 35th all time in total bases, 39th in runs scored and 30th in RBIs, and he ranks ahead of Alex Rodríguez and David Ortiz in weighted runs created plus. His credentials with the bat are obvious, but Sheffield also admitted to using PEDs.
Cooperstown chances: If voters won't go for Bonds, they won't go for Sheffield. In his eighth season, he's tracking at 46% — which would be his best results overall — but he'll need a seismic shift to make the Hall on the BBWAA's watch. Maybe a historical committee someday will change his destiny.
A 10-time Gold Glove winner, Jones is ranked 11th all time among center fielders on JAWS. He could be the best defensive outfielder of the past 60 years or longer. His batting is closer to average — .254/.337/.486 with 434 career home runs in 17 seasons, mostly with the Braves — but his golden work at a premium defensive position is worthy of the Hall.
Cooperstown chances: He's gaining favor with voters in his fourth season, tracking at nearly 50% on public ballots after topping out at nearly 34% a year ago. An arrest for domestic violence against his wife nine years ago has not seemed to register among voters.
A really good hitter for a middle infielder, Kent hit .290/.356/.500 with 377 home runs in 17 seasons, mostly with the Giants, Mets, and Dodgers. He won NL MVP in 2000 hitting in the same lineup as Bonds, and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three other times. He was 54th in RBIs, 69th in total bases, 30th in doubles and 98th in offensive bWAR. JAWS ranks him 21st among second basemen, fading him because of ordinary or worse defense.
Cooperstown chances: He's running out of time in his ninth season with the BBWAA, topping at 32.4% a year ago and tracking about 31% right now. Kent might find redress with a historical committee someday.
A 12-time All-Star, Ramirez is one of the 25 or so best hitters of all time, posting a .312/.411/.585 line with 555 home runs in 19 seasons, mostly with Cleveland and the Red Sox. But he failed one or several too many drug tests. Not as good as Bonds, but another one who won't get votes if Barry won't get votes.
Cooperstown chances: He’s failed to hit 30% in five seasons on the ballot, and he is tracking near 38% this season. Perhaps this future historical committee will put all the PED guys in at one time.
A seven-time All-Star who hit .273/.344/.534 with 609 career home runs in 18 seasons, mostly with the Cubs, Sosa won NL MVP in 1998 and finished in the top 10 six more times. A very good defensive player in his prime, he is ranked 18th among right fielders by JAWS. Cited in the Mitchell Report, Sosa is unfairly seen as having a career made from steroids — someone different than Bonds and Clemens, who were seen as great players without PEDs. Sosa also was accused of abuse by his ex-wife in the early 1990s, but it’s rarely made an issue with Hall voters.
Cooperstown chances: Tracking near 25% in his final year on the ballot, Sosa will need a significant reputation rehabilitation even to have a hope that someday a historical committee will consider him for the Hall.
He had a 3.85 ERA in 18 seasons, mostly with the Yankees, and finished with a 3.81 ERA in 44 postseason games. He has 256 victories in the regular season, along with 2,448 career strikeouts. JAWS ranks him 81st among pitchers all time, with 24 Hall of Famers who come after Pettitte. He was a 22nd-round draft pick.
Cooperstown chances: He's tracking around 11% in his fourth season on the ballot. There probably needs to be more pitchers in the Hall, so if the voters ever go looking for some, they'll look at Pettitte. But he's a long shot to ever get in.
He had a similar career to Pettitte (3.81 ERA, ranked 78th on JAWS), but he also threw a perfect game and a no-hitter and won four Gold Gloves. Buehrle was a 38th-round draft pick and spent 18 seasons in the majors, mostly with the White Sox.
Cooperstown chances: He’s doing a little better than 5% in tracking in his first season, but Buehrle is going to cut it close to remain on the ballot next year.
A nine-time Gold Glove winner and four-time All-Star, Hunter was probably more appreciated by those who got to watch him play. He batted .277/.331/.461 with 353 career home runs in 19 seasons, mostly with the Twins and Angels, and he made a lot of highlight-reel plays, robbing at least 12 home runs. JAWS ranks Hunter 36th among center fielders.
Cooperstown chances: Hunter didn't break 10% in his first year on the ballot and is tracking at not-quite 2% this season. If he doesn't get a swell of votes from the unpublished electorate, he'll be off the ballot next year.
Voters could do worse than Abreu, who hit .291/.395/.475 in 18 seasons, mostly with the Phillies. His 288 career home runs aren't impressive, but he's 25th all time in doubles and 74th all time with 400 stolen bases. JAWS rates him 20th all time among right fielders. Abreu, perhaps surprisingly, is 48th in Win Probability Added. He was a good defensive player and very under-appreciated. MLB could use a few more ballplayers like Abreu.
Cooperstown chances: He's tracking about 11% in his third season on the ballot. He's not going to get in anytime soon, if ever.
He finished in the top five for Cy Young voting four times. He posted a 3.49 ERA over 3,127 2/3 innings. JAWS ranks him 72nd all time. There are many, many worse pitchers in the Hall of Fame than Hudson (as well as Buehrle and Pettitte).
Cooperstown chances: Hudson is tracking around 3%, which is a crock. He is the kind of player who needs to stay on the ballot so the debate can continue for a number of seasons. He's not an obvious Hall of Famer, but we buried that standard a long time ago. He deserves to have his case heard, and nobody is really listening. And getting a second chance with a historical committee like Jack Morris did is unlikely, as Hudson has no iconic World Series appearances to hang his hat on.