On Tuesday night the Hall of Fame announced the results of the 2022 election by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Former Red Sox Designated Hitter David Ortiz was just barely elected – sneaking 12 votes over the minimum to gain entrance in his first year on the ballot.
Ortiz can probably credit his quick election to the 10-ballot slog needed by fellow DH Edgar Martinez and the improbable election of Harold Baines. Those two opened the door for greater Hall consideration for DH’s.
Ortiz finished his career with 51 fWAR. That’s well behind Martinez’s 65.5 but light years ahead of Baines at 38.5.
Here’s Ortiz’s election phone call, with some of my particular brand of humor thrown in:
I want to be the person who gets to make this phone call.— Jason Hill (@JPHill_Cards) January 26, 2022
Except I hate making phone calls, so I would do it by text message or maybe a mail merge form letter. I want Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz to have to wait outside by his mailbox for the mailman. Everyday for a week. https://t.co/f3poPL6syg
There were few surprises on the rest of the ballot. Barry Bonds finished with 66 percent of the vote. Roger Clemens came in just behind him at 65.2. These two hold significant records within Major League Baseball but can’t shake the stain of steroid abuse from their best performances.
Their cases will now be taken up by the “Hall of Fame Today’s Game Committee”, a committee title clearly developed by a committee. There is no indication at this point about how that committee is likely to act on Bonds and Clemens. My guess – and this is purely a guess – is that Rob Manfred and MLB will push their election off as long as possible, creating a decade or two of forgetfulness between the corruption of the steroid era and the contemporary game. Eventually, I think they will both get in.
The same probably will not be true of others implicated in steroid abuse on this current ballot, including Gary Sheffield and Manny Ramirez, whose Hall of Fame credentials are not so strong, even with known steroid abuse.
Alex Rodriguez, himself suspended for a full season for steroid use, was in his first season on the ballot and finished at 34.3%, just behind Sheffield.
Meanwhile, former Cardinal Scott Rolen continues to make significant progress with the baseball writers. Rolen jumped to 63.2% this year, up from 52.9% in 2021. He entered the ballot at just 10.2% back in 2018. His steady rise combined with his inarguable statistics and staunch support from the “new voter” bloc within the BBWAA should see him to election as soon as 2023.
Let the campaign begin!
2020 - 52.9%— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) January 26, 2022
2021 - 63.2%
2022... Cooperstown? pic.twitter.com/FXr4Iu6aqF
Other notable finishers include Todd Helton, who has now climbed to over 50% after also starting in the mid-teens. As a first baseman with just 54.9 fWAR, his Hall of Fame case is a bit murkier than Rolen’s. It is, however, worthy of significant conversation and debate. I would guess his election will depend on who else enters the ballot in the next few years. A few dry years would help his cause. Having to contend with big names would probably hold him back.
Billy Wagner has also continued a steady ascent. You can read my argument for Wagner here. Wagner’s case among relievers is stronger than Helton’s by position. It’s been difficult for relief pitchers to gain much traction among the voters, many of whom view relievers as second-tier players or “failed starters”.
Why that argument doesn’t apply to “failed first baseman” David Ortiz is anyone’s guess. If you enter the Hall of Fame voting process from the BBWAA expecting logic, reason, or consistency then you’re going to be disappointed.
Here’s the rest of the ballot:
Full Hall of Fame results from @officialBBWAA pic.twitter.com/iQeztaGIJB— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) January 25, 2022
If you think that 2023’s ballot will bring some relief from controversy, think again. The debate over ARod’s candidacy will replace the Bonds and Clemens discussion, leaving us mired for at least another few years with never-ending steroid discussions.
Other forms of cheating also enter the picture. The strongest first-year candidate for election next year will be Carlos Beltran. The former Cardinal, Met, Royal, Astro, and Yankee has 67.9 fWAR, was an elite defender, and has over 400 HRs and 300 SBs. He’s one of the best center fielders in recent history. He also was implicated in the Astros’ cheating scandal.
It’s hard to say how much that will affect his candidacy. My guess? Not much among the voters. See David Ortiz and his positive steroid test.
Beltran might not be a first-ballot Hall of Famer by the BBWAA’s standards even without the cheating issue on his resume.
My predictions on 2023? With most of the ‘roiders cleared out by the 10-year rule, the popular Ortiz out of the way, and the recently scandalized Beltran as the only notable addition, Scott Rolen will get pity votes for some who want to make sure the Hall doesn’t go a year without an election. Add that to his solid existing cadre and Rolen will get in with just over 75% of the vote.
The continued debate should be… fun? That brings me to my favorite Cardinals’ Twitter Tweet-of-the-Day from Sarah Anne, who is always good for a laugh. I think she captured my thoughts on this whole conversation perfectly:
Maybe the real Hall of Fame is the friends we made along the way— Sarah Anne ? (@sarahanne1212) January 26, 2022
Thank you, Hall of Fame, for bringing all of us so much closer. (Grabs guitar… starts singing Kumbaya…)
See you Saturday right here at VEB with some actual talk about actual people who might actually play baseball this season!