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Looking ahead to next year’s Hall of Fame ballot

World Series: Colorado Rockies v Boston Red Sox - Game 2

BOSTON - OCTOBER 25: Curt Schilling #38 of the Boston Red Sox tips his hat to the crowd as he comes out of the game in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies during Game Two of the 2007 Major League Baseball World Series at Fenway Park on October 25, 2007 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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With last night’s Hall of Fame voting announcement behind us, let’s look ahead to 2021’s ballot, shall we?

At the outset, let’s note that the Hall of Fame voters -- for as much as we like to slag on ‘em -- have inducted 22 guys in the past seven years. That’s a lot, and it has done a lot to clear out what had been a pretty annoying backlog of candidates over the past several cycles. There’s a bit more breathing room now, fewer guys who appear to be super-deserving but without hope, and some less-tough choices for those voters who tend to submit full ballots.

There’s also, however, a marked lack of obvious Hall of Fame-quality newcomers on the ballot, which could make for an interesting Hall of Fame season next December. The new names of note:

  • Mark Buehrle
  • Tim Hudson
  • Torii Hunter
  • Dan Haren
  • Barry Zito
  • A.J. Burnett
  • Aramis Ramírez
  • Shane Victorino
  • Grady Sizemore
  • Nick Swisher

Buehrle was the standard for plug-him-in-and-forget-him reliability but was a good, sometimes very good pitcher, not really a great one. Hudson began his career looking like a future Hall of Famer, but settled into more of a Hall of Very Good career. Hunter had nine Gold Gloves, speed, and power, but not enough overall career production to make a serious case.

Beyond those three you have three often pretty darn useful pitchers who had flashes of greatness, but just flashes in Haren, Zito and Burnett. Ramírez was a powerful fixture at third base for three NL Central teams, but this is the Hall of Fame, not the “Hall of NL Central during the 2000s.” Victorino was fun, but no Hall of Famer. Sizemore had Hall of Fame talent but one of the more unfortunate injury histories of any star player in recent memory. Swisher’s induction speech would be AMAZING, BRO, but unfortunately he will not get anything approaching the level of support to ever get to deliver it.

Which leaves us what, I suspect, will be some pretty big arguments surrounding some controversial holdovers. The guys you have to figure are at least in play based on the vote totals from yesterday:

Curt Schilling (70%): Schilling leaping nearly 10% in the voting with only 5% to go has to bode pretty well for him with two years to go on the ballot. I spent a lot of time yesterday arguing why he’d not deserve my vote if I had one, but I’m clearly not in the majority on that view. He’ll be the subject of a lot of heated debate about the Character Clause and how one’s non-baseball life should impact one’s Hall of Fame candidacy, but I also think he’ll get in given how close he is.

Roger Clemens (61%) and Barry Bonds (60.7%): Unlike Schilling, these two controversial guys hardly moved up at all, gaining just about a point. That’s more support than I would’ve guessed they’d ever get a few years back, but it also feels like they’ve hit a ceiling. Larry Walker showed us yesterday that a 20+ point jump in support is possible, but (a) his Hall case was one of under-appreciation being rectified in the nick of time, not one that was controversial; and (b) people actually, you know, like Larry Walker. It could happen, but I’d bet against Clemens and Bonds in 2021.

Omar Vizquel (52.6%): Omar is a guy way more likely to get the Walker treatment and make a big leap up the polls, but 23 points is an even bigger leap. If he ever reaches the summit, next year will be his Base Camp 1 to Base Camp 2 year, setting the stage for a final ascent in the future.

Which is to say that I think there’s a very good chance that next year we either see a stage empty of living inductees apart from a broadcaster or journalist or we see Curt Schilling, by himself, with a microphone and the entire baseball world more or less obligated to listen to him.

Follow @craigcalcaterra