The National Baseball Hall of Fame released its annual ballot for the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame election Monday, putting 17 returnees and 13 newcomers up for consideration to enter the most prestigious club for anyone who’s ever grabbed a bat and glove.
Among those debuting on the ballot are three-time World Series champion David Ortiz, three-time MVP Álex Rodríguez, two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and former MVPs Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau. One former Nationals reliever also made the cut in six-time All-Star Jonathan Papelbon, though his time in Washington was far from Cooperstown-worthy.
The Nationals acquired Papelbon in a 2015 trade deadline deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Bryce Harper was in the midst of an MVP campaign and the Nationals were one game ahead of the New York Mets for the NL East lead. However, the addition of Papelbon was a precursor for the Nationals’ demise.
Papelbon took over the Nationals’ closer role, demoting Drew Storen to set-up duty. Storen had a 1.73 ERA with 29 saves in 31 chances before the trade, but he posted a 6.75 ERA the rest of the way, unable to acclimate to his new role. As the Nationals’ season took a downward turn, frustration boiled over into a dugout incident that saw Papelbon choke out Harper before teammates restrained them. Washington missed the playoffs by seven games and manager Matt Williams was fired not long after the season.
In all, Papelbon put together a 3.84 ERA with 26 saves across two seasons for the Nationals. He finished his career with 368 saves, good for the 10th most in MLB history, and had a historic World Series run with the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Yet Papelbon still faces long odds of reaching the Hall of Fame. Fellow reliever Billy Wagner sits at sixth all-time with 422 saves, but he enters his seventh year on the ballot after accruing just 46.4% of the vote last winter — well short of the 75% threshold required for entry.
Of the nine pitchers ahead of Papelbon on the saves list, only Mariano Rivera (652), Trevor Hoffman (601), Lee Smith (478) and Dennis Eckersley (390) have been enshrined in Cooperstown.