Thoughts on the HoF Non-Class of 2021 (or ‘The One Where I Try Not To Talk Much About Schillin
As has been well covered at this point, the BBWWA did not vote to induct anyone into the MLB Hall of Fame Class of 2021, the first time. Given the Class of 2020, featuring Derek Jeter, wasn’t able to have their ceremony last year due to COVID, they won’t have to share the stage with more inductees this year. There is a part of me that likes that Jeter doesn’t have to share the spotlight with more inductees.
The closest to induction this year was Curt Schilling with over 71% – sixteen votes short of the 75% threshold. Behind him were Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens with 61.8% and 61.6% respectively. Schilling has since made the dramatic statement that he does not want to be included on the ballot next year, which would be his final year of eligibility, which the Hall is taking under advisement.
It’s hard not to talk about Schilling without acknowledging his politics, mostly because it has embodied much of his identity since his retirement and that was an active decision on his part. That being said, I’m not going to delve into that part of the story, as I don’t think it is actually relevant to his candidacy and politics is not the sport we talk about in this space. Schilling’s initial statement was short, maintaining he’s never thought he was a Hall of Fame player, one of the few things I agree with him about. However, he doesn’t so much leave the door open for the veterans’ committee to come calling than he begs them to do so, which I personally think makes his entire show of taking his name off the ballot ridiculous.
Schilling was a good pitcher who flirted with greatness. He picked up some rings, has ensured his name lives on in baseball history because of a bloody (?) sock, and made plenty of friends and enemies in the process. I’ve often seen his candidacy compared to Mike Mussina, who was inducted in 2019. Moose was one of my favorite pitchers, but if I were a betting person I probably would have put my money on both Moose and Schilling missing out, so I was ecstatic when Moose was selected. When you compare the pitchers, they are pretty close, but Moose had a more consistent career, a slightly higher WAR, and stronger numbers in general. Wins are stupid, but the fact that Schilling only has 216 may still hurt him more than any of his other controversies.
Regardless of whether Schilling is kept on the ballot or not, next year’s class will be one to watch. Bonds will be facing his final year on the ballot and his numbers have climbed significantly from the 36.2% he got on his first ballot. If it weren’t for the PED scandal, Bonds and Clemens would have made the Hall quickly. They were no-doubters until they were caught and I think that they still would have had good enough numbers if they hadn’t juiced. The same goes for Alex Rodriguez, who will be on the ballot for the first time in 2022, along with David Ortiz. Schilling likes to point out that he didn’t “cheat” – and that is probably true, but he was never on the same level as them.
I don’t think Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, or Ortiz will make it into the Hall next year, but I do think that they all have a strong chance of getting inducted. Looking at Bonds and Clemens as the early test cases of the PED era, the fact that they have surpassed 60% tells me that the attitudes are changing. In my opinion, players like Bonds, Clemens, and Rodriguez should be in the Hall. Get Pete Rose in there, too.