The Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the Class of 2021 on January 26 at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network. Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens have the best chance of getting in, but according to Ryan Thibodaux’s ballot tracker, no one is on track to get in right now.
You can see the qualifications of this year’s ballot at Baseball-Reference, but we asked our writers who they would elect to the Hall of Fame, if they had a vote.
Jesse Anderson: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling
Given the lack of punishment handed out by baseball for the Astros cheating scandal, I feel holding known PED abusers in the 90s and early 2000s to a higher standard is unfair. Bonds and Clemens are two of the greatest ball players in history and need to be represented.
Ryan Heffernon: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa, Billy Wagner
I am a big believer in the Eli Manning Hall of Fame case. That is, you can’t tell the story of the NFL without Eli Manning. The same goes for Sammy Sosa. The home run race in 1998, regardless of the steroid controversy it covered up, saved baseball. And similar to Eli, Sammy’s case is built around a very short window of domination. Over half of his career fWAR came during a five-year span from 1998-2002 when he hit 292 home runs, nearly half of a career total that only eight players have ever eclipsed. There are many players that are better than Sosa, but none of them have had a better stretch of home run hitting than Sosa, and that should mean something.
If Mark McGwire’s candidness and apologetic position on his steroid usage is the gold standard for steroid users, Manny is on the other side of that spectrum. He was caught multiple times for steroid use in an era where it was now explicitly forbidden, unlike the era of Bonds and McGwire. However, those suspensions came well after his prime, and steroid use was no less wrong for the previous generation than it was for Manny. So, if we’re letting other users in, why not Manny? He isn’t a borderline case like Sosa or McGwire either. He is top-10 all-time in OPS and SLG% and was maybe the best pure hitter of his generation.
Hokius: No one
I submit a blank ballot. I’m tired of arguing - mostly with myself - about the Hall of Fame. It’s impossible to know who had “good character.” It’s impossible to know who used steroids and how much people benefited from them. If 3000 hits or 500 home runs or whatever guarantees you get into the Hall of Fame then why do I need a Hall of Fame? I can just pull up a list of guys who pulled off that feat.
I’m tired of thinking about who just missed and who barely got in and why Mariano Rivera is the only unanimous selection of all-time. We talk all the time about how baseball is a team sport and no single person can do it all and then enshrine individuals? What sense does that make? I’m not even 40, yet, I’m not supposed to be this jaded, but Hall of Fame ballots and the ridiculous reasons people come up with to include some individuals and/or exclude others have just worn me down. If Thanos snapped the Hall of Fame out of existence I wouldn’t even miss it a tiny bit.
Josh Keiser: Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Billy Wagner
Regarding the PED guys that were pretty obviously on them, I threw out the seasons where it was either proven or obvious that they were on something and Clemens/Bonds are still deserving in my head. I too disagree with a lot of the things Schilling says, but he’s undeniable. I think Rolen and Wagner are both shoe-in’s at some point even though they both have ground to cover. Jones, Helton, and Abreu are all on the bubble to me but I’d give them the nod. And, for the record, I think Schilling, Clemens, and Bonds all get the call this year and we can look at this class as a controversial one as a whole.
Bradford Lee: No one
I believe the Hall of Fame is a sacred place that honors the very best who ever played. This years ballot, in my humble opinion, contains players who fall into three categories:
Players who should be in the Hall of Very good
I don’t consider myself a Small Hall guy, but I do believe there is a fine line between players who were very good and players who were truly great.
David Lesky: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen
I really struggled with this vote. You have slam dunk candidates who have steroid concerns, slam dunk candidates if not for being busted for said steroids and some interesting names in the middle. To me, Clemens and Bonds are among the best players of all-time and the HOF tells the story of what happened, and boy did they happen. I went back and forth on Rolen, but in the end decided he was worth it.
The two I had the toughest time with were Todd Helton and Curt Schilling. Schilling, well, he probably should be in, but I think it’s close enough that the off-field stuff keeps him off my ballot. I don’t know. I guess if I hem and haw this much, he should be out. Helton was a phenomenal hitter and probably stacks up pretty well with Rolen, but I went with my gut and left him off. Maybe next year. Or maybe he should have been this year. This was harder than it should have been.
Shaun Newkirk: Bobby Abreu, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Sammy Sosa
Bonds is the best hitter of all time, while Clemens is the pitcher version of Bonds. Steroids aren’t a big deal for me as we don’t know who was on them, what they did for those who were on them, and they weren’t fully outlawed.
Rolen and Jones are two excellent defenders even if you don’t buy into the pre-2002 defensive metrics and good hitters to boot. Sheffield is the opposite of Rolen and Jones but maybe those same pre-2002 defensive metrics are too severe.
Manny and Sosa were legends on and off the field and two of the biggest deep threats in history. Helton shouldn’t be hurt by his position or Coors Field. Pettitte is one of the thirty best pitchers all time and Abreu just a consistently long and impressive career.
Max Rieper: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling
It seems silly to have a Hall of Fame and not include one of the best hitters of all-time in Bonds, or one of the best pitchers of all-time in Clemens (or Pete Rose, for that matter). Manny Ramirez was of course, suspended for PED use, but he did his time for that, serving a suspension, that doesn’t mean we can just ignore his career in which he hit 555 home runs with an insane OPS of .996. Was it probably a bit inflated? Sure. But he was still one of the most feared hitters of his time, and was heads and tails above a lot of those other juiced-up sluggers.
Curt Schilling has abhorrent views, but this is about his playing career, and he was one of the best pitchers in the game for a long time. I can understand not wanting to give him a platform, especially during these times, so I don’t know what the right answer is, I just know that he was a Hall of Fame pitcher.
sterlingice: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Billy Wagner
This feels like the first time in many years where the ballot wasn’t too stuffed. Some of these are simple: Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are no-brainers unless you leave them off due to steroids, Scott Rolen is a slightly above-average HOF third baseman, and Curt Schilling is a slightly above-average starting pitcher and an awful human being (and I strongly thought about leaving him off). Wagner is clearly the third-best closer since the role transitioned to its “modern” definition and I think that merits inclusion.
Then it gets more difficult. Todd Helton has HOF numbers for a first baseman if you don’t discount him for playing in Coors. Similarly, Manny Ramirez’s offense offsets his awful defense but, again, you have to look past his chemical proclivities. As I argued last year “Sosa’s traditional numbers and 1998 story deserve enshrinement” while I argued against Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones, and Bobby Abreu. I still don’t get the support of Omar Vizquel and I went back and forth about Jeff Kent but Jay Jaffe’s argument against him swayed me. No one else really merits much of a look but there’s a lot of Hall of Very Good on there.
By our ballots, only Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
The Royals Review Hall of Fame ballot
Who would you vote for?