With Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling off the ballot, next year's Hall of Fame vote figures to be a bit less contentious.
Then again, the top newcomer arrives with his own recent baggage. Forget about steroids for a minute, it's time to talk about sign stealing.
Carlos Beltrán is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2023, and although the sweet-swinging outfielder had a distinguished career at the plate and in the field, he was implicated in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. It cost him a managing job with the New York Mets.
It's unclear whether voters will treat Beltrán as harshly as they have Bonds, Clemens and various other stars whose accomplishments have been called into question by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use. All of Bonds' home runs and Clemens' Cy Young Awards weren't enough for either to reach the 75% threshold for induction to the Hall in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and they were both rejected in their 10th and final year on the ballot.
Schilling turned off voters with his behavior in recent years, including social media posts about Muslim extremists, transgender people and journalists. He and Sammy Sosa also fell short in their 10th year in the voting announced Tuesday. David Ortiz was the only player elected.
Needless to say, next year's ballot will look a lot different.
Beltrán stands out on next year's eligibility list: A nine-time All-Star, his 20-year career included 435 home runs, 312 stolen bases and some impressive postseason numbers. Beltrán finally won a World Series in his final season — with Houston in 2017.
When that team was later investigated, MLB said Beltrán was among those involved in the illicit use of electronics to steal signs. The Mets, who had hired him to be their manager, parted ways with him before he was even in charge a single game, although A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora — two other managers who were cut loose amid the fallout from that scandal — are now back in charge in big-league dugouts.
ROLEN INCHING CLOSER
Scott Rolen is the top returning player on next year's ballot after receiving 63.2% of the vote this time around. He was in his fifth year under consideration and improved from 52.9%.
Ryan Thibodaux, who runs an online Hall of Fame ballot tracker, said sometimes if a player's support surges among voters who release their ballots publicly, it takes a little longer for his support to grow among voters who keep their choices private.
“You saw it with (Tim) Raines and you saw it with Edgar (Martinez) and you saw it with Larry Walker. When those guys made their big jump, they still didn't make a big jump on the private ballots,” Thibodaux said. “But that did happen the next year. But the only caveat with that is that the private-ballot jump with all of those guys was always their 10th year on the ballot. So with Rolen, he's got five more years after this year. There's no real imperative, time-wise.”
It was a mixed bag for some of the game's top relievers this year. Billy Wagner improved from 46.4% to 51%, but Joe Nathan (4.3%) and Jonathan Papelbon (1.3%) fell off the ballot on their first try.
Next year, Francisco Rodríguez is eligible for induction. He is the single-season record holder with 62 saves in 2008.
Aside from Beltrán and Rodríguez, it's hard to see any other newly eligible players getting much support, although Matt Cain, Jayson Werth and Mike Napoli had their share of memorable moments during their careers.
Voters are allowed to choose a maximum of 10 players for induction, and this year, 33.8% of the electorate used all 10 slots. That was up from 14.5% the previous year.
That wasn't a huge surprise, given that nobody was voted in by the BBWAA last year, and none of the players were in their 10th year of eligibility either.
“Nothing got cleared off the ballot at all, so there was just not a lot of openings for the sort of ‘big Hall' voters," Thibodaux said. “Obviously, that will be kind of the most interesting thing next year. The ballot is kind of going to be wide open with just Beltrán coming on as kind of the main newcomer.”
Indeed, with Ortiz voted in and Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa out of eligibility, voters who used all 10 slots this year could have some openings they'll want to fill. Don't assume someone like Rolen will benefit that much, however. Of the 92 ballots on Thibodaux's tracker that had all 10 spots accounted for, only six of them omitted Rolen, so he may not have a lot of room to improve among that group of voters.
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