The 2021 Hall of Fame ballot officially was announced Monday, and though there are 25 notable names on the list the most notable thing about this year's ballot might just be what's not on there: a slam-dunk Hall of Famer.
None of the 14 new additions to the ballot are guaranteed to reach the 75 percent vote threshold necessary for induction. And even among the 11 returning players who have the best case for induction, there's nobody you can say with absolute certainty will be elected.
Curt Schilling came closest to induction last year after being named on 70 percent of ballots. The former Orioles, Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox right-hander has a good chance to gain 5 percent, but he's hardly a lock.
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds? They've been stuck right around the 60 percent mark for years now, and they're running out of time. This is their ninth attempt at election by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. They'll get one more attempt in 2022 before they come off the ballot.
Omar Vizquel (52.6 percent), Scott Rolen (35.3 percent), Billy Wagner (31.7 percent) and Gary Sheffield (30.5 percent) all have been gaining some momentum, but still have a long way to go. Todd Helton (29.2 percent), Manny RamÃrez (28.2 percent), Jeff Kent (27.5 percent), Andruw Jones (19.4 percent), Sammy Sosa (13.9 percent), Andy Pettitte (11.3 percent) and Bobby Abreu (5.5 percent) round out the returning contenders.
The best of the newcomers are Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter. There's certainly a case to be made for any or all of them, but none is a sure-fire, first-ballot selection. The rest of the first-timers up for consideration: Dan Haren, Barry Zito, Aramis RamÃrez, Shane Victorino, A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher, LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer.
There will always be a faction of baseball fans that, upon seeing names like Haren, Swisher and Cuddyer, will question why any of them is included on a Hall of Fame ballot. But the point has never been to suggest these players are serious Cooperstown candidates.
It's simply a way to recognize a group of players who had long, solid careers. Just making the ballot is something of an honor in itself.
That's why this particular voter was disappointed by a handful of players who didn't even make this year's seemingly small ballot. (Most years, there are 30 to 35 names on there.)
To be eligible, a player must have spent at least parts of 10 seasons in the major leagues and have been retired for five years. Typically, just about everyone who meets those qualifications makes the ballot. Not this year.
Among those who qualified but weren't selected were Adam LaRoche, Grady Sizemore, Dan Uggla, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rios and C.J. Wilson. Yep, three guys with Nationals connections.
Look, I'm not going to try to make the case that LaRoche, Uggla, Soriano or any of those other players are worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. But I think they were worthy of inclusion on the ballot, if for no other reason than to give us all one more chance to look back at their careers and appreciate what they did.
You don't have to convince Nationals fans how much LaRoche meant to the club's first two division titles. In 2012, the smooth-swinging first baseman hit 33 homers with 100 RBIs, won the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger awards, and finished sixth in National League MVP voting. In 2014, he hit 26 homers with 92 RBIs. Yeah, he could be awfully streaky at the plate, but LaRoche was a critical contributor to some of the Nats' best teams.
Uggla and Soriano's best days came before they ever got to D.C. Uggla was a decent slugger and a three-time All-Star for the Marlins and Braves. And Nationals fans will forever remember "The Dan Uggla Game" in Atlanta in 2015, when he tripled, homered and drove in five runs during a crazy 13-12 victory against the team that was still paying the majority of his salary, then did a postgame interview covered in chocolate sauce.
Soriano, who made a name for himself with the Braves, Rays and Yankees, probably isn't remembered fondly by Nats fans who wished he hadn't been signed to bump Drew Storen out of the closer's role. But how many of you remember he totaled 75 saves in only two seasons in D.C., tied with Sean Doolittle for third-most in club history behind Chad Cordero (113) and Storen (95)?
See, that's exactly why I wish these guys made the Hall of Fame ballot, so we had reason to re-examine their careers and remember the good things they did.
No, there was never any reason to think any of them would be enshrined in Cooperstown, but what's the harm in giving them one final moment in the spotlight?
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