Hall of Fame ballot loaded with big names and controversy

If you glanced at the 2022 Hall of Fame ballot that was released Monday hoping to find some prominent Nationals representation, you were sorely disappointed. Sure, Jonathan Papelbon made the list, but you probably aren’t going to find too many Nats fans excited to relive those regrettable 12 months in club history.

You’ll just have to wait another year, because among the players eligible to make the 2023 ballot is none other than Jayson Werth. We’ll have some fun with that one when the time comes.

Until then, we’re left to ponder a 2022 ballot that is loaded with names that are as significant to recent baseball history as they are controversial.

In addition to the notable returning players (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Manny Ramírez, Sammy Sosa), this year’s ballot also features some very notable first-time nominees in Álex Rodríguez and David Ortiz. Talk about some loaded legacies, huh?

Papelbon-throwing-gray-sidebar.jpgWe’ve been dealing with the drama surrounding Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Sosa for a long time now, 10 years to be exact. Which means this is the final time all four of those players will appear on the ballot presented to members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. (Any who don’t get elected could be included on future ballots considered by the various veterans committees that provide a second look at players who didn’t receive 75 percent support from the BBWAA, plus managers and other important industry figures.)

Sosa, who has never received more than 17 percent support, has no realistic shot at making up that much ground this year. Bonds, Clemens and Schilling, however, have been within striking distance for several years now.

Bonds and Clemens have received almost identical support during their decade on the ballot, and both checked in at nearly 62 percent support last year. There’s always been speculation some voters who refused to place checkmarks next to their names out of concerns about their connections to performance enhancing drugs might finally relent in this final year of eligibility and get them over the hump, but it’s going to require a lot of changed minds to make it happen.

Schilling, meanwhile, came awfully close to election last year with 71.1 percent support. Under normal circumstances, he would seem to be a lock for induction this time around, but the manner in which the three-time World Series champ has alienated himself and denigrated voters with his non-baseball-related missives makes him an absolute wild card at this point.

The BBWAA didn’t elect anyone last year, the first time that was the case since 2013, and a product in part of a lack of clear-cut Hall of Famers among the first-timers on the ballot. There are a couple of potential first-time inductees this year, though, in Rodríguez and Ortiz. Unfortunately, they come with plenty of their own baggage.

Rodríguez, despite overwhelming numbers worthy of Cooperstown, admitted he took steroids from 2001-03 while playing for the Rangers. Then after his name was included in the investigation into the Biogenesis scandal, he was suspended by Major League Baseball for the entire 2014 season. If voters adhere to the standards they’ve established over the last decade, it doesn’t seem like Rodríguez stands any chance of election, at least not in his first year on the ballot.

Ortiz presents a more nuanced case. There’s no denying his importance in modern baseball history, the pre-eminent face of a Red Sox club that won three World Series titles and one of the greatest postseason hitters ever. But the New York Times reported that Ortiz was one of more than 100 players who tested positive for PEDs during the sport’s 2003 trial program, one that was supposed to be anonymous and carried no punishments with it. Ortiz has always denied taking PEDs, and commissioner Rob Manfred even said in 2016 there were questions about the legitimacy of that 2003 survey program and it was “entirely possible” Ortiz didn’t actually test positive.

It’s up to voters now to decide how much stock to put into that saga, and whether it’s enough to keep Big Papi out.

There are 30 total players on this year’s ballot. The 17 returning players (in order of votes received last year) are Schilling, Bonds, Clemens, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, Billy Wagner, Todd Helton, Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Ramírez, Sosa, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Tim Hudson.

The 13 first-time nominees (listed alphabetically) are Carl Crawford, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Tim Lincecum, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Ortiz, Papelbon, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Rodríguez, Jimmy Rollins and Mark Teixeira.

Voters must postmark their ballots by Dec. 31. Results will be announced Jan. 25, with induction set to take place next summer in Cooperstown.

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