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Will Schilling, Bonds or Clemens make it?

January 21st, 2021

We’re less than a week from this year’s Hall of Fame results and we don’t blame you if you can’t feel the excitement in the air.

While Hall of Fame season is usually ripe with controversy, debate and grandstanding, this year’s conversation is the most ho-hum that it’s been in years.

None of the first-year candidates have a chance to get in — there’s not a sure-thing new candidate for the first time in years. Likewise, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens aren’t on track to be voted in either.

In fact, there’s a good chance no one gets in this year. It would be the first time since 2013 the Baseball Writers Association of America didn’t vote anybody in. The only person who can “save the day” — and boy is this going to sound weird — is Curt Schilling.

We’ll learn the results for sure on Tuesday, but until then, here are the storylines to keep an eye on.

(Note: All early voting numbers come from the indispensable 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker by Ryan Thibodaux, Anthony Calamis, Adam Dore and John Devivo).

Is anybody actually going to get in?

This is the big question this year and if you’re the type to put money down, don’t bet on it. We’re in a year of Derek Jeter hangover (he still hasn’t been inducted by the way) with no huge new names on the ballot. The biggest ones? Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter.

On the ballots that have been made public so far by voters — about 40 percent of the final expected total — no player has over the necessary 75 percent of the vote. The closest is Curt Schilling, who is right on the edge with 74.8 percent. Roger Clemens (71 percent) and Barry Bonds (71.6 percent) are both above 70 percent, but not as close as Schilling.

The rub here is that these early returns are usually as high as things get. Last year, Schilling’s total went down 7.3 percentage points from the public ballots to the actual results. Bonds and Clemens were even bigger falls — 9 points for Clemens and 10.2 points for Bonds.

After that, there are a number of guys who are playing for the future. More on that in a bit.

Curt Schilling, the former Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox star who has spewed hate speech in his retirement, could be the only candidate who makes the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2021. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

So maybe only Curt Schilling, huh?

Maybe. The former Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox star is the only person with a chance, albeit a small one. It would be a weird culmination of the past year if Schilling — a controversial name on the ballot because of his politics — finally made it into the Hall of Fame.

After his playing career, Schilling has given himself over to extreme right-wing politics. He was fired from an analyst job at ESPN for continuing to post offensive memes and endorsing violence against journalists, and has since continued to spew hateful, sometimes racist, speech.

If Schilling were to finally make it in the weeks after the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 — which he endorsed on Twitter — it would be a major storyline and stir further debate about the role of the Hall of Fame.

The magic number for Bonds and Clemens

This is year No. 9 of 10 for Bonds and Clemens, so it’s more about setting themselves up for one final run at Cooperstown if they fall short. Last year, they finished with about 60 percent each. If they can get to 70 percent this year — again, doesn’t look good — they’d at least be setting themselves up for success in 2022.

Generally speaking, if a player can get to 70 percent, that’s the benchmark for eventually getting in. With one year left, 70 would seem to be the magic number for them both.

A number of candidates are making moves

This year might be remembered for a number of players making the climb toward Cooperstown relevancy. Even if they’re not going to reach 75 percent, we’ve seen a few on-the-fence players take big steps toward one day getting there.

  • Todd Helton: 54.8 percent, up from 29.2 last year

  • Scott Rolen: 65.8 percent, up from 35.3 last year

  • Andruw Jones: 41.3 percent up from 19.4 last year

  • Billy Wager: 48.4 percent up from 31.7 last year

In these individual Hall of Fame stories, 2021 might be the year that got them there.

Almost all the new players are in danger of falling off the ballot

The other side of this is just staying on the ballot. Players need 5 percent of the vote to stick around for another year. So far, almost every new player on the ballot is on track to fall short, the only exception being Chicago White Sox great Mark Buehrle (8.3 percent).

  • Torii Hunter: 4.5%

  • Tim Hudson: 3.8%

  • Aramis Ramirez: 0.6%

Barry Zito, Nick Swisher, Michael Cuddyer, A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins and Shane Victorino have all yet to receive a single vote.

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