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Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling

Three controversial stars approach the Hall of Fame threshold. Is 2021 their year?

Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens are inching closer, but none is a lock. Here’s whom the Globe’s six voters picked — and why.

Published Jan. 12, 2020

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected 13 players to the Hall of Fame the last four years, clearing out what had been an overstuffed ballot.

For at least this year, that surge is expected to abate — if not be shut off entirely.

The only player on the ballot trending in the direction of Cooperstown is former Red Sox righthander Curt Schilling, who reached 70 percent last year, a 9 percent jump from 2019.

Many believe Schilling has the statistical credentials for enshrinement, but he continues to damage his candidacy after praising the mob that overtook the US Capitol on Jan. 6, which resulted in at least five deaths and calls to impeach President Donald Trump.

Schilling fell 20 votes shy last season. Whether he can make up that gap will be the story of this election cycle.

Barry Bonds (60.7 percent) and Roger Clemens (61 percent) had their best showings a year ago but moved ahead by less than 2 percent because of their ties to performance-enhancing drugs. Next year will be their final time on the BBWAA ballot, as would also be the case for Schilling if he does not get in this year.

Ballots were due on Dec. 31. The Hall of Fame announcement is set for Jan. 26. Any players elected would join Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, and Larry Walker for induction on July 25. The Class of 2020 had its induction ceremony postponed by the pandemic.

Players on the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Below are the 25 players nominated for this year’s Hall of Fame vote. Players must appear on 75% of ballots to be inducted.

NameYears on ballot2021 Globe votes2020 votes receivedChange over 2019
Curt Schilling 9 5 +9.1%
Roger Clemens 9 4 +1.5%
Barry Bonds 9 4 +1.6%
Omar Vizquel 4 1 +9.8%
Scott Rolen 4 2 +18.1%
Billy Wagner 6 1 +15%
Gary Sheffield 7 0 +16.9%
Todd Helton 3 2 +12.7%
Manny Ramirez 5 2 +5.4%
Jeff Kent 8 2 +9.4%
Andruw Jones 4 0 +11.9%
Sammy Sosa 9 0 +5.4%
Andy Pettitte 3 0 +1.4%
Bobby Abreu 2 0
Tim Hudson 1 0
Mark Buehrle 1 0
Torii Hunter 1 0
Dan Haren 1 0
Barry Zito 1 0
Aramis Ramirez 1 0
Shane Victorino 1 0
A.J. Burnett 1 0
Nick Swisher 1 0
LaTroy Hawkins 1 0
Michael Cuddyer 1 0

Note: Players are removed from the ballot if they appear on fewer than 5% of ballots or after 10 years without election.

John Hancock/Globe Staff

Easy choices, based strictly on performance

By Peter Abraham

For the ninth time in as many years, my Hall of Fame ballot included a check next to the name of Curt Schilling. But if he gets in, I’ll take a pass on any celebration.

abraham’s ballot:

  • Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
  • Curt Schilling Curt Schilling
  • Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
  • Todd Helton Todd Helton
  • Scott Rolen Scott Rolen
  • Billy Wagner Billy Wagner

Schilling has the credentials. He finished his career with 3,116 strikeouts, 216 victories (only three fewer than Pedro Martinez) and was one of the greatest postseason performers of his generation.

But he’s also somebody who has used his celebrity to question the validity of a school shooting and falsely accuse former major leaguer Adam Jones of lying about a racist incident at Fenway Park.

Schilling has a long history of hateful comments. A player who once deservedly won the Roberto Clemente Award for community service sure devotes a lot of his time to tarnishing that legacy.

The Hall of Fame asks us to take a player’s character into account, and I can’t argue with any voter who cites that as a reason not to vote for Schilling.

But judging the character of a baseball player is like trying to hit a knuckleball. It’s a moving target. The Hall of Fame already has players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs and others from decades ago who were unrepentant racists.

There are beloved Hall of Famers whose comments about social issues would have melted Twitter had they gone public.

I cast my ballot based only on what a player did on the field, and in that sense, Schilling is an easy choice.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Scott Rolen, and Billy Wagner were my other holdovers and remain on the ballot. If you dig into the numbers, which is our duty, Rolen and Wagner have compelling cases.

The colossally underrated Bobby Abreu got a long look, as did Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield. But I did not vote for them.

Jones, in my view, was not dominant over a long enough period of time. Sheffield was an offensive powerhouse but has to be judged in the context of his time. He’s very close but not quite there.

It was good to see Shane Victorino on the ballot. He is not likely to receive many, if any votes. But it’s impressive that a player who was twice selected in the Rule 5 Draft ended up on the ballot after a career that included two World Series rings, two All-Star selections, and four Gold Gloves.

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Despite all the baggage, his feats were just too bloody good

By Bob Hohler

I became a fool for Curt Schilling. He is a fake patriot, a former Army brat who never served in the military but draws valor from his father’s service as a “Screaming Eagle” in the 101st Airborne and from promoting his collection of uniforms and swastikas worn by Nazis, who murdered millions.

hohler’s ballot:

  • Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
  • Curt Schilling Curt Schilling
  • Roger Clemens Roger Clemens

He is a phony warrior against government waste. As a multimillionaire, he crossed into Rhode Island to grab a $75 million government-backed loan to pursue his vanity video-game concept that proved to be an utter waste.

Now he is an apologist for armed insurgents who stormed the US Capitol, leaving five people dead, including a police officer. He is a peddler of baseless propaganda, blaming his political enemies for the repugnant attack, as if anyone other than the Trump-inspired mob fastened a noose to a wooden structure in front of the Capitol while other rioters shouted “Hang Mike Pence.”

Like Donald Trump, the Russian sympathizer he reveres, Schilling appears to be a full-blown narcissist. One day, he fancies himself running in Arizona for a US House seat. Another day, he publicly toys with running for governor in Massachusetts. Then he announces he may run in Massachusetts for the US Senate. Now his Twitter handle is “President Elect Curt Schilling."

Yet for the ninth straight year, I have voted to induct him in the Hall of Fame. I cast the vote both because of his career major league credentials and because in 2004 I witnessed him seal his reputation as one of the game’s greatest postseason pitchers.

In storybook fashion, Schilling delivered on his pledge to break the Red Sox franchise’s 86-year championship famine by twice submitting to experimental surgeries — medical acts of desperation — on his torn ankle tendon. As blood soaked through his sock, he stifled the Yankees in Game 6 of the historic American League Championship Series and subdued the Cardinals in Game 2 of the World Series to help liberate Red Sox fans from generations of October gloom.

I believe Schilling belongs in Cooperstown not just for his postseason prowess (11-2, 2.23 ERA, with three World Series rings) but for his 216 career wins and 3,116 strikeouts over 20 years on the mound. In casting my ballot, I chose to separate the baseball player from the post-career personality he became. I take no pleasure or pride in the vote.

I also voted again this year for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens after dropping my opposition to their candidacies last year in part to honor the Globe’s beloved late baseball columnist Nick Cafardo.

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PED guys are still out, and no newcomers are in

By Bob Ryan

Nope. Sorry. Couldn’t do it.

ryan’s ballot:

  • Curt Schilling Curt Schilling
  • Omar Vizquel Omar Vizquel
  • Todd Helton Todd Helton

If Messrs. Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Ramirez get into the Hall of Fame this year, it won’t be because of me. I will spare you my annual discourse about how the PED issue has put added stress on Hall of Fame voters. Just go look up what I wrote last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

I also didn’t go for any debutants, as the Brits would say. There are no drop-dead new candidates on the 2021 ballot. I would be stunned if any newcomer crashed the party. So … I did vote for three holdovers. Ready?

1. Curt Schilling. I don’t think I want to go have a beer with him. Lord knows I don’t want to discuss politics with him. But I believe that whenever he was healthy, Schilling was not just a good but a downright great pitcher and deserves to be in the Hall.

He did not compile a dazzling career win total (216), but that had a lot to do with health and bad luck. Not many guys strike out 300 three times (back-to-back in 1997-98). Not many guys have a career strikeout/walk ratio of 4.38/1 or lead in that category five times. Not many guys lead the league in WHIP 10 years apart (1992, 2002).

And then we come to the postseason. The man was 11-2 with a 2.23 career ERA. He fanned 120 and walked 25. He even threw two honest-to-God shutouts.

It’s Year 9. The clock is ticking. C’mon, guys and ladies. Hold your nose and put a check beside his name. If you want to boycott the induction ceremony, I can’t stop you.

2. Omar Vizquel. Full disclosure: I’m a big proponent of great defensive players. I long championed Bill Mazeroski. I voted for Mark Belanger, if you can believe that. Before it’s all over, I may wind up voting for Andruw Jones. And you’d better believe I will continue to vote for Vizquel, until I can’t.

To me, it’s an easy call. Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves at a very demanding position, nine of them in succession (1993-2001). You can argue that he and Robbie Alomar were the greatest double play duo ever.

He played in a great shortstop era, overlapping with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and even Nomar Garciaparra, and thus was somewhat overlooked in his prime.

What many people don’t realize is that he sneaked in 2,877 switch-hitting base hits when they weren’t looking. He also helped his team by leading the league in sacrifice hits four times. He scored 100 runs twice and he had 80 or more runs 10 times. He had almost as many walks (1,028) as strikeouts (1,087).

But what he did that should earn him a spot in Cooperstown was play shortstop as well as anyone ever has, and what really sets him apart is that he was still a viable major league shortstop at age 45.

3. Todd Helton. Yeah, yeah, I know. He spent his entire 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies, which means half his time was spent in a notorious hitter’s park. Funny how no one else has matched his Rockies career, isn’t it, though?

Maybe, just maybe, the guy was pret-ty, pret-ty good.

For what it’s worth, his 162-game average season was as follows: .316, 27 homers, 101 runs batted in, .953 OPS. He led the league in OBP twice, with a high of .463 in 2000. He twice topped 400 total bases. He had one five-year run of OPS totals ranging from 1.006 to 1.162.

Oops. Almost forgot the three Gold Gloves to augment the four Silver Sluggers.

Frankly, I don’t care if he did it in Coors Field or at the Little League World Series. He gets my vote.

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Just one candidate clears all the hurdles

By Dan Shaughnessy

Oh for those days of seeing Brooks Robinson, Ken Griffey Jr., Mariano Rivera, or Derek Jeter on the ballot.

shaughnessy’s ballot:

  • Jeff Kent Jeff Kent

You know the type: Top shelf, no dust. Dominant at their position in the time they played without a whiff of artificial enhancement or dubious baggage.

Having sifted through the dossiers and wrestled with the BBWAA’s elastic “rules for election,” my ballot this year is returned with a check mark for one player: second baseman Jeff Kent.

Odd, I know. But I’m still on the steroids wall, even though that is getting increasingly difficult. Next year is the final year of ballot eligibility for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds — the best pitcher and hitter, respectively, of the era in which they played. This is to say nothing of the candidacies of Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield, PED-tainted sluggers with obvious Cooperstown numbers.

Next year is the first year of eligibility for David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, and my belief is that the beloved Papi will waltz into the Hall while all the others remain barred.

Kent has been dissed by voters, including me, in his first seven years on the ballot. But take a look. Certainly he wasn’t a great fielder, but among all big league second basemen, he ranks first in homers (377) and third in RBIs (1,518) — more than both Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan.

Kent was National League MVP in 2000 and he was on five All-Star teams. He has better numbers and a higher WAR than Bobby Doerr. Kent was dominant at his position in the era in which he played. He clashed with teammates and seems to have been a general churl, but his Giants manager, Dusty Baker, vouches for him and I’m grudgingly voting for him. Wish it were more clear.

Curt Schilling cracked 70 percent last year and it’s rare that a 70 percenter does not vault across the finish line, but early tracking of Hall votes indicates Schill is not a lock to be enshrined this year. His dangerous and disgraceful rhetoric of last week when he supported the criminal mob that attacked our Capitol will not be used against him this year because ballots were submitted by Dec. 31.

Try to remember that Schilling is far from a slam-dunk candidate who has been kept out for his off-field nonsense. Schilling received less than 40 percent of the votes in his first three times on the ballot — all before 2016. He won fewer games than contemporaries Tim Hudson and Kenny Rogers, and his Baseball-Reference “similarity score” concludes that the pitcher he most closely resembles is Kevin Brown.

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There’s some suspense this time — or is there?

By Michael Silverman

‘Tis the season for not pleasing, also known as the annual New Year’s tradition of a BBWAA member explaining a Hall of Fame ballot. So, let’s get to it; wring the hands, check the boxes, and release the hounds.

silverman’s ballot:

  • Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
  • Curt Schilling Curt Schilling
  • Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
  • Scott Rolen Scott Rolen
  • Manny Ramirez Manny Ramirez

First, let’s acknowledge that this year’s first-time candidates did not generate excessive, or really any, agonizing from this voter. Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, and Torii Hunter sit atop the 2020 first-timers’ heap, but there’s no shame in being enshrined in the Hall of the Very Good.

I’m going to keep an open mind about a few names still lingering on the ballot — Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wagner come to mind — but for now, their boxes shall remain unchecked, as they have with me from the start.

Eagle-eyed readers just looked up and realized that minus my two votes from last year that got in (Derek Jeter and Larry Walker), I must have submitted the same ballot as I did then. Or did I? Maybe I changed my mind and dropped someone I voted for last year. Again, did I?

In the spirit of the manipulative scriptwriting that permeated HBO’s whodunit “The Undoing,” I’ll save that answer for the end.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens: From here to eternity, Bonds and Clemens get lumped together on my ballot. Ever since I wrestled with the character clause about a vote for Mark McGwire on my first ballot 15 years ago, I’ve left that carnage behind me and have not looked back.

Bonds and Clemens were the dominant player and pitcher of their era, and a vote for each is reflex by now.

Manny Ramirez: When it comes to Hall of Fame voting, I suppose I am simply amoral. I do not distinguish between using PEDs before baseball implemented testing or after, when Ramirez managed to test positive more than once. I am swayed, however, by phenomenal hitters.

Scott Rolen: He’s a bubble guy in my mind, which means he requires a long, close look. A thorough examination of Rolen’s career reveals an all-around third baseman with few peers, most of them already in Cooperstown.

Curt Schilling: Ha, this is where the suspense ends, at least for one fellow voter (who shall remain nameless) who lobbied me to stop voting for Schilling for purely non-baseball reasons — something about his political and social views being heinous enough to disqualify him.

Going down that road to make Hall of Fame decisions is a stroll I’m not taking.

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MLB opened the door, so over the threshold they go

By Tara Sullivan

Last year, my first as a BBWAA Hall of Fame voter, I went 2 for 7. That’s a .286 batting average, certainly not enough to gain me entry into a Hall of Fame anywhere.

sullivan’s ballot:

  • Barry Bonds Barry Bonds
  • Curt Schilling Curt Schilling
  • Roger Clemens Roger Clemens
  • Jeff Kent Jeff Kent
  • Manny Ramirez Manny Ramirez

But I did go 2 for 2 on the most important selections, those of Derek Jeter and Larry Walker, the only two players to be elected in 2020. They haven’t had their celebration yet, not with the pandemic postponing everything until the summer of 2021. As the Hall welcomes two classes in one, I send in a ballot that is also like two classes in one. My second-ever ballot has no changes from last year other than not needing to include Jeter and Walker.

As much as that is a reflection on a relatively weak class of first-time-eligible players (I mean, Nick Swisher? Really?), it also represents no change of heart over the five other names I ticked off last year: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, and Curt Schilling.

As always, the question of steroids rears its ugly head. But there again, my mind has not changed since last year.

Though I once avowed that I would never vote for anyone suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs, it was Major League Baseball itself that changed my mind. In ignoring the juiced-up era long enough to enshrine former commissioner Bud Selig, it opened the door to the likes of Bonds, Clemens, and Ramirez, the very players who buoyed Selig’s tenure to new and lucrative heights.

And the way I see it, each was a Hall of Fame player without the extra push, proving so before baseball turned desperate in its effort to reclaim its fans and steroids managed to hide for so long so easily in plain sight.

Beyond that, Kent’s numbers are Hall of Fame-worthy, even if his Q Rating never was. And acknowledging Schilling may be difficult to swallow for those who dislike his personal politics, but his baseball bona fides are as robust as they are clutch. He’s in.

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  • Reporters: Peter Abraham, Bob Hohler, Bob Ryan, Dan Shaughnessy, Michael Silverman, and Tara Sullivan
  • Editor: Katie McInerney
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