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dan shaughnessy

Baseball Hall of Fame voting is approaching a critical intersection, and other thoughts

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.Hans Pennink/Associated Press

Picked-up pieces while opening the envelope containing the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot . . .

▪ We are at a critical mass regarding Cooperstown voting these next two winters. Among the candidates who did not gain the needed 75 percent of the vote last year, Curt Schilling (70 percent), Roger Clemens (61 percent), and Barry Bonds (61 percent) had the highest vote totals. Like him or not, in a year with no strong new candidates, Schilling is a virtual lock to vault over the 75 percent mark when results of this year’s election are announced Jan. 26.

Clemens and Bonds, like Schilling, are in their ninth year on the ballot. Candidates are tossed if they don’t get elected in 10 years. This is where the collision of baseball history looms next winter.

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Assuming Clemens and Bonds don’t reach 75 percent this year — both are tainted by steroid suspicions (Clemens’s name is all over the Mitchell Report, while Bonds admitted to unknowingly using steroids) — they will get one last chance when the ballots are mailed next year.

This means that their last chance would coincide with the first year of eligibility for David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. Despite his suspicious career trajectory and 2003 failed test, Ortiz is going to sail into Cooperstown in 2022 (A-Rod will not, but he’ll have nine more years on the ballot).

Big Papi has Hall of Fame numbers and is beloved by the baseball community, especially commissioner Rob Manfred. On the day Ortiz retired in 2016, Manfred flew to Boston and gave him what amounted to a presidential pardon, instructing Hall voters not to trust results of the 2003 baseball drug testing in which Ortiz came up positive.

A-Rod, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez were three other players whose names were illegally leaked from the 2003 test results.

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If Clemens and Bonds don’t make it this year or next, their only remaining chance would be future selection by one of the Hall’s veterans committees. Those committees are highly unlikely to forgive players suspected of using PEDs.

Summary: In all likelihood, Schilling will share the Cooperstown stage next July with Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons, and Marvin Miller (all elected for 2020, but not inducted because of the pandemic). In the summer of 2022, Cooperstown’s doors will swing open wide for Ortiz, quite possibly the same year Clemens and Bonds are banished forever.

▪ Theo Epstein secured his spot in the Hall by toppling curses in Boston and Chicago and now has a Hall of Fame quote to go on his plaque. A Moneyball, card-carrying member of Bill James Youth, Theo stepped down from the Cubs this past week and said baseball “is the greatest game in the world but there are some threats to it because of the way the game is evolving, and I take some responsibility for that because the executives like me who have spent a lot of time using analytics and other measures . . . have unwittingly had, you know, a negative impact on the aesthetic value of the game and the entertainment value of the game. I mean, clearly, you know the strikeout rate’s a little bit out of control and we need a way to get more action in the game, get the ball in play more often . . . ”

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Amen to all of the above. The Red Sox teach their pitchers to avoid “the chaos of the ball in play.” Hence, an unwatchable product. Great to see Theo giving voice to it.

I rule out nothing when it comes to Epstein’s future. He could be president someday. He is only 46 years old. The Mets and their fans are salivating. Never rule out a return to the Red Sox.

And don’t forget his contributions to the 2018 champion Sox. Seven years after Theo left, the Sox won with a number of his players, including Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Christian Vazquez, Matt Barnes, and Brandon Workman.

▪ Quiz: 1. Name the two Hall of Famers who made the final outs when Medford’s Bill Monbouquette threw a no-hitter for the Red Sox against the White Sox in August of 1962. 2. Name an NBA championship roster that had three players with last names of US presidents — presidents who served back-to-back-to-back. (Answers below.)

▪ The Red Sox should take note of the results of the New England Sports Survey conducted by Channel Media & Market Research released last Monday. In a poll of almost 16,000 fans conducted in November, the Sox fared poorly in almost every category.

When fans were asked to rank the “most admired team for the way they run their organization,” the Patriots finished first at 55 percent, followed by the Celtics (30 percent), Bruins (27 percent), then the Revolution and Red Sox (4 percent each).

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The Sox were listed below the Revolution. Which makes them fifth in a pretty important category. There’s work to be done on Jersey Street.

▪ Happy to see the Red Sox found a spot for the capable J.T. Watkins, who unfairly took all the blame for the cheating scandal of 2018. Moving forward, Watkins will be part of the Sox’ professional scouting department.

This is a departure from the Patriot Way, in which scandal-tainted employees evidently go into some form of witness protection program and are never heard from again. Please drop a dime if you ever see Matt Estrella, Matt Walsh, Jimmy “Hotfingers” McNally, John “Dorito Dink” Jastremski, or Dave Mondillo.

▪ Bet you didn’t know that Walter Johnson ran for Congress in Maryland’s Sixth District in 1940. The Big Train ran as a Republican (a righty, of course) and lost to William Byron, who said, “He never said one unkind or uncomplimentary thing about me.’'

▪ Pass Go and collect $200 if you knew that Bob Cousy and Jim Kavanagh are the only two people enshrined in both the Boston College and Holy Cross athletic Halls of Fame. Cousy was an HC guard and BC basketball coach. Kavanagh played football at The Heights, was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, and has been a Holy Cross track coach since 1971.

▪ In Case You Missed It: The Globe’s Peter Abraham reported on a skull-imploding posting for a job opening in the Red Sox analytics department. I won’t rewrite the entire posting, but qualifications include “advanced understanding of statistical methods or machine learning techniques, proficiency with modern database technologies including SQL, demonstrated experience with programming languages (e.g. R or Python).”

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Hmmm. So much for a veteran scout who can tell you when a young hitter has trouble with the curve.

▪ President-elect Joe Biden was among those celebrating on the field in Minneapolis after the Eagles beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII in February 2018.

▪ If James Harden winds up with the Nets, sign me up for hate-watching a Brooklyn team with Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant.

▪ Former Holy Cross JV basketball player Rick Daigneault is the dad of Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault.

▪ Ray Allen to the New York Post: “Winning the championship in Boston in 2008 was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. I came from Seattle where I’m shooting the ball 18, 19 times a game, and I go to Boston where it’s eight or nine times a game.”

From 2007 to 2008, Allen’s scoring average went from 26.4 ppg to 17.4 ppg.

▪ Every member of the 1960-61 world champion Celtics — Gene Conley, Bob Cousy, Gene Guarilia, Tommy Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Jim Loscutoff, Frank Ramsey, Bill Russell, Tom Sanders, and Bill Sharman — lived to be at least 80 years old. Eight of them made it to the Hall of Fame.

▪ Signing every great high school basketball player in the nation, Geno Auriemma claims he wants to make the UConn’s women’s program “bad for basketball again.”

▪ The tanking 0-9 Jets have a legit chance to match the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history. Four of the Jets’ remaining seven opponents have 6-3 records, and Seattle is 7-3. Sunday’s match with the 2-7 Chargers looks like the best chance for a win.

▪ I’ve already bought my plane ticket for UMass football at Iowa on Nov. 15, 2025.

▪ The Patriots Pro Shop is sending out e-mails and offering 25 percent off for copies of the Bob Kraft hagiography, “Dynasty.”

▪ Quiz answers: 1. Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox; 2. The 1979-80 Lakers had Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon, and Don Ford (too bad Fred Carter retired in 1977).


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.