The results of the Baseball Hall of Fame election will be revealed Tuesday night, and for the first time in a while, nobody knows what to expect.
There have been obvious first-ballot selections the last seven years, with players such as Pedro Martinez, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Ken Griffey Jr.
In all, 22 players have been elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America during that time.
But there were no superstars among the newcomers to the ballot this season, leaving the voters to wrestle again with three candidates in particular: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Curt Schilling.
Bonds and Clemens have moved up in recent years but aren’t in striking distance of 75 percent.
Schilling fell 20 votes short last season and was a good candidate to make up the gap. But the protests that roiled the nation last summer have put a bigger spotlight on Schilling’s various comments over the years and he has lost some votes.
Every indication is it will be a close call and should make for a more dramatic moment than usual when Hall of Fame president Tim Mead makes the announcement on MLB Network.
This could be Schilling’s best chance at the Hall, given his propensity for divisive statements. He would have one final year on the BBWAA ballot if he does not get in this time.
Others might disagree, but I don’t cringe at the thought of what Schilling would say in his induction speech. I know him to be a student of baseball history with a deep appreciation of those players who came before him.
I believe Schilling would treat the moment with respect and stick to baseball.
My guess — or maybe it’s more my hope — is that nobody will be elected by the BBWAA for the first time since 2013. This feels like a good year to take a break and think it over again.
More debates are coming with David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez making their debut on the next ballot.
Rodriguez has managed to rehab his image to a point where he was invited to President Biden’s inaugural with Jennifer Lopez, and ESPN just extended his deal with “Sunday Night Baseball.”
But Rodriguez admitted to PED use from 2001-03 and was suspended for all of the 2014 season for using HGH after what was an ugly fight with the Yankees, MLB, and even the Players Association. He seemingly is headed for the same purgatory as Bonds, Clemens, and Manny Ramirez.
Ortiz reportedly tested positive for a banned substance as part of what was intended to be an anonymous survey test in 2003. But commissioner Rob Manfred exonerated Ortiz in 2016, saying those tests were inconclusive.
A few other thoughts as we wait for the Hall announcement:
▪ Let’s say Schilling gets in. What cap should be on his Hall of Fame plaque?
The righthander played nine years for the Phillies but had his most success with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. Schilling had better statistics for Arizona but arguably made a bigger impact on the game with the curse-busting Sox in 2004.
The Hall of Fame makes the final decision on the cap, with input from the player.
The best choice could well be no choice and a blank cap, like Roy Halladay, Catfish Hunter, Greg Maddux, and others. That would take the teams off the hook, too.
The Red Sox inducted Schilling into their team Hall of Fame in 2012 but have kept their distance in recent years. He was not invited to take part in a ceremony before Game 2 of the 2018 World Series that included some other members of the 2004 team.
▪ Based on tracking done by the indefatigable Ryan Thibodaux and his team, there’s a chance that none of the ballot newcomers will reach the 5 percent needed to stay on the ballot.
Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunter have received the most support among that group.
▪ One former Red Sox player, albeit briefly, who seems to be gaining traction is Billy Wagner. He received only 10.5 percent of the votes in his first year on the ballot in 2016 but moved up to 31.7 percent last year, and the latest tracking data have him at 47.2 percent.
Wagner, who appeared in 15 games for the Sox in 2009, had 422 career saves, sixth all-time. That’s far fewer than Rivera (652) and Trevor Hoffman (601). But Wagner had a lower ERA and more strikeouts than Hoffman.