DETROIT (AP)Derek Jeter’s election to the Hall of Fame marked the seventh straight year with at least one first-ballot honoree.
That streak is probably over in 2021.
Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter and Mark Buehrle are among the newcomers expected on the next ballot, and although those three accomplished plenty as major leaguers, they seem unlikely to sail straight into the Hall the way Jeter and Mariano Rivera did in the past couple votes. Instead, the focus will turn to a number of holdovers, at least one of whom is inching closer to induction.
Curt Schilling was selected on 70% of the ballots this year. Candidates need to reach 75% to be elected by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Other players whose positions improved significantly this time included Omar Vizquel (42.8% to 52.6%), Scott Rolen (17.2% to 35.3%), Billy Wagner (16.7% to 31.7%), Gary Sheffield (13.6% to 30.5%) and Todd Helton (16.5% to 29.2%).
Rivera was elected unanimously in 2019, when he was inducted along with Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina. Jeter and Larry Walker are going into the Hall this year. Jeter fell one vote shy of unanimity.
Don’t expect that kind of consensus a year from now. Without much competition for ballot slots from the next group of newcomers, the holdovers could progress further, but only Schilling seems close enough to have a good chance of induction in 2021. If fewer than two people are elected by the BBWAA, it will be the first time that’s happened since nobody reached the 75% mark in 2013.
Things to watch in the next Hall of Fame vote:
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Schilling figures to be the center of attention. He excelled in that spot as a pitcher – his postseason exploits with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Phillies have been well documented – but his Hall of Fame candidacy may become even more contentious the closer he gets.
Schilling is no stranger to controversy. In 2016, he was fired as an analyst by ESPN for his Facebook comments about transgender people.
He has two more chances to be elected before his time on the ballot would run out.
BONDS AND CLEMENS
There wasn’t much movement this year for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the two most prominent players whose candidacies have been held back by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use.
They were both just under 60% last year. This time, Clemens received 61% and Bonds 60.7%.
Bonds and Clemens have two more chances on the ballot, and if they’re going to have any real surge, it doesn’t seem likely until their final year.
Sammy Sosa also has two years left, but at 14% he’s much further back.
PLENTY OF TIME
Walker made the Hall this year in his final year on the ballot, completing a remarkable rise after he received only 10.2% of the vote in 2014. That gives at least some hope for someone like Andruw Jones, who just received 19.4% in his third year.
Vizquel and Rolen were also in their third year and finished well above Jones, so their prospects will be worth watching in 2021.
There’s still broad disagreement over how to evaluate relievers. Trevor Hoffman got in on his third try and Rivera his first, but Wagner didn’t reach the same stature as those two. Perhaps he can build some momentum after taking a step forward this year.
Helton moved up in his second year on the ballot, although he still faces questions about how much playing in Colorado helped his offensive production. The induction of Walker, who also spent time with the Rockies, may help Helton a bit.
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