Sports·The Buzzer

Why the Baseball Hall of Fame did not add anyone this year

CBC Sports' daily newsletter explains why voters decided against electing anyone into this year's Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Complicated figures Bonds, Clemens, Schilling were all on the bubble

Hall of Fame candidate Roger Clemens won two of his seven Cy Youngs with Toronto. (Carlo Allegri/AFP via Getty Images)

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports' daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what's happening in sports by subscribing here.

For the first time since 2013, voters decided against adding any new players to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

This was not unexpected. Thanks to a baseball fan named Ryan Thibodaux who combs the internet for voters revealing their picks and publishes this super-handy tracker, we could surmise before the vote that three players had a realistic shot at getting in: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling. Players need to be named on at least 75 per cent of ballots to make it, and those were the only three guys close to the threshold.

That trio would have made quite the class. They're three of the most polarizing players ever — revered by many for their achievements on the field, reviled by others for their various transgressions.

Bonds holds the two most important records in baseball — for home runs in a single season (73) and all-time (762). He won seven MVPs, owns a hilarious .444 career on-base percentage and has the highest Wins Above Replacement ever for someone who didn't pitch.

Clemens has the third-highest WAR ever for a pitcher, trailing only Walter Johnson and Cy Young (and technically Babe Ruth, though obviously the all-time WAR leader did the bulk of his damage at the plate). He won an MVP and seven Cy Youngs, including two with the Jays.

Schilling's WAR isn't as impressive, but he's sandwiched between two legends — Pete Rose and Joe DiMaggio — on the all-time list. He never won a Cy Young, but he was runner-up three times, racked up more than 3,100 strikeouts and helped the Red Sox break their 86-year championship curse by pitching on an injured ankle that caused his famous bloody sock.

Schilling's problem is that he's always been a bit of a blowhard, and in recent years he's alienated fans (and some Hall of Fame voters) with controversial comments and social-media posts. After the Capitol riot he tweeted: "You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan's and big screens, sit back, stfu, and watch folks start a confrontation for s--- that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption. #itshappening" Reportedly, this caused some voters who'd already submitted their ballots to ask the Hall to cancel their Schilling pick.

Bonds and Clemens aren't the nicest guys either, but the beef with them is more about their connections to performance-enhancing drugs. A not-insignificant portion of the electorate simply refuses to vote for anyone tainted by possible PED use, no matter how good their stats are.

If any of Bonds, Clemens or Schilling had been voted, it would have launched a thousand pieces of content in the sports media universe. Baseball could have had a day or two in the sun. Based on the polling, it seemed possible. Thibodaux's spreadsheet showed Schilling right around 75 per cent, and Bonds and Clemens around 73.

But, as FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich notes, candidates usually end up with a lower percentage than the publicly revealed ballots suggest. That's because voters who keep their picks private tend to be older, less-online guys who select fewer players (you're allowed to name anywhere from zero to 10) and are just generally tougher gatekeepers. They also seem to take a harder line on known or suspected steroid users.

Sure enough, when the results came in, all three fell quite a big short. Schilling (who has not been linked to PEDs) finished at 71 per cent. Bonds and Clemens both came in just below 62 per cent.

There should still be an induction ceremony this summer in Cooperstown, though. Last year's was wiped out by the pandemic, forcing the class of 2020 — Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Canadian Larry Walker — to wait an extra year. Their festivities are now scheduled for July 25.

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