Last week, we learned that the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class was blank. There was no veterans committee in December and the BBWAA vote failed to get anyone to the necessary 75-percent threshold in voting. Curt Schilling was the top vote-getter at 71.1 percent. There was much ado about the nothingness of the class on the Internet, as I'm sure you've all heard. The last time there was an empty BBWAA vote was 2013 and what followed was a historic surge of Hall of Fame entries. That's not necessarily going to repeat, but we'll see new entries into the Hall in the coming years.
I will now look ahead and put myself out there by attempting to predict what's going to happen. Here are the next 10 members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
1. David Ortiz
Yes, I think Big Papi is going in next year in his first try. We can save all the arguing and hair-splitting until December. I'm simply predicting he gets in.
2. Minnie Minoso
Both the "Early Baseball" (prior to 1950) and "Golden Days" (1950-1969) veterans committees will meet at the Winter Meetings this coming December for possible enshrinement into the 2022 Hall of Fame class.
Minoso falls into the Golden Days group. The impact he had on the game continues to get more attention as the years tick away and at some point, he's going to get in. Unfortunately the honor would be of the posthumous variety, as he died in 2015, but a late honor is still an honor and he deserves one. We'll say the committee gets it right this time and Minoso goes, along with ...
3. Dick Allen
Allen also falls into the Golden Days group and, unfortunately, sometimes it takes a death before the committee wakes up to how deserving a player was -- and, to be clear, the initial failure here was in the BBWAA vote, where Allen peaked at 18.9 percent of the vote in 1996.
I've previously covered why I thought he deserved better and that could happen now, unfortunately after his death.
My prediction nearly a year in advance is that the 2022 Hall of Fame class is Ortiz, Minoso and Allen. Minoso and Allen would be elected before Ortiz, but I'm much more sure about Ortiz's chances, hence the ranking order.
4. Scott Rolen
It's possible I'm wrong on the 2022 class in that Minoso and/or Allen could fall short. Rolen could also join the group.
If Rolen doesn't make the 2022 class, he's going to continue his momentum enough to make the 2023 class. There's been so much movement here it wouldn't make sense for anything short of a big scandal to derail him. Take a look:
- 2018: 10.2 percent
- 2019: 17.2
- 2020: 35.3
- 2021: 52.9
5. Carlos Beltran
Beltran comes on the ballot for the 2023 class, and he shouldn't take long to get in. Though he doesn't have the old-school tradition markers of 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, he's all over the place where it should matter. He ended with 2,725 hits, 565 doubles, 435 homers, 1,587 RBI, 1,582 runs and 312 steals. He won three Gold Gloves in center field along with that power-speed combo while hitting for average and posting solid OBPs. Though there's far too much emphasis on one particular plate appearance, he's one of the more accomplished postseason hitters of his generation, hitting .307/.412/.609 with 15 doubles, 16 homers, 42 RBI, 45 runs and 11 steals in 65 playoff games. He's ninth in center field JAWS behind seven Hall of Famers (most inner-circle, all-time greats) and Mike Trout. One thing potentially working against Beltran, however, is his tie to the Astros sign-stealing scandal.
6. Fred McGriff
Back on a veterans committee, this time it's the Today's Game committee (1988-present), which will meet at the 2022 Winter Meetings to vote for the 2023 Hall of Fame class. Players must have been retired for at least 15 years and no longer be eligible on the BBWAA ballot.
For years, I did all I could to get people on board McGriff's case as a Hall of Famer and he ended up coming up short in the 2019 vote.
While there is constant discussion regarding players who did or may have partaken in PEDs, it's pretty widely accepted that McGriff did it au naturale, baby.
I have a bit of cautious optimism that the respect McGriff garnered over the years from his peers and the cleanliness angle work in his favor here on this committee and he makes it.
7. Kenny Lofton
Maybe it's also wishful thinking here, but Lofton is another BBWAA mistake I'd like to see rectified. The prototypical leadoff man, Lofton hit .299 with a .372 on-base percentage in a 17-year career. He's 15th in career stolen bases and 63rd in runs. Teaming his exceptional baserunning and defense with his chops atop the order, Lofton sits 10th in center field JAWS behind seven Hall of Famers, Mike Trout and Carlos Beltran. He's one spot ahead of Andruw Jones. Lofton is also the career leader in postseason stolen bases and is tied with Rickey Henderson for the most steals in a single postseason (11 in 1995).
If I'm right here -- and it's incredibly difficult to nail these things specifically by year, so it's doubtful -- Rolen, Beltran, McGriff and Lofton would be a nice class of guys who probably weren't nearly as appreciated as they should have been while playing. Yes, even Beltran.
Beltre is only this low on the list because he doesn't come on the ballot until the 2024 Hall of Fame vote. Between his 3,166 hits (17th all-time), 636 doubles (11th), 477 homers (31st), 1,707 RBI (25th), 1,524 runs (64th), outstanding defense and off-the-charts likeability, I'm not expecting much resistance. For those interested, he's fourth in JAWS among third baseman behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews and Wade Boggs with George Brett and Chipper Jones sitting right behind.
9. Todd Helton
Helton doesn't quite have Rolen's surge, but he's not far off. In three votes he's gone 16.5 percent to 29.2 to 44.9. With seven tries left and all the time in the world for the voting body to consider his body of work that is assumed to have been PED-free, I believe he's on his way. We'll guess it's the 2024 class.
10. Andruw Jones
After stagnating from year one to two, Jones has gone from 7.5 to 19.4 to 33.9 percent. He has six ballot cycles left. I think there's major momentum here and we'll guess that he joins Beltre and Helton in the 2024 class (possibly with fellow Braves center fielder Dale Murphy? See below toward the end of the "vet committee" selection).
Curt Schilling - Lost in the rubble of self-sabotage that has become all-too-familiar with Schilling's post-playing career is that he just had the highest vote percentage of his stint on the ballot at 71.1 percent. He was only 16 votes shy of induction. He'd probably have a great shot at getting in next year if he'd just be as private as he claims he wants to be. Instead, I feel like he'll just keep shooting himself in the foot. Not much would surprise me, though. He could really be next.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens - I'm just not seeing anything that could realistically happen to move them the 13-ish percent they need to get to the 75-percent threshold. It's not off the table, of course, so keep watching.
Alex Rodriguez - Joining next year's polarizing ballot might be the most polarizing figure of them all. Manny Ramirez can't crack 30 percent, but A-Rod was better and didn't have two failed PED tests. Bonds and Clemens are close, but A-Rod was suspended by the league for 211 games for breaking rules that Bonds and Clemens didn't appear to break once there was a system of punishment in place. I have no idea where A-Rod lands, but my guess is it is somewhere south of 75 percent.
Omar Vizquel - He lost 3.5 percent this voting cycle down to 49.1. That's still fully within range and we'll see what comes of MLB's domestic violence investigation into allegations against Vizquel.
Billy Wagner, Joe Nathan and Jonathan Papelbon - What to do with closers? Wagner is our guide here and he's gained almost 30 percent these last two voting cycles to 46.4 percent this year. Nathan and Papelbon have no shot without Wagner getting in and even if he does, they have a tough road. I toyed with putting Wagner ahead of Jones at number 10 above. He has a real shot.
Gary Sheffield - He's also gaining momentum and sits at 40.6 percent through seven votes. I believe he'll plateau short of 75.
Joe Mauer and Chase Utley - Mauer and Utley are going to end up the Hall, it says here, but I'm not sure they make it on the first try and they join the ballot with Beltre for the 2024 class. They only miss the cut because I was stopping at a top 10. They could also both make it on the first try and it wouldn't be shocking.
More vet committee players - It's incredibly difficult to get a read on what the committees will do for myriad reasons. We don't know who will be on the ballots, we don't know exactly who will be on the committees and we don't really have a read on consistent voting history, as such. Minoso, Allen, McGriff and Lofton were educated guesses, but they were still guesses. Umpires, managers, general managers and owners weren't considered here since I was listing players only and there are certainly lots of other players who will be considered, such as Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Ken Boyer, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Dave Stieb, Bernie Williams and a host of others, not to mention the pre-1950s where I'm not even going to attempt to guess how the committee would vote. Also, the Modern Baseball (1970-87) committee meets for the 2024 class and could include someone like Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy, Thurman Munson, Dwight Evans, Lou Whitaker and/or a host of other worthy candidates.