Baseball Hall of Fame voting season is officially now in our rearview mirror, which means those who lament everything it entails these days can breathe easy until sometime early next December. Bad news for those people: The polarization of next year's ballot is going to be as bad as it has been in a long time, if ever.
Not only are controversial figures Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling coming back for their 10th and final try with enshrinement both within reach and realistically a tall order, but there's a new crop of players. The top name listed below will elicit a reaction from every baseball fan. Hell, he probably gets one from people who don't even care about the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Whereas the freshman class on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot lacked big names, the 2022 class is star-studded.
Here are some of the names that will appear on the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
The chances are overwhelming that you don't need anything from me here. A-Rod won three MVPs, hit more home runs than all but Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds while joining just Ruth and Aaron in history as players with at least 2,000 runs and 2,000 RBI. He topped 3,000 hits. He won a World Series ring. He even stole over 300 bases while winning three Gold Gloves. He led the league in major offensive categories many times. Among shortstops, he trails only Honus Wagner in JAWS and WAR. If we put him at third base, he's first in both JAWS and WAR.
There isn't a single box A-Rod doesn't check as an all-time great and he'd be flying in with ease -- probably at 100 percent -- except for his PED ties. He was connected multiple times in his career and his involvement the Biogenesis scandal landed him a 211-game suspension.
A-Rod's case isn't complicated, in terms of his on-field play. All the decision-making here lies with his PED ties and how to apply them to his Hall case.
Big Papi is one of the most legendary sluggers in Red Sox history. He didn't win an MVP, but five straight seasons he finished in the top five, coinciding with the Red Sox winning two World Series titles in four years after being supposedly "cursed" since 1918. He led the league in doubles once, home runs once, RBI three times, walks twice, on-base percentage once, slugging once and OPS once. He finished with 541 home runs (17th all time). He's 12th in career doubles, 22nd in RBI, 32nd in total bases and eighth in extra-base hits.
Let's not forget the playoff exploits. In 85 career playoff games, Ortiz hit .289/.404/.543 with 22 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 61 RBI and some of the most memorable/clutch hits the 2000s have seen. He has an ALCS MVP and World Series MVP along with three rings.
The DH status shouldn't hurt Ortiz now that Edgar Martinez is in the Hall, but will the cloud of being named in a report about the 2003 drug testing that was supposed to be anonymous cost him traction? We don't know all the names from that list, he never tested positive once an actual system was put in place, and never served a suspension.
The 2007 NL MVP, Rollins was a three-time All-Star who won four Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. He was one of the core members of a Phillies team that won five-straight NL East titles -- one of the two Golden Eras of the franchise -- a stretch that included two pennants and a World Series championship.
Rollins finished with 2,455 hits, 511 doubles, 115 triples, 231 home runs, 936 RBI, 1,421 runs and 470 steals while slashing .264/.324/.418 (95 OPS+).
In WAR and JAWS, the most comparable recent players to Rollins would be Troy Tulowitzki and Miguel Tejada.
A three-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover and three-time Silver Slugger, Teixeira was a big part of the Yankees' most recent World Series title in 2009. He topped out at second place in MVP voting that very year, as he led the AL in home runs, RBI and total bases. For his career, Teixeira hit .268/.360/.509 (126 OPS+) with 1,862 hits, 408 doubles, 409 homers, 1,298 RBI and 1,099 runs. In looking at JAWS and WAR, the most similar recent Hall of Fame candidate is Fred McGriff.
One of baseball's elite closers for a decade-plus, Nathan was a six-time All-Star who finished in the top five of Cy Young voting twice. He is eighth in career saves at 377 and pitched to a 2.87 ERA (151 ERA+) and 1.12 WHIP with 976 strikeouts against 313 unintentional walks in 923 1/3 innings. For those who look at such measures with relievers, Nathan is sitting right in the same ballpark with Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Billy Wagner and Trevor Hoffman in JAWS and WAR.
Right behind Nathan, Papelbon is ninth in career saves at 368, though he did it in four fewer seasons. A six-time All-Star, Papelbon had a 2.44 ERA (177 ERA+) and 1.04 WHIP with 808 strikeouts against 167 unintentional walks in 725 2/3 innings in his career. With less longevity, Papelbon falls a bit below the aforementioned grouping with the likes of Nathan and Wagner, but doesn't postseason pedigree make up for it? In 18 career playoff appearances, Papelbon had a 1.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 23 strikeouts against five unintentional walks in 27 innings. He saved seven games in nine chances, including closing down both the ALCS (in Game 7) and World Series in 2007.
It's entirely possible a concussion in July of 2010 is what cost Morneau the Hall. He won MVP in 2006, finished second in 2008 and was hitting .345/.437/.618 in 2010 when the concussion ended his season. Though he had some good moments and actually won the batting title in 2014 with the Rockies, Morneau was never really the same. He finished up as a .281/.348/.481 (120 OPS+) hitter with 1,603 hits, 349 doubles, 247 homers, 985 RBI and 772 runs. He was a four-time All-Star.
Another "what could have been" candidate. Fielder's career was cut short by a neck injury. In 12 years, he was a six-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger. He finished third in MVP voting twice and fourth once. He led the league in homers once and RBI once. He finished a .283/.382/.506 (134 OPS+) hitter with 1,645 hits, 321 doubles, 319 home runs, 1,028 RBI and 862 runs.
And another one. Howard's 2011 season -- in which he finished 10th in MVP voting -- ended on the final play of the NLDS, just like every other member of that Phillies team. He, of course, also tore his Achilles on the play. He was never the same. The 2006 MVP, Howard also netted second-, third- and fifth-place finishes in MVP voting during his peak, in which he also led the majors in home runs twice and RBI three times. He also won the 2005 Rookie of the Year after just 88 games. He finished his 13-year career a .258/.343/.515 (125 OPS+) hitter with 1,475 hits, 277 doubles, 382 homers, 1,194 RBI and 848 runs.
Oh, and remember when I said this about Rollins? "He was one of the core members of a Phillies team that won five-straight NL East titles -- one of the two Golden Eras of the franchise -- a stretch that included two pennants and a World Series championship."
That applies to Howard as well.
The Freak isn't going to get much run for the Hall, but he deserves mention here. Only 21 pitchers in history have won more than one Cy Young and Lincecum is on that list. He won it in back-to-back fashion in 2008-09, joining only Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Sandy Koufax, Pedro Martinez, Jim Palmer, Clayon Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Denny McLain and Jacob deGrom in pulling that off. He was also a key member of the Giants' first three championships since moving to San Francisco and posted a 2.40 ERA in 56 1/3 playoff innings.
Others of note
Carl Crawford, Jake Peavy, Juan Uribe, A.J. Pierzynski, Coco Crisp, Marlon Byrd, Michael Bourn and Scott Kazmir are among a group of players who might also find their way onto the 2022 ballot. Keep in mind spots are limited and not everyone is going to make it on.