Those three former Pirates were on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, but they weren’t inducted into Cooperstown when the voting results were announced on Tuesday night. In fact, no candidate on this year’s ballot received the necessary share of the vote to be elected into the Hall of Fame. Curt Schilling came the closest of anybody, falling 16 votes short in a year with a record 14 blank ballots submitted.
There will still be a group of baseball icons formally entering the Hall of Fame this summer. Derek Jeter was voted in on his first Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot last year, while Larry Walker cracked the 75 percent threshold on his last chance to enter the Hall via the BBWAA ballot. The Modern Baseball Era committee also selected Ted Simmons and late players’ union executive Marvin Miller to round out the Class of 2020. Their induction ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bonds, who was second to Schilling as he was named on 61.8 percent of the BBWAA ballots, began his legendary career as a two-time National League MVP in Pittsburgh. Burnett, who received no votes, spent three of his career 17 seasons with the Pirates. And Ramirez, who had four votes (1 percent) cast for him, both started and finished his commendable career wearing black and gold for the Bucs.
To be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, candidates must be named on 75 percent of ballots cast by selected BBWAA members who have 10 or more consecutive years of MLB coverage. Voters can select up to 10 candidates. Players named on at least 5 percent of the ballots each year remain eligible for a maximum of 10 years. That means Burnett and Ramirez will fall off the ballot next year, while Bonds once again faces an uphill climb heading into his 10th and final year of eligibility.
During his first eight years on the ballot, Bonds’ share of the vote has taken jumps from 36.8 percent (2015) to 44.3 percent (’16) to 56.4 percent (’18) and 60.7 percent (’20) before settling at 61.8 percent this year. The all-time home run leader’s statistical case is unquestioned, but he and Roger Clemens (61.6 percent of the vote this year) continue to be held back in the voting by their ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
Most of the history Bonds made took place while he was playing for the Giants, but he started off in Pittsburgh. He won the NL MVP Award in 1990 and ’92, and finished as the runner-up in ’91, while also taking home Silver Slugger Awards and Gold Glove honors all three years. He hit 176 of his 762 home runs in Pittsburgh while slashing .275/.380/.503 from 1986-92, and he still ranks ninth all-time in franchise history with 50.3 wins above replacement.
Bonds spent another 15 seasons in San Francisco before retiring with seven MVP trophies, four more than any other player, and most famously holds both the single-season (73) and career home run records.
While Burnett and Ramirez won’t retain their spots on the BBWAA ballot moving forward, they will be fondly remembered for their contributions with the Pirates and other clubs during their long, distinguished careers.
Burnett pitched for Pittsburgh from 2012-13 and ’15. He was a solid contributor on the mound, posting a 3.41 ERA with 389 strikeouts in 393 1/3 innings over 61 starts in his first stint, then returned with a 3.18 ERA over 26 starts, receiving first All-Star nod for the Pirates’ 98-win club in ’15. But Burnett is remembered just as well for his fiery leadership, veteran presence and the professionalism that helped the Bucs return to the postseason in '13 for the first time in 20 years.
A 2009 World Series champion with the Yankees, Burnett finished his career with a 164-157 record, a 3.99 ERA and 2,513 strikeouts -- the numbers now tattooed 2-5-1-3 across the fingers on his right hand -- over 2,731 1/3 innings over 430 starts with the Marlins, Blue Jays, Yankees, Phillies and Pirates.
But more than anywhere else he pitched, Burnett just clicked with the city of Pittsburgh and its passionate fans. During one of his final starts at PNC Park, a Bat Signal lit up downtown in honor of the veteran pitcher and Batman enthusiast.
Burnett and Ramirez finished their careers together, retiring after the Pirates’ loss to the Cubs in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game. Ramirez debuted for the Pirates at the age of 19 in 1998, then came back in July 2015 to play his final game for Pittsburgh at age 37.
The Dominican third baseman spent his entire Major League career in the NL Central, as he had a long stay in Chicago and a four-year stop in Milwaukee with his stints in Pittsburgh serving as the bookends of his impressive 18-year career. Overall, he hit .283/.341/.492 with 386 homers, 495 doubles and 1,417 RBIs to go along with three All-Star nods and a Silver Slugger Award. He drove in at least 100 runs during seven seasons, his home run total ranks seventh all-time among players who spent at least half their career games at third base, and only five third basemen have more career RBIs.