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Is this the year? Schilling, Clemens eyeing HOF

2020 marks right-handers' eighth time on ballot
@IanMBrowne
November 18, 2019

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, two of the most dominant right-handed pitchers of their era, appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot together for the first time in 2013. In what is now their eighth year on the ballot, two pitchers who dazzled for the Red Sox could

BOSTON -- Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, two of the most dominant right-handed pitchers of their era, appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot together for the first time in 2013.

In what is now their eighth year on the ballot, two pitchers who dazzled for the Red Sox could have their best chance yet at gaining entry to Cooperstown.

While Derek Jeter -- the marquee newcomer to the 2020 ballot announced Monday -- is as close to a lock as there is to be elected, none of the other first-timers are sure things.

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This could open the door for Schilling and Clemens, who gained the most votes last year of any candidates who weren’t elected.

With 259 votes last year, Schilling received 60.9 percent of the votes, easily his best total in his years on the ballot. Clemens got 253 votes, which was 59.5 percent, also his best total. A candidate must be named on 75 percent of the ballots from eligible Baseball Writers' Association of America voters.

Schilling proudly carries the distinction of being one of the best big-game pitchers in history, having gone 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 19 career postseason starts.

Perhaps most impressively, Schilling’s teams were unbeaten in the six career starts he made in potential elimination games. His combined body of work for the Phillies, D-backs and Red Sox on those occasions? A 5-0 record and a 1.39 ERA. Schilling didn’t allow more than two earned runs in any of those must-win starts.

Schilling was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series along with Randy Johnson when Arizona prevented the Yankees from a four-peat by winning Game 7 on Luis Gonzalez's walk-off single against Mariano Rivera.

While a Hall of Fame resume can’t be built on October alone, Schilling did plenty in the regular season as well. In 569 career appearances (436 starts), Schilling was 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA and 3,116 strikeouts.

Though Schilling never won a Cy Young Award, he finished second three times. That included 2001-02, the best two seasons of his career, when his teammate Johnson -- a first-ballot Hall of Famer -- beat him out for the trophy.

Injury-prone early in his career, Schilling emerged into a dependable horse, making 35 starts four times and topping 250 innings four times. He topped the 300-strikeout mark three times.

As for Clemens -- who earned the nickname Rocket early in his career with the Red Sox -- he would be the epitome of a no-brainer if statistics were the only thing that were being evaluated.

However, the 354-game winner carries baggage when it comes to his Hall of Fame candidacy. Clemens was associated with performance-enhancing drugs several times in the Mitchell Report, which was released to the public two months after the righty pitched the final game of his career.

Clemens has adamantly denied that he used steroids, and he never failed a test during his career.

The powerful righty won seven Cy Young Awards and finished with 4,672 career strikeouts. He won the World Series with the Yankees in 1999 and 2000. In 1986, when Clemens won the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award, the Red Sox came one strike away from winning the World Series before falling to the Mets in seven games.

PED use has also kept another Red Sox star out of the Hall of Fame to this point in Manny Ramirez. However, unlike with Clemens, there is no gray area when it comes to Ramirez and PEDs. He was suspended by MLB for failing drug tests in 2009 and ’11.

This is Ramirez’s fourth year on the ballot. He received 22 and 23.8 percent of the votes in his first three years.

A right-handed hitter with a near perfect swing, Ramirez was a force for nearly his entire career, slashing .312/.411/.585 with 555 homers and 1,831 RBIs. Along with Schilling, Ramirez helped guide the Red Sox to World Series championships in 2004 and ’07. Ramirez also played in two World Series with the Indians (1995 and ’97) and helped the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series in 2008 and ’09.

There are four other former Red Sox players on this year’s ballot, though righty Josh Beckett is the only one with more than a brief association with the club.

Beckett is on the ballot for the first time. He was a key force for two World Series championship teams (2003 Marlins, ’07 Red Sox), but his 138 career wins and 3.88 ERA will leave him well short of the Hall of Fame. Beckett was the MVP of the ’03 World Series and the ’07 ALCS.

Carlos Pena, Brad Penny and Billy Wagner -- each of whom played less than a full season for Boston -- are also on the ballot.

Of those three, Wagner is the only one with a shot at Cooperstown. The lefty closer had 422 career saves, most of them for the Astros and Mets. This is Wagner’s fifth year on the ballot. He topped out a 16.7 percent last year.

Candidates can stay on the ballot for a maximum of 10 years, provided they get at least five percent of the votes. That means that Schilling and Clemens will have two more cracks at it if they don’t get enough support this year.

Results will be announced at Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.