For the first time since 1960 -- and just the seventh time since the first election in 1936 -- the National Baseball Hall of Fame will not have a new group of electees in 2021. Yet because the Class of 2020’s induction was pushed back a year by the coronavirus pandemic, there will still be entrants welcomed into the hallowed Hall this summer.
The Hall of Fame announced Tuesday night on MLB Network that none of the 25 players on the 2021 ballot reached the 75% voting threshold required for entry. Starting pitcher Curt Schilling, in his penultimate year on the ballot, came closest at 71%, or 16 votes shy, then released a letter to the Hall of Fame in which he asked to be removed from next year’s vote.
This is the first time since 2013 that the Baseball Writers' Association of America did not elect anyone. So with the Eras Committees elections having been postponed until next winter because of the pandemic, 2021 has pitched a shutout.
That leaves the 2020 class -- Derek Jeter and Larry Walker from the BBWAA ballot, and Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller from the Modern Baseball Era Committee vote -- to have its own induction, as would have been the case had the pandemic not intervened.
Induction day is scheduled for July 25, in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Here are the key takeaways from Tuesday’s BBWAA announcement:
1. Schilling comes up short, asks out for 2022
With 216 wins, 3,116 strikeouts, a 3.46 ERA, 127 ERA+ and 4.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 3,261 career innings in the regular season, as well as a lifetime 11-2 record and 2.23 ERA in 19 postseason starts, Schilling has a compelling Cooperstown case. But his history of inflammatory rhetoric on social media has affected his totals, with some voters going on record to explain that they removed Schilling from their ballots due to his history of offensive, intolerant comments. (It should be noted that Schilling’s recent public support of the U.S. Capitol riot came after ballots were due to be submitted.)
Taking issue with the way the Hall’s character clause has been applied to his case, Schilling recently wrote a lengthy letter to the Hall of Fame in which he declared he will not participate in the 2022 vote. He released the letter to the public in the wake of Tuesday’s announcement.
“I am requesting to be removed from the ballot,” Schilling wrote. “I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player. I don’t think I’m a Hall of Famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.”
Schilling has seen significant gains in recent votes, rising from 51.2% in 2018 to 60.9% in 2019 to 70.0% in 2020. But he gained just four votes this year.
2. A rare empty outcome
This is just the ninth time that the BBWAA did not elect any players. In addition to 2013, it also happened in 1945, 1950, 1958, 1960, 1965, 1971 and 1996.
But this is a drought that comes after a deluge. The BBWAA elected 22 players from 2014-20.
The six previous years that featured zero new inductees -- either from the BBWAA or a small-committee vote -- were 1940, 1941, 1943, 1950, 1958 and 1960 (in 1940, ’41 and ’43, no elections were held).
Speaking of empty outcomes, 14 of the 401 submitted ballots were left blank. This was a record, and it affected the percentages of all players.
3. Rolen’s rolling
This was a huge ballot for third baseman Scott Rolen. The eight-time Gold Glove Award winner and seven-time All-Star was selected on 52.9% of ballots in his fourth year of eligibility after being checked on 35.3% of ballots a year ago.
In his first year of eligibility, in 2018, Rolen was selected on just 10.2% of ballots. So he has benefited from a continued study of his case and the clearing of a ballot logjam.
4. Other big gainers
Four other players had at least a 10-point jump:
Todd Helton: 29.2 to 44.9 (3rd year on ballot)
Billy Wagner: 31.7 to 46.4 (6th)
Gary Sheffield: 30.5 to 40.6 (7th)
Andruw Jones: 19.4 to 33.9 (4th)
5. Vizquel loses ground
In last year’s vote, 11-time Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Omar Vizquel cleared an important threshold by finishing north of 50% (52.6%, to be exact). He had established clear momentum in his first three years on the ballot.
But Vizquel lost ground this year after The Athletic published allegations of domestic abuse made by Vizquel’s ex-wife, Blanca, in mid-December.
Vizquel’s performance case was already hotly debated, as he was a below-average offensive performer for the vast majority of his long career. Now, character questions hang over his case, as well.
6. Bonds, Clemens stuck in neutral
For the seventh straight year, both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw their percentages rise. But because of their performance-enhancing-drug ties, the increases have been modest. Bonds was checked on 61.8% of ballots submitted after a 60.7% mark last year. Clemens was checked on 61.6% after a 61.0% mark last year.
Bonds and Clemens are only eligible for the BBWAA ballot one more time.
7. Three first-timers hold on
Here are the complete results of the 2021 BBWAA vote:
Curt Schilling: 285 votes, 71.1% (70.0% in 2020)
Barry Bonds: 248, 61.8% (60.7%)
Roger Clemens: 247, 61.6% (61.0%)
Scott Rolen: 212, 52.9% (35.3%)
Omar Vizquel: 197, 49.1% (52.6%)
Billy Wagner: 186, 46.4% (31.7%)
Todd Helton: 180, 44.9% (29.2%)
Gary Sheffield: 163, 40.6% (30.5%)
Andruw Jones: 136, 33.9% (19.4%)
Jeff Kent: 130, 32.4% (27.5%)
Manny Ramirez: 113, 28.2% (28.2%)
Sammy Sosa: 68, 17.0% (13.9%)
Andy Pettitte: 55, 13.7% (11.3%)
Mark Buehrle: 44, 11.0% (1st-timer)
Torii Hunter: 38, 9.5% (1st-timer)
Bobby Abreu: 35, 8.7% (5.5%)
Tim Hudson: 21, 5.2% (1st-timer)
Aramis Ramírez: 4, 1.0% (1st-timer)*
LaTroy Hawkins: 2, 0.5% (1st-timer)*
Barry Zito: 1, 0.2% (1st-timer)*
A.J. Burnett: 0 (1st-timer)*
Michael Cuddyer: 0 (1st-timer)*
Dan Haren: 0 (1st-timer)*
Nick Swisher: 0 (1st-timer)*
Shane Victorino: 0 (1st-timer)*
*Will not be on future ballots after receiving under 5% of votes