PITTSBURGH -- The 2021 Hall of Fame ballot released Monday includes three players who spent time in a Pirates uniform: one all-time great who began his career in Pittsburgh, a World Series champion who finished his career wearing black and gold, and another respected veteran who both started and finished his career with the Bucs.
Those three players are Barry Bonds, A.J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez. Bonds’ candidacy will continue to receive the bulk of the national attention, as the home run king’s name appeared on 60.7% of the ballots last year. His statistical credentials are unmatched, but he and Roger Clemens continue to be penalized in the voting for their ties to performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds is now in his ninth year of eligibility, with only two more turns on the ballot. He’ll need a significant increase in support from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting members if he wants to make it to Cooperstown before falling off the ballot in 2022. The question now is whether a relatively unclogged ballot -- and a lack of obvious first-ballot Hall of Famers, unlike in years past -- will clear the way for Bonds and Clemens. Or will the record show that voters simply made up their minds on Bonds?
To be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, candidates must be named on 75% 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% of the ballots each year remain eligible for a maximum of 10 years. Results will be announced live on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 26, 2021.
Bonds reached most of his milestones while playing for the Giants, but he began his storied career in Pittsburgh. He was named National League MVP Award winner in 1990 and ’92, and he finished as the runner-up in ’91, while winning Gold Glove Awards and Silver Slugger honors all three years. He still ranks ninth in Pirates history with 50.3 wins above replacement. He slugged 176 of his 762 career homers, drove in 556 runs, stole 251 bases and slashed .275/.380/.503 for the Pirates from '86-92.
Bonds finished his playing career after spending 15 seasons with the Giants, retiring with seven MVP Awards (four more than any other player), eight Gold Gloves, two batting titles, 14 All-Star nods, an MLB-record 2,558 walks, and both the single-season (73) and career (762) home run records.
The other two former Pirates on the ballot won’t get nearly the same recognition as Bonds during the voting season, but they are nonetheless remembered well for their time in Pittsburgh.
Burnett spent three seasons in Pittsburgh, from 2012-13 and in ’15. His brash leadership helped turn the tide for the Bucs, as they reached the postseason in '13 for the first time in 20 years. Burnett was a spark in the clubhouse and a horse on the mound in his first term with the Pirates, bouncing back from a rough stint with the Yankees to post a 3.41 ERA with 389 strikeouts in 393 1/3 innings over 61 starts.
After a step-back season with the Phillies in 2014, Burnett returned to the Pirates for one last ride during their 98-win campaign in '15. At 38 years old, he logged a 3.18 ERA over 26 starts and earned the first All-Star nod of his 17-year career.
One recognition of how beloved Burnett, the Batman aficionado, was by the end of his tenure here? The Bat Signal that shone downtown was visible during one of his final starts. Pittsburgh came to love Burnett, and Burnett loved the city back.
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 -- in 2,731 1/3 innings over 430 starts.
Burnett retired after the Pirates’ loss to the Cubs in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game, as did Ramirez. The Dominican third baseman debuted with the Pirates in 1998, when he was just 19 years old, and played his final game for Pittsburgh at age 37.
Ramirez began his full-circle career with the Pirates before being shipped off to the Cubs in one of the most regrettable deals in franchise history on July 23, 2003: the salary-dump swap that sent him and Kenny Lofton to Chicago for Matt Bruback, Jose Hernandez and Bobby Hill. Exactly 12 years after that transaction, the Pirates acquired Ramirez in a trade with the Brewers and added him to their corner-infield mix as they pushed for their third straight postseason berth.
In the end, Ramirez put together a commendable 18-year career in the NL Central that included a long stay in Chicago and a four-year stop in Milwaukee. 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.