Eleven new players joined the Hall of Fame ballot for 2021, but only three will remain there for 2022.
That would be Mark Buehrle, Torii Hunter, and Tim Hudson, who received 11, 9.5, and 5.2 percent of the vote, respectively, from the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), which revealed its results Tuesday night on MLB Network. While this trio cleared the 5 percent mark necessary to stay on the ballot for next year, eight of their fellow first-timers did not.
These players aren’t moving on in the Hall of Fame voting process, but just being on the ballot in the first place is a high honor. One must appear in at least 10 big league seasons to be considered, and even then, becoming a candidate is not guaranteed. Each of the players who were new on the 2021 ballot put together highly accomplished careers that are worthy of admiration, even if they weren’t judged to be worthy of Cooperstown. (Judged by the BBWAA that is; the Hall’s Today's Game Era Committee still could reconsider their cases down the line).
So before we turn the page on this year’s voting, here’s an appreciative look back at the eight one-and-done players, in descending order of their career wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball-Reference.
Dan Haren (35.1 WAR): Now the D-backs pitching strategist, Haren is also a self-deprecating presence on Twitter, where his handle is @ithrow88. But Haren’s prime shouldn’t be undersold. From 2005-11 with the A’s, D-backs and Angels, Haren led the Majors with 237 starts and was second in innings (1,581 1/3) and strikeouts (1,368), plus fifth in wins (101). He posted a well above-average 122 ERA+ in that span, made three All-Star teams and led his league three times in strikeout-to-walk ratio. That workload took its toll on the rest of Haren’s career, but he still finished with 153 wins and a 109 ERA+ over 13 seasons.
Aramis Ramírez (32.4 WAR): Ramírez mostly flew under the radar. During his prime years with the Cubs (2003-11), sluggers such as Sammy Sosa, Moises Alou, Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano tended to draw more attention. But Ramírez was a reliable producer at third base, batting .297/.359/.533 (128 OPS+) and averaging 28 homers and 96 RBIs in his eight full seasons with Chicago. Ramírez ultimately spent 18 seasons with the Pirates, Cubs and Brewers and bashed 386 home runs -- including 25 or more 10 times.
Barry Zito (31.9 WAR): Oh, that curveball. Few pitchers have ever thrown a left-handed hook more beautiful than Zito’s, which was a star attraction over his 15 seasons with the A’s and Giants. The ninth overall pick in the 1999 Draft out of USC, Zito made it to Oakland in barely more than a year and was an instant success. In the A’s magical 2002 season, Zito went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA, made the first of his three All-Star teams and won the AL Cy Young Award. He never quite reached those heights again and dealt with some struggles after moving across the Bay to San Francisco in 2007, but no Giants fan will forget Zito stepping up in the 2012 postseason to help the team go all the way.
Shane Victorino (31.5 WAR): It took a while for Victorino’s career to gain traction. A Dodgers Draft pick in 1999, the Hawaii-born switch-hitter didn’t get a real shot in the Majors until 2006 -- after twice being a Rule 5 Draft pick. But Victorino made up for lost time, establishing himself as a stellar all-around outfielder and fan favorite in Philadelphia (2005-12) and Boston (2013-15), among other places. Beginning in ‘07, Victorino put together an eight-year stretch in which he averaged 14 homers, 30 steals, a 107 OPS+ and more than 4 WAR while winning rings with the ‘08 Phillies and ‘13 Red Sox.
A.J. Burnett (28.8 WAR): His lone All-Star selection didn’t come until his final season, in 2015 with the Pirates, but Burnett was generally a productive starter throughout a 17-year career that also saw him suit up for the Marlins, Blue Jays, Yankees and Phillies. That included a prominent role on the Yankees’ 2009 championship team. Burnett finished with 430 starts, 164 victories and more than 2,500 strikeouts, having led the AL in both K’s (231) and K/9 rate (9.4) for Toronto in 2008.
Nick Swisher (21.4 WAR): An enthusiastic presence over 12 seasons with the A’s, White Sox, Yankees, Indians and Braves, the switch-hitting Swisher made his mark as a hitter with patience and power. The A’s picked him 16th overall in the famous “Moneyball” Draft of 2002, and Swisher didn’t disappoint. In 1,354 games over his first 10 years, Swisher posted a .358 OBP and .462 slugging percentage, producing an OPS+ of at least 115 seven times. That included 2009, when Swisher helped the Yankees win their most recent ring after arriving via trade from the White Sox.
LaTroy Hawkins (17.8 WAR): The right-hander is among a select group of players to appear for at least 11 different franchises, bouncing all over MLB after spending his first nine seasons with the Twins. After working as a starter early in his career, Hawkins spent most of his 21 years in the bullpen and now ranks 10th all-time in games pitched (1,042) -- including 10 seasons of 60-plus appearances -- while recording 127 saves. Ever well-traveled, Hawkins took the mound in 44 different ballparks before hanging up his spikes.
Michael Cuddyer (17.7 WAR): The ninth overall pick in the 1997 Draft by the Twins, Cuddyer went on to post a 113 OPS+ and hit 197 homers over 15 seasons with Minnesota, Colorado and the Mets. A two-time All-Star who spent most of his time at the outfield and infield corners, Cuddyer won the 2013 NL batting title with a .331 average for the Rockies, also taking home a Silver Slugger Award.