It’s only going to get more complicated from here.
Though this year’s Hall of Fame ballot was no stranger to controversy, the 2022 ballot looks to be even more fraught thanks to the introduction of two other polarizing figures.
Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz — the former a confirmed steroid user and the latter a highly-suspected one — will join Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on the ballot, part of a who’s who of baseball players who test the strength of the Hall of Fame’s character clause. Curt Schilling, who publicly backed the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol, asked to be removed from the ballot in his final year of eligibility. He will hope for better success with the veterans' committee.
Schilling came 16 votes shy of induction this year, and Bonds and Clemens, two of the game’s most notorious PED users, also came just short, with 61.8% and 61.6% of the vote. It takes 75% of votes from qualified members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to make it to Cooperstown, and all three had small bumps from their 2020 total.
Additionally, 2022 will be Bonds and Clemens’ final year of eligibility, though they, like Schilling, may also have to leave their fate to various veterans’ committees. Without steroids and scandal, there would be little debate: Bonds and Clemens were the most dominant players of a generation. Schilling is one of the best playoff pitchers of all time (11-2 with a 2.23 ERA).
The induction of either Bonds or Clemens could have conceivably drawn a path for Rodriguez, though there are some significant differences between the three. After being the subject of a New York Times expose, and being implicated in the Biogenesis steroid scandal, Rodriguez, the former Yankee, admitted to using steroids for years, beginning in 2001 and again in 2006. He was originally suspended for 211 games, which was later reduced to 162 games.
Clemens and Bonds never publicly tested positive, and Clemens continues to deny that he used PEDs, though he was named in the Mitchell report. Bonds admitted to using steroids as early as the 1998 season. Neither was ever suspended.
David Ortiz, meanwhile, allegedly tested positive during a 2003 survey to determine the prevalence of steroid use among its players.
Major League Baseball and the players’ association has contested his positive test, though, saying there were discrepancies in the testing process and it's possible Ortiz is innocent. Commissioner Rob Manfred has also come out in support of Ortiz’s eventual candidacy, saying the 2003 result should not be held against him.
Without the specter of steroid use, Rodriguez, who hit 696 home runs, and was a three-time American League MVP, a 14-time All-Star and a 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner, would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Ortiz’s candidacy is also extremely strong, despite being a career designated hitter (the Mariners’ Edgar Martinez helped erase some of the DH stigma when he was inducted in 2019). Ortiz led the Red Sox to their first World Series in 86 years in 2004 and, during his 20-year career, compiled a slash line of.286/.380/.552 with 541 home runs and 1,768 RBIs. He, like Schilling, was a prodigious postseason performer, hitting 17 home runs with 61 RBIs, with a .947 OPS in 85 games.
Now the question is, is it enough?
WAIT TILL NEXT YEAR
Here are the players who will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time in the Class of 2022, listed in alphabetical order: