For the first time since 1960, membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame remains frozen.
No player in the Hall of Baseball Writers’ Association of America voting in Hall 2021 reached the 75% threshold required to be anchored in Cooperstown. The results of the vote were announced on Tuesday evening by Tim Mead, President of the Hall of Fame, on the MLB Network.
The leading voter was the controversial pitcher Curt Schilling, who was named in 71.1% of the ballot papers and fell 16 votes short of the minimum required for selection. Schilling was followed in the vote by Barry Bonds (61.8%) and Roger Clemens (61.6), the winner of the 354 game.
All three former All-Stars were in the ninth year of their eligibility to vote and had another chance next winter. Players receive 10 shots when anchored by the authors’ vote before being considered by one of the hall’s various veterans committees.
In a long letter to the hall, which he also published on Facebook, Schilling asked to be removed from the authors’ vote next year.
“I will not be taking part in the final year of the vote. I am requesting to be removed from the vote. I will go to the Veterans Committee and to men whose opinions really matter and who are able to actually approve a player judge “, so Schilling wrote. “I don’t think I’m a Hall of Famer as I’ve said many times, but if past players think I am, I’ll be honored to accept that.”
Hall of Fame chairwoman Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement that the board “will consider the request at our next meeting.”
Support for Bonds and Clemens has largely increased in recent years, as the authors’ positions on players associated with the steroid era are largely anchored at levels that leave them just under the cusp. Last year, Clemens was named in 61% of the ballots, while Bonds came in at 60.7.
In the case of Schilling, however, his share of the vote had increased from 45% in 2017 to 70% last year. Historically, most players who hit the 70% level will eventually get enough support to land in Cooperstown. However, the backlash against Schilling’s public and social media comments appears to be diminishing his support.
Schilling’s more controversial statements included a later deleted tweet from 2016 in which he apparently advocated lynching journalists. More recently, Schilling has expressed support for the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol – even though the authors’ ballots were tabled before that date.
Additionally, Schilling was fired from ESPN as a baseball analyst after posting a derogatory message on social media about transgender people. This followed his previous suspension by the network after comparing extremist Muslims to Nazis in a social media post.
The on-pitch cases for Bonds and Clemens are undisputed as both players are among the most prolific in baseball history, though their successes have got stuck in the PED allegations that have surrounded them since they were active players. (Bonds declined knowingly using PEDs, while Clemens declined their use altogether.) Schilling’s merit-based case isn’t that open and closed, but the recent evolution of his vote share had indicated he was bound to the hall. The fact that all three outstanding features remain outwardly suggests that the character clause in the criteria that the hall gives authors is greater than ever.
“At this point I can say that I am mentally exhausted. I know about math and trends and I know that I will not reach the 75% threshold for induction,” Schilling wrote. “As I have said many times over the past few years to those I have spoken to in my heart, I am at peace. Nothing, zero, none of the claims made by any of the authors is deserved.”
“Whatever my player is, it will be the truth and one that I deserve for better or for worse,” he continued. “The game made it clear that it doesn’t want me back and that’s fine. The game owes me exactly nothing. There has been a billion times more than it needs to be and I will be deeply in debt forever.”
The closure of the BBWAA voting is only part of the reason the hall won’t be attracting new members this year. The Hall Veterans Committees typically meet shortly before the annual winter meeting to review candidates whose eligibility for writers’ ballots has expired. The 2020 winter meetings were held practically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the era committees did not meet and candidates will not be considered again until the 2021 meeting in December.
Tuesday’s announcement means that for the first time since the Kennedy administration, no new player has received Cooperstown access. From 1958 to 1960 only Zack Wheat (1959) was selected.
The announcement was the ninth time that the BBWAA did not select anyone in the voting process. The last time it was in 2013, when three players were given access through a veterans committee. A record of 14 voters sent blank ballots, surpassing 12 in 2006.
The news doesn’t mean the 2021 induction ceremony, which normally takes place in Cooperstown every summer, will be quiet. As the pandemic forced the 2020 ceremony to be postponed, last year’s quartet of selected people will be honored in July of this year. This group includes the players Derek Jeter, Larry Walker and Ted Simmons, as well as the legendary labor leader Marvin Miller.
One of the biggest winners in this year’s vote was long-time third baseman Scott Rolen, whose share rose from 35.3% to 52.9% in his fourth year of election. Among the first-time voters, pitcher Mark Bührle (11%) was the best voter. The only other first-time candidates who hit the 5% threshold to stay on the ballot next year were Torii Hunter (9.5%) and Tim Hudson (5.2).
Next year’s pick will include sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, Philadelphia Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, switch-hitting Mark Teixeira, and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.