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Predicting MLB’s Hall of Fame selections through the 2020s

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Not too long ago, we were in a bit of a Hall of Fame election crisis. Nobody knew what to do with players associated with PEDs. This created a huge backlog of qualified candidates on the ballot, including some years with more than 20-plus reasonable candidates.

In 2013, the baseball writers simply threw up their arms and elected nobody. Meanwhile, the veterans committee didn’t elect a single living player over a 17-year period. The three men enshrined in 2013 were a catcher who last played in 1890, an umpire who died in 1935 and an owner from the pre-integration era.

It was a mess.

Luckily, we’ve moved on. A glut of superstar Hall of Famers such as Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Chipper Jones hit the ballot and the BBWAA went on an election spree, voting in 20 players in a six-year span, including three players in Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell with questionable reputations concerning PEDs. The veterans committee suddenly flipped as well and elected five players over the past three years, including former catcher Ted Simmons this year.

What’s next? Let’s predict what happens the rest of the decade in Hall of Fame voting, starting with the results from Tuesday’s announcement of who will join Simmons in Cooperstown this summer.

2020

New to ballot: Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi

Last year on ballot: Larry Walker

Jeter is expected to join longtime Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in the 100 percent club — now that Rivera broke that ridiculous standard last year, there’s no reason that inner-circle Hall of Famers like Jeter shouldn’t likewise be unanimous selections.

The other candidates with a chance are Walker and Curt Schilling. As of Sunday morning, Walker had received 85.4% of the publicly revealed ballots, according to Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker. That’s a huge surge from Walker’s 54.6% total last year and would put him well above the 75% threshold needed for election.

Except. … The problem is the nonpublic voters always bring down players’ total. Walker needs to be named on 68.3% of the estimated remaining ballots to get to 75%, but last year received just 27.9% of the private ballots (and 48% of the public ballots revealed after the results were announced). Even with the usual gains from a final-year push, this one is going right down to the wire, but I think Walker is going to fall just short.

Schilling, in his eighth year on the ballot, received 60.9% last year and was at 79.5% of the public vote as of Sunday. He needs 72% of the remaining votes and since his private tally will also likely be much less, it appears he too will fall just short.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are also on their eighth ballot and plateaued last year at 59%. Both are currently under the 75% threshold and there’s no way that number is going up Tuesday. They’re not getting in.

Prediction: Derek Jeter (along with Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller)

2021

New to ballot: Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, Torii Hunter

Last year on ballot: Nobody

Veterans committee: Early Baseball (pre-1950) and Golden Days (1950-1969)

This will be an interesting year. Without any strong first-year candidates and with nobody on their final ballot (at least before getting punted to the veterans committee), it wouldn’t be shocking to see a shutout. Even the veterans committee addresses the two eras that are already widely represented.

This looks like an opportunity for Schilling to take advantage of a soft ballot to get over the hump, post-career warts and all. Even in 2013, the year nobody was elected, the average ballot contained 6.6 names — the voters want to elect somebody every year. In his previous ballots, Schilling has been compared to pitchers like Maddux, Martinez, Johnson, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay. With the ballot clear of strong “competition,” he looks better.

As for the two veterans committees, I see four strong candidates from the Golden Days era: Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat and Minnie Minoso. The last time this era was considered was 2015, and Allen and Oliva received 11 of 16 votes from the committee, falling one vote short. Kaat received 10 and Minoso eight.

In my mind, Minoso is clearly the best candidate. In the 1950s, he ranked eighth among position players in WAR, even though he didn’t play in 1950. And because of the color barrier, he was already 25 as a rookie. With a career line of .298/.389/.459, 1,023 RBIs, 1,963 hits and 50.5 WAR, his numbers might appear a little short, but factor in three or four prime seasons missing from the beginning of his career and he deserves the honor. Unfortunately, he died in 2015.

The other three could also get in. Kaat, who won 283 games, followed that with a long broadcasting career and is still working at age 81. He also follows the pattern of recent veterans committee selections: length of career is more important than a high peak of excellence. See, for example, Harold Baines and Jack Morris being selected instead of the likes of Dale Murphy and Orel Hershiser.

Prediction: Curt Schilling, Minnie Minoso, Jim Kaat

2022

New to ballot: Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Jimmy Rollins, Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon

Last year on ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling (if not already elected), Sammy Sosa

Veterans committee: Today’s Game (1988 to present)

Well, now, won’t this be special? A-Rod’s first year of eligibility coincides with the last ballots for Bonds, Clemens and Sosa (who continues to fare poorly in voting). I think Rodriguez, with his season-long suspension for 2014, is going to fall into the same category as Bonds and Clemens: One of the greatest players of all time, but no ticket to Cooperstown.

From 2003 to 2016, arguably no player loomed as a bigger figure than Ortiz. He was a popular, dynamic hitter on three World Series winners, performed well in the postseason and became a cult hero in Boston. With his level of fame, 541 home runs and 1,768 RBIs (22nd all time), he would normally sail right in (despite a borderline 55.3 WAR). But because Ortiz’s name was leaked as one of the 104 players who tested positive for PEDs during the initial screening process in 2003, he also arrives with a small cloud hanging over his head. I think he waits a year.

What about Omar Vizquel? The man who played the most games at shortstop and won 11 Gold Gloves could be the anti-PED vote. He debuted at 37% in 2018, received 42.8% last year and is currently polling at 48%. He’s the rare player who actually fares just as well on the private ballots. In other words, the older voters like him, while the younger breed of pro-analytics writers are not as much in favor due to a 45.6 career WAR that is low for a modern Hall of Famer. Although Vizquel’s election either via the BBWAA or veterans committee is inevitable, I think he has to wait a bit longer.

We could completely revisit the steroids era if Mark McGwire is included on the Today’s Game ballot. He was up for vote in 2017, but received fewer than 5% of the vote and wasn’t included in the 2019 discussion. Larry Walker would be eligible for this ballot if he doesn’t get in this year, and while 72.7 WAR makes him a strong candidate, his relatively low counting stats (383 HRs, 1,311 RBIs, 2,160 hits) work against him. Still, he’ll be so close this year that I think he gets in. Bruce Bochy would also be eligible, assuming he doesn’t return as a manager (which he hasn’t completely ruled out). Lou Piniella fell one vote short in 2019 and might come up again as well.

Prediction: Larry Walker, Bruce Bochy

2023

New to ballot: Carlos Beltran

Last year on ballot: Jeff Kent

Veterans committee: Modern Baseball (1970 to 1987)

I don’t know if Beltran was a lock before the Astros’ cheating scandal erupted — with 1,582 runs and 1,587 RBIs, he’s one of just 38 players to reach both of those numbers, and his 69.6 career WAR is a strong total — but I would guess even in a couple of years the sign-stealing issue will be fresh enough to taint his legacy. He’ll get in eventually, just not on the first ballot.

Kent is the all-time leader in home runs by a player whose primary position was second base (377), drove in 1,518 runs and won an MVP, but his case has failed to pick up any momentum. Last year, he received just 18.2% of the vote and he’s polling at 31% this year, his seventh on the ballot. On the other hand, Walker was at 22.3% in his seventh year and given the general weakness of this ballot, Kent could be the next player to get a big surge his final year.

That leaves the Today’s Game committee: Lou Whitaker was on the 2020 ballot and received six of the 16 votes, but he’s an extremely well-qualified candidate (75.1 WAR) and had the long career the veterans committee seems to like. Dwight Evans is a personal favorite and received eight votes in 2020, so he just needs to sway three more committee members, but I think Whitaker leapfrogs him into Cooperstown.

Prediction: David Ortiz, Lou Whitaker

2024

New to ballot: Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright, Bartolo Colon, Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez

Last year on ballot: Gary Sheffield

Veterans committee: Today’s Game (1988 to present)

A new wave of accomplished candidates will hit the ballot in 2024. Adrian Beltre’s sustained excellence makes him an easy first-ballot lock, with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs, 1,707 RBIs and 95.6 career WAR, including 10 seasons of 5-plus WAR.

Joe Mauer and Chase Utley were amazing at their best, but both fight uphill battles to election due to lack of longevity. Mauer had nine seasons behind the plate in which he won three batting titles, an MVP and was the best all-around catcher in the game, but concussion issues forced him to move to first base for the final five, mediocre seasons of his career. Given the lower bar for catchers and his high peak value, I’d vote for him, but he’s not a first-ballot guy. With 65.4 career WAR, Utley had similar career value to Ryne Sandberg (68.0), Roberto Alomar (67.1) and Craig Biggio (65.5), but no hitter who started his career after 1950 has made the Hall of Fame with fewer than 2,000 hits and Utley had just 1,885.

I have Kent missing election by the BBWAA. The Harold Baines selection has made it impossible to know exactly what the veterans committee is going to do moving forward, because if you elect every player better than Baines you’d have to build a new wing in Cooperstown. Still, unless the composition of the committee changes, Kent has to merit strong consideration.

Jim Leyland has yet to appear on a ballot and while his .506 career winning percentage isn’t great, he’s 17th on the all-time wins list, won a World Series, made eight trips to the playoffs and was always popular and well respected.

Prediction: Adrian Beltre, Jeff Kent, Jim Leyland

2025

New to ballot: Ichiro Suzuki, CC Sabathia, Ian Kinsler, Troy Tulowitzki

Last year on ballot: Billy Wagner

Veterans committee: Modern Baseball (1970 to 1987)

Ichiro is a no-brainer, but Sabathia is more difficult to assess. He’s similar to former teammate Andy Pettitte, who received just 9.9% of the vote in 2019 and is tracking at 11% this year:

Sabathia: 251-161, 3.74 ERA, 116 ERA+, 62.5 WAR
Pettitte: 256-153, 3.85 ERA, 117 ERA+, 60.6 WAR

Sabathia has a Cy Young Award and a few more high-level seasons, but Pettitte has the record for most postseason wins.

In my book, Wagner compares favorably to Trevor Hoffman and recent veterans selection Lee Smith, but he’s almost 200 saves behind Hoffman and Smith threw nearly 400 more innings. I think Wagner falls short.

For the veterans committee, I wonder about two-time MVP Dale Murphy, who had a short peak and hasn’t fared well on his previous ballots, but was such a beloved player that his case will be revisited. He had just six seasons above 3.1 WAR. In the end, he probably falls short again, while Evans finally gets the call. I’ll also go with Beltran and Vizquel finally getting the call alongside Ichiro. You can call this class the all-defense team of Hall of Famers.

Prediction: Ichiro Suzuki, Carlos Beltran, Omar Vizquel, Dwight Evans

2026

New to ballot: Felix Hernandez?

Last year on ballot: Manny Ramirez

Veterans committee: Golden Days (1950 to 1969)

Players eligible in 2026 will have played their last season in 2021. King Felix might not end up pitching in 2021 given his results from last year, but, sadly, his career fell short of Hall of Fame standards anyway. Manny Ramirez, like his fellow PED candidates, will remained locked out of Cooperstown.

For the Golden Days era, we return to Allen and Oliva. Oliva is one of the great what-ifs in baseball history. He won three batting titles and hit .304 in his career, but his knees went bad at 32 and he finished with just 43.1 WAR. I think he falls short.

Prediction: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte

2027

New to ballot: Albert Pujols?

Last year on ballot: Omar Vizquel (if not already elected), Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones

Assuming Pujols plays through the remaining two years of his contract, he would become eligible in 2027 and should join Jeter and Rivera in the 100% club.

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San Diego Padres back in playoffs for first time in 14 years

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres are returning to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years after beating the Seattle Mariners 7-4 on Sunday with a three-run rally in the 11th inning that included a go-ahead double by newcomer Mitch Moreland.

The clincher came in the finale of a series that was moved from Seattle because of poor air quality due to wildfires, so the Mariners were considered the home team and batted last. After closer Trevor Rosenthal (1-0), another newcomer, struck out Phillip Ervin for the final out, the Padres had a brief but joyous celebration in the infield. Then they gathered near the dugout to get playoff caps and T-shirts.

Although Petco Park was devoid of spectators, a handful of fans watched from a rooftop bar just beyond left-center field and several others watched from balconies on an office building high above right field.

The loss by Seattle also locked up an American League playoff berth for the New York Yankees.

Each team scored in the 10th inning and the Padres started the 11th with Manny Machado on second base. Moreland, obtained in a trade with Boston on Aug. 30, lifted an opposite-field fly down the left-field line off Casey Sadler (1-1) and it dropped just in front of Tim Lopes. Machado, who held up halfway to third, hustled around and scored for a 5-4 lead.

The Padres added on with Jurickson Profar‘s RBI single and an error by second baseman Dylan Moore.

The Padres previously reached the playoffs in 2006, when they won the National League West for the second straight season and were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals for the second consecutive year.

It’s been so long since the Padres played in the postseason that two members of that team, closer Trevor Hoffman and catcher Mike Piazza, are in the Hall of Fame. One of that team’s outfielders, Dave Roberts, is in his fifth season managing the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

San Diego took a 3-1 lead on a 430-foot, three-run homer by Wil Myers, their longest-tenured player, into the shrubs in front of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field.

The Mariners tied it when Moore, who struck out three times against starter Dinelson Lamet, hit a two-run homer to left off Emilio Pagan in the eighth.

Lamet held Seattle to one run and two hits while striking out 10 and walking two in six innings.

Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a go-ahead single in the 10th before J.P. Crawford hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.

The Padres drew three walks in the first four innings from starter Justin Dunn, who also hit a batter with a pitch. San Diego stole three bases as well, but failed to score.

The Padres finally broke through in the sixth. Eric Hosmer drew a one-out walk and Moreland hit a ground-rule double with two out before Myers homered on a 2-2 pitch to put the Padres ahead 3-1. It was his 14th.

Myers knew it was gone, and center fielder Kyle Lewis retreated to the warning track before turning and watching the ball sail well over his head.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper exits game with lower back stiffness

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Philadelphia Phillies slugger Bryce Harper exited Sunday’s 6-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays with lower back stiffness after he struck out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

Harper took a slow walk in the dugout toward the clubhouse and signaled to manager Joe Girardi he was done for the day.

Girardi said Harper will get treatment and Harper’s status for Monday’s game is unknown.

Harper has 11 homers and 28 RBIs for the Phillies, who are trying to hang on over the final week and secure their first playoff berth since 2011.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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How Dodgers phenom Gavin Lux wants to make a difference in Kenosha

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Gavin Lux is only 22 years old, still technically navigating through his rookie season. He’s trying to figure out his swing, trying to learn the pitching in Major League Baseball, trying to live up to the lofty expectations of being a highly rated prospect and trying to carve out a role on a Los Angeles Dodgers team that stands among the most talented in recent memory.

Lately, though, Lux has found himself consumed by his hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a lakeside community of around 100,000 people that has become embroiled in the racial tension that has risen across the nation over the last four months.

Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by a white police officer with his three children in the car on Aug. 23, sparking several nights of protests that escalated into violence and led to the shooting death of two demonstrators.

Lux has spent a lot of these past few weeks thinking about his family and friends back home, particularly his brother-in-law, a cousin of Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon, and his nephew, both of whom are Black.

It helped spur him into action.

“I can’t look at my nephew in the eye and say, ‘Hey man, I didn’t fight for you,'” Lux said. “Naw, I can’t do that.”

Lux has been in touch with business owners and community leaders to gather intel on the best ways to help. The details are still hazy, but he has vowed to be proactive. He wants to set up a fundraiser for the businesses that have been impacted, and he wants to get back into the community as soon as the Dodgers’ postseason run is over. The hope is to put together some sort of charitable event, perhaps a softball game or a 3-on-3 basketball tournament, to raise money and help bring the community back together.

“I feel like anybody can just write a check,” Lux said, “but this is where I grew up.”

Gordon is also from Kenosha. So is Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes and social media influencer Tristan Jass. Lux is hoping to recruit all three in an effort to slowly pick up the pieces. Before a recent game against the Colorado Rockies, Lux spoke to ESPN about the dynamics of his hometown and the challenges it faces. (This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.)

How quickly did you realize you needed to do something?

Lux: It took a couple of days just to sit and talk to some family members and some friends and some other people in the community that were affected. I was like, “Man, there’s gotta be something I could do to use my platform to be able to help.”

What were you hearing from your friends and family members about what it was like over there during that time?

Lux: It was a crazy time. A lot of different people were affected, businesswise, a lot of families were affected. They just said a lot of the city was struggling and that it was definitely just a completely different vibe from what it usually was. The community, for me, feels like it’s a tight-knit community. It’s not a super small city, but everybody kind of knows everybody, it feels like. Just to see everybody go through it a little bit, it kind of hurt me.

You’ve spent the vast majority of your life immersed in being a baseball player, and so much of your mindset has been set on what it’s going to take to get to the major leagues and stay there. Had you gotten to a point where you thought far enough ahead about how you would ultimately use your platform, or did this event trigger that for the first time?

Lux: It’s always in the back of my mind, but for it to hit so close to home, it caused a trigger where I was like, “Man, I do have a little bit of a platform, I can help. How can I help? What is the best way to help?” Those were kind of the thoughts that went through my head. Having it happen in my hometown definitely triggered it. But you see guys on our team like [Justin Turner] and [Clayton Kershaw] doing so many good things in the community, Mookie [Betts]. Pretty much everybody on our team is doing something good. Just being around those guys and seeing what they’re doing — it rubs off on me where it makes you want to help people and do good. That’s how it happens, you know?

How would you describe what it was like to grow up in Kenosha?

Lux: Everyone supports each other, and it really does feel like a tight-knit community. It’s right next to the water, you’re always going to the beach in the summer, stuff like that. I love the city. People might have the wrong [impression] about it, but it’s a really good city. And to grow up there, I feel lucky.

This can be difficult to pick up on while you’re still growing up, but did you ever consider it to be a racially divided city?

Lux: No, I don’t think so. Honestly I don’t. I don’t know if what happened triggered that. But I honestly don’t think it is. I really don’t. You see these protests and you see people doing these gatherings and stuff like that, and there’s people from all different walks of life. To say it’s racially divided — I don’t think it’s accurate at all.

What was Aug. 26 like for you? Your hometown NBA team [the Milwaukee Bucks] decides to boycott a playoff game, and then later that night you’re in the clubhouse in San Francisco where your teammates ultimately decide not to play against the Giants.

Lux: I support our whole team, obviously. I support equality and all that. For me it was emotional. Kenosha was affected, obviously. And if you have conversations with your teammates and other African-American people, you really understand what is going on. People just have to have these conversations to understand what is going on. To hear from some of my teammates and other people — I’m all in. I support the hell out of whatever we’re gonna do here.

Mookie has been very proactive in the fight against social injustice, and Kershaw has gone out of his way to educate himself on the topic. What have you learned about the Black Lives Matter movement while sharing a clubhouse with them?

Lux: You gotta put yourself in a guy like Mookie’s shoes and really understand what he’s saying and his real-life experiences. Not just Mookie, either. There’s a lot of other people, other family members and friends that I’ve talked to. You have to try to put yourself in their shoes and realize what’s going on and try to get an understanding. I keep saying this, but you just have to have these conversations. They might not be the most comfortable conversations ever, but to understand, you have to have them.

What have your conversations with your brother-in-law and your nephew been like in recent weeks?

Lux: Pretty emotional, actually. These are people that I really care about and love, and hearing them get emotional about it, it really hits home. It’s emotional. I want to see my nephew grow up and have the same opportunities that other people do.

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