In what surely seems like a long wait for some fans, 2020 is the first season in which former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter is eligible for the Hall of Fame. Jeter may be a part owner of the Marlins these days, but baseball fans still know him as a great former player, and there’ no doubt he’s a lock for the Hall in his first year of eligibility.
After that? There’s a whole lot of uncertainty. Let’s look at some notable candidates for baseball’s 2020 Hall of Fame class and who will be likely to get in (as well as who will not).
As noted above, Jeter is the only stone-cold lock for induction in 2020. He compiled more than 3,000 hits and is the all-time hits leader for the most successful franchise in baseball history. His stats back up the case for him as one of baseball’s all-time great offensive shortstops. Plus, there are his five World Series championships, Rookie of the Year award, and World Series MVP trophy to bolster his case.
On top of his on-field accomplishments, he’s also been an ambassador for the game off the field. His induction will no doubt be a feel-good story, driving countless Yankee fans upstate to Cooperstown, New York, to witness his induction.
Based on his stats alone, Schilling has an excellent case for the hall. He was a top starter for two World Series-winning teams — the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks and the 2004 Boston Red Sox. In his age 40 season, he was slightly less effective but still went 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA for a championship-winning Boston team. He finished with over 3,000 strikeouts and 216 wins. That should be enough for induction.
Schilling’s issue is that he posts his controversial political opinions on social media. That may have helped him rack up an unfavorable reputation with the media members who happen to vote on who gets into the Hall of Fame.
The prediction here is that a light 2020 class combined with Schilling’s irrefutable stats will overcome his penchant for controversy. Next year is his year.
Todd Helton’s numbers stack up with some of the game’s greats: 2,519 hits, a .316 lifetime batting average, and a .414 lifetime on-base percentage. There is no doubt about Helton’s ability to hit. He seems like he has a solid case for induction.
Where Helton’s case is complicated, however, is when you look at his home park. Helton spent the majority of his career raking in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field in Denver. Voters are having a difficult time discerning how much of his numbers are due to his ability and how much is due to the thin air of the Rocky Mountains.
It’s important to note that Helton only played half of his games in Colorado. Also, Helton’s numbers are similar to those of former first baseman Fred McGriff, another borderline Hall of Fame player who manned first and recently got in before his last year of eligibility. Helton may not enter the hall in 2020, but he’s likely to get in before his eligibility expires. As with Schilling, a light 2020 class may see Helton get fast-tracked for induction.
Larry Walker seems like a great candidate for the Hall of Very Good, but his Hall of Fame credentials are a little shaky. He was a five-time All-Star who won the 1997 NL MVP. He had a long, effective career spanning from 1989-2005 and finished with a respectable 383 home runs.
Walker’s included on this list because he has yet to get in and this is his last year of eligibility. The odds are he won’t be voted in this year, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Veteran’s Committee sneak him in a few years down the line (especially considering that many less-worthy players have been inducted).
Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds
Without the taint of PED accusations leveled against them, these two would be regarded as baseball royalty and Hall of Fame locks. They were both, quite simply, two of the greatest to ever play the game.
Clemens redefined the power pitcher as a dominant force from the 1980s through the 2000s. Bonds, already one of baseball’s greatest offensive players, saw a late career surge in which he passed Hank Aaron as baseball’s all-time home run leader.
The problem here is that there is strong evidence that both players used PEDs. The Hall of Fame case for both men has become a representation for how baseball reconciles its past of players using those PEDs. Most would agree that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Famers without the use of drugs. But without a concrete timeline of when the PED use occurred, no one can make that distinction.
This is a tough issue, but it may find a resolution soon. Bonds and Clemens received votes on nearly 59% of the writer ballots in 2019 — well short of the 75% needed, but a step in the right direction. Bonds’ percentage went down slightly from 2018, but he has gone up steadily every year prior since he first appeared on the ballot in 2013.
Our prediction? Bonds and Clemens have until 2022 to be voted in. Their accomplishments are undeniable. They will not become Hall of Famers in 2020, but they will enter Cooperstown some day, likely in their last year of eligibility.