The 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame class is set after the Baseball Writers Association of America elected Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina.
For the friends, family, former teammates and loyal supporters of those four worthy inductees, the celebration is on. For everyone else, especially those whose Hall of Fame candidacy will begin or continue in 2020, it’s time to look forward.
A new Hall of Fame year officially begins now, and in looking to next year’s potential ballot, there’s one name that stands out among the rest. Derek Jeter, the longtime New York Yankees shortstop and captain, is on his way to headline what could prove to be a star-studded class.
Joining Jeter will be a familiar cast of controversial holdovers. Barry Bonds (59.1 percent in 2019), Roger Clemens (59.5) and Curt Schilling (60.9) will all be back, and each will be carrying positive momentum after seeing their totals increase. Then there’s Larry Walker, whose case has reached the urgent stage in his 10th and final year of eligibility.
The group of potential newcomers won’t be short on interesting names either. Among them is a quartet of former Yankees: Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi, Raul Ibanez and Bobby Abreu. Paul Konerko, Josh Beckett and Cliff Lee could garner some support as well.
Fresh off the 2019 announcement, there’s no better time to break down how the 2020 newcomers could change the voting landscape.
Derek Jeter: There’s only one player we feel certain about. Jeter was on a Hall of Fame path by his age-25 season, and only continued to strengthen his case by racking up regular season and postseason accolades, and by surpassing 3,000 career hits. The only question surrounding Jeter is whether he can join teammate Mariano Rivera as a unanimously elected Hall of Famer.
GUYS WE’LL BE DEBATING
Jason Giambi: Meet the newest certain-to-be polarizing Hall of Fame candidate. Giambi was unquestionably one of the best hitters of his era. He’s one of only 20 players in MLB with at least 400 home runs, 1,400 RBI, 1,200 runs and 1,300 walks. But he also has the steroid stigma attached to him after being a prominent part of the BALCO mess. Perhaps the momentum for Bonds and Clemens will be a sign of things to come regarding the Hall of Fame vote. But even then, Giambi figures to face an uphill battle.
The Holdovers: Honestly, it’s going to be difficult to make a strong case for any of the other new arrivals. That means the debates surrounding the holdovers — Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Walker — should take center stage.
For the Bonds, Clemens and Schilling grouping, it was a good year regardless of not being elected. All three made notable progress again in their seventh year on the ballots, and now have reasonable chances to get in as soon as next year. Each has three years of eligibility remaining, so their case isn’t as urgent.
As for Larry Walker, it’s now or never. The former Montreal Expos and Colorado Rockies outfielder had his best showing to date on the ballot, finishing with 54.6 percent. Now the question is will he be able to make a Tim Raines or Edgar Martinez-like surge in his final campaign. Both Raines and Martinez gained steady support with each passing year, with the biggest surge coming when it mattered most. Walker could be on that same track.
With newcomers Todd Helton (16.5), Andy Pettitte (9.9) and Andruw Jones (7.5) staying on, the ballot will still be pretty crowded. They’ll essentially replace mainstays Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina, who were finally elected this year. First-timers Rivera and Roy Halladay were immediately elected, while the other 15 first-time candidates immediately fell off.
Fred McGriff will fall off the ballot after 10 years. He’s one candidate whose support easily could have spiked in 2020, so that’s some good news for the returnees.
OTHER PROMINENT NEWCOMERS
Paul Konerko: A Hall of Very Good career if there ever was one. Konerko was the heart and soul of the Chicago White Sox championship team in 2005, and was a dangerous hitter for the entirety of his 18-year career. He’ll get votes, but not nearly enough to be a contender.
Alfonso Soriano: A decent argument could be made for Soriano. He finished with 2,095 hits, 412 home runs, seven All-Star appearances, three Silver Sluggers and two top-10 MVP finishes. He’s also one of only four players (Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez) to post a 40-homer, 40-steal season. However, his low career OBP (.319) will stick out like a sore thumb to most voters.
Bobby Abreu: At his peak, Abreu produced numbers that compared favorably to current Hall of Famers, such as Vladimir Guerrero. Unfortunately, he couldn’t supplement those numbers with a strong enough performance across the board.
Josh Beckett: A three-time All-Star with a World Series (2003) and ALCS MVP (2007), Beckett was still building his Hall of Fame résumé when injuries derailed his career at age 32. He retired at 34, leaving us to wonder if a strong career finish would have been enough to solidify his case.
Cliff Lee: Another player whose strong peak won’t be enough. From 2008-13, Lee was among the league’s very best pitchers, posting a 2.89 ERA. He was also an excellent postseason performer, notching at least 10 strikeouts in five of 11 starts.
More Hall of Fame coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Hall of Fame adds four: Rivera, Halladay, Martinez and Mussina
• Rivera becomes first-ever unanimous Hall selection
• Bonds, Clemens, Schilling make progress toward Cooperstown
• The phone rang for Halladay, one of the greats