Why Baseball Hall of Fame could have an empty 2021 class, but not an empty induction ceremony


We are less than one week away from the reveal of the official results of the BBWAA vote for the 2021 Baseball Hall of Fame class. There was no veterans committee meeting this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so if there are new Hall of Famers joining the Cooperstown museum this coming summer, it’ll have to be players via the BBWAA route. That is, they are on the ballot and have been included on at least 75 percent of the returned ballots. 

The number of players meeting that requirement might end up at zero. Though, thanks to a twist, it wouldn’t be near as big a story as last time the BBWAA vote inducted no new members.

First, a quick look over at the ballot tracker from Ryan Thibodaux and his team. With close to 40 percent of the expected ballots counted publicly, here’s a look at the five players over 50 percent. 

  1. Curt Schilling: 74.8%
  2. Barry Bonds: 71.6%
  3. Roger Clemens: 71%
  4. Scott Rolen: 65.8%
  5. Todd Helton: 54.8%

We can talk about the significant gains — and losses to one player in particular — next week when we see the official count. What we know now is that even Rolen and Helton likely have no shot this year and everyone less than 50 percent has no chance on this ballot. We’ve been following the ballot collecting from Thibodaux and his troops for long enough to know this. They even list the percentage of known ballots (“public”) vs. those from voters who with to remain anonymous (“private”). In general, most vote totals drop from what we know heading into seeing the actual results, as those voters who wish to never reveal their votes seem to be those who don’t vote for many, if any, candidates. 

Last year, Schilling lost over seven percent from the ballot tracker to the actual results. Clemens went down nine percent and Bonds went down over 10. For those curious on Rolen, he lost over 12 percent last year. And, again, though we’ve seen lots of public ballots, Thibodaux estimates we haven’t even seen half of what will be the final tally. 

As such, it’s reasonable to believe no one from this class is getting in this year. 

The last time the BBWAA had an empty class was 2013. I’ll cop to being pretty angry at the vote when it happened. It was one of the major culprits to the ensuing ballot crunch that had several years with upward of 15 candidates worthy of Hall of Fame discussion despite voters being capped at a maximum of 10 votes. Not only that, there are now nine players from that ballot in the Hall. Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell got in via the work of veterans committees, but the BBWAA ended up putting in Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez and Larry Walker in later votes. Why those guys had to wait longer was, and still is, beyond me. 

Since then, the BBWAA has been on fire, electing 22 players into the Hall of Fame in seven votes. After that kind of work and, frankly, with the feelings that so many fans have against Schilling, Bonds and Clemens getting in, it wouldn’t be such a crime to have an empty class this year.

Not only that, but in 2013, there were zero living inductees on hand for the ceremony. That matters because the Hall of Fame ceremony is known to be important to the local economy in Cooperstown for that one week in July. The three inductees via the veterans committee in 2013 had all died before 1940. 

This time around — hopefully we’ll be in a place with the pandemic where a close to “normal” induction ceremony can happen this July — the path is cleared for a more festive event. With last summer’s ceremony postponed by COVID, we’ve got Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and the late Marvin Miller from the 2020 class to celebrate in 2021. We know Jeter has a huge fan base. Walker will also be the first Rockies player ever enshrined. Simmons is important to longtime fans of both the Cardinals and Brewers

To reiterate, it wouldn’t be so awful to have this BBWAA ballot come up empty, even if I think more than a handful of the players should be in Cooperstown. The ceremony itself won’t feel empty. 

It would, however, be historic, to have no inductees for a year from either the BBWAA or a veterans committee. 

The previous three empty BBWAA classes were 2013, 1996 and 1971. All three of those classes had multiple new Hall of Famers due to the veterans committees and a Negro League selection.

That is the last time there were no new Hall of Famers in a year: 1960. The ceremonies were canceled that year, just as they were in 1950 and 1958 due to totally empty classes. Those are the only three previous empty years since the inception of the Hall of Fame. 

1950, 1958, 1960 … 2021? 

We might be headed in that direction. 

This time around, however, the Hall won’t be forced to cancel. Thankfully, for the city of Cooperstown, we’ve got Jeter, Walker, Simmons and Miller to celebrate. 





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