We asked FanSided’s MLB site experts to cast their vote for the 2020 MLB Hall of Fame. There was strong disagreement on players linked to steroids and near-unanimous selection of Derek Jeter.
The 2020 MLB Hall of Fame ballot features an interesting mix of players – from the divisive to the near-unanimous; from fan-favorites on the fringes of greatness to undisputed greats with complicated legacies.
To get a sense for how fans felt about this year’s Hall of Fame class, we asked all of thesite experts at our MLB sites to vote on a mock ballot for those they would send to Cooperstown.
We adhered to BBWAA voting rules, with 10 players maximum per ballot and a 75 percent voting threshold to be elected. We asked voters to explain their votes, which you will read below. We received 42 responses, a decent 10 percent sample size considering there were 425 ballots filled out for the official 2019 vote.
So, without any further ado, the FanSided 2020 Hall of Fame class is: Derek Jeter.
Yup, that’s it. Jeter, the iconic Yankees shortstop, was the only player to appear on more than 75 percent of the ballots. He came within one vote of being a unanimous selection (we’ll get to that later).
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens came the closest to joining Jeter, each falling a couple votes short of the threshold. The lingering cloud of the steroid era proved to be the most divisive question with passionate and thoughtful responses on each side of the vote.
Before we get into the explanations, here are the top vote-getters and full voting results:
Jeter – 97.6% (41/42 ballots), Bonds – 73.8% (31/42), Clemens – 71.4% (30/42), Walker – 69% (29/42), Schilling – 57.1% (24/42), Jones – 50% (21/42), Ramirez – 45.2% (19/42), Helton – 40.5% (17/42), Rolen – 38.1% (16/42), Wagner – 38.1% (16/42), Sosa – 31% (13/42), Sheffield – 26.2% (11/42), Vizquel – 26.2% (11/42), Kent – 23.8% (10/42), Pettitte – 23.8% (10/42), Abreu – 19% (8/42), Giambi – 7.1% (3/42), Konerko – 7.1% (3/42), Soriano – 4.8% (2/42)
Received no votes: Beckett, Bell, Chavez, Dunn, Figgins, Furcal, Ibañez, Lee, Peña, Penny, Putz, Roberts, Valverde.
Let’s dig into the biggest themes that emerged in our expert’s explanations of their ballots.
In his first year on the ballot, Jeter was always destined to be an obvious election. The Captain, was “a no-brainer,” as Joel Reuter of Around the Foghorn said.
Multiple experts pointed to Jeter’s status as an iconic figure with the Yankees and his reign as the face of the sport.
“Derek Jeter is a slam dunk HOFer as the face of baseball for years and putting up great numbers over a whole career with one team.” – David Gasper, Reviewing the Brew
“Jeter is the first and easiest choice for his hit total and his presence as one of the top stars of his era.” — Steve Kubitza, Away Back Gone
“I make my selections based on “Fame,” not necessarily statistics. I don’t care if Larry Walker had better park-adjusted stats than Jeter, for example, because Jeter became the most famous player of his era – from Mr. November, to simply becoming the most famous player and most influential player of his era.” — Jack Trent Dorfman, Dodgers Way
Mike Calendrillo, an expert at Yanks Go Yard, defended Jeter against claims that his defense was actually weak for his position:
“Derek Jeter should be a unanimous choice. Those that focus on defensive deficiency are not only overlooking five Gold Glove Awards but his body of work as a whole.”
Mac Josephson, Calendrillo’s fellow expert at Yanks Go Yard, agreed that Jeter should be unanimous (as did a few others). So what about that one voter who didn’t include Jeter on his ballot? That was Vincent Page of Halo Hangout:
“Obviously there’s one part of this most disagree with, but when players like Barry Bonds aren’t in the Hall of Fame, players like Derek Jeter shouldn’t be either.”
(For what it’s worth, his ballot was: Abreu, Bonds, Clemens, Schilling and Walker.)
While most may disagree with Page, his rationale brings us to the biggest debate of the ballot…
THE STEROID DEBATE
More than decade on from the Steroid Era, the Hall of Fame is now grappling with how to remember players who were the biggest and best stars of their time but either tested positive for PEDs or were connected to them in some way.
Our experts fell into a few camps, from fully in favor, to conflicted and outright against.
There were those like Kevin Kraczkowski of Marlins Maniac, who believes, “For a few years, steroids were inescapably a part of the national pastime. It’s time we stop pretending it didn’t happen.” On the other hand, plenty of experts were more in line with Austin Reimann of Rays Colored Glasses who said, “I don’t vote for PED guys, plain and simple.”
The best arguments of those in favor:
“I regret what steroids did to the innocence of baseball as I knew it when I was a kid, but part of me feels that if players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens never get into the Hall, it would be as if the era of baseball I grew up with never really happened. As the old saying goes, if you can’t tell the story of baseball without mentioning a player’s name, he should be in Cooperstown. Those of us who came of age in that time don’t deserve to have the generation we watched discounted by history just because the era was marred by scandal.
“Moreover, I do not believe anyone would feel that, say, Ken Griffey Jr. is suddenly less of a Hall of Famer or all-time great just because a player suspected of cheating (Bonds) is in Cooperstown with him. We can allow that period in baseball history to be remembered as what it was without erasing it or the players involved.” — Chris O’Reilly, Away Back Gone
“The Hall of Fame is a museum that captures baseball’s history. Those who produced at the highest level should be recognized, regardless of circumstance. That’s why I didn’t leave those tied to PED allegations off my ballot. To a lesser extent, the same can be said for those who benefited from Coors Field. It’s not their fault they played in a hitter-friendly environment.” — Sean Penney, BoSox Injection
“The PED Era was just another era in baseball history, like the Dead Ball Era or the pre-integration era. Bonds, Clemens, and Ramirez were the best of the best. They deserve to be in.” — David Hill, Call to the Pen
“It’s not feasible to completely ignore an era of baseball, in this case the PED Era, hence the inclusion of several names linked to performance-enhancing substances.” — Jake Misener, Cubbies Crib
“In selecting my ballot, I don’t leave off the steroid-users. Baseball’s black eyes are certainly famous, and a major part of the history of the game. To leave them out is to keep future generations from remembering the ‘90s era of baseball, which certainly is something that should be avoided.” — Dorfman, Dodgers Way
“I’m not going to pretend I know who did and who didn’t do steroids. Many rules have been broken and bent, the one thing we know is Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth are probably the two greatest hitters this game has ever known.
“If we assume they were all using PEDs then you must assume the people they were competing with were too. Baseball has eras of statistical variances so the go-to question is: “relative to their peers, how dominant were they?” For that reason, I’m not ruling out the “steroid era” guys based on the PED notion alone. These stats are like a Kentucky-wedding, they are all relative.” — Seth Carter, Rays Colored Glasses
“As for the suspected PED users, MLB knew exactly what was transpiring in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. In order for the sport to rebound from the ’94 strike, baseball turned a blind eye and allowed certain players the chance to rewrite the record books. You want to put an asterisk on their Hall of Fame plaques that reads “suspected PED user,” so be it. But it doesn’t erase what they did on the field of play.” — Calendrillo, Yanks Go Yard
“I voted for several players who have been accused of PED usage (Bonds, Manny, Sosa, Clemens) because those were some of the best players I have seen in my lifetime. I feel like the steroid era has to take into account that some players did use PED’s but most of the players would have gotten into the HOF even without PEDs.” — Michael Wittman, Dodgers Way
“When looking at the ballot I voted for who I thought were players who people identify with their era. I understand performing enhancing drugs take away from the authenticity of the game. However, it became part of the game with many, many players, most who we probably do not even know, taking some form of PED.” — Nicholas Caporoso, Rum Bunter
“Sure, a history of PEDs should be a permanent stain on a player’s record. But I have so many fond memories of watching the players from this era of baseball play, they’re an integral piece to the game’s history, and absolutely deserve to be forever immortalized in Cooperstown.” — Ty Gonzalez, SoDo Mojo
The best of those against:
“Sorry folks, I can’t bring myself to vote for the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others who used PEDs.” — Drew Koch, Blog Red Machine
“In my world, I will never reward obvious/admitted steroid users with the highest honor in the sport: such a thing would only justify and encourage this bad behavior — which is not a victimless crime by any means.” — Alan Carpenter, Tomahawk Take
“I’ve always been a “no-steroid” guy because there had always been at least 10 guys on the ballot in which I thought they were HOFers so I would go with them first. This year, I have 9 guys (Vizquel was my favorite player growing up but as much as I like him, he’s not a HOFer). Since I don’t have spots for both Bonds and Clemens, who I think are in the same boat, they are both a no because I’m not going for one over another. Next year, there is no first-timer that is HOF-worthy to me so I will probably have them on for next year.” — Noah Yingling, Rox Pile
“I’m not a fan of putting known PED guys into the Hall of Fame, no matter how many other guys were doing it, that still doesn’t make it right. So that takes guys like Bonds, Clemens, Pettitte, etc. off my ballot.” — Gasper, Reviewing the Brew
THOSE WHO JUST MISSED OUT AND BEST ARGUMENTS FOR THE REST
Bonds and Clemens were the only others to clear 70 percent of the vote, and many made the case for them beyond any steroid speculation.
“I think the selections that would draw the biggest question marks are the selection of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both players have the dark cloud of performance-enhancing drugs over their career, but both were great players from the beginning of their careers. I believe, on talent alone, Bonds is one of the greatest players in MLB history and you can definitely say the same for Clemens.” — Chris Schad, Puckett’s Pond
“I know a lot of voters will once again bypass on Barry Bonds of the “Steroid Era”. But I don’t care what anybody says, steroids or not, you can’t deny the talent and the career Bonds had. He has already been inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, and had his number retired by the Giants. It’s due time to rightly recognize Barry Bonds for an exceptional career.” — Brian Murray, Climbing Tal’s Hill
“I’m of the opinion that Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were both Hall of Famers before any questions arose about the legitimacy of their performance. They’ve waited long enough.” — Reuter, Around the Foghorn
“As much as I don’t love doing it, I feel like it’s time to start giving Bonds and Clemens real consideration. If you take nothing else away from this ballot, let it be known that Larry Walker should be a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame.” — Chris Henderson, Jays Journal
Walker, in his 10th and final year on the ballot came up short but earned a lot of praise from voters.
“Larry Walker deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Look at his numbers outside of Coors Field and let’s drop the “altitude bias.” — Kevin Henry, Rox Pile
“Would somebody finally give Larry Walker some love – more than deserving. Career WAR: Walker 72.7 — Jeter 72.4.” — Clayton Richer, Jays Journal
“Aside from Derek Jeter, Larry Walker is the most deserving player among those eligible for the Hall of Fame this year.” — Koch, Blog Red Machine
“Larry Walker is one of the most underrated players in MLB history.” — Reuter, Around the Foghorn
“Larry Walker has been unfairly kept out because of he spent his career at Coors Field despite having Hall of Fame numbers.” — Joshua Finkelstein, Southside Showdown
Schilling was another divisive case, though the reason for people’s split feelings seemed pretty clear. As Reuter put it, Schilling is “a complete embarrassment off the field, but one of the best pitchers of his era nonetheless.”
“There aren’t many guys over the last 25 years you’d want on the mound in a big game more.” — Tim Boyle, Rising Apple
“Schilling clearly belongs – the only reasons anyone excludes him seem to be political.” — Carpenter, Tomahawk Take
As Boyle said, “this year’s ballot includes plenty of borderline Hall of Famers, plus Derek Jeter.” Here are some of the arguments for players who didn’t get elected but received votes and will stay on the ballot for next year:
“Longtime Rockies Todd Helton and Larry Walker have road numbers to justify induction into Cooperstown and not just claim it’s all about Coors Field. Scott Rolen is one of the best defensive third basemen of all-time and had a dangerous bat to go with it. — Boyle, Rising Apple
“I think Todd Helton and Larry Walker were great players, both having an OPS above .850 on the road showing it wasn’t just the Coors effect. Jeff Kent I think is deserving of a vote based on his strong stats and if Lee Smith is a Hall of Famer, so is Billy Wagner.” — Gasper, Reviewing the Brew
“If Dale Murphy can’t get in, then I can’t justify Todd Helton – he’s probably the main ‘bubble’ guy along with Rolen and Kent.” — Carpenter, Tomahawk Take
“Billy Wagner has been grossly underrated for his career. I also don’t think keeping out players solely because of steroids is a viable method hence why Giambi, Clemens, Bonds, and even Sheffield are on it.” — Finkelstein, Southside Showdown
“Wagner was dominant as a closer and if Rivera, Hoffman, and Smith are in, Wagner should be as well. Helton had a HOF career as well.” — Reimann, Rays Colored Glasses
“Billy Wagner is one of the greatest closers of all-time. Name a stat and he’s near the top. Closers are beginning to receive the recognition they deserve for their roles. Wagner does not deserve to wait around for years and years before earning his recognition. We all know he was one of the greatest to every close, put him in the hall.” — Carter, Rays Colored Glasses
“I’m always impressed by defense and longevity, thus the inclusion of Scott Rolen and Omar Vizquel.” — Koch, Blog Red Machine
“Bonds, Clemens, and Manny were easy votes. Sosa was more difficult. But in my mind, if you are that memorable, changed the game that much, and were that important (not to mention was so good for ratings), then you should be in the Hall of Fame. For the rest, easy choices for me. Again, if I am torn on a guy, I go with how memorable they are. If they played before my time and I have either never heard of them or have heard very little, then they don’t deserve to be in. It’s the Hall of Fame.” — Zach Engberg, White Cleat Beat
“When looking at the ballot it feels like there are arguments to be made for all on the list. The candidates I chose have all played a significant role in my baseball fandom. Sosa and Bonds both working towards becoming the kings of the long-ball. Pettitte and Jeter leading a dominant generation of the Yankees dynasty. Finally, Clemens, Manny, and Schilling all playing massive roles in Red Sox history. All have had fantastic careers, but these seven are my Hall of Famers.” — Brendan Mizgala, BoSox Injection
“Bobby Abreu is one of the greatest all-round hitters and a model of consistency. — Carter, Rays Colored Glasses
“I chose four former Phillies, all deserving of Hall-of-Fame consideration. Outfielder Bobby Abreu, in particular, has the 20th-most walks in MLB history (1,476) across his 18 seasons, half of which were spent in red pinstripes.” — Matt Rappa, That Ball’s Outta Here
“Vizquel was difficult, but 11 Gold Gloves spanning 14 seasons speaks volumes (at a premium defensive position). He didn’t get 24 big-league seasons because of his bat. Thus both the best SS ever and the best CF ever (Jones) belong in the Hall.” — Carpenter, Tomahawk Take
“Andruw gets in because I think he’s the greatest defensive CFer of All-Time and was also one of the best hitters in the game for a period of time.” — Jake Mastroianni, Friars on Base
“Scott Rolen ranks 9th all-time in WAR (70.2) among third baseman and the eight guys above him are all in or will be (Adrian Beltre). Andruw Jones had 10 Gold Gloves and 434 home runs while playing a premium position. I guess I’m a small Hall guy leaving it at seven.” — Reuter, Around the Foghorn
“Last spot came down to Helton vs Sosa. Helton had the edge in WAR and OPS+ and was a better all-around player.” — Andrew Gleinser, Climbing Tal’s Hill
“Helton and Kent were my last two votes, but it felt like a crime to vote one in and not also vote for the other. Overall, a solid 10-vote ballot!” — Jordan Foote, Kings of Kauffman
“I’m all for giving the specialists their opportunity to be in Cooperstown. Jones, Helton, and Konerko are all close in my book and I had to pick between them.” — George Stockburger, That Ball’s Outta Here
A couple experts took issue with the congested nature of the ballot and the BBWAA rule allowing for only 10 votes. Matthew Dewoskin of Reviewing The Brew said “I wish I could have elected more than 10.”
SoDo Mojo’s Colby Patnode summed up the challenge of this ballot, saying:
“If this ballot allowed for 15 spots, I’d have a hard time choosing the 15. There are 18-20 players who deserve my vote but I can only pick 10. It is time to get Larry Walker in and the fact that Bonds and Clemens aren’t in yet is laughable. Let’s unclog this ballot so we can give guys like Andruw Jones a real shot. Almost didn’t vote Jeter for one reason only: he is a lock. Whether he gets in with 100 percent or not doesn’t matter. So why not give that valuable vote to somebody else who needs it? Respect I suppose.”
The official 2020 Hall of Fame class will be announced on Tuesday and inducted in July.