David Ortiz will be eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame next year, but it’s unclear how that vote will go, given suspicion that he may have used performance enhancing drugs early in his career. Kathy Willens/Associated Press

It could be a while before the Baseball Writers’ Association of America votes anyone new into the Hall of Fame.

BBWAA members delivered an empty class in this year’s election, which was announced Tuesday night. Curt Schilling received the most support, but the former pitcher was selected on 71.1% of the ballots, falling 16 votes short of the 75% needed for induction. Barry Bonds (61.8%) and Roger Clemens (61.6%) were the next-highest finishers.

It was the first time since 2013 that the BBWAA didn’t elect anyone. That year proved to be an exception. The writers elected 22 players from 2014-20. But there are signs that the 2021 shutout could be repeated next year – and perhaps the year after that as well.

Schilling came up short, his numbers barely budging from last year. He’s turned off voters with his behavior in recent years, including social media posts about Muslim extremists, transgender people and journalists. Bonds and Clemens appear to have stalled as well amid suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use.

Next year’s ballot is expected to include Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz for the first time. Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball’s PED policy and collective bargaining agreement. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Ortiz was among those who tested positive in a 2003 survey designed to determine the degree of steroids use in baseball.

Barring a significant change in the way the electorate approaches PEDs, it’s possible the BBWAA won’t vote anyone in next year, either. And the same could be true for 2023, when Carlos Beltrán – implicated in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal – appears likely to be the top newcomer on the ballot.

LAST CHANCE

Bonds and Clemens have one more year on the writers’ ballot, and Schilling does, too, unless the Hall abides by his request for removal. There was a time when Bonds and Clemens seemed to be making progress as new voters were added to the process, but now they’re heading into their 10th and final chance.

“The turnover in the electorate seems to be good for a point or two every year, but they need, what, 13 or 14 points now?” said Ryan Thibodaux, whose online ballot tracker provides a running poll in the weeks leading up to the vote announcement. “They need to change a whole bunch of minds. It’s basically if a bunch of people have decided that they’re waiting until year 10 to make that switch, that’s pretty much their hope.”

HARD TO PREDICT

Ortiz has his own PED questions, but he’s managed to remain relatively popular, and it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll fare in the voting.

“One of the few candidates where I literally have no idea what’s going to happen,” Thibodaux said. “It would not surprise me if he got 50% and it wouldn’t surprise me if he got 85%.”

Perhaps a groundswell of support for Ortiz will cause some voters to rethink their opposition to Bonds and Clemens, but it’s not at all clear how well Ortiz will do on his first try.

OTHER NEWCOMERS

Although Rodriguez and Ortiz are the biggest additions, there are some other interesting new names expected for the 2022 ballot.

Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins each won an MVP, and Tim Lincecum won two Cy Young Awards. Prince Fielder and Joe Nathan are among the other eligibles.

ROLLING ALONG?

Scott Rolen received 52.9% of the vote this year, up from 35.3% in 2020. He may be the best bet for avoiding more BBWAA shutouts in the next couple of years.

OTHER AVENUES

Even if the BBWAA doesn’t vote anyone in next year, there’s still a chance someone will be elected by one of the Eras Committees, which consider players no longer eligible for the BBWAA vote. The Golden Days and Early Baseball committees are supposed to consider candidates for next year’s class, and the Today’s Game Committee is set to have its say for the 2023 class.


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