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#pounditSunday, February 5, 2023

Five players who could make the Hall of Fame in 2020

Derek Jeter

Four players were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the voter’s this year, and two more by the veterans committee. The class of 2019 includes: Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina from the writers, and Harold Baines and Lee Smith from the veterans committee.

Who could get the Hall of Fame call in 2020? That’s a good question, and one that’s not as easy to predict as this year’s class. A lot depends on how many voters are willing to take the leap and put in players with questionable character.

1) Derek Jeter

Jeter is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. Though he probably won’t get a unanimous nod like former teammate Mariano Rivera, he’ll receive more than enough to surpass the 75 percent mark and become a first-ballot selection. Like Rivera, Jeter had regular season success, postseason success, longevity, individual, and team accolades. He had 3,465 career hits (6th all-time), 1,923 career runs (11th all-time), won Rookie of the Year and was a 14-time All-Star. He was a career .310 hitter in the regular season, .308 hitter in the postseason, a five-time World Series champ, and former World Series MVP. He was regarded as one of the best shortstops throughout his entire career.

2) Larry Walker

Few candidates saw a jump in this year’s vote like Larry Walker. The former outfielder jumped 20.5 percent from 2018 to 2019 and received 54.6 percent of the vote. Next year will be his final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot. He could benefit from timing and a lack of suitable candidates left in the pool. Does he deserve the selection? He was a one-time All-Star and very good player when he broke into the league with the Montreal Expos. Then he took his game to another level upon joining the Colorado Rockies. Taking advantage of the generous Coors Field, Walker put up cartoon numbers during his 10 seasons with the Rockies. He batted .334 with a 1.044 OPS as a Rockie, leading the league in batting average three times, on-base percentage twice, slugging percentage once, and home runs once. Coors Field made sluggers out of Vinny Castilla, Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga, but between the three of them, they only had one season with an OPS over 1.000 (Galarraga in ’93). Walker did it six times. He also twice posted an OPS over .950 during years with other teams. He has the highest career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in Rockies history. Surely that’s worthy of very strong consideration.

3) Curt Schilling

Schilling took a big step forward in voting this year. He went from 51.2 percent to 60.9 percent of ballots. He will be in his seventh year on the ballot next year, and he could get very close to the 75 percent mark next year. Schilling is a six-time All-Star, was very durable, led the league in wins, innings and strikeouts twice, games started three times, and complete games four times. He was excellent for a few seasons during his career and very good for many others. And then of course you have his postseason resume. He was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in the playoffs, winning three World Series (two different teams), NLCS MVP once and World Series MVP once. When he was at his best, he was among the best pitchers in the league, and he was a guy you’d always want on the hill in the playoffs. There is no doubt in my mind he is a Hall of Famer. He hasn’t had more votes because voters dislike him. He had a big jump this year probably because he was hardly heard from. If he can shut up for another year, he might be in next year.

4) Roger Clemens

Clemens is on the short list of best pitchers in baseball history. He won — count em — seven Cy Young Awards, was AL MVP, and won two World Series. He’s ninth all time in wins (354), third in strikeouts (4,672), and 16th in innings. He was great in three different decades. If he retired after his career with the Boston Red Sox, he’d be a Hall of Famer. If his career consisted solely of his years with the Blue Jays, Yankees and Astros, he’d still be deserving of the Hall of Fame. His big question is whether voters are willing to let in an accused steroids user who faced perjury charges from Congress. The Baseball Hall of Fame uses character as one of its criteria for induction, which is why he’s been kept out. Clemens was at 59.5 percent in 2019, his seventh year on the ballot. He’ll probably have another jump up in 2020.

5) Barry Bonds

One of the greatest players in the history of the game. The career home runs and walks leader and single-season home run leader. A seven-time MVP who batted nearly .500 with an OPS just shy of 2.000 in his lone World Series. As I once hilariously read, you could program a robot to hit Major League pitching and it still wouldn’t be better than Bonds. There is no earthly reason to keep him out of the Hall based on performance. But like Clemens, Bonds was part of a massive steroids scandal, so his cheating keeps him out. He had 59.1 percent of votes this year. He would need a big jump — and a lot of forgiveness — in 2020 to get in.

Keep in mind: One Hall of Famer inducted in 2019 went on record saying Bonds and Clemens should not be inducted.

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