Eight former Astros players are candidates to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2020 are out today, and there are eight former Astros players on the list. Five of them return to the ballot for another shot, while three newcomers join them.
The returning players are Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Billy Wagner and Andy Pettitte. Schilling and Clemens are the only two within range, having received 60.9 percent and 59.5 percent of the vote respectively in 2019. A player must be named on 75 percent of ballots to gain induction.
Kent, Wagner and Pettitte are coming off receiving 18.1 percent, 16.7 percent and 9.9 percent, respectively. A player must be named on five percent of ballots in order to stay on the ballot the following season, provided they have not been on the ballot for 10 years.
The newcomers are Bobby Abreu, Carlos Pena and Jose Valverde. Abreu and Pena only spent minimal time with the Astros at the beginning and end of their careers, respectively. Valverde spent two seasons as the Houston closer but pitched elsewhere the rest of his career.
The voting results will be announced on Jan. 21, so we have two months of speculation and ballot counting to get us through to that point.
There are two returning candidates who have realistic shots at getting in, either this year or in the future. Schilling’s resume is clearly Hall of Fame worthy, with more than 3,000 strikeouts and a sterling postseason resume. It’s largely off-field issues that have kept him from getting to 75 percent thus far, but he’s gaining. With a slightly less crowded ballot, maybe this year is when he gets over the hump.
Clemens’ numbers speak for themselves, as he’s one of the most accomplished pitchers in the history of the game. But the ties to steroid use have his fate largely equal to that of Barry Bonds. Both have slowly gained in recent years, but probably won’t cross the threshold just yet. One thing to monitor will be how much closer they’re able to get this year. They each have two years of eligibility left after this one.
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Abreu will be an interesting candidate to monitor. He put up an excellent career, though he’s far from a slam dunk. He has a career .291/.395/.475 line with 2,470 hits, 288 homers, 574 doubles and 400 stolen bases. I think he’ll get enough votes to stay on the ballot, but it’ll take him a few years if he ends up getting in. For what it’s worth, there’s no chance he’d go into the Hall of Fame with an Astros cap.
Kent has some of the best offensive numbers by a second baseman in history, but he’s struggled to get traction. This is his seventh year on the ballot and he only got to 18.1 percent last year. He’s a long shot at this point.
I’ve long believed Wagner is deserving of a spot in the Hall, as his numbers compare surprisingly well to Mariano Rivera and are superior to those of Trevor Hoffman. The only thing keeping him back is his comparatively low saves total. He’s in his fifth year, so there’s still time, but he’s got to make some significant gains this year.
Pettitte seems like a borderline case at best, but he’s got plenty of time, as he’s only on his second year. Newcomers Pena and Valverde don’t have much in the way of candidacy, so I would expect them both to fall off the ballot after this year.
Best of the Rest
The 2020 Hall of Fame class will surely be headlined by Derek Jeter, who’s got a slam dunk case and could even get in unanimously. Larry Walker is in his final year on the ballot and will need a big push to get over the hump.
Defensive wizards Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel and Andruw Jones will be looking for jumps in their third years, while slugger Manny Ramirez is looking to just keep his candidacy afloat despite being tainted by steroid use.
Alfonso Soriano and Jason Giambi could get some support in their first tries, so we’ll see if it’s enough to remain on the ballot. A couple of Houston-area products in Adam Dunn and Josh Beckett are also in the running, but neither is likely to get significant support.