The Envelope Please: Our 2022 Hall of Fame Crowdsource Ballot Results and a Preview of Election Day

The finish line of one of the longest Hall of Fame election cycles in memory is in sight. On Tuesday, the results of this year’s BBWAA balloting will be announced by new Hall president Josh Rawich at 6 pm ET on MLB Network. With so many polarizing and at times off-putting candidates — by my count, eight have been credibly linked to performance-enhancing drugs and six to incidents of domestic violence — it’s been another particularly contentious cycle; beyond the usual back-and-forth between voters and bystanders on social media, we’ve even seen a top candidate fire back at a voter over a snub. It remains entirely possible that for the second year in a row, the writers won’t elect a single candidate, something that hasn’t happened since 1958 and ’60, a point at which the BBWAA was voting on a biennial basis.

If it were up to FanGraphs readers, however, three candidates would be headed to Cooperstown this summer, based on the results of our fourth annual Hall of Fame crowdsource ballot. As has been the case since the 2019 ballot, registered FanGraphs users were invited to select as many as 10 candidates from this year’s slate, just as actual voters do, using the same December 31 deadline. A total of 1,018 users participated, which is down 11.6% from last year, a drop that probably owes something to a couple of lapses on my part. First, I forgot to send out a last call for votes, having last tweeted about the crowdsource ballot on December 23, and second, I plumb forgot to submit my own ballot into the system after filling out my paper one and dropping it in the mail on December 30. Though I called up the page and checked the boxes at some point that week, I was hazy on whether I’d actually completed the task until noticing that none of the individual returns matched my particular 10. None of those 1,018 ballots has Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Joe Nathan but not Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez, just as none of the 178 ballots in the Ballot Tracker as of 12:01 AM ET on January 24 does. Oops.

The three candidates chosen by our readers are the same trio as last year. In number, that’s down from four in 2020 and a honking seven in ’19. Ta-da:

Hall of Fame Crowdsource: 2022 vs. 2021
Player YoB 2022 Crowdsource 2021 Crowdsource Change
Scott Rolen 5 84.8% 84.5% 0.3%
Barry Bonds 10 82.9% 83.0% -0.1%
Roger Clemens 10 79.8% 82.0% -2.3%
David Ortiz 1 71.9%
Alex Rodriguez 1 67.7%
Todd Helton 4 66.1% 63.6% 2.5%
Andruw Jones 5 61.7% 67.9% -6.2%
Gary Sheffield 8 53.5% 59.0% -5.5%
Billy Wagner 7 53.4% 53.6% -0.1%
Manny Ramirez 6 52.8% 53.5% -0.6%
Curt Schilling 10 40.9% 54.9% -14.1%
Sammy Sosa 10 36.3% 40.0% -3.7%
Bobby Abreu 3 25.6% 29.9% -4.2%
Jeff Kent 9 22.3% 24.7% -2.4%
Andy Pettitte 4 16.0% 26.5% -10.5%
Mark Buehrle 2 9.1% 13.5% -4.3%
Joe Nathan 1 8.5%
Jimmy Rollins 1 5.5%
Tim Lincecum 1 5.3%
Tim Hudson 2 4.4% 6.3% -1.9%
Omar Vizquel 5 4.0% 13.7% -9.7%
Torii Hunter 2 2.1% 4.5% -2.5%
Jonathan Papelbon 1 1.5%
Mark Teixeira 1 1.3%
Prince Fielder 1 1.1%
Ryan Howard 1 1.1%
Justin Morneau 1 0.7%
Jake Peavy 1 0.7%
Carl Crawford 1 0.3%
A.J. Pierzynski 1 0.3%

Leading the way for the second year in a row was Rolen, an elite defender at the hot corner as well as a very good hitter for the position, and as a candidate controversial only for the fact that injuries cut into his career totals. Bonds and Clemens, both of whom have been linked to the use of PEDs dating back to the time before Major League Baseball and the players’ union introduced testing and penalties, were “elected” by our readers as well despite those allegation and their other negatives, as they’ve been every year since I began this exercise. The top trio’s shares of the vote showed impressive consistency from year to year; indeed, the levels of support for Bonds and Clemens have been nearly unchanged since 2020, when the pair polled 82.1% and 80.9%, respectively. Rolen has grown in support from 61.1% in 2019 — when he got just 17.2% on the ballot — to 73.6% and then 84.5% in the past two years.

This year’s voters were more generous than last, averaging 8.62 names per ballot compared to last year’s 7.65, and giving at least one vote to all 30 candidates (per the Tracker, Crawford, Fielder, and Peavy have yet to get on the board). Even so, not enough of them included Ortiz — the top polling candidate in the Tracker, and the only one with any real shot at election — to push him past the 75% threshold. That probably has more to do with his spending most of his career as a designated hitter rather than his reportedly failing the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test. As illustrated by the crowdshare percentages for Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez, and others, our voters have been more accepting (or forgiving) of such candidates, outpolling even the voters in the Tracker, who themselves tend to include those candidates with greater frequency than the BBWAA electorate as a group.

2022 Hall of Fame Crowdsource vs. Ballot Tracker
Player YoB 2022 Crowdsource Tracker Dif
Alex Rodriguez 1 67.7% 40.4% 27.3%
Manny Ramirez 6 52.8% 37.6% 15.2%
Scott Rolen 5 84.8% 70.2% 14.6%
Bobby Abreu 3 25.6% 11.2% 14.4%
Andruw Jones 5 61.7% 48.9% 12.8%
Sammy Sosa 10 36.3% 25.3% 11.0%
Todd Helton 4 66.1% 57.9% 8.2%
Gary Sheffield 8 53.5% 46.6% 6.9%
Joe Nathan 1 8.5% 2.2% 6.3%
Barry Bonds 10 82.9% 77.5% 5.4%
Andy Pettitte 4 16.0% 10.7% 5.3%
Billy Wagner 7 53.4% 48.9% 4.5%
Mark Buehrle 2 9.1% 5.1% 4.0%
Roger Clemens 10 79.8% 76.4% 3.4%
Tim Lincecum 1 5.3% 3.4% 1.9%
Tim Hudson 2 4.4% 2.8% 1.6%
Prince Fielder 1 1.1% 0.0% 1.1%
Jonathan Papelbon 1 1.5% 0.6% 0.9%
Jake Peavy 1 0.7% 0.0% 0.7%
Mark Teixeira 1 1.3% 0.6% 0.7%
Torii Hunter 2 2.1% 1.7% 0.4%
Carl Crawford 1 0.3% 0.0% 0.3%
Justin Morneau 1 0.7% 0.6% 0.1%
A.J. Pierzynski 1 0.3% 0.6% -0.3%
Ryan Howard 1 1.1% 1.7% -0.6%
Jimmy Rollins 1 5.5% 11.2% -5.7%
Omar Vizquel 5 4.0% 11.2% -7.2%
Jeff Kent 9 22.3% 31.5% -9.2%
David Ortiz 1 71.9% 83.7% -11.8%
Curt Schilling 10 40.9% 60.7% -19.8%
Yellow = candidate has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs via testing or other reporting.

The seven PED-linked candidates besides Ortiz polled an average of 10.7% higher via our crowd than they’ve done in the Tracker; including him, the average drops to 7.9%. Big Papi is one of five candidates who underperformed by more than five percentage points relative to the pre-election Tracker results. Four of those five players (all but Schilling) are significantly below the JAWS standards at their positions but have credentials that appeal more to traditionally-minded voters; they’ve all got Hall of Fame Monitor scores of at least 120, not quite “a virtual cinch” (130 points) but nearly so.

But that’s not what’s torpedoing Vizquel’s candidacy. Instead, allegations that he physically abused his wife and that he sexually harassed a batboy while managing the White Sox’s Double-A affiliate have resulted in an exodus of voters; if it were up to the FanGraphs electorate, which has never really supported his candidacy to begin with — his high was 13.7% last year, whereas he reached 52.6% on the actual 2020 ballot, and slipped only to 49.1% last year — he wouldn’t even make it onto next year’s ballot.

And then there’s Schilling, whose support here has generally lagged relative to his share on the actual ballot. He maxed out at 67.0% on the 2020 crowdsource ballot but slipped to 54.9% last year after spreading election and COVID-19-related conspiracy theories on social media. After calling for martial law, voicing support for the January 6 Capitol rioters, and then requesting that the Hall of Fame take him off this year’s ballot so he could avoid accountability for his toxic emanations, he’s down near 40% here, with the 11th-highest share from our crowd. Actual ballot-wise, after final results of 70.0% and 71.1% in 2020 and ’21, he’s polling about 14 points below where he was prior to the unveiling of last year’s results. He’s not getting in via the writers.

Given that Bonds, Clemens, and Rolen have seen about a 7% to 12% dropoff from their pre-election Tracker numbers to their final ones over the past three cycles, it’s clear that it’s Ortiz or bust when it comes to any candidate getting elected by the writers this year. Jason Sardell, whose probabilistic model has been the most accurate among the projectionists for three years running, estimated as of Thursday (when there were 173 ballots in the tracker) that Ortiz had a 99% chance of election:

At the same time, Sardell has pointed out at numerous turns that he feels as though his model — which characterizes voters based upon whether or not they’re “Large Hall” voters (i.e., using all 10 spots on their ballots), and Bonds/Clemens or anti-PED voters — may be overestimating his chances. Excerpts from his January 11 thread:

1st-time candidates are harder to predict, and my model has often overestimated support amongst the top players… One explanation is that private voters apply higher standards to “first-ballot” HoFers than public voters. And while my model adjusts for decreased acceptance of PED use among private voters, it’s difficult to quantify how many will penalize Ortiz for being a DH… Another potential source of error is that Boston-based voters are currently over-represented in the Tracker. We’ve seen the ballots of ~60% of likely Boston voters, but only ~40% of all ballots. And, except for Dan Shaughnessy, they’ve overwhelmingly supported Ortiz.

The Tracker’s Ryan Thibodaux has been comparing Ortiz’s performance on published ballots to those of two close calls, Ivan Rodriguez in 2017 (elected with 76.0%) and Jeff Bagwell in 2016 (short at 71.6%, elected the following year). Thibodaux hasn’t published an update in over a week, but Ortiz was ahead of both through 170 ballots:

As for the other top-tier candidates, we’ll see how well Rolen sets himself up for possible election next year, whether Helton, Wagner, and perhaps even Jones and Sheffield can push past that all-important 50% threshold. Will Rodriguez surpass the 36.2% that Bonds received in his first year (and 37.6% for Clemens) to offer hope of a more, um, positive outcome by the time his eligibility lapses? Stay tuned.

One way or another, this election cycle will all be over soon, and if you’re weary from the debates over the controversial candidates, and the blowback on social media, I can’t say I blame you. Elsewhere on this site, we’ve published the transcript of my FanGraphs Audio podcast spot with ESPN senior writer Buster Olney, who earlier this month wrote an article about whether this two-month period of prolonged discussion and the daily drip of ballot reveals is good for the Hall of Fame and the electoral process, and whether it sacrifices the suspense. I took issue with a couple of Olney’s points via Twitter, and after a friendly exchange, invited him to continue the conversation on a podcast.

You can listen to and/or read the whole thing, but I’ll cut to the chase here. From 2002-16, the election results were generally revealed in the first week or two of January, with January 12 (2009) and January 10 (2006) the only times the date reached double digits. Since then, however, the announcements have ranged from January 18 (2017) to January 26 (2021), meaning that an extra two weeks or so of waiting has suddenly become part of the deal, that at a time when the baseball calendar is pretty dead. That extra time isn’t a logistical necessity; if you’re wondering about the actual counting of votes, it all takes place at Ernst & Young on the day of the announcement. But interestingly enough, the slack in the schedule has coincided with the 10th-year elections of Tim Raines (2017), Edgar Martinez (2019), and Larry Walker (2020). Because of the limited information that pre-election Tracker results provides — an exit poll consisting of 55-59% percent of the total ballots, but with significant variations in the patterns of gaining or losing ground from candidate to candidate — there’s been no shortage of suspense, not just with those three candidacies but with regards to the unanimous voting for Mariano Rivera (which held up) and Derek Jeter (which did not), and the gains further down the ballot, all the way to the 5.0% cutoff for retaining eligibility.

It seems rather apparent that the Hall likes this extra delay of its own making, and that it has come to like or at least tolerate the Tracker. While the Hall pushed back after the writers voted to make every ballot public starting with the 2018 election cycle, it has done nothing to crack down on the pre-results publishing of ballots, because any publicity is good publicity. As for the BBWAA, the voters have amply illustrated that they’re in favor of greater transparency and accountability. That makes for a healthier process, even if it might be an unruly one.

This year, at a time when the baseball landscape is even deader than usual due to the lockout, the election has taken up a greater share of attention. While normally that would be a good thing, so many of this particular set of candidates angry up the blood for one reason or another. The PED issue is now guaranteed to be front and center even after Bonds and Clemens age off of the ballot, because Rodriguez won’t get in anytime soon and will be eligible for nine more years (gulp). The Hall already tried to limit these candidates’ exposure by unilaterally truncating the eligibility window from 15 years to 10, and while we could have expected at least a year’s respite between Bonds and Clemens falling off the BBWAA ballot and landing on the Today’s Game Era Committee one, the postponement of last year’s Era Committee proceedings due to the coronavirus pandemic means that they’ll be eligible next year, which could crowd the likes of Fred McGriff, Kenny Lofton, Bruce Bochy, and anyone else you’ve hoped might gain entry via the small-committee route.

Still, what I think the din of the debates shows — just as much this year as any other — is that people do care about the Hall, very deeply, in spite of swearing up and down on social media that they don’t because of this player’s exclusion and that player’s inclusion. Yes, it may be that the Hall will sacrifice a bit of relevance without the inclusions of Bonds, the all-time home run leader and a contender for the best all-around player in the game’s history, and Clemens, the best pitcher since World War II; the Hall has already sacrificed some relevance by barring the all-time hits leader, Pete Rose, as well. That’s not to say that the two situations are parallel; they are most definitely not. Rose broke the rule whose consequences regarding lifetime banishment had been clear for over half a century, and so he’s no longer in good standing within MLB, whereas Bonds and Clemens were messing in an area where the league had no means of enforcement; both remain in good standing, employable and electable if enough voters could agree. The Hall has survived without Rose, and it will survive without Bonds and Clemens for as long as that plays out.

The space on the walls of the plaque gallery at 25 Main St. in Cooperstown remains worth fighting for, and while the electoral process could certainly use some tweaks here and there, the extra attention of this election cycle amply illustrates that the Hall still matters.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky

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Jason Bmember
2 years ago

Sardell is expecting Tim Hudson to be a very likely casualty of the ballot this year. I don’t know that he’s a HOF’er, but I would like to see him hang around for more than a couple of years so that the electorate can have a fuller consideration of and discussion about his candidacy once some of the noise surrounding Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling dies down. No way he could ever get from 5% up to 75% but I feel like he deserves to be on the ballot nonetheless.