In 2023, the Baseball Hall of Fame’s ballot logjam will be cleared away

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 09: Scott Rolen /

Tuesday’s Baseball Hall of Fame results cleared up a decade-long logjam created by the controversial candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa.

Come next January, that logjam going away could be very good news for the candidacies of Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, and possibly also Billy Wagner.

Taking a look ahead at the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa all exhausted their 10-year eligibility for Hall of Fame consideration by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), meaning their names will be stricken from the 2023 ballot. In concert with the election of David Ortiz, plus the numerous candidates who failed to reach the 5 percent threshold to remain eligible, it means that 42 percent of the 2,837 ballots cast in this election will be free to go somewhere else in 2023.

In contrast, last year’s results — which resulted in no candidate winning election — meant that 97 percent of the 2021 votes were cast for candidates who continued to the 2022 ballot. That’s a logjam.

Ortiz, Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, and Sosa were the five most prominent of 16 names on the 2022 ballot who will not be returning in 2023. Only 14 players eligible for consideration this year will remain eligible next year.

Since the list of new 2023 eligibles — led by Carlos Beltran — is not considered a strong one, it is possible that most of those available 42 percent of 2022 votes will be redistributed among the leading holdovers — Rolen, Helton, and Wagner.

It’s theoretically possible, of course, that Hall voters simply withhold their now-available support on the theory that the remaining candidates are not worthy. However, they tend not to do that.

While we don’t have full results from 2022 yet, Ryan Thibodaux’s Vote Tracker found that one-third of voters in the 2021 election voted for at least eight candidates.

With his 63.2 percent share this year, Rolen stands to be the big winner from removal of the logjam. That percentage left him 47 votes short of election.

But Rolen has been a rising stock in recent Hall balloting. Despite the paucity of freed-up votes available this year, he picked up 37. That was on top of the 72 votes he gained in 2021. His percentage has climbed from 35.3 in 2020 to 52.9, then to 63.2.

Considering how many Bonds, Clemens, Schilling, Sosa, and Ortiz votes will be out there looking for a new home in 2022, the fates appear to align very much align in Rolen’s favor next January.

Helton could also profit from the clearing of the vote logjam, and for the same reasons. He debuted on the ballot in 2019 at just 16.5 percent, rising to 29.2, 44.9 and, this year, 52.0 percent.

That still left him 91 votes short of enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame. But in an election with so many previously committed votes, it was impressive that he gained 25 supporters. Next year, with more than four of every votes looking for a new candidate, it’s not hard to imagine Helton picking up most if not all of the 91 votes he still needs.

Wagner is farther back but, like Rolen and Helton, he’s gaining quickly. In his eighth year on the ballot, he will be seeking to build on a vote percentage that has risen from just 16.7 percent four years ago to 51.0 percent this year.

It’s also possible that next year’s freed-up logjam jumpstarts the candidacies of some lagging candidates, Andruw Jones and Jeff Kent being the two most obvious. Jones is often discussed among the best center fielders of the last generation, yet he has been stuck at or below 41 percent.

The same is true of Kent, a power-hitting second baseman who has not been able to get above 32 percent, even with a Kent-only ballot in the mix. Kent’s problem is that he will be in his final year of eligibility in 2023, so freeing up the ballot logjam probably comes too late to help him.

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Gary Sheffield’s candidacy flat-lined Tuesday, repeating the 40,6 percent share of the vote he got in 2021. That’s a bad sign, although he’s an outside possibility to benefit from the removal of the vote logjam. But in his ninth year of eligibility in 2023, Sheffield faces much the same problem — lack of time remaining — as Kent.