Derek Jeter headlines 2020 Hall of Fame ballot

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The Baseball Hall of Fame has released the ballot for the 2020 induction class. There are 32 names on the ballot, 18 of whom are newcomers.

Of those newcomers, the guy at the top of the list stands a pretty decent chance of getting over the 75% vote hump needed to induction, I reckon:

Derek Jeter
Bobby Abreu
Jason Giambi
Cliff Lee
Josh Beckett
Heath Bell
Eric Chávez
Adam Dunn
Chone Figgins
Rafael Furcal
Raúl Ibañez
Paul Konerko
Carlos Peña
Brad Penny
J.J. Putz
Brian Roberts
Alfonso Soriano
José Valverde

It’s hard for me to picture anyone from that group apart from The Captain getting elected. The best non-Jeter players are Jason Giambi, whose PED associations likely doom his chances, and Cliff Lee, whose 13-season big league career had a Hall of Fame peak but not a Hall of Fame duration which will likely leave him on the outside as well. Bobby Abreu spent a very long time as the Most Underrated Player in Baseball™ which I suspect will translate to him being The Best Candidate Still on the Ballot But Who Will Never Gain Election™ for the next decade. At least once Larry Walker, Curt Schilling and the PED-associated guys fall off.

As for the rest of ’em, it’s a lot of guys who are fun to remember — and who we’ll talk about between now and the announcement of the election results in January — but who will fall short.

And now the returnees, with last year’s percentage of the vote and the number of years they’ve been on the ballot:

Curt Schilling (60.9%) 8th year
Roger Clemens (59.5%) 8th year
Barry Bonds (59.1%) 8th year
Larry Walker (54.6%) 10th year
Omar Vizquel (42.8%) 3rd year
Manny Ramírez (22.8%) 4th year
Jeff Kent (18.1%) 7th year
Scott Rolen (17.2%) 3rd year
Billy Wagner (16.7%) 5th year
Todd Helton (16.5%) 2nd year
Gary Sheffield (13.6%) 6th year
Andy Pettitte (9.9%) 2nd year
Sammy Sosa (8.5%) 8th year
Andruw Jones (7.5%) 3rd year

I and many others have argued the merits of these guys for years. My personal feelings are that Schilling, Clemens, Bonds, Walker, Ramirez, Wagner, Jones, and Sosa belong in and I have given serious thought to including Sheffield in my imaginary ballots as well. It hasn’t resulted in much.

Walker received a big boost between 2018 and 2019, going from 34.1% to 54.6%, but this is his last year on the ballot and I doubt he or any of the rest of them make it. If I had to guess it’ll just be Jeter and whoever the Veterans Committee elects in December.

The Baseball Writers Association of America will announce election results on January 21. Inductions will take place on Sunday, July 26, at 1:30 p.m. in Cooperstown.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.