2022: David Oriz steps up to the Hall of Fame plate
Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Prince Fielder
Halladay, Helton, Ramirez, Rolen, Vizquel
Most Likely To Be Elected
This is far enough in the future that all bets are off. Even given the signs that Bonds and Clemens are on a path to election, it's difficult to imagine that, with regards to PED-linked candidates, the balance will swing quickly to electing players with actual suspensions. That goes for Ramirez—who was suspended twice yet still received 23.8% in his 2017 ballot debut, 0.2% more than Mark McGwire ever did—and for A-Rod, he of the 3,115 hits, 696 homers, three MVP awards and the year-long suspension in '14 for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Even with the post-suspension rehabilitation of his image in some quarters, Rodriguez will have to wait a long time to get in, at the very least.
Then there's Ortiz, who will have to overcome both a more minor PED connection—he was reported as having failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test (as were Ramirez and Rodriguez), though he has always denied taking steroids—as well as the stigma of spending 88% of his career at designated hitter. Of course, he also has 541 career home runs and a role at the center of the Red Sox's three championships form 2004 to '13, not to mention some great postseason numbers. He's already in a better position than he was when I checked in on his case in late July, given that commissioner Rob Manfred basically disavowed the veracity of the survey test on the grounds that there were at least 10 false positives among the 104 reported positives but that the discrepancies were never ironed out because the threshold to trigger mandatory testing had been met.
What's more, the talk about Ortiz during his remarkable retirement tour appears to have given Martinez (who outscores him by a wide margin in JAWS and spent just 72% of his career at DH) a significant boost towards election. In turn, Martinez's spot in the Hall by this point will help to justify the election of Ortiz.
I'm not ready to go so far as to declare that Big Papi will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer yet, because while we've seen what we'll call "PED rumor" candidates—Mike Piazza, Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez—elected, we've yet to see anyone from the survey test group get there (including Sosa, languishing in single digits at the halfway point of his candidacy and running out of eligibility by 2022). Ortiz almost certainly will break the ice, but that doesn't mean it will be instantaneous.
As far as what else is in store: I see Halladay, a fourth-year candidate by this point, getting in here, but I don't see anybody else who will be particularly close; among the newcomers, neither Teixeira nor Fielder even reached 2,000 hits. Will Rolen or Andruw Jones have made it to 50% by this point, or even remained on the ballot? Will Vizquel or Kent gain enough momentum despite the less-than-favorable numbers outlined above? Will Helton go where Walker couldn't? Will Billy Wagner ever get some love from the voters?
I wish I knew the answers to all of those questions, but my crystal ball needs more polish to see that far ahead. What I do know is that my forecast for the election of 12 candidates over this span is more optimistic than the scenarios I ran one or two years ago (11 and nine, respectively). That's due in part to the shortening of the eligibility window, which has given voters a greater sense of urgency. Two years ago, I didn’t see Raines getting elected, to say nothing of Martinez, and my horizon didn’t extend far enough to foresee the elections of Mussina, Schilling, Bonds and Clemens. Now all of that appears within reach, and not only will the Hall be the better for it, but the cleared ballot space will also bring us new surprises.