This is the first article in a breakdown miniseries regarding the 2022 Hall of Fame candidates with ties to YOUR Minnesota Twins. Links to the future articles will be updated here!
HOF, Minnesotan Style | Justin Morneau | Joe Nathan | Torii Hunter | Jim Kaat | Tony Oliva
It wasn’t that long ago that we were debating the merits of the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot, an election cycle which saw the likes of Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens get close, but fail to reach that ever-elusive cigar.
The ‘21 ballot featured two notable Twins outfielders — Torii Hunter received 9.5% in his first year on the ballot, his career firmly in Hall of Very Good territory, as far as I’m concerned. In a different era of the game, 2,400 hits, 350+ homers, and nine Gold Gloves probably would have been enough to get him over the hump, but the lack of a career-defining season and the 20-or-so WAR shortage between Hunter and the average HOF center fielder has stunted his case.
Michael Cuddyer’s appearance on the ballot was more of a tip-of-the-cap inclusion, as Cuddy was in and around some big moments on big teams, but had not built a genuine case during his 15 big-league seasons. “For my next trick,” he said, “I will make my Hall of Fame support disappear!” The trick was successful, and he received no votes. He probably should have done a different trick.
That ‘21 ballot also saw LaTroy Hawkins nab a pair of votes in his first year on the ledger, although two total votes lands you a bit shy of that 5% threshold, Richard.
That brings us to the ‘22 ballot, released at the top of this week and chock-full of some really, really interesting names.
The only returning Twin from the ‘21 ballot is Torii Hunter, who may hold on for another few years, or may see his support dwindle as the ballot fills up with more deserving candidates, and the bandwidth for courtesy votes and fringe support decreases. But this time, he’s joined by Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, each of whom had careers filled with accolades and well worthy of further discussion.
In addition to the standard ballot, the Twins have a couple of team legends making their case for the Veterans Committee. Twins legend Tony Oliva and longtime franchise fixture Jim Kaat will be in line for potential induction as their era comes under consideration via the Golden Days ballot.
Over the next few weeks, we will have a feature on each Twin-centric name on this ballot, with a Minnesota-focused retrospective and a weigh-in from members of the Twinkie Town staff. Fun!
For now, though, there is much to be appreciated on a macro level, as this ballot is seriously jam-packed. Half the ballot looks like it came from MLB Power Pros, with Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Carl Crawford, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jimmy Rollins joining the fray for the first time. It’s hard to believe some of these guys are even eligible already. Where does the time go?
Tim Lincecum, Alex Rodriguez, and David Ortiz will draw a lot of attention this winter. Most would say A-Rod has no shot despite the aggressive image rehabilitation he’s attempted since retiring from his playing days and transitioning into the broadcast booth. A-Rod is one of five players ever to have been hit with the dreaded 162-game suspension for repeat steroid offenders. (My favorite is Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia, who registered three positive tests in less than a year — twice for the same damn substance! — and was the only player permanently suspended under MLB’s drug policy, though he bounced around in the minor leagues following a reinstatement in 2018.) Anyway, the federal lawsuits don’t help either.
David Ortiz’s name comes up from time to time, but Big Papi has the benefit of never officially registering a positive test under the new agreement, and even had fan favorite Rob Manfred speak on his behalf during a 2016 press conference about the murky nature of his steroid history, or lack thereof.
Tim Lincecum’s star burned bright for the briefest of moments. Big Time Timmy Jim won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in the late 00’s, but had already pitched his last above-average season at age 27 and was putting up ERAs in the nines not long after that.
Other first-timers include Mark Teixeira, Jake Peavy, and Minnesota darling A.J. Pierzynski.
In addition to some of the mid-range names who have been through this rigmarole a few times now (Scott Rolen and Todd Helton stand out, as does Billy Wagner, whose lack of induction is probably hurting Joe Nathan’s case — more on that to come) it’s also a significant year for our 10th-rounders. This is the final year of consideration for Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and (the big one) Barry “The Big One” Bonds. It’s now or never for two of the poster children of the steroid era — and Curt Schilling, whose request to be removed from the ballot was denied last offseason.
There will be plenty of time for dedicated discussion on each of these individual Twins cases in the coming weeks. For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the non-Twins candidates: is Ortiz a first-ballot HOF’er? Will Barry Bonds get over the hump, based on his pre-juice numbers and overall impact to the story of the game? Will Carl Crawford shock the world?
The floor is yours!