The Baseball Hall of Fame ballot in 2021 is weak. The new names added are unlikely to gather much support, forcing attention onto the pre-existing candidates.

Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are all controversial figures.

Schilling’s right-wing outbursts online, including jokingly supporting the lynching of journalists, have worked against him, though he received 70% of the vote in 2020, 5% short of a place in Cooperstown.

Clemens and Bonds, two players who should have been first-ballot based on their statistics, have faced accusations of using performance-enhancing drugs.

With so many voters strongly against voting for players associated with steroid use, Bonds and Clemens are unlikely to make it into Cooperstown – they each received 61% in 2020.

There will be a lot of talk about the ballot’s ‘character clause’ ahead of 2021 balloting.

Bonds & Clemens - Top Contenders

Bonds had a Mike Trout-level dominance in online MLB betting odds. The question of the best player in the game was not worth asking when Bonds was at the peak of his powers.

There is a grey area over Bonds’ use of steroids, and it is important to note the context. Bonds played through the steroid era when performance-enhancing substances were common across MLB.

For a player great enough to be in an all-time MLB team, Bonds’ Hall of Fame candidacy is puzzling.

He had a Cooperstown-worthy career before any accusations of steroid use, and his career-ending CV is up there with Babe Ruth and Willie Mays as arguably the greatest player to ever play the game.

Clemens is in a near-identical situation to Bonds.

He’s eighth all-time in career bWAR, and his seven Cy Young awards is two more than anyone else in the history of the game. On record alone, Clemens should have been a lock for the Hall, potentially a unanimous selection.

This is where MLB is in a difficult situation. Controversy has been a feature throughout the sport’s history.

While steroid use in the early 2000s might be the greatest ‘scandal’ of all, blocking players from Cooperstown for playing in that period causes problems down the line.

If Jose Altuve or Alex Bregman build Hall of Fame careers, will they be left out because of their involvement in sign stealing? How will it impact voters’ support of Carlos Beltran in years to come?

Bonds and Clemens should be in the Hall. Barring a massive turnover of voters, it’s very unlikely they will be elected. Schilling is closer, his career was not on the same planet as Bonds and Clemens.

Bonds and Clemens should be getting a much greater share of the vote than Schilling. If Schilling can be elected with his hard-right views, Bonds and Clemens should have been elected a long time ago.

Rolen in Contention

Scott Rolen has the numbers in his favour, but he’s the sort of understated player who can be overlooked when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. He was seldom a baseball betting candidate for MVP.

The 10.2% earned in his first year suggested he didn’t have much chance. That number shot up to 17% in year two and over 35% in year three.

Voters have had time to ponder Rolen’s candidacy, and his supporters have made their case for him. Importantly, space has opened up on ballots with recent inductions. Rolen should see his backing swell further in 2021.

His career WAR is ninth among third basemen, and he was a true two-way star, excelling on both sides of the ball. Only Mike Schmidt and Brooks Robinson won more Gold Gloves at third.

He looks set to follow a similar path to Larry Walker, who started slowly, but was eventually elected to the Hall in 2020, his final season on the ballot.

Rolen shouldn’t be waiting that long. Being elected in 2021 is a big leap from where he is now, though with Tim Hudson and Mark Buerhle as the highest profile names arriving on the ballot, Rolen could be close.

Wagner Faces Bullpen Disrespect

Relief pitchers might not be the first thing covered in baseball for dummies, but they are an increasingly important part of the sport. They deserve greater recognition in Cooperstown.

Billy Wagner is one of the best relievers ever. Lee Smith was inducted into the Hall by the Veteran’s Committee in 2019, but Wagner shouldn’t have to wait for his place in Cooperstown.

The flame-throwing lefty is sixth all-time in saves and holds the records for strikeout percentage and hits given up per nine innings of pitchers with over 800 career innings.

Only eight pitchers are in the Hall with their primary achievements as a bullpen arm. That number should be higher. Wagner, who had 31.7% of the vote in his fifth year on the ballot, is among the greatest ever in his role.

Being top five or top 10 all-time at your position is enough to make Cooperstown for most others – the same should be the case with relief pitchers.

An elite bullpen arm will alter baseball betting tips. Wagner was of that ilk, a pitcher so dominant the game was effectively over when he took the mound. He should join Smith, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera in the Hall.

*Credit for the main photo belongs to Jeff Roberson / AP Photo*

Sam is a sports tipster, specialising in the Premier League and Champions League.

He covers most sports, including cricket and Formula One. Sam particularly enjoys those on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean – notably MLB and NBA.

Watching, writing and talking about sports betting takes up most of his time, whether that is for a day out at T20 Finals Day or a long night of basketball.

Having been writing for several years, Sam has been working with 888Sport since 2016, contributing multiple articles per week to the blog.