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Breaking Down the New Players on This Year’s Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Mariano Rivera pitching in Game 6 of the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the fifth world championship he won with the Yankees. Credit CreditBarton Silverman/The New York Times

This year’s Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday and mailed to voters this week, is tinged with sadness.

One of the top new candidates, Roy Halladaydied last November when a small plane he was piloting plunged into the Gulf of Mexico near his home in Florida. He was 40.

Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner with a perfect game and a playoff no-hitter, could be the first player elected posthumously by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America since Roberto Clemente in 1973.

Among the other newcomers on the ballot, Mariano Rivera is a lock to be elected. Rivera helped the Yankees win five World Series titles while collecting a record 652 saves and compiling a 2.21 earned run average, the best of any pitcher born after 1889 with at least 1,000 innings.

Rivera could have company on the stage next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y. Five holdover candidates received votes on more than half of the ballots last year, with 75 percent needed for election: Edgar Martinez (70.4 percent), Mike Mussina (63.5), Roger Clemens (57.3), Barry Bonds (56.4) and Curt Schilling (51.2).

Besides those five and other holdovers, voters will have 18 newcomers besides Halladay and Rivera to consider. Most will fail to meet the 5 percent threshold needed to remain on the ballot next year, but before they do, here’s a quick reflection or fun fact on each of the other 18.

RICK ANKIEL When Ankiel suddenly lost his ability to throw strikes, in the top of the third inning of the opening game of the 2000 playoffs, Steve Blass watched at home and winced. “Why at the beginning?” Blass said, according to Ankiel’s memoir with Tim Brown. “Why now?” Blass, at least, had been a star for Pittsburgh into his 30s before he lost control. Ankiel, then with St. Louis, was only 21, and effectively finished as a pitcher. He fashioned a second act as an outfielder and logged a hard-earned 11 seasons in the majors.

Jason Bay played six strong season with the Pittsburgh Pirates before playing with the Red Sox and Mets. Credit Barton Silverman/The New York Times
JASON BAY Early in his career, Bay was traded three times in 17 months. When he finally got a chance to start every day at age 25, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2004, he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Bay was terrific for six seasons, averaging 30 homers and 99 runs batted in, and after a brief stop in Boston he signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets, sustained two concussions and was never the same.
LANCE BERKMAN I once asked Berkman about the game-tying single he hit off the Texas Rangers’ Scott Feldman in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series, when the St. Louis Cardinals were one strike from elimination. “It was actually a really good pitch,” Berkman said. “He threw it, I think, right where he wanted to throw it. It was a cutter in, started right on the corner, probably just a hair off the inside corner. He didn’t make a bad pitch. He made all very competitive pitches. It’s just something you can’t really account for. I didn’t hit it all that great, but it found some grass.” Found some grass. I love that.

FREDDY GARCIA A distinct line connects four of the best pitchers in Seattle Mariners history. Mark Langston starred in the 1980s and was traded to Montreal for Randy Johnson. Johnson starred in the 1990s and was traded to Houston for Garcia, who is from Venezuela and threw changeups. Garcia inspired a young pitcher in Venezuela, Felix Hernandez, to learn the changeup and root for the Mariners. Hernandez signed with Seattle at age 16, wore Garcia’s No. 34 and used a devastating changeup to become the Mariners’ career wins leader. Garcia is fourth on that list with 76 victories; he won 80 more times for six other teams.

JON GARLAND Garland went 18-10 for the 2005 White Sox, a World Series champion that might as well have played in the 19th century. In the regular season, four Chicago starters combined for more than 890 innings. In the five-game American League Championship Series, the White Sox got 133 of 135 outs from their rotation. In the five games of this year’s A.L.C.S., Boston Red Sox starters got 74 of 135.

The Yankees dugout congratulating Travis Hafner after he hit a two-run homer in a 2013 game against the Cleveland Indians. Credit Barton Silverman/The New York Times

TRAVIS HAFNER Five players on this ballot — Hafner, Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis — played their final games with the Yankees in 2013, a season marked by Derek Jeter hobbling around on a broken ankle and Alex Rodriguez lying about steroids. Hafner hit the final dozen of his 213 career home runs, the most by any player born in North Dakota. (Fargo’s Roger Maris hit more, but he was actually born in Minnesota.)

TODD HELTON We all know that Jeter, picked sixth over all, was the best player taken in the 1992 draft. But who was the next-best player? By wins above replacement, it was Helton, who was taken 55th over all by San Diego out of high school but attended the University of Tennessee instead. Helton stayed three years in Knoxville, hitting .370 for the Volunteers while moonlighting as a pitcher (19-5, 2.24 E.R.A.) and quarterback (484 yards, four touchdowns — and one knee injury that opened a starting spot for Peyton Manning). The Colorado Rockies made Helton their first-round choice in 1995, and he played with them for all of his 2,247 career games — exactly 1,000 more than anyone else in franchise history.

TED LILLY We’ve had a good run of former Montreal Expos in Cooperstown lately, with Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Vladimir Guerrero going in since 2003. But the candidates Youppi! once cheered are dwindling, and Lilly is the only one on this ballot. He made his debut in 1999 for the Expos, who soon traded him to the Yankees for Hideki Irabu. But the Yankees blundered by dealing Lilly to Oakland in 2002 in a three-way deal with Detroit for Jeff Weaver. Lilly had eight career victories before the trade, 122 thereafter.

DEREK LOWE What a wild ride for Lowe with the Red Sox in the early 2000s. He made the All-Star team as a closer in 2000. He made it again as a starter in 2002, the year he threw a no-hitter. He was 0-3 in the 2003 postseason but 3-0 the next fall, winning the clinching games in the division series, A.L.C.S. and World Series. The Red Sox let him go after that, but Lowe remained a solid starter for years, helping the Dodgers and the Braves reach the playoffs.

DARREN OLIVER On March 25, 2005, Oliver was pitching for the Rockies in an exhibition game in Tucson when a pack of bees descended on the mound in the fifth inning. The bees chased Oliver away, and while he tried several times to keep pitching, the swarm would not let him. The game was called before the top of the sixth, and afterward, Oliver said that the bees had been attracted to the coconut oil in his hair gel. “I guess I must have smelled good,” he said. “It was kind of funny at first, but after a while, I started getting a little nervous.” On that day, at least, the bees did what Father Time struggled to do: remove Oliver from the mound. The well-traveled left-hander toiled for 20 major league seasons.

ROY OSWALT The Houston Astros issued No. 44 to Oswalt for spring training in 2001. It wasn’t his first choice, but he was a rookie and knew his place. “I wore 18 in high school,” Oswalt said recently, “but Moises Alou had it, and I knew I wasn’t getting it.” When Oswalt went 14-3 that season, he decided that 44 worked just fine and kept it his entire career, which included 143 victories for the Astros, one shy of Joe Niekro’s franchise record. No. 44 is usually associated with sluggers — think Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson and Willie McCovey — but Oswalt is the best pitcher ever to wear it.

ANDY PETTITTE In this era of diminishing workloads for starters — especially in October — it’s heartening to see Pettitte’s name in the top 10 on the career list for innings pitched in the World Series. Pettitte threw 77⅔ innings, eighth behind six Hall of Famers and Art Nehf, a 1920s standout for the New York Giants. Pettitte was 5-4 with a 4.06 E.R.A. in the World Series, starting two openers, winning two clinchers and losing another. His best performance came in a 6-1 victory over the Marlins in Game 2 in 2003, when Aaron Boone made an error with two outs in the ninth inning to cost him a complete-game shutout.

JUAN PIERRE Here was a career of extremes. Pierre had no arm, no power and very little plate discipline. But the things he did well, he did really well. He was durable (five consecutive seasons of 162 games). He was fast (614 stolen bases, ranking 10th in the integration era). He could bunt (he’s the last nonpitcher with 20 sacrifice hits in a season). And he was an extreme contact hitter (an average of 39 strikeouts a season). Bonus fun fact: Pierre was named for his father’s favorite player, the Hall of Fame pitcher Juan Marichal.

PLACIDO POLANCO The Detroit Tigers were down to their final out in the 2006 World Series when Polanco came up against the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Polanco represented the tying run, but in 18 plate appearances in that World Series, he had reached base just once, with a hit-by-pitch. Somewhat miraculously, Polanco drew a walk to save himself the ignominy of making the final out. Even so, Polanco’s 17 at-bats without a hit are the most by any player in a World Series in the last 50 seasons, an odd distinction for a player with a strong career average of .297.

MIGUEL TEJADA Only two players since 1937 have reached all of these benchmarks in the same season: 200 hits, 100 runs, 30 homers, 150 runs batted in. One was Albert Belle for the White Sox in 1998. The other was Tejada for the Baltimore Orioles in 2004. That scintillating season earned Tejada zero first-place votes for the M.V.P. award, though he did win it for Oakland in 2002 — the season chronicled in “Moneyball,” the groundbreaking book that, alas, dismisses Tejada for not walking very much.

VERNON WELLS Wells spent most of his career with also-ran teams in Toronto, appearing in 1,731 overall games without reaching the postseason. That is a shame, because Wells knows how to toast a special occasion. In retirement, he owns a winery with Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta, a former teammate on the Los Angeles Angels. A bottle of their 2015 cabernet sauvignon sells for $125 online, but you can snag their 2016 reserve sauvignon blanc for $35.

KEVIN YOUKILIS Youkilis won the World Series twice with the Red Sox, and to ensure immortality in New England, he married Tom Brady’s sister, Julie, in 2012. He won’t be elected to Cooperstown, but if there were a Hall of Fame for funky ways of standing at the plate, Youkilis would make it on the first try. He placed his feet close together, pinched in his knees and bounced up and down — all while wiggling his bat above his helmet and pointing it at the pitcher, holding his hands apart on the handle. It was performance art at its finest to Gar Ryness, also known as the internet’s Batting Stance Guy, who sums up Youkilis like this: “He’s the Michelangelo of the stance.”

MICHAEL YOUNG Young is the career hits leader for the Rangers, which is a pretty cool distinction. Most franchise hits leaders are in the Hall of Fame, but it’s close — 16 are in and 14 are not, though at least two more will be: Derek Jeter (Yankees) and Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners). The others who aren’t yet are Garret Anderson (Angels), Bert Campaneris (Athletics), Luis Castillo (Marlins), Carl Crawford (Rays), Tony Fernandez (Blue Jays) and Luis Gonzalez (Diamondbacks).

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