COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 29: The podium is seen at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 29, 2018 in Cooperstown, New York.
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The 2021 Hall of Fame Ballot is here. That means it’s time for ESNY to sit down and have a long, hard talk about who’s going to be inducted.

Hall of Fame voting is always contentious. Every voter, writer, and fan has their own stance on who should and shouldn’t be enshrined.

Some are resolute in their stance against steroid users. Others have softened to the idea now that Bud Selig has been inducted. Some believe the person and not just the player matters. Still, others believe that the only thing that should matter is how they played on the field.

ESNY‘s writers are here to give their opinions on this year’s ballot. Some call it a weak ballot, but that hasn’t stopped our columnists from finding a number of deserving candidates for enshrinement.

Kyle Newman, Mets columnist

Ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent

This may be a weak Hall of Fame ballot, but there are still nine players who can make a case.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be persecuted until the end of time, but it’s getting ridiculous. A majority of players in their ERA used steroids, and some even got inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hell, the commissioner of the league who allowed the Steroid Era to happen is in the Hall of Fame.

How can we still continue to try and erase history? Say what you will about Bonds and Clemens, but every player tries to gain an advantage. Even Babe Ruth once injected himself with sheep testicle extract in an attempt to get an advantage similar to steroids. It didn’t work, but he tried to cheat.

Just let Bonds and Clemens in already.

Todd Helton is one of the best hitters of his generation and a three-time Gold Glove winner. Some will say that Coors Field had something to do with it, and it probably did. Why should that matter? A player shouldn’t be punished for the team they played on. Now that Larry Walker is in the Hall of Fame, there’s even less case against Helton.

Scott Rolen should have been in on the first ballot. He has the tenth most rWAR at third base ever. Nine of the top-11 are in the Hall of Fame, the only other one who isn’t is Adrian Beltre, who will no doubt be enshrined one day.

Rolen’s defense was phenomenal, winning the Gold Glove eight times, at the time the third-most ever at the position. His bat wasn’t far behind. He slashed .281/.364/.489. A player ahead of his time, Rolen would have been beloved by the sabermetric crowd.

Billy Wagener is the second greatest closer in MLB history. His individual numbers are all either first or second, behind Mariano Rivera. Mo is enshrined, the only player to ever get 100% of votes. Meanwhile, Wagner is in year six.

The BBWAA seems to have something against relievers, but Wagner was elite. It’s an insult he isn’t in the Hall of Fame already.

Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, and Jeff Kent all have the same case. They were all elite offensive players who couldn’t play defense to save their lives. All three of them are among the greatest offensive players at their position of all time.

Kent won an MVP, Sheffield hit 600 home runs, and Manny finished top-10 in MVP voting in eight straight seasons. Defense matters, but these guys all had elite bats.

Andruw Jones is here because of their defense. Jones won 10 Gold Gloves, third-most in the history of the National League.

So why is Jones here but not Torii Hunter or Omar Vizquel? Jones bat gives him an extra edge, as he was the best Center Fielder both in the field and at the dish for about a decade. Some voters don’t believe that’s long enough, but a decade of domination is more than enough for me.

James Kelly, Yankees columnist

Ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to spend months arguing about who’s worthy of achieving baseball immortality by inclusion in the Hall of Fame.

And boy, oh boy, is this a rough year for the ballot.

First thing’s first, I didn’t include any of the first time guys on my ballot. The fact of the matter is nobody on that list jumps off the page as a no-doubt Hall of Famer. None of them are so integral to the history of the game that they deserve a plaque in the most exclusive baseball museum in the world. And as you’ll come to realize, I’m pretty liberal with my vote. So when even I don’t give someone a vote, they really don’t deserve it.

Now for the big one. I included Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on my ballot. Understandably, many wouldn’t due to the steroid implications that surround them. But they played in the steroid era. Everyone was juicing. Major League Baseball intentionally looked the other way because the power surge was saving the sport. I’m not going to penalize them for the era that they played in. And I’m perfectly fine with them receiving an asterisk, making it clear that the steroids were an issue.

But you simply can’t give an accurate history of the game without including the two. Bonds is the home run king. Clemens is a seven-time Cy Young winner. They’re simply too important to be left out.

Now the other shock, Curt Schilling. On numbers alone, Schilling is a Hall of Famer. He’s not quite on the level of Bonds and Clemens, but a Hall of Famer nonetheless. And every fiber of my being wants to say that it’s “The Hall of Fame,” not “The Hall of nice guys who were pretty good at baseball.”

But Schilling is just the opposite of what the character clause requires. It goes so much deeper than political leanings. Schilling is an active detriment to the game of baseball and society as a whole. His Twitter account is chock full of hatred, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. If he had just shut up between the time he stopped playing and the time he reached Hall of Fame eligibility, he would have been a no brainer. But he just can’t help himself, and I certainly couldn’t vote for him.

The rest of my ballot is pretty straightforward.

I left off Omar Vizquel because despite how good he was defensively, he only had two seasons with an OPS+ over 100. He just wasn’t good enough offensively to let his defense make the Hall of Fame case for him.

I included Todd Helton because the Coors Field effect is a little overblown in his case. His road numbers were not as drastically bad as we’ve seen from some other Colorado Rockies. And Larry Walker’s induction showed that the writer’s association doesn’t hold the Coors Field effect in such high regard.

Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are self-explanatory. They’re two of the best power hitters in the history of the game, and they deserve recognition.

Billy Wagner was also an easy choice as one of the best closers to ever lace up. For whatever reason, relievers still aren’t held in the same regard as starting pitchers are. But when you’re sixth on the all-time saves list, you probably deserve some recognition.

Josh Benjamin, Yankees columnist

Ballot: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, Torii Hunter, Jeff Kent, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Andy Pettitte, Omar Vizquel, Gary Sheffield

In an overall weak Hall of Fame class, these 10 names stand out the most. People won’t like my inclusion of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but they’re Hall of Fame talents regardless of their ties to steroids. In an era where a majority of players juiced, making an example of these two by denying them enshrinement is pointless.

It’s time for Todd Helton to join longtime teammate Larry Walker in Cooperstown. Even if his power dropped off towards the end, he’s still a .316 lifetime hitter. He still hit a respectable .287 away from Coors Field, so give him the plaque!

Torii Hunter’s elite outfield defense in his prime should be enough to get him in, even if he got worse with age. More importantly, his play was always at a high level well into his thirties.

Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones’ gloves speak for themselves. The two have 18 Gold Gloves between them despite their offensive stats not being the sexiest. Having a combined 184 DRS, however, is.

Similarly, Omar Vizquel deserves to be here. His 262.1 Defensive WAR negates his -234.5 Offensive WAR. Bill Mazeroski’s fielding always overshadowed his bat, and he’s in the Hall. So should be Omar Vizquel.

Andy Pettitte won 256 games despite never being an elite arm. It doesn’t matter because, in the playoffs, he was a different animal. 19 wins, a 3.81 ERA, five World Series rings, and maybe the best big-game pitcher of his time. Even if it’s a homer pick, I stand by it.

Jeff Kent and Gary Sheffield were never popular with the media, but they both could play. We all know it. 351 of Kent’s 377 home runs came as a second baseman, the most by any at the position.

Sheffield’s stance alone was intimidating enough to result in 509 home runs, even if he was a terrible outfielder. Were it not for injuries; he probably would have come close to 600.

ESNY staff reports.