The Braves recently had a constant presence in Cooperstown once their power trio of former pitchers, as well as Chipper Jones, hit the ballot. But die-hard fans are hoping for more, especially after the heartbreaking snubs of Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. Unfortunately, in a tiny 2020 Hall of Fame class, no former Brave even came close. Only Derek Jeter and Larry Walker made the final cut, with Curt Schilling seemingly a lock to get in next year. But who will be the next former player(s) to get a second wind late in the voting as Walker did? Could it be an old Brave? Perhaps, let’s take a look at the final results from this year.
Billy Wagner – 31.7% (5 years remaining)
Wagner had a short stint with the Braves, but a memorable one. Though his voting numbers are still low, he gained some momentum and has a chance at catching a late wind and squeaking in sometime over the next five years. But it is just a shame to see him struggle in the voting after Trevor Hoffman received nearly double the percentage of voters in his first year of eligibility.
Wagner had seven All-Star appearances, a career 2.31 ERA, and the sixth most saves of all-time. While he may have been overshadowed by the likes of Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, and Francisco Rodriguez, he is one of the most lights out closers to ever shut the door. His career 11.9 K/9 rate dwarfs all three of those guys, and you could argue Wagner was the best strikeout artist, and closer, from the left side of all time. He gave up fewer H/9 than all three, and his career ERA is only beat by Rivera.
Gary Sheffield – 30.5% (4 years remaining)
Sheffield is another guy who was with the Braves for just a short stint but holds a special place in our hearts. However, because he admitted to unknowingly taking PED’s, his chances of ever making in the Hall of Fame are slim, despite joining the 500 home run club. He also was not spectacular with the glove, but regardless, if his background was clean, he would be in. However, with it looking more and more unlikely that even Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds reach The Hall, I would not hold your breath. It is a shame, but that is the reality.
Andruw Jones – 19.4% (7 years remaining)
If Ozzie Smith is a Hall of Famer, Andruw Jones should be as well. If Omar Vizquel gets in, which seems exceedingly likely, Jones should be inducted. He is the game’s best defensive center fielder of all-time, but with an exponentially better offensive resume. However, recency bias due to his early dropoff in production is affecting the number of votes he has received. The good news is that Andruw has gained some momentum. Last year he only received 7.5% of the votes, a nearly 12% increase. It may take some time, and perhaps it will never happen, but that sort of leap is encouraging. Larry Walker had 21.6% of the votes in his third year and finished this year with 76.6% of the votes, so it could come down to the wire for the Carucao Kid.
Rafael Furcal – 0.0% of votes
Rafael Furcal not only failed to meet the 5% needed to stay on the ballot, but he also did not receive a single vote. While he was a great player in his prime, he never hit over 15 home runs in a season. His contact bat and defense will be memorable, but not nearly enough. He is a former Rookie of the Year award winner and made a few All-Star teams, but there is no denying he lacks Hall of Fame pedigree. He was one of seven players who did not receive a vote and one of sixteen who will no longer be considered in future ballots.
Furcal will officially never be a Hall of Famer, and Gary Sheffield’s chances are slim to none. However, I would not give up on Wagner or Jones just yet. Of course, more and more players make the ballot every year, but these guys come from a deep generation of players. Though they are unlikely to get in due to their past, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens still received over 60% of the votes and each has two years left. Writers will no longer feel obligated to vote for guys with all-time track records. On top of that, Schilling is a lock for 2021. Once they are no longer on the ballot, that should open things up for some players that are further down the list but keep gaining momentum. Regardless, Braves fans will have to cross their fingers that Wagner and Jones can get the Larry Walker treatment.