The unveiling of the Hall of Fame ballot is one of the more underrated parts of the baseball offseason.
While most of the names on the ballot will never get close to Cooperstown, just having their name appear on the ballot — even if it’s just for a year before falling off — is a nice way to cap off a very good career and gives us one last chance to remember a guy fondly.
That’s likely the case for a pair of former Brewers who are on the ballot for the first time this year — LaTroy Hawkins and Aramis Ramirez.
Hawkins’ career spanned an incredible 21 seasons, playing for 11 teams. Once a highly-touted starting pitcher prospect for the Minnesota Twins, those hopes were dashed thanks to some sky-high ERAs in the Minnesota rotation in the late 90s American League. He was able to save his career, though, with a move to the bullpen in the year 2000, where he stayed for the next 15 years.
Hawkins didn’t come to Milwaukee until the later years of his career, signing a two-year deal ahead of the 2010 season to be a veteran arm in a young bullpen. His first year with the Crew was largely forgettable, giving up 15 runs in 18 appearances, finishing an injury-shortened year with an 8.44 ERA.
He would get healthy and rebound in a big way the next season, though, helping the Brewers win their first division title in decades in 2011, putting up a 2.42 ERA in 52 appearances at the age of 38, joining Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford as Milwaukee’s original three-headed bullpen monster. Hawkins would play four more seasons for the Angels, Mets, Rockies and Blue Jays.
Ramirez joined the Brewers the year after Hawkins (and a guy by the name of Prince Fielder) left, signing a multi-year deal in hopes of replacing some of the offense the Brewers lost post-2011. While he was no longer the superstar he was for the Chicago Cubs — arguably one of the best offensive third basemen in the league for nearly a decade — he was still an All-Star for the Brewers, even if it was hard for some fans to accept him after all of those years playing for the “wrong” side.
Considering Ramirez was already in his early 30s when he signed with the Brewers, it makes sense his first year with Milwaukee was his best. He hit .300/.360/.540 in 2012 with an NL-leading 50 doubles, adding in 27 home runs and driving in 105.
He only played in 92 games the following season and saw his OPS drop to .831 as he struggled with injuries — unfortunate timing for the Brewers, considering what else was going on in 2013. He was able to rebound a bit in the first half of the 2014 season, earning an All-Star appearance — somehow only the 3rd of his career — at age 36. He slowed down significantly in the second half of that season, though, only hitting 3 home runs after the All-Star break, and by the final year of his deal in 2015 it was clear he was at the end of the line. The Brewers sent him back to where his career started — Pittsburgh — in a deadline deal for Yhonathan Barrios.
Hawkins and Ramirez will be joined by a health batch of first-timers on this winter’s ballot, including Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito.
First-timers on Hall of Fame ballot: Mark Buehrle, A.J. Burnett, Michael Cuddyer, Dan Haren, LaTroy Hawkins, Tim Hudson, Torii Hunter, Aramis Ramírez, Nick Swisher, Shane Victorino and Barry Zito.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) November 16, 2020
Full ballot: https://t.co/xBi5VYcv4o
A good number of those names will likely be one-and-done on the ballot after not hitting the 5% of the vote needed to stay on the ballot next year.
In terms of former Brewers still on the ballot, Gary Sheffield will be on it again this year after appearing on 30.5% of ballots cast last year in his 7th year of eligibility.
It’s possible the Hall of Fame has no new inductees this year. Curt Schilling hit 70% of the vote last year, but may face an uphill climb to get the remaining 5% he needs to be enshrined on his 10th and final year on the ballot. Roger Clemens (61%) and Barry Bonds (60.7%) are also in their final chance to be inducted by the writers.
Beyond them, the highest remaining vote-getters last year include Omar Vizquel (52.6% last year in his 4th year on the ballot), Scott Rolen (35.3% in his 4th year) and Billy Wagner (31.7% in his 6th year).
After this year’s Hall of Fame ceremony was canceled due to COVID-19, the hope is for Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller to have their inductions held in the summer of 2021, joining anyone who may be voted in this winter.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference