Gary Sheffield’s Hall of Fame case held back by 1 obvious factor

As the clock begins to really tick on Gary Sheffield being voted into the Hall of Fame, one big factor stands to hold back his candidacy.

The headline of the upcoming final results of the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame vote rests on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens being in their 10th and final year on the writer’s ballot. But the clock is also ticking for a less controversial figure, as Gary Sheffield is in his eighth year on the writer’s ballot.

In 2021, Sheffield got the highest percentage of the vote he’s ever received–40.6 percent. So he’s got three years, counting this one, to nearly double that and get the required 75 percent for induction by the body of writers. He did make a big jump from 2019 (13.6 percent) to 2020 (30.6 percent), then a 10 percent jump came a year ago, perhaps as a testament to older voters being replaced by younger ones.

One big thing hovers over Gary Sheffield’s Hall of Fame candidacy

Sheffield gets knocked for his lack of defensive proficiency by any metric you’ll look at, as he played multiple positions poorly in his career. But as an offensive player, he was one of the best of his era and he was productive hitter right through to his final season (119 OPS+ with the New York Mets in 2009, his age-40 season).

While he was never as defiant or controversial as Bonds or Clemens in his denial of performance-enhancing drug use, Sheffield’s relationship with Bonds embedded him in the BALCO scandal. For writers who dealt with him, as many as might even be left in the voting body, his personality may turn them off of ever voting for him.

Jay Jaffe of FanGraphs once used Sheffield as a viable close comp to Dave Winfield, who was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2001. But here in year eight on the ballot, Sheffield is simply looking to keep gaining a solid chunk of the vote.

The fallacies of letting media members carry their biases into voting for awards and Hall of Fames are becoming increasingly public. Sheffield has a PED cloud hanging over him that is holding back his induction, even as a loose tentacle to the Bonds controversy. But if Harold Baines and to a lesser extent Larry Walker are Hall of Famers based on their on-field work (as such things should only be determined by), so is Sheffield.