Hey baseball fans!
We are about two months away from the 2021 Hall of Fame class announcement, but it's never too early to talk about the Hall, especially when the 2021 official ballot was just released! I'll get into my actual predictions as we approach late January, but for this post, I'd like to talk about some of the guys who I grew up watching who are eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time.
In more ways than one, the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot first-timers shows how long I've been a baseball fan. The first season I really remember was 2009, when my Yankees won their 27th World Series championship. For the Yankees to make it to the Fall Classic, however, they needed some offseason help. Before the '09 season, they signed AJ Burnett and traded for Nick Swisher, two players who are appearing on their first Hall of Fame ballots this year. I remember AJ Burnett as the runt of the Yankees pitching staff litter because they also had fan favorite Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia. In other words, AJ was good, but nothing compared to the rest of the starters in the Bronx. As for Nick Swisher, the outfielder/first baseman had a wild personality and a switch-hitting bat that could smack lasers out of the ballpark. His crazy antics on and off the field, as well as his All Star power, were big reasons for the Yankees' 103 wins. But I can't skip over Mark Buehrle, who pitched the first perfect game I ever watched, which occurred during the 2009 season. He is also making his debut on the ballot after posting a career ERA+ of 117. Not too shabby for the White Sox legend.
In the 2009 ALDS, the Yanks faced off against the Twins and another first-timer on the ballot, Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer was great in seasons that occurred before, during, and after 2009, so I remember him at many different points in his career. And as someone who grew up in New York, not only did I see him a lot because the Yankees and Twins played each other in plenty of playoff series, but Cuddyer also made a lot of noise when he signed with the Mets in 2015. All of my Mets fan friends were so excited for him, but he barely batted over .250 and was no help in the Mets' 2015 World Series run. But going back to 2009, the Yankees faced off against a very formidable Philadelphia Phillies team in the World Series, a team which featured Shane Victorino, yet another player making his debut on the 2021 Hall of Fame ballot. "The Flyin' Hawaiian" was never the best player on the field for any of his championship teams, but was disruptive enough on the base paths to certainly earn a cult status among fans. His most prominent moment in the MLB, in my opinion, came with the Red Sox in 2013, when he hit a clutch Game Six grand slam that helped lift the Sox over the Tigers in the ALCS.