Prince debuts on ’22 Hall of Fame ballot

Detroit Tigers

Each year, when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America reveals its Hall of Fame ballot, it’s always interesting to see which new names appear for the first time — there’s usually a mix of all-time greats, All-Stars and names you’d place under the category of “Let’s remember some guys.” 

This year is no exception, and here’s a look at the new names appearing on the BBWAA ballot for the first time:

Rodriguez was one of the most hyped prospects in baseball history back in the early 1990s, and for good reason. He not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it — in 1996, his first full Major League season, the precocious shortstop finished runner-up in American League MVP Award voting after hitting .358/.414/.631 with an MLB-leading 54 doubles to go along with 36 homers.

Rodriguez would go on to post a .933 OPS with 148 homers and 111 steals over the next four seasons with the Mariners before signing as a free agent with the Rangers for what was then a record $252 million contract.

A-Rod launched 156 homers over the next three seasons while posting a 1.011 OPS and winning the AL MVP Award in 2003. With the Rangers struggling, Texas traded Rodriguez that offseason to the Yankees, for whom he played the remaining 12 seasons of his career.

Still just entering his prime, Rodriguez went on to win two more AL MVP Awards, and from 2004-10, he hit 268 home runs and posted a .952 OPS for New York, helping the franchise win its 27th World Series title in ’09.

Injuries and connections to performance-enhancing drugs marred the remainder of Rodriguez’s playing career — in 2009, he admitted to using PEDs from 2001-03. Rodriguez finished with 696 career home runs, currently fourth all-time.

Ortiz’s big league career began fairly inconspicuously — the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1992, and then traded him to the Twins four years later. He made his MLB debut with Minnesota in 1997, and spent six fairly unremarkable seasons with the Twins before they released him following the 2002 campaign.

A month after being let go by Minnesota, Ortiz signed with the Red Sox. The rest, as they say, is history — Ortiz became one of the most feared sluggers in the game, and delivered clutch hit after clutch hit in helping the Red Sox break their 86-year World Series title drought with a historic comeback in the 2004 AL Championship Series against the Yankees.

Ortiz finished in the top five in AL MVP Award voting every year from 2003-07, and in ’07, he helped lead Boston to another World Series title with a sweep of the Rockies. “Big Papi,” as he is affectionately known by fans in Boston and around the world, won a third title with the Red Sox in ’13, earning World Series MVP honors after hitting .688 with a pair of homers to fuel Boston’s six-game victory over the Cardinals.

Ortiz’s name has been connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs — he reportedly failed a drug test in 2003, but during a time when MLB did not have penalties for a positive PED test. 

Ortiz finished with 541 home runs over a 20-year MLB career, leading baseball with a 1.021 OPS at age 40 in his final season in 2016.

The Rangers drafted Teixeira fifth overall in 2001 out of Georgia Tech, and the slugging first baseman was already in the Majors by ’03, when he finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. From 2004-06, he was one of the best all-around first basemen in the game, smashing 114 home runs and winning the first two of five career Gold Glove Awards.

In July 2007, Texas dealt Teixeira to Atlanta in a move that brought future All-Stars Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz to the Rangers. Teixeira wasn’t fazed by the trade and continued to hit, posting a 1.020 OPS with 17 homers in 54 games down the stretch for the Braves. A year later, he was traded again, this time to the Angels. He was great for Anaheim as well, smashing 13 homers with a 1.081 OPS in 54 games.

A free agent that winter, Teixeira inked an eight-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees. In his first season in the Bronx, he was an All-Star and helped New York win the World Series. Over his first three seasons with the Yanks, he belted 111 homers with an .877 OPS.

But injuries began to take their toll after that — Teixeira never played in more than 123 games in a season the rest of his career, though he had an All-Star 2015 campaign in which he posted a .906 OPS with 31 homers. He retired following the ’16 season, finishing with 409 homers over a 14-year career.

Lincecum was one of the most dominant starting pitchers in baseball from 2008-11, helping the Giants win their first World Series title in 56 years in ’10. The diminutive right-hander was selected 10th overall in 2006 out of the University of Washington, and quickly ascended to superstardom on the mound.

Dubbed “The Freak” for his incredible ability to generate a 97 mph fastball out of his small and thin frame, Lincecum was solid in his debut season of 2007, but he took off the next year, when he led the Majors with 265 strikeouts and a 2.62 FIP. He followed that up with another spectacular campaign in ’09, when he finished with a 2.48 ERA over 225 1/3 innings to collect his second straight Cy Young Award.

It was Lincecum who tossed an eight-inning gem in Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, silencing a powerful Rangers lineup as the Giants won it all for the first time since moving to San Francisco.

Although he would help the Giants win two more World Series championships over the next four years, Lincecum’s performance came down to earth — from 2012-15, he struggled to a 4.68 ERA. Following the ’15 season, Lincecum signed as a free agent with the Angels, but 2016 would be his final Major League season after he pitched to a 9.16 ERA in nine starts.

Lincecum attempted a comeback with the Rangers in 2018, but he never pitched in the Majors for Texas. Overall, he posted a 3.74 ERA (104 ERA+) with 1,736 strikeouts over 10 seasons — 1,704 of them came with the Giants, ranking him fifth all-time in franchise history.

Howard was one of the most feared sluggers in baseball from 2006-11, winning the 2005 NL Rookie of the Year Award and the ’06 NL MVP Award. He became the fastest player in AL/NL history to reach the 250-home run mark and slugged .559 over that six-season span to help the Phillies reach back-to-back World Series in 2008 and ’09, winning it in ’08.

But while making the final out of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals, Howard tore his left Achilles tendon as he ran toward first base. He was never the same after that, appearing in more than 150 games in a season only once and posting a .719 OPS with 96 homers over the final five seasons of his MLB career.

Howard tried to return to the Majors when he signed Minor League contracts with the Braves and Rockies in 2017, but he never appeared in a big league game for either of those clubs. Overall, Howard played 13 Major League seasons and finished with a slash line of .258/.343/.515 with 382 home runs.

The son of one of the great sluggers of the 1980s and ’90s, Cecil Fielder, Prince carried on the Fielder family tradition of smashing home runs when he reached the Majors in 2005 with the Brewers, who selected him seventh overall in the 2002 Draft.

Fielder launched 28 homers in 2006, and followed that up by belting 50 as a 23-year-old in ’07, making history by becoming the youngest player in NL history to hit 50 or more homers in a season, and joining Cecil to form the only father-son duo to each hit 50 or more homers in a single season (Cecil accomplished the feat when he hit 51 for the Tigers in 1990).

Prince was a six-time All-Star and won three Silver Slugger Awards, helping Milwaukee reach the postseason in 2008 and ’11. He then signed a nine-year, $214 million free-agent contract with the Tigers, his father’s longtime team, prior to the 2012 campaign. That year, he helped lead Detroit to the World Series, where the Tigers were swept by the Giants.

At this point in his career, Prince had been very durable, having played in no fewer than 157 games in a season. He played in all 162 games for the third straight year in 2013, and he was traded that offseason to the Rangers. But injuries began to become an issue — he was limited to 42 games in his first year with Texas, and after a healthy 2015 campaign, he played in only 89 games in ’16.

Fielder was forced to retire at age 32 following his second spinal fusion surgery, which made it impossible for him to continue playing professional baseball. He finished with 319 career home runs, the exact same number of homers as his father hit during his career two decades earlier.

Along with Howard and Chase Utley, Rollins completed a trio of stars at the core of the great Phillies teams of the late 2000s that won two NL pennants and a World Series. A second-round pick of the Phillies in 1996, Rollins made his MLB debut in September 2000.

Rollins quickly established himself as a star shortstop, leading the NL with 12 triples and 46 steals in 2001 and making the first of three All-Star teams. His finest season came in ’07, when he was named NL MVP after leading the league with 20 triples to go along with a career-high 30 home runs and 41 steals.

Along with the MVP honors that year, Rollins also won the first of four Gold Glove Awards at shortstop. He played all but two of his 17 big league seasons with Philadelphia, ending his career by playing one season with the White Sox and one with the Dodgers.

Papelbon was one of the most dominant closers in baseball almost immediately after reaching the Major Leagues with the Red Sox in 2005. Following 17 appearances that year, he became Boston’s full-time closer and saved 35 games with a 0.92 ERA in ’06. 

A fourth-round pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State, Papelbon shut things down in the late innings for the Red Sox as they made a deep postseason run in 2007, sweeping the Rockies for the franchise’s second World Series championship in four years. He had a 1.85 ERA with 37 saves and struck out 38 percent of the batters he faced during the regular season, and threw 10 2/3 scoreless innings in the playoffs.

Papelbon went on to pitch four more seasons for Boston, posting a 2.75 ERA and 147 saves. Following the 2011 season, the right-hander signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies, and pitched well for them over the next three and a half seasons, saving 123 games.

But with Philadelphia falling out of contention in 2015, Papelbon was dealt to the Nationals midseason.

In 22 appearances down the stretch for Washington that year, Papelbon pitched to a 3.04 ERA with seven saves. In 2016, he struggled to a 4.37 ERA in his age-35 campaign before being released in August.

The Twins drafted Morneau in the third round of the 1999 Draft out of New Westminster High School in British Columbia. He made his MLB debut for Minnesota in 2003, and by ’05, he was the club’s everyday first baseman. 

Morneau’s breakout season came the next year, when his .934 OPS and 34 home runs earned him AL MVP honors and helped the Twins reach the postseason for the second time in three years. Together with Joe Mauer at the heart of Minnesota’s lineup, he faced the A’s and their vaunted starting rotation in the AL Division Series and hit .417 with a pair of homers.

Oakland swept that series, though, and Morneau wouldn’t again reach the postseason with the Twins, though he was an All-Star for Minnesota in each of the next four seasons, putting up an .890 OPS with 102 homers from 2007-10. 

In August 2013, Minnesota traded Morneau to Pittsburgh as the Pirates looked to break a 21-year postseason drought. The Bucs did make the postseason, and Morneau hit .300 (7-for-24) between the NL Wild Card Game and the NLDS. 

That offseason, Morneau signed a two-year deal with the Rockies — he won a batting title by hitting .319 for Colorado in 2014, and after an injury-plagued ’15, he signed with the White Sox, for whom he played his final big league season. He finished his 14-year career with an .828 OPS and 247 homers.

Crawford was one of the best base stealers of his time, though injuries derailed his career toward the end. Tampa Bay made him a second-round pick in 1999 out of high school, and in 2003, his first full season, the left fielder led the AL with 55 steals in 65 attempts. 

Crawford would go on to lead the league in steals in three of the next four seasons, also leading the league in triples each year from 2004-06. In ’08, he helped the Rays make a run to the World Series, hitting .263 with three doubles, a triple, and two homers — both in the Fall Classic against the Phillies, who won it in five games.

Over the next two seasons, Crawford posted an .834 OPS with 107 steals, earning his third and fourth career All-Star selections. He signed a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox prior to the 2011 season. But after just a season and a half in Boston, he was traded to the Dodgers in a blockbuster deal that also sent Adrián González and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles.

Crawford had a huge NLDS against the Braves in 2013, hitting .353 with three homers to help the Dodgers advance to the NLCS, where they lost to the Cardinals. Injuries limited him to just 204 games over the next three seasons, and Los Angeles released him in ’16. Overall, he played 15 Major League seasons, posting a .765 OPS and stealing 480 bases.

Peavy was a 15th-round pick by the Padres in 1999, and within three years of making his MLB debut in 2002, he was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. In ’04, the 23-year-old right-hander led the Majors with a 2.27 ERA in 27 starts for San Diego. In ’07, he again led baseball with a 2.54 ERA, this time winning the NL Cy Young Award.

In July 2009, the Padres traded Peavy to the White Sox, and after struggling early in his tenure with Chicago, he put things together in ’12, when he posted a 3.37 ERA over 32 starts. The next July, he was sent to the Red Sox as part of a three-team deal involving the Tigers, and helped Boston win the World Series that October over the Cardinals.

Less than a year after being traded to the Red Sox, Peavy was dealt to the Giants in July 2014, and once again he helped a club reach and win the World Series, as San Francisco won it all for the third time in five years. He delivered a 2.17 ERA over 12 starts down the stretch in the regular season.

Peavy spent two more seasons with the Giants before retiring in 2016. At the end of a 15-year MLB career, he owned a 3.63 ERA with 2,207 strikeouts.  

Nathan was originally drafted and developed by the Giants — San Francisco selected him in the sixth round in 1995 and groomed him to be a starting pitcher. But he posted a 4.70 ERA in 39 appearances (29 starts) over his first two big league seasons before undergoing shoulder surgery and missing the entire 2001 campaign.

When he returned, the Giants deployed Nathan strictly out of the bullpen, and he had success, posting a 2.96 ERA in 2003 after making his return to the mound late in the ’02 season. That offseason, San Francisco traded Nathan to the Twins, and it was in Minnesota that the right-hander became a star closer.

Nathan pitched to a 1.87 ERA and racked up 246 saves for the Twins from 2004-09, earning four All-Star selections. He had to have Tommy John surgery at that point, missing the ’10 season. He struggled upon returning to the Twins’ bullpen in ’11, and that offseason signed with the Rangers. He returned to form with Texas, posting a 2.09 ERA with 80 saves and a pair of All-Star selections from 2012-13.

Now going into his age-39 season, Nathan signed with the Tigers but wasn’t able to continue defying time — he had a 4.81 ERA in 2014 before missing the entire next season recovering from his second Tommy John procedure. Following surgery, he made comeback attempts with the Cubs, Giants and Nationals, but only pitched in 10 more Major League games.

Nathan was one of his era’s best closers, finishing with 377 saves and a 2.87 ERA over a 16-year big league career.

Pierzynski was a two-time All-Star catcher who hit 188 home runs in a 19-year career. He hit .292 with five homers in 32 career postseason games, winning a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005.

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