Who will be the Yankees’ next Hall of Famer after Derek Jeter?
Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter properly have been whisked into Cooperstown in recent years with the two highest voting percentages in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Jeter, of course, missed out on joining his longtime teammate with a unanimous election by one vote.
Once “Numbah Two’s” COVID-delayed induction is completed this week, however, fans of the Yankees should be prepared for the next pinstripe-based enshrinement to take a while — and perhaps several years, on the road to immortality.
Who will be the next former star to head into the Hall with the interlocking NY on his cap, or even simply with a lengthy stay in The Bronx highlighting the back of his baseball card or Wikipedia page?
Could it possibly be Roger Clemens? Alex Rodriguez? Thurman Munson and/or Don Mattingly via the revamped Era Committees? George Steinbrenner, through the same method? What about Andy Pettitte? (And no, we’re not counting brief Yankees such as Ichiro Suzuki here).
The most logical answer probably is CC Sabathia — one of three lefties in history with more than 3,000 strikeouts. He will be first-time eligible to be considered for the HOF Class of ’25 after retiring following the 2019 season.
So says Jay Jaffe, author of the 2017 book “The Cooperstown Casebook: Who Should Be In, and Who Should Pack Their Plaques.”
“I think when you look at the alternatives I would put CC’s odds of going in ahead of them an order of magnitude higher. At least one order of magnitude higher, maybe two,” Jaffe, who also writes for Fangraphs, told The Post. “But even with CC, I see him as a guy who’s probably going to take a little while to get in.”
Indeed, a few of the former ace’s numbers make him anything but a shoo-in for first-ballot status, especially a 3.74 ERA for his 19-year career (11 in New York). That figure is slightly lower than the 3.68 posted by another former Yank, Mike Mussina, who needed six tries before being inducted alongside Rivera in 2019.
“I don’t think it’ll be the slog that Mussina faced, but I could see it taking three or so years for CC to get in,” Jaffe added. “He’ll make a strong enough debut that it’ll be pretty clear that he’s eventually reaching the threshold.
“I hope I’m wrong, I’d love to see him get in on the first ballot. I have a great deal of affection for him and his story. I think he could be a guy that it takes a couple of years to grow support. But I do think he’ll get in via the writers.”
If not Sabathia, then who is the most likely to be enshrined next?
The most immediate chance belongs, of course, to Clemens, but the seven-time Cy Young Award winner’s candidacy alongside Barry Bonds has seemingly stalled due to ongoing backlash over the links to performance-enhancing drugs.
Post baseball columnist Ken Davidoff theorized that several voters have been withholding their votes on Clemens and Bonds until their final year of eligibility, but will there be enough of a groundswell movement to make up for their sizable disparities for inclusion?
Entering their 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, the PED-stained duo needs to jump more than 13 percentage points for inclusion. Bonds garnered 61.8 percent last year of the necessary 75 percent required for enshrinement, with Clemens slightly behind him at 61.6 percent.
In the last three voting cycles, for instance, Clemens’ totals have barely budged; he garnered 59.5 percent in 2019 and 61.0 percent in 2020.
“There will be some movement, but I don’t think we’re going to get this rush of people who’ve said they’d hold out until Year 10. I think he’s kind of hosed,” Jaffe said of Clemens. “And I don’t see a stampede of people already in the Hall ever pushing to elect him on the various Veterans Committee ballots.
“I also don’t see a scenario where A-Rod is going to be the guy to break that trend, particularly after the full-season ban.”
Indeed, Rodriguez is baseball’s other most prominently PED-tainted superstar. Unlike the previously mentioned duo, A-Rod served a year-long suspension in 2014. He will appear on the ballot for the first time in December, and he’s expected to face similar backlash. Manny Ramirez, who was suspended multiple times for PEDs, hasn’t exceeded 28.2 percent over his first five years.
Pettitte, who admitted to using human growth hormone after his inclusion in the 2007 Mitchell Report, also has lingered down-ballot thus far, with a discouraging three-year best of 13.7 percent last year.
The game’s all-time postseason wins leader (19) likely has to hope for a 10-year stay on the ballot and then a softening by the Era Committees.
Still, those paths to Cooperstown have remained unkind to Steinbrenner and to the two former Yankee captains, Munson and Mattingly, in recent years. The latter two received three or fewer votes among the 16-person committee in 2020, well behind inductees Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller, as well as candidates Dwight Evans, Dave Parker, Steve Garvey and Lou Whitaker. That group won’t be considered again until the Class of 2024.
“The Munson omission really puzzles me. He’s the top eligible catcher outside the Hall, now that Simmons is in, with a clearly above-Hall of Fame peak, a Rookie of the Year, an MVP, Gold Gloves, three pennants, two championships. He had it all. All he was missing were the last few years of his career, and we know why that is,” Jaffe said of Munson, who died in a plane crash in 1979. “And I don’t view Mattingly in the same category, as productive as he was early in his career. He might need to win a couple of championships as a manager and take the Joe Torre route.”
Despite six World Series titles during his ownership tenure and overwhelming impact on the finances of the game, Steinbrenner also has not fared well in the format, which Jaffe believes likely stems from a combination of backlash from other owners and his two suspensions from MLB.
Thus, it has to come back to Sabathia via process of elimination, right?
“For me, it’s CC. If I’m ranking them, Clemens is No. 2 of this group, behind CC, but it’s a much longer time frame and a much lower percentage,” Jaffe said. “Either way, it should be a few years before we see another Yankee enshrined.”