Bonds and Clemens were the next highest with 61.8 percent and 61.6 percent, respectively, while Sosa earned only 17 percent. The only other returning player to eclipse 50 percent last year is Scott Rolen, who earned 52.9 percent and is in his fifth year of eligibility.
Thirteen players are on the ballot for the first time, headlined by Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. There will plenty of time to discuss the merits of each player’s candidacy before the vote is announced Jan. 25. For now, here’s a look back at a defining moment for each newcomer on the ballot.
Carl Crawford — May 3, 2009: Steals six bases in a game, tying major league record
Crawford tied a modern major league record with six stolen bases in a game for the Tampa Bay Rays against the Boston Red Sox. The outfielder was one of the best base stealers in the majors during his 15-year career, which included nine seasons with Tampa Bay. The four-time all-star led the American League in stolen bases four times and finished with 480 steals overall.
Prince Fielder — Sept. 6, 2009: Hits walk-off home run, celebrates in style
Fielder played a vital part in making the Milwaukee Brewers relevant again, hitting the team into the playoffs in 2008 and 2011 after it hadn’t reached the postseason since 1982. The six-time all-star was one of the best power hitters of his era, hitting 319 home runs in 12 seasons with the Brewers, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers, and finishing in the top four of MVP voting three times before a neck injury ended his career at 32. His most memorable moment showed his personality: After hitting a walk-off home run against the San Francisco Giants, Fielder jumped on home plate and his teammates pretended to fall down because of the impact.
Ryan Howard — Oct. 26, 2008: Hits two home runs in Game 4 of the World Series
The Philadelphia Phillies made it to back-to-back World Series in 2008 and 2009, in large part thanks to a powerful offense that was anchored by Howard, a left-handed slugger. Howard, the 2005 NL rookie of the year and the 2006 NL MVP, had perhaps his most impactful postseason performance in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series against the Rays. Howard hit two home runs, the first a three-run shot to the opposite field in the fourth and the second a two-run blast into the right field seats in the eighth. The Phillies went on to win the series in five games for their first championship since 1980. For his career, Howard hit 382 home runs and led the majors in that category twice.
Tim Lincecum — Nov. 1, 2010: Pitches Giants to first World Series title since 1954
With a 3-1 series lead in the 2010 World Series, the San Francisco Giants turned to Lincecum, their ace, to finish off the Texas Rangers in Game 5. He delivered. The two-time Cy Young winner went eight innings, giving up just three hits and a run while striking out 10 in a 3-1 win. Lincecum was part of two more World Series winners in 2012 and 2014 but was particularly dominant during the 2010 postseason run, posting a 4-1 record that included a shutout in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. Though he faded later in his career and last pitched in 2016 at 32, Lincecum led the NL in strikeouts in three straight seasons from 2008 to 2010 and won consecutive Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009.
Justin Morneau — July 10, 2008: Goes 5 for 5, hits winning home run in the 11th
The 2006 AL MVP had perhaps the best game of his career on what seemed to be a rather mundane July day in 2008. Morneau recorded four hits in his first four at-bats — two doubles and two singles. After his Minnesota Twins overcame a four-run deficit against the Detroit Tigers to tie the score at 6 and send the game to extra innings, Morneau got his fifth hit in the 11th, blasting a solo homer to lift the Twins to a 7-6 win. The memorable performance came in the midst of a stretch in which Morneau made four consecutive All-Star Games from 2007 to 2010.
Joe Nathan — Aug. 10, 2011: Sets Twins’ saves record
Nathan’s career trajectory changed when he was traded to the Twins from the Giants in a deal that sent A.J. Pierzynski — who is also on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time — to San Francisco in 2003. Nathan pitched in Minnesota for seven seasons and became a shutdown reliever, racking up 260 of his 377 career saves over that stretch with just a 2.16 ERA. Nathan’s 255th save for Minnesota set the franchise record, passing Rick Aguilera’s mark.
David Ortiz — Oct. 17 and Oct. 18, 2004: Has back-to-back walk-off hits in improbable ALCS
The 2004 Red Sox completed a historic comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in the ALCS against the rival New York Yankees en route to their first World Series victory in 86 years. Ortiz, one of the greatest players in the storied franchise’s history, kept Boston in the series with a pair of clutch hits. In Game 4 at Fenway Park, Ortiz hit a two-run homer into the Yankees’ bullpen in the 12th inning to keep Boston’s hopes alive. He came through again in another extra-inning thriller the following night in Game 5, hitting a walk-off single in the 14th to send the series back to New York. Ortiz remained a clutch performer for 12 more seasons, finishing his career with 541 home runs and two more World Series titles.
Jonathan Papelbon — Oct. 28, 2007: Records final out of the World Series
Boston won the World Series for the second time in a four-year stretch in 2007, and Papelbon was front and center. After taking over as Boston’s closer in 2006, Papelbon helped the Red Sox finish off the Colorado Rockies in a sweep to capture the 2007 crown. Papelbon struck out Seth Smith swinging and celebrated by throwing his glove, pumping his fists and embracing catcher Jason Varitek, who jumped into Papelbon’s arms. Papelbon made four all-star appearances in seven seasons with the Red Sox, then two more after signing with the Phillies before the 2012 season. His 368 career saves rank 10th all-time.
Jake Peavy — May 22, 2006: Sets Padres record with 16 strikeouts
Peavy’s name is all over San Diego’s record book — he ranks in the team’s top 10 in ERA (3.29), wins (92) and games started (212). Peavy also had the best season of his career in a Padres uniform, leading the NL in wins, ERA and strikeouts en route to winning a Cy Young Award in 2007. The year before, Peavy provided a glimpse of what was to come when he set a Padres record with 16 strikeouts in a game against the Braves while giving up just three hits. Peavy spent the first seven-plus seasons of his 15-year career with San Diego, and he is the team’s career strikeout leader with 1,348. The next-closest pitcher is Andy Benes, who is 312 behind him.
A.J. Pierzynski — Oct. 26, 2005: Guides White Sox to a World Series sweep
The Chicago White Sox ended their 87-year championship drought with a sweep of the Houston Astros in 2005, and that was Pierzynski’s first year with the team. He caught all four games of the World Series and helped Chicago pitchers navigate an Astros lineup that had two Hall of Famers: Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio. In the final game, the White Sox claimed a 1-0 victory on the road, and Pierzynski jumped into the arms of closer Bobby Jenks as the team celebrated near the mound. Pierzynski was one of baseball’s more durable catchers during a 19-year career with seven clubs. He played 2,059 games and made two all-star appearances, winning a Silver Slugger along the way.
Alex Rodriguez — June 19, 2015: Hits home run for his 3,000th career hit
Performance-enhancing-drug suspensions aside, Rodriguez was one of the greatest hitters of all time. After a 22-year career, he sits fourth in home runs (696) and RBI (2,086) and 22nd in hits (3,115). The three-time MVP made sure his 3,000th hit — a milestone only 32 players have reached — was a memorable one. Rodriguez hit a home run off probable future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander into the seats at Yankee Stadium. As Rodriguez reached home, Yankees fans gave him a standing ovation, and his teammates came out of the dugout to congratulate him.
Jimmy Rollins — Oct. 19, 2009: Hits walk-off double in Game 4 of the NLCS
Rollins helped the Phillies establish a dynasty in the late 2000s, winning 2007 NL MVP honors a year after his teammate Howard took home the award. His MVP season was also the first time he won a Gold Glove, one of four he would win in his 17-year career. Rollins was a valuable and reliable leadoff hitter for the Phillies, and he came through in the clutch in the 2009 NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Phillies leading the series 2-1 but trailing by a run with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 4, Rollins lined a double to bring home two runs and propel the Phillies toward their second straight pennant.
Mark Teixeira — Oct. 9, 2009: Hits walk-off homer in Game 2 of the ALDS
Teixeira was a key cog in the Yankees’ potent offense that led New York to the 2009 World Series title, a group that also featured Rodriguez, Robinson Canó, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui, among other stars. Teixeira’s defining moment as a Yankee came in the ALDS that year against the Twins, after a Rodriguez home run knotted the score at 3 in the ninth inning. Teixeira ripped a line drive down the left field line that flew just over the wall for a home run to lead off the bottom of the 11th, sending Yankee Stadium into a frenzy. New York would go on to sweep the Twins en route to the title. Teixeira played seven more seasons with the Yankees to conclude his 14-year career, finishing with 409 home runs.