There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the Baseball Hall of Fame over the last decade.
We are in the era where many players from the steroid era are getting their shot, and many have been denied. In recent memory, the storylines have been more about who did not get in, instead of who did.
That is not the case in 2024. This year the voters restored some belief into the voting process by electing three players, the most since 2019.
The writers decided that three true legends of their generation will get the call this year: Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton. All three guys guys exemplified what people love about baseball throughout their careers, and all three were extremely deserving of the call.
These inductees break a lot of trends: two of them are first ballot guys, Helton played his entire career at Coors Field, and Mauer was considered borderline to many. It shows that a new era of voters is ready to have their voices heard and that the Hall may soon become more inclusive.
While they nailed it with the three inductees, voters still managed to leave a lot to be desired. Gary Sheffield fell off the ballot with just 63.9% of the vote. Alex Rodriguez–probably the best player on the ballot–mustered up just 38.4%. Billy Wagner fell 1.2% short.
If this year’s ballot results show anything it is this: things are getting better, but there is still plenty of work to be done.
Adrián Beltré: As Obvious As They Come
This was probably the easiest vote on this year’s ballot. Everybody knew the second he retired that five years later Adrián Beltré would get the call to Cooperstown. A four-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glover and four-time Silver Slugger, Beltré posted an 83.8 fWAR in 21 incredible seasons with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers.
Beltré is already a member of the Rangers Hall of Fame and has his No. 29 retired in Arlington. He was one of the most charismatic players of his generation, making him one of the most beloved as well. Beltré was just as famous for his distaste for people touching his head, and how much his teammates used to mess with him, as is he is for his slick defending and tremendous hitting.
One of the most incredible things about Beltré is how late the prime of his career began. He did not make an All-Star game before the age of 31 and had a wRC+ over 110 only twice. But the second-half of his career was as consistent and dominant as they come, only posting below 109 wRC+ in his final season at age 39.
With 3,166 hits, only Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera–who will soon join him as first ballot Hall of Famers–have more hits among international players. He is not only one of the greatest third basemen ever, he is one of the greatest people ever. He had the perfect case, and his 95.1% shows just how beloved he was.
His percentage of the vote the vote is 17.2 points higher than David Ortiz’s when he was elected in 2022. Since 2018, only Mariano Rivera (100%), Derek Jeter (99.7%) and Chipper Jones (97.2%) have received a higher percentage of votes. When you talk about no brainers, there are not many that stand out above Adrián Beltré.
It is rare to ever see a player so universally beloved. Congratulations to Adrián Beltré, who will forever be known as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Joe Mauer: The Minnesota Dream
Joe Mauer’s story could be a Disney movie. A three-sport star out of high school, Mauer was recruited to play quarterback and catcher at Florida State. We know which path he took from there, and where else would he have ended up but back in his home state of Minnesota?
It’s the stuff of fairytales, and for Twins fans his career was nothing short. Mauer spent all 15 seasons with his hometown team and I have to imagine that pushed him over the top to get in on his first ballot.
Some considered Mauer to be a toss-up, but clearly the writers did not. With 76.1% of the vote, Mauer joins Pudge Rodriguez and Johnny Bench as the only catchers ever to be elected on the first ballot. A six-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glover, five-time Silver Slugger, three-time Batting Champion and the MVP in 2009, Mauer has all the accolades to back it up.
It is important to remember that players should be judged when it comes to the Hall of Fame relative to the position they played. Mauer’s 53.0 fWAR may not seem like a ton, but consider that Bench leads all catchers with just 74.8. Mauer ranks 15th all time in fWAR among catchers, and the only players not already in or likely to get in ahead of him are Russell Martin and Brian McCann.
Mauer was so good for so long at so many things. Even when he shifted towards first base later in his career, he managed to post 24 defensive runs saved in his final three seasons.
The thing that sets Mauer–along with Helton–apart is that he spent his entire career with the same team. That is something that is so rare in today’s age, and not just in baseball. There is a good argument to be made he is the best Twin ever, and the best catcher of his generation.
Congratulations to Joe Mauer, who will forever be known as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
Todd Helton: Breaking The Coors Stigma
If Larry Walker cracked the glass ceiling for players who played at Coors Field, Todd Helton just shattered it. Walker only played one-third of his games at Coors. Helton played half of them. It took Larry the full 10 years to get in. It took Helton just six. No longer will players be penalized for playing a large chunk of their career in Colorado (congratulations to Nolan Arenado).
Todd Helton was as dominant as dominant can be. If not for Albert Pujols, he likely would have gone down as the best first baseman of his time. It is easy to overlook the three Gold Gloves he won before Albert started winning them all. What is not hard to overlook is the five All-Star Game appearances, the four Silver Slugger awards or the Hank Aaron Award in 2000.
Helton posted 54.9 fWAR, 369 homers, 132 wRC+ and a .953 OPS in his 17 seasons with the Rockies. Fangraphs now has calculations dating back to 2002 for DRS, and in that time Helton managed 33 at first base. If not for injuries hampering three of his last four seasons, Helton would have had a real shot at 500 homers and 3000 hits.
Lots of people will point to the home/road splits, but Helton was still a fantastic and feared hitter on the road. He still managed an .833 OPS and 121 wRC+ in his career on the road, numbers that make him a great player even before you include his insane home numbers.
Helton was certainly one of the most-feared hitters of his generation, carrying Rockies offenses through some rough years. From 2000-2004, Helton had just one season with less than 160 wRC+. He was robbed of the MVP in 2000 when he had 8.3 fWAR and hit .372 with 42 homers and 162 wRC+. If he has an MVP, he probably gets in even quicker than the impressive six years it took him.
In the same way as Mauer, Helton spending his entire career with the Rockies certainly did a lot to bolster his case. He is the greatest Rockie of all of time, and that is coming from Larry Walker’s biggest fan.
Congratulations to Todd Helton, who will forever be known as a Hall of Famer.
Gary Sheffield: The Ultimate Snub
As good as it felt to see Beltré, Mauer and Helton get in, it is as upsetting to see Sheffield miss out. First of all, Sheffield was the Marlins best bet to get a Hall of Famer for who knows how long. The peak of his career was in Miami, and it was very possible he would have been the first player to wear a Marlins cap in Cooperstown.
Second, Gary Sheffield is by every stretch of the imagination a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player. 62.7 fWAR, a .907 OPS and 141 wRC+ make Sheffield one of the most dominant right-handed hitters in history. His 509 homers, nine All-Star appearances and five Silver Sluggers only make that even more true.
His defensive deficiencies–he would have been arguably the worst defender in the Hall–and (very loose) steroid ties are likely what have kept him out. Which is a shame, because Sheffield is one of the most iconic players of his generation. His batting stance will be copied for ages, and that alone made him worth consideration.
Sheffield’s snub shows the inconsistencies with steroid-era voting. Sheffield–just like Bonds and Clemens–never failed a test and got left out, but Pudge Rodriguez who did fail a test was elected on his first ballot. Not to mention, his steroid ties are only suspicions, and there is not a ton of evidence to make him one of the “steroid guys.”
He now joins Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Mark Maguire and Bonds as the only members of the 500 club to not make the Hall of Fame. That is sad, because Sheffield is not one of the poster boys for steroids the way they were.
Gary Sheffield, you deserved better. I hope your name is soon called by one of the veteran committees, and you will be able to take your rightful place in Cooperstown.
Other Notes From The Voting
- Billy Wagner missed out by just 1.2% of the vote in his ninth year on the ballot. The man who many consider the greatest left-handed reliever ever has one more shot to get in. It is hard to imagine Wagner not making up that ground in his final year, but if he does not we will certainly have an interesting discussion next year.
- Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez struggled to shake their steroid ties and make up any ground. Ramirez actually lost votes, down from 33.2% to 32.5%. With his two failed tests, he never had a chance. A-Rod is probably the best player on the ballot, but also lost votes this year, dropping from 35.7% to 34.8%. If Bonds and Clemens missed out, A-Rod has no chance.
- Carlos Beltrán had a really good showing in his second year on the ballot. He picked up 57.1% of the vote, up from 46.5% in year one. Many wondered how he would fare after his involvement in the Astros cheating scandal, but it does not seem as if that will effect him. I would expect him to be elected within the next three years.
- Andruw Jones saw his pace slowed, gaining just 2.8% of the vote, up to 61.6% in his seventh year on the ballot. He has three years to make it up and I think he will. It is hard to imagine the best defensive center fielder since Willie Mays who also has 434 homers and 67.0 fWAR not being in the Hall of Fame.
- Chase Utley posted a solid 28.8% in his first year on the ballot. Fellow Phillies legend, Bobby Abreu, saw his chances take a knock by dropping .6% to 14.8% in his fifth year. A case many people like, it is hard to see him making up that much ground. Another Phillies legend, Jimmy Rollins, matched Abreu with 14.8%, a solid number for a guy considered a long shot.
- David Wright is the other first timer to survive with 6.2% of the vote. José Bautistia, Victor Martinez, Bartolo Colon, Matt Holliday, Adrián González and Brandon Phillips received votes but did not clear the 5% needed to stick on the ballot. James Shields and José Reyes did not receive votes, but all of the guys that even make the ballot deserve a nod for tremendous careers.
- Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettite and Mark Buehrle all took knocks to their percentage this year. Vizquel’s free fall slowed a tad this year, only losing 1.8%, down to 17.7% He received 52.6% of the vote in 2020 before a plethora of factors saw his chances erased. Pettite and Buehrle were two of the best lefties of their time, but it seems many are realizing they are Hall-of-Very-Good-type players. Pettite dropped to 13.5% and Buehrle just hung on with 8.3%.
- Francisco Rodriguez and Torri Hunter just held on in their second and fourth years, respectively. K-Rod managed 7.8% of the vote, while Hunter got 7.3%. It will be interesting to see how much love K-Rod picks up over the years as one of the great relievers ever. For what it’s worth, I have long said Hunter is the guy I consider the line between Hall of Very Good and Hall of Fame.
- Looking ahead to next year’s ballot, there are three names that likely have real chances. Ichiro Suzuki is a guarantee to make it, and could make a run at being unanimous. He would join Mariano Rivera as the only unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famers in history. I think he has a good chance.
- CC Sabathia and Dustin Pedroia are the other two guys I think have a shot. Both have compelling cases that may just fall short, but have things working for them that could help their chances. Ian Kinsler, Felix Hernández, Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Zobrist all sound like guys that could receive votes. The ballot will only continue to get more loaded, and I think there is a good chance we see more than three players elected in 2025.