Where things stand ahead of today’s Baseball Hall of Fame reveal
Cooperstown will welcome some new residents Tuesday evening.
It’s just a question of how many.
Every year, Baseball Hall of Fame ballot tracker Ryan Thibodaux and his team keep tabs on all ballots made public by Baseball Writers Association of America voters and compile them into a document for everyone to monitor leading up to the big reveal. Based on the current numbers, five players – Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Joe Mauer, Gary Sheffied and Billy Wagner – would gain election as things currently stand.
That would be a big class. The biggest class voted in by the BBWAA since 2015 in fact, where Ken Griffey Jr., John Smoltz, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez earned their elections.
But something to keep in mind: players’ percentages normally take a hit when all remaining ballots are revealed on voting day. That means writers who do not want to reveal their ballot ahead of time often don’t vote for as many players as those who do, for one reason or another.
For example, last year, Helton received the nod on 78.6 per cent of all ballots made public prior to the announcement, according to Thibodaux. That was just over three and a half per cent clear of the 75 per cent threshold. But when the class of 2023 BBWAA was revealed, only Scott Rolen was called to Cooperstown, as Helton’s percentage regressed 6.4 per cent to 72.2, leaving him painfully close to baseball greatest honour.
On Dec. 3, manager Jim Leyland was elected to Cooperstown via the Contemporary Baseball Era committee. He will join anyone elected on Tuesday during the class of 2024 induction ceremony on July 21.
With mere hours to go, here is a look at where things stand as of early Tuesday morning.
The first-ballot lock: Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre Texas Rangers
Tracking percentage: 99%
Adrian Beltre meets almost every mark of a first-ballot hall-of-famer. He played 21 seasons in the big leagues for the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, joining the 3,000 hit club in his penultimate season. A career .286 hitter, Beltre finished with 477 home runs, four All-Star nominations, four Silver Sluggers, five Gold Gloves and two Platinum Gloves, awarded annually to the best overall fielder in each league.
He was a mark of consistency throughout his whole career, averaging 147 games played from 1999 to 2016 with steady power numbers and elite defence at the hot corner. His case for Cooperstown is a no-brainer.
Beltre will become the 59th player elected on his first ballot and first since David Ortiz in 2022. As of Tuesday, only two voters have left the 44-year-old off their ballots.
It’s looking good: Joe Mauer, Todd Helton
Joe Mauer Twins
Tracking percentage (Mauer): 83.5%
Tracking percentage (Helton) 82%
Assuming at least one of Joe Mauer or Todd Helton are able to get in, 2024 would be the first multi-member BBWAA election class since 2019.
For Mauer especially, it looks promising. Also on his first ballot, the long-time Minnesota Twin is polling at 83.5 per cent and should join Beltre and Leyland in Cooperstown barring a dramatic fall-off.
Mauer doesn’t have the counting stats many of his peers on the ballot have and his move to first base in 2014 reduces some of his career offensive value, but his peak was higher than just about everyone’s. Mauer won the American League MVP in 2009, putting up one of the best seasons in history for a catcher. He slashed .365/.444/.587 with 28 home runs and 96 RBI, also winning the Gold Glove Award that season.
All in all, Mauer won three batting titles, made six All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves along with five Silver Sluggers.
As mentioned above, support for Helton dropped off big last year among ballots not revealed ahead of time, leaving him just 11 votes short of a plaque. Helton is trending higher now than he was last year and would scrape by even if he received the same 6.4 per cent drop.
The 50-year-old is on his sixth BBWAA ballot and has the numbers necessary for election. But Helton also spent his entire 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field and doesn’t quite get the same credit players based in other ballparks do. Helton also did not make an All-Star team in the final nine seasons of his career and hit just 118 home runs in those seasons compared to an average of 35 in his first full seven years.
Helton finished as a career .316 hitter having made five All-Star teams with four Silver Slugger Awards and three Gold Gloves.
It’s going to be close: Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield
Billy Wagner Houston Astros
Tracking percentage (Wagner): 78%
Tracking percentage (Sheffield): 75%
The case has continued to grow for Billy Wagner in recent years, going from 51 per cent in 2022 to 68.1 per cent last year. One of the most dominant closers of the modern era, Wagner sits sixth on the all-time saves list with 422. He owns a 2.31 career ERA and averaged 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings across his 16 big league seasons, nine of which came in Houston. He made seven All-Star teams and finished in the top six in Cy Young voting twice; an incredibly rare feat for a reliever.
This is Wagner’s ninth year on the ballot, meaning 2025 would be his final round of BBWAA eligibility if he were unable to get in Tuesday.
So, time is critical for Wagner. But it’s of more importance to Gary Sheffield.
The 55-year-old is in his final year of eligibility and is polling right at 75 per cent. He finished with 55 per cent last year, dropping 7.6 per cent on announcement day.
Sheffield’s case is complicated. He made nine All-Star teams, was a member of the 1997 World Series winning Florida Marlins, reached the 500 home run club in his final season and won five Sliver Sluggers. He was undoubtedly one of the game’s most feared hitters for years and his signature batting stance has been emulated by just about every kid who saw him play.
But the Tampa native was also named in the Mitchell Report and had his best seasons at the height of the steroid era. On the flip side, Sheffield never failed a drug test, nor was he ever suspended for performance-enhancing drug use.
The Hall of Fame has provided no direction on PED use for voters and BBWAA members haven’t found much common ground over the years, either. Ortiz, who was also linked to PEDs, was elected on his first ballot in 2022. And of course Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens never came close to reaching 75 per cent during their years on the ballot.
Based on the numbers as of Tuesday, Sheffield faces an uphill battle for election and may be the latest example of how baseball continues to struggle with how to perceive accomplishments from an entire era.
Outside looking in: Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran
Andruw Jones Atlanta Braves
Tracking percentage (Jones): 70.5%
Tracking percentage (Beltran): 66%
In his seventh year of eligibility, Jones is tracking to make a nice leap from his 58.1 per cent in 2023, but an election Tuesday would be a big surprise.
The same goes for Beltran, who finished his first year of eligibility at 46.5 per cent. He’s up to 66 per cent ahead of Tuesday’s reveal and should continue trending up as the years press on.