In a refreshing change of pace, the Baseball Hall of Fame has two first-ballot inductees, as Joe Mauer joins Adrian Beltre.
After four relatively quiet years, the Baseball Writers Association of America has elected multiple players to the Hall of Fame. 3B Adrian Beltre, C Joe Mauer, and 1B Todd Helton are all well deserving of the honor. Beltre and Mauer both get in on the first ballot, while Helton surpasses the necessary 75% in his sixth year.
2020 was the last time the writers chose two candidates when SS Derek Jeter and OF Larry Walker got the call. They last inducted at least three in 2019 when SP Roy Halladay, SP Mike Mussina, DH Edgar Martinez, and CP Mariano Rivera joined the elite group.
Celebrating the Newcomers
Beltre is a no doubter as a member of the 3ooo hits club. In addition to solid contact, Beltre could hit for power and pick it at the hot corner. A fan favorite around the league, the Dominican amassed 3166 hits, 477 home runs, 93.5 WAR, and a career OPS of .819. He won five Gold Gloves, two Platinum Gloves, four Silver Sluggers, and made four All-Star teams. He also finished second in MVP voting in 2004 when he led the league with 48 home runs.
Mauer became a hometown hero as a St. Paul kid who played his whole career with the Minnesota Twins. Even though he moved off the position fairly quickly due to injury, Mauer is one of the best backstops ever and worthy of first-ballot status. he had a tremendous peak that included three batting titles and an MVP award in 2009 when he accomplished the slash-line triple crown. He also won three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and made six All-Star teams. One of the most likeable people in the sport, Mauer finished with 2123 hits, 143 home runs, 55.2 WAR, and an .827 OPS.
Helton overcomes the anti-Coors bias to due to a superb ability to hit at home and on the road. While he had sizable splits, the lifelong Colorado Rockie still excelled outside of Denver while few of his teammates ever did. An underrated defender, Helton won a batting title, four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and made five All-Star teams. The thin air was clearly not the only factor, as his career on-base percentage was .414. Helton was off-the-charts great in 2000, when he had a slash-line triple crown of .372/.463/.698. He collected 2519 hits, 369 home runs, 61.8 WAR, and had an outstanding .953 OPS.
Takeaways from the Rest of the Ballot
As the best closer outside the Hall of Fame, CP Billy Wagner fell just short of election, which is somewhat surprising. After finishing with 68% in 2023, he was tracking above 78% in Ryan Thibodaux’s essential tracker. Missing out is a bummer, but Wagner has one more year of eligibility and should get the call in 2025.
The same is not true for OF Gary Sheffield, who has exhausted his time on the writer’s ballot. The sweet-swinging slugger got a big boost in support, but not enough of a jump from 55%. As I predicted last January, a committee should elect him in the near future.
OF Carlos Beltran should feel good today, as he had the largest net gain in votes among returning candidates. There are plenty of voters who enacted a one-year penalty for the electronic sign-stealing scandal. Hopefully a chunk more changes their minds next winter to elect him.
After crossing the crucial 50% threshold last year, OF Andruw Jones plateaued to some extent this time around. He is still in a good position, but a number of people are justifiably holding a short career and a domestic violence incident against him.
In his ballot debut, 2B Chase Utley had a decent showing. Utley is a polarizing figure since he has a strong analytics case, but a thin one based on traditional statistics. Unlike Mauer, Utley did not reach 2000 hits, which is an unofficial barometer voters use.
If you want to see a starting pitcher head to Cooperstown, don’t hold your breath for SPs Mark Buehrle and Andy Pettitte. The two of them are languishing towards the bottom of the ballot alongside some other marginal candidates. The good news is that SP CC Sabathia will be eligible next year.
Where the Hall Stands
Electing even a single player is good news for the Hall of Fame to stay relevant, but this class of three is even better. Beltre, Mauer, and Helton were all phenomenal players in multiple aspects of baseball, and I am glad the voters recognized that. While many writers and fans have spent the past two months arguing about the ballot, now is the time we celebrate the new inductees.
The induction ceremony will be on July 21 in Cooperstown, the three players will join Manager Jim Leyland, who was elected by a committee in December. Next year should be another exciting cycle as well, as 2B Dustin Pedroia joins Sabathia as strong newcomers, and OF Ichiro has a real shot to be a unanimous selection.
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