A Case for Cooperstown

A case for Cooperstown

For generations, a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has been what all Major League Baseball players strive for throughout their careers. The eligibility rules are hefty, but many players across the league land themselves on the ballot. Only the most elite players hang their bronze plaques upon those hallowed oak walls.

Eligibility Rules

Candidates must have played in the Major Leagues between fifteen years before and five years before their election. They must play ten seasons in the Majors within that time, and there is a waiting period of five years before their name may appear on a ballot. Each player who achieves the necessary eligibility requirements and makes it on the ballot has ten years to be elected. The players must also retain 5% of the votes to continue to appear on the ballot. Suppose a player is not selected within their ten-year eligibility period. In that case, the only path to the Hall of Fame is through the Era Committee, formerly known as the Veterans Committee.

The Electoral Body

The votes are cast by honorary and active members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Writers must have been active baseball writers for at least ten years to be eligible to vote in the Hall of Fame election. The electors are instructed to select their votes based on the player’s career record and ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team or teams for which he played.

The 2024 Candidates

In 2024, there are twenty-six candidates on the ballot. Fourteen are holdovers from years prior, and twelve are new to the Hall of Fame stage. Those returning to the ballot are as follows: Gary Sheffield (10th), Billy Wagner (9th), Manny Ramirez (8th), Andruw Jones (7th), Omar Vizquel (7th), Todd Helton (6th), Andy Pettitte (6th), Bobby Abreu (5th), Mark Buehrle (4th), Torii Hunter (4th), Jimmy Rollins (3rd), Alex Rodriguez (3rd), Francisco Rodriguez (2nd), and Carlos Beltran (2nd). Electees debuting on the ballot this year are as follows: Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Bartolo Colon, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Holliday, Victor Martinez, Joe Mauer, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes, James Shields, Chase Utley and David Wright.

The Tracker

In the past, we have had no way of monitoring the standings of any one player, but that is no longer the case. Ryan Thibodaux and his team took over the tracker from Twitter user @LeoKitty in 2014 and have continued to track the votes for the past decade. Mere days away from the final announcement, which will air on MLB Network at 6 p.m. ET on January 23rd, 2024, Thibodaux and his team have recorded 182 (47.4%) of the estimated 384 votes.

Those Who Have Been Eliminated

As of today, January 19th, 2024, these players have been eliminated from this current ballot and must try again next year: Chase Utley, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramírez, Bobby Abreu, Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel, David Wright, Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Buehrle. The players who are in danger of falling off the ballot are as follows: Torri Hunter, Jose Bautista, Victor Martinez, Matt Holliday, Bartolo Colon, James Shields, Jose Reyes, Brandon Phillips, and Adrian Gonzalez.

Only seven remain.

The Ones Who Still Have a Chance

Carlos Beltran (2nd year) – Carlos Beltran is a native of Manati, Puerto Rico. He attended and was drafted out of Fernando Callejo High School during the 2nd round of the 1995 Amateur Draft by the Kansas City Royals. Beltran made his Major League debut on September 14th, 1998, for the Royals and played his final game on October 1st, 2017, for the Houston Astros. He ended his 20-year career with a batting average of .279, 2,725 hits, 435 home runs, and 1,587 RBIs. Beltran earned the title of Rookie of the Year in 1999, along with three Rawlings Gold Gloves (2006-2008), two Silver Sluggers(2006-2007), a Roberto Clemente Award (2013), and was named to the All-Star Team nine times (2004-2007, 2009, 2011-2013, 2016). 2024 is Beltran’s second year on the Hall of Fame Ballot, and this year, as last year, does not have the support to surpass the 75% needed to enter the Hall. Beltran’s ties to the sign-stealing scandal of 2017 will likely hold him out of the running for years, if not forever.

Andruw Jones (7th year) – Andruw Jones is a native of Willemstad, Curacao, where he attended high school at St. Paulus. He signed with the Atlanta Braves as an international free agent in 1993. He made his Major League debut for the same organization on August 15th, 1996. His career ended with the New York Yankees on October 3rd, 2012. Over his 17-year career, he amassed a .254 batting average, 1,933 hits, 434 home runs, and 1,289 RBIs. Jones has an astounding ten Rawlings Gold Gloves (1998-2007), one Silver Slugger (2005), one National League Hank Aaron Award (2005), Major League Player of the Year (2005), and was named to the All-Star Team five times (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006). 2024 marks Jones’ seventh year on the Hall of Fame ballot. His support has gained ground over the years. Will he surpass the 75% needed for this year? No, probably not. Will he eventually hang his plaque in the Hall? Eventually. 

Gary Sheffield (10th year) – Gary Sheffield is a native of Tampa, Florida. He attended Hillsborough High School before being drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1st round of the 1986 Amateur Draft. Sheffield made his Major League debut on September 3rd, 1988, for Milwaukee and his final appearance on September 30th, 2009, for the New York Mets. He ended his twenty-two-year career with a .292 batting average, 2,689 hits, 509 home runs, and 1,676 RBIs. Sheffield appeared in nine All-Star Games (1992, 1993, 1996, 1998-2000, 2003-2005). He also holds a National League batting title (1992), five Silver Sluggers (1992, 1996, 2003-2005), played on the 1997 World Series Champion Florida Marlins, and was named the 1992 Major League Player of the Year. 2024 is Gary Sheffield’s tenth and final year on the Hall of Fame ballot. While his support has grown, his link to the Mitchell Report has held him out of the Hall. He is very close to the line; he may have to rely on a pity vote or face the Veteran Committee.

The Ones Who Are Likely 

Billy Wagner (9th year) – Billy Wagner is a native of Marion, Virginia. He attended Tazewell High School before going on to play at Ferrum College. Wagner was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 1st round of the 1993 Amateur Draft out of Ferrum College. He made his Major League debut on September 13th, 1995, for the Houston Astros and made his final appearance sixteen years later on October 3rd, 2010 with the Atlanta Braves. Wagner’s career ERA is 2.31, and he was credited with 47 wins, 40 losses, 422 saves, and 1,196 strikeouts. He was named to the All-Star Team seven times (1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010), National League Rolaids Relief Man Award (1999), Steve Carlton Most Valuable Pitcher (2005), Tug McGraw True Pro (2005), Closer of the Year finalist (2006-2007), Delivery Man of the Year finalist (2006), Delivery Man of the Month (July 2007). The Houston Astros honored Wagner with his induction into the Astros Hall of Fame in a ceremony on August 8th,2020, in only the second class in franchise history. Billy Wagner has appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot eight times, garnering more votes yearly. 2024 looks to be Wagner’s year, but things could still go south quickly for him.

Todd Helton (6th year) – Todd Helton is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, where he attended Central High School and, subsequently, the University of Tennessee. The San Diego Padres drafted him in the 2nd round of the 1992 Amateur Draft from Central HS. Then, he was drafted again by the Colorado Rockies in the 1st round of the 1995 Amateur Draft out of the University of Tennessee. He made his Major League debut with the Colorado Rockies on August 2nd, 1997. Helton made his final Major League appearance on September 29th, 2013, with the same organization. He ended his 17-year career with a .316 batting average with 2,519 hits, 369 home runs, and 1,406 RBIs. Helton holds three Rawlings Gold Gloves (2001-2002, 2004), four Silver Sluggers (2000-2003), the National League Hank Aaron Award (2000), MLB Batting Champion (2000), and was named to the National League All-Star Team five times (2000-2004). The Rockies honored Helton with the retirement of his 17 in a ceremony on August 17th, 2014, becoming the first Rockies player to have his number retired. He has failed to receive 75% of the Hall of Fame votes five times, growing in support each time. Helton fell just short of induction in the 2023 voting with 72.8% of the votes. Will 2024 be his year? At the time of this article, it’s looking good.

Joe Mauer (1st year) – Joe Mauer is a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota. He attended high school at St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall. Mauer was drafted directly out of high school in the 1st round of the Amateur Draft in 2001 by the Minnesota Twins. He made his Major League debut on April 5th, 2004, with the Minnesota Twins and played his final game on September 30th, 2018, for the same organization. Mauer ended his career with a .306 batting average with 2,123 hits, 143 home runs, and 923 RBIs. Over his 15-year career with the Twins, he collected quite a few awards, including three Rawlings Gold Gloves (2008-2010), five Silver Sluggers (2006, 2008-2010, 2013), American League Most Valuable Player (2009), named American League batting champion three times (2006, 2008-2009), and named to the All-Star team six times (2006, 2008-2010, 2012, 2013). His number 7 was retired by the Twins on June 15th, 2019. He was officially inducted into the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame in 2023. Could the National Hall of Fame be his next stop? The current standings say yes.

The One Everyone Is Sure Of

Adrian Beltre (1st year) – Adrian Beltre, a native of the Dominican Republic, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1998 at nineteen. His Major League debut came on June 24th, 1998, with the Dodgers. His final Major League appearance was on September 30th, 2018, with the Texas Rangers. Over his 21-year career, Beltre wore four different uniforms (Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, Rangers). He ended his career with a .286 batting average and recorded 3,166 hits, 477 home runs, and 1,707 RBIs. He racked up numerous awards to include being named to the All-Star Team four times (2010-2014, 2016), five Rawlings Gold Gloves (2007-2008,2011-2012,2016), two Rawlings Platinum Gloves (2011-2012), four Silver Sluggers (2004, 2010, 2011,2014), a Thomas A. Yawkey Red Sox MVP (2010), four Texas Rangers club MVPs (2012-2014, 2016), Wilson Team Defensive Player of the Year (2012), the MLBPAA Rangers Heart and Hustle Award (2013-2014), a Lou Gehrig Award (2017), a Rangers Harold McKinney Good Guy Award (2017), and a MLB.com Personality of the Year (2017). The Texas Rangers honored Beltre, not once but twice, first by retiring his 29 in a ceremony on June 8th, 2019, and again by inducting him into the Rangers Hall of Fame on August 14th, 2021. The record and impressive awards resume speaks for itself. It is a sure bet that Adrian Beltre will be hanging his bronze plaque on those oak walls come July, and this writer will be there to see it.

Jamie Lawless

A lifelong Texas Rangers fan living in Birdland. Covering the 2023 World Series Champion Texas Rangers & the 2023 American League East Champion Baltimore Orioles. Always & #Forever29

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