The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame class will be announced on Tuesday night, January 23 at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. There are several Hall-worthy players on this year’s ballot and we could see a pretty packed class to join legendary manager Jim Leyland, who was voted in by the Veterans Committee in December.
With that in mind, I am going to give my own ballot using all 10 possible votes. Voting for the Hall of Fame should be done strategically, but it seems as though the BBWAA voters have failed to do so these days. Either take it seriously or get your voting rights taken away. Anyway, let’s get into my ballot.
This is a shoe-in and whoever didn’t vote for the great third baseman is an idiot. Through the ballots that have been made public, two voters didn’t vote for Beltre - Bill Ballou, a correspondent of Worcester Telegram, and Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub.
In his reasoning for not voting for Beltre, Ballou said: “Beltre will get plenty of support, and maybe even make it on this year’s first ballot. There are voters who are passionate about Beltre’s qualifications, and those qualifications are impressive. The last five Hall ballots cast by this voter, however, have all only included the elite of the elite, which is what Cooperstown is supposed to be all about. Only eight players have received this vote — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, [Mariano] Rivera, [Manny] Ramirez and [Alex] Rodriguez. Beltre was good, but not as good as anyone in that group.”
Even if you believe that he isn’t as good as anyone in that group, which is certainly arguable, that’s irrelevant. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer and Beltre is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. As a Yankee fan, I have to admit that Beltre was a better overall player than Jeter. The defense prowess alone puts him above the former Yankees captain. Jeter was one vote shy of being unanimous, while Beltre will be at least two short. That’s why the voting system is so flawed.
But also, just because you’re not as good as other Hall of Fame-caliber players, doesn’t make you less of a Hall of Famer. Also, the fact that this writer started his argument with “Beltre will… maybe even make it on this year’s first ballot,” you have no clue what you’re talking about, the keyword there being “maybe.” Like I said, Beltre is a shoo-in for his first ballot. This argument would be like saying, “Well Peyton Manning was good, but he wasn’t as good as Tom Brady, John Elway, or Joe Montana, so he shouldn’t get my vote.” Except in this scenario, the writer compared Beltre to other players at other positions, including pitchers.
I have to at least give Ballou credit for having the gall to give his reasoning for his votes and the fact that he did vote for steroid guys in Bonds, Clemens, Ramirez, and Rodriguez. But he also only voted for Ramirez and A-Rod this year and didn’t vote for Gary Sheffield.
Anyway, I digress. Beltre, with or without a couple of weird Boston writers, is getting in. He was one of the greatest hitters of his era and among the top 10 third basemen in MLB history. By the way, it makes it even weirder that the two guys who didn’t vote for him are from Boston backgrounds, given the fact that Beltre had one of his best seasons there in 2010.
In his ninth year on the ballot, Wagner looks to have a strong chance to make it this year and, at the very least, should get in next year. The left-handed reliever has trended upwards in the eyes of the voters over the last few years as he jumped up to 68.1 percent last year. Wagner is certainly amongst the greatest relievers of all time and stacks up very well with Yankees’ legend Mariano Rivera - who was the first unanimous selection. Rivera was the only overall pitcher in the Live Ball Era, not including just relievers, who had a better ERA (2.21) and ERA+ (205) than Wagner’s 2.31 ERA and 187 ERA+. Wagner recorded 422 saves in a 16-year career with the Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, and Atlanta Braves while racking up 1,196 strikeouts.
The dominant closer has the highest strikeouts per nine (11.9) and highest strikeout percentage (33.2%) amongst all pitchers to throw at least 900 innings. Wagner also gave up just a .187 batting average against which is the lowest allowed all-time. He also posted a 0.998 WHIP, the third-lowest behind Jacob deGrom and Deadball Era pitcher Addie Joss.
The only closer to have Wagner beat in both strikeouts (1,196) and saves (422) is 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Lee Smith, who recorded 1,225 strikeouts and 478 saves. Wagner also had four 100-strikeout seasons, which is rare for a reliever. The only thing that Wagner doesn’t have is the postseason numbers that Rivera had, but he didn’t get much of a shot with just 11 2/3 innings.
The Colorado Rockies' first baseman for all 17 years of his career, Helton has trended upward over his first five years on the ballot. The “Coors Effect” should have no impact on his case for the Hall, as he proved to be Cooperstown-worthy on the road. Let’s call it the “Cooperstown Effect.” Larry Walker had to wait all 10 years on the ballot to get inducted, but it looks as though that won’t be the case for Helton.
If you take out his Coors numbers entirely, the slugger slashed .287/.386/.469 with 142 homers in 4,612 road plate appearances. Helton had a higher road OPS (.855) than several Hall of Famers, including Dave Winfield (.841), Eddie Murray (.838) and Tony Gwynn (.835). The road on-base percentage of .386 is also higher than Hall of Famers such as Gwynn (.384) and Rod Carew (.385). At home, Helton recorded a triple slash of .345/.441/.607 with 227 homers and 136 wRC+ over 4,841. It is also undeniable that Helton was “Mr. Rockie” and he is nicknamed “The Toddfather” by the Colorado faithful.
On the ballot for the 10th and final time this year, Sheffield rose to 55 percent in 2023 and is tracking right on the fringe of induction. If private ballots give him that extra push, the 22-year slugger who played for eight teams could get in. The reason I believe he should be in, which you could check out in full detail in my Hall of Fame Case, is his incredible peak. From 1992 to 2005, Shef had the fourth-highest OPS+ at 153, only behind current Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and Hall of Fame-caliber sluggers Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez.
You can’t tell the story of the 2000s Minnesota Twins, or the catching position as a whole for that matter, without Joe Mauer. The hometown kid played all 15 of his seasons in Minnesota with the Twins and finished his career with a .306/.388/.439 slashline and 124 OPS+. Mauer became the first American League catcher to win the batting title in 2006 (.347) and he ultimately won it two more times, in 2008 and 2009.
Batting average doesn’t tell the whole story, but the other numbers are just as strong. His 2009 season was one of if not the, greatest offensive seasons by a catcher as he went on to nearly unanimously win MVP after slashing .365/.444/.587 with a 171 OPS+. The .365 batting average set a big-league record for a catcher. For more on Mauer, check out our new writer, Carter Brantley's Hall of Fame Case on him.
An elite defender in center field and arguably the greatest defensive center fielder of all time, Jones also had the peak at the plate deserving of a plaque in the Hall. He recorded a 24.4 defensive WAR of his career, the highest by any outfielder in baseball history. Jones also totaled 230 total zone runs, the most by any center fielder since the stat record begins, and well ahead of fellow outfield great Willie Mays (176). Offensively, the 17-year player posted a career OPS of .823 and 434 homers, with a career-best 51 bombs coming in 2005 when he led the majors.
I am going to group these two together as they both played in the same era and were both caught using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), leading to suspensions. But with or without steroids, these two were Hall of Fame caliber players. The second David Ortiz made the Hall of Fame, while Bonds and Clemens didn't and A-Rod and Ramirez haven't yet, the voters showed that they only vote steroid guys in when it fits their narrative. It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Integrity. Rodriguez is one of the greatest sluggers in history and was incredible defensively during his peak. And come on, let Manny be Manny in the Hall of Fame. His energy alone is Hall-worthy and he had the incredible offensive statistics to back it up.
As I work to get 10 players on the ballot, I feel as though you should be more strategic as it fills up. These next two guys are very much fringe Hall of Famers but deserve a closer look once the ballot cleans up a bit with guys falling off or getting voted in. They are also very similar pitchers, with the second having the postseason prowess that the first one doesn’t. I don’t know if either one winds up getting in, at least not on the BBWAA ballot, but they deserve a closer look and need that extra boost to stay on the ballot.
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