An Early Look at Hall of Fame Voting
By Mike Whiteman 10/29/2023
Perhaps my favorite part of the offseason is the buildup, speculation, and revealing of the new Hall of Fame players to be enshrined the next summer. Specifically, there are two big days for us Hall of Fame enthusiasts that bring some warmth through the cold winter. First will be December 3rd, at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Nashville. The Contemporary Baseball Era Committee, covering the sport since 1980, casts their votes on the Managers/Executives/Umpires ballot. To be elected, one must be selected on 75% of the ballots. Here's the recently unveiled slate: - Cito Gaston – Guided the Toronto Blue Jays to two World Series championships, the first African-American manager to lead his team to the championship. - Davey Johnson – Known for his leadership with the 1986 New York Mets, also took the Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals to the playoffs. His .562 managerial winning percentage is tenth best all-time. Starting second baseman for O's pennant winners of 1969-71. - Jim Leyland – Longtime skipper of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers, guided the Florida Marlins to the World Series title in 1997. Won two AL pennants with Tigers. 18th in all-time managerial wins.
- Ed Montague – Longtime umpire, officiated 4,369 career games, thirteenth of all time.
- Hank Peters – Front office executive who built the late 1970s and 1980s Orioles, then later set the foundation of the 1990s Cleveland Indians powerhouse. Previously served as the president of the minor leagues and is widely credited with saving the system from economic failure in the early-mid 1970s. - Lou Piniella – Sweet Lou has the most managerial wins of those on the ballot (1,835 – 17th most) and was at the helm of the 1990 “Nasty Boys” Cincinnati Reds. Also took the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs to the postseason. His teams won more than 90 games eight times. Had a long playing career primarily with the New York Yankees.
- Joe West – Umpired a record 43-seasons and 5,460 games from 1976-2021. An outspoken and considered polarizing figure by many.
- Bill White – A distinguished career of over 50 years as player, broadcaster, and president of the National League. The second – and higher anticipated - event is the revealing of the Baseball Writers Association of America voting. These results are announced in January 2024. Two policy notes on voting, from the Baseball Hall of Fame website: Eligible Candidates - Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements: A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning fifteen years before and ending five years prior to election.
B. Player must have played in each of ten Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in (A).
C. Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.
D. In case of the death of an active player or a player who has been retired for less than five full years, a candidate who is otherwise eligible shall be eligible in the next regular election held at least six months after the date of death or after the end of the five year period, whichever occurs first.
E. Any player on Baseball's ineligible list shall not be an eligible candidate. Voting Guidance: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. Here are the top holdovers from last year: - Todd Helton – Colorado Rockies first sacker slashed .316/.414/.539. Is 17th in lifetime WAR among first basemen. Reached 72% of voting last year. Won three Gold Gloves.
- Billy Wagner – Unhittable lefty reliever, finished with 2.31 ERA and 422 saves. Had a big jump from 2022 voting (51%) to 2023 (68%). Has two years to grow his total by about 7%. - Andruw Jones – Ten-time Gold Glover in centerfield, considered by many among the best defensive players of all time. He also smacked 434 career home runs. Had 58% voting in last year’s ballot. - Gary Sheffield – Had 509 career home runs, and was mentioned in the Mitchell PED report. Had a nice improvement in voting to 55%, but adding 20% in his last year on the ballot looks unlikely. - Carlos Beltran – Received voting on 46% of ballots in his first year of eligibility last year, seemingly penalized for his role in the Houston Astros cheating scandal. With 70.1 career WAR and .307/.412/.609 lifetime postseason slash, I expect to see his plaque eventually, but 2024 won’t be the year. - Alex Rodriguez/Manny Ramirez – Both documented PED users received a bit more than 30% of the voting in 2023. Both showed slight improvement last year and likely will do so this year. - Omar Vizquel – Had 50% of the vote in 2020, a standard that has usually led to eventual enshrinement. Allegations of domestic abuse and sexual harassment led to his vote tumbling to 19%. Is he in danger of falling of the ballot? - Andy Pettite – Reached 17% of voting last year. The big lefty will always be a beloved Yankee, but his admission of PED usage and lifetime 3.85 ERA I suspect make for an uphill climb.
- Bobby Abreu – Doesn’t get a lot of respect (15% voting last year), but what a hitter he was! His career slash was .291/.395/.475 and stole 30+ bases six times. Is 92nd all-time in WAR, and his 128 OPS+ is higher than recent Hall inductees Kirby Puckett, Paul Molitor and Rickey Henderson. There are also some notable new candidates: - Adrian Beltre – Likely first ballot election with 3,166 career hits, 477 home runs. Kicked his career into gear at age 31, and averaged .307/.358/.514 over his last nine years.
- Joe Mauer – From 2005-2013, Mauer was a six-time All-Star catcher, three-time batting champion and 2009 MVP. He slashed .323/.406/.466 during this time. Due to a concussion suffered in 2013, he was shifted to first base and from 2014 until his retirement after the 2018 season, he was basically an average first baseman. Was his peak long enough? - Chase Utley – Hard-nosed “throwback” player, considered by many the heart of the Philadelphia Phillies’ mini-dynasty of 2007-11. At his peak was an elite second baseman at the plate and in the field, but the highest he placed in MVP voting was seventh. Did he accumulate enough "counting stats" to gain entrance to Cooperstown?
- Matt Holliday – A “nice career, but not Cooperstown nice” guy. Seven time All-Star and four time Silver Slugger, only once finished in the top ten MVP voting - Bartolo Colon – “Big Sexy” was fun, and won 247 games, but had a 4.12 ERA and was suspended for PED usage in 2012. Will he get the 5% to stay on the ballot? - Jose Reyes – Exciting Mets shortstop, averaged double figures doubles, triples, home runs and over 50 stolen bases during his tenure with the team. Regressed to a basically average player after leaving via free agency in 2011. - David Wright – The best third sacker in Mets history had seven all-star appearances, but last played over 100 games at age 31, and only once was in the top five of MVP voting.
- Jose Bautista – A very good player from 2010-15 with the Blue Jays, mediocre otherwise. Should be immediately dropped from the ballot due to his being the “father” of the modern bat flip (I kid, I kid….).
- Adrian Gonzalez – A solid, durable player for a long time who really doesn’t get his due. From 2006-2016 averaged 159 games played, 27 HR, 102 RBI and 134 OPS+ while winning four Gold Gloves and making five All-Star game appearances. Only one top-five MVP voting (2010), limited postseason exposure, and counting stats on the light side will keep him from Cooperstown, but boy could the Yankees use a player like him right now! - Victor Martinez – The essence of a “professional hitter,” slashed .290/.360/.455 over his career with the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. He was a five-time All-Star and finished second in MVP voting in 2014. Does his hitting prowess overcome his poor fielding behind the plate and at first base? - James Shields – Had 145 career wins with a 102 ERA+. Enjoyed some nice years for the Tampa Bay Rays and the Kansas City Royals. Nicknamed “Big Game” but had a lifetime 5.46 postseason ERA. Here are my fearless predictions on the voting: 1. Bill White is selected. He was a racial pioneer, speaking out against segregation as a player and the first African American in a MLB leadership position. Add that to a very good playing career (five All-Star selections, seven Gold Gloves) and his high profile announcing stint with the Yankees, and I think he’s in. 2. Jim Leyland is the only manager selected. He’s got the hardware, and I think he gets points for being a “good soldier”, enduring four years in Pittsburgh after finances caused the breakup of the 1990-92 juggernaut and the brutal 1998 Marlins selloff. 3. An umpire is elected. Don’t ask me which one. 4. Beltre is elected on the first ballot. Easy choice. 5. Helton barely surpasses the 75% threshold. Perhaps the premier “Mount Rushmore” Colorado Rockie, he joins Larry Walker in Cooperstown. 6. Wagner falls just shy this year. I think he’ll come in at about 72% of the vote, and will be inducted in his last opportunity in 2025. 7. Mauer slides in on the first ballot. He doesn’t have the buildup of counting stats, but a lot of modern metrics put him among the top 10-20 catchers of all time. I think he garners about 80% voting in his first opportunity. Who do YOU think will be enshrined in Cooperstown in 2024?