Baseball Hall of Fame voting: Adrian Beltre and who else?

Oct 28, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; Former Texas Rangers player Adrian Beltre throws out the ceremonial first pitch before the game between the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks in game two of the 2023 World Series at Globe Life Field. Mandatory Credit:Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

For Adrian Beltre, the only question this week is whether he will sail into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., with the largest share of the vote of any third baseman in history.

The real suspense will be endured by the quartet of Todd Helton, Joe Mauer, Billy Wagner and Gary Sheffield — all of whom, some of whom or none of whom could become part of the hall’s Class of 2024.

Beltre is expected to become a first-ballot inductee while Helton, Mauer, Wagner and Sheffield will find out their fates Tuesday night, when the results of the Hall of Fame voting are announced at 6 p.m. ET on MLB Network.

Anyone who receives 75 percent of the vote cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers Association of America will be inducted along with former manager Jim Leyland in a ceremony scheduled for July 21 in Cooperstown.

Leyland, who directed the then-Florida Marlins to the franchise’s first championship in 1997 and won pennants with the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and 2012, was elected by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Era Committee on Dec. 3.

Beltre will not join legendary closer Mariano Rivera as a unanimous inductee. Through late Sunday night, Beltre was not on two of the 191 ballots analyzed by Ryan Thibodaux’s Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker, which tabulates the votes of the BBWAA members who have made their ballots public.

But Beltre, who finished his career with 3,166 hits and 477 homers while winning five Gold Gloves at the hot corner, has a chance to approach or surpass the standard for elected third basemen set by George Brett in 1999, when the Kansas City Royals icon received 98.2 percent of the vote.

The margins between in and out will be much thinner for Mauer, Helton, Wagner and Sheffield. Mauer is making his first appearance on the ballot after winning three American League batting titles while playing for the Minnesota Twins.

As for Helton, Wagner and Sheffield, they ranked second, third and fifth, respectively, in the voting last year behind Scott Rolen, who was the lone candidate elected by the writers.

Per the Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker, Mauer had 83.2 percent of the vote through Sunday while Helton (82.2 percent) and Wagner (78.5 percent) are above the 75 percent threshold needed for enshrinement with Sheffield (74.3 percent) just below.

However, a candidate’s share of the vote usually drops when the full balloting is released. The final totals for Rolen, Helton and Wagner last year were between 2 percent and 4 percent lower than their public numbers.

Making the cases of Helton, Wagner and Sheffield more compelling is the differing degrees of urgency for each candidate. Helton is in his sixth year of eligibility — players can remain on the ballot for 10 years — while Wagner is in his ninth year and Sheffield in his 10th year.

Helton, who won four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves during his 17-season career with the Colorado Rockies, earned 72.2 percent of the vote in his fifth year on the ballot in 2023, leaving him just 11 votes shy of the magic 75 percent figure.

Wagner, whose 422 saves are sixth-most all-time, received 68.1 percent of the vote last year, up from 51 percent in 2021. Sheffield, who hit 509 homers and made nine All-Star teams, garnered 55 percent of the vote in his penultimate year of eligibility.

For Sheffield, the most encouraging precedent for a last-year leap is a recent one: Larry Walker jumped from 54.6 percent in his ninth year of eligibility in 2019 to 76.6 percent in 2020.

Other top returning candidates are 10-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder Andruw Jones, who received 58.1 percent of the vote in his sixth year of eligibility, and nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran, who got 46.5 percent of the vote in his debut but might see an uptick this year from voters who punished him last year for his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal in 2017.

Outside of Mauer, the newcomer with the most intriguing long-term candidacy is six-time All-Star second baseman Chase Utley, who finished with just 1,885 hits but registered a 64.5 WAR per Baseball Reference — more than 10 of the 20 Hall of Fame second basemen.

–Jerry Beach, Field Level Media

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