My votes for entry in National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2023:
- Todd Helton
- Andy Pettitte
- Alex Rodriguez
- Scott Rolen
I’m not pleased by the selection of players on the current National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. This is my 31st vote for the Hall since I became eligible in 1992, and this Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot is the most lackluster I’ve ever seen.
One player on the ballot was accused of sexual abuse (Omar Vizquel). Two were suspended for steroid use (Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez). Another admitted to taking human growth hormone (Pettitte) and still another was nabbed in the Houston sign-stealing scandal (Carlos Beltran).
And those are just the lowlights. None of the 14 newcomers, of which Beltran is one, are worthy of the Hall, in my opinion—at least not this year. Among the other 14, a few barely earned my vote.
I don’t think the BBWAA will elect anyone to the Hall on this ballot, which would make Fred McGriff, elected Dec. 4 by the Contemporary Baseball Era committee of 16, the only inductee next year. Rolen, who had 63.2% of the requisite 75% on last year’s ballot, has a chance, but he needs to make up 42 votes.
The BBWAA ballot has been clogged for a decade by Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, the so-called steroid candidates, who had their last hurrah this past December. The Hall, in all its wisdom, shortened their eligibility from 15 to 10 years.
Bonds, the all-time leader with 762 career homers and 73 during the 2001 season, may never get in under the current system. This despite Bruce Bochy, one of his former managers with the San Francisco Giants, recently calling him “the best player I’ve ever seen.”
Despite the era’s steroid controversy, we’ve elected 23 of the greatest players in recent history since 2013. Twice we’ve voted for no one.
Voters can pick as many as 10 candidates, and from 2013 until last year’s ballot, I used every one of those slots. Not this year—the four players I chose with some trepidation are the fewest I’ve ever voted for.
I spent hours poring over analytics and career stats just to make sure I was justified. I’m not a big proponent of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), but since it’s commonly used now in contract negotiations, I’ve noted it in my evaluations.
I looked closely at relievers Billy Wagner and first-timer Francisco Rodriguez, but their pitching WAR and save totals were too low even by relief pitching standards. Wagner has the second-most saves than any other left-hander in history at 422, behind John Franco who had 424. Wagner’s WAR of 27.8 is a tad lower than Trevor Hoffman’s 28.1 and a bit higher than Franco’s 23.6. Hoffman, who had 601 saves, is in the Hall. Franco is not, and didn’t last more than a year on the BBWAA ballot. Neither Wagner nor Rodriguez will get my vote.
As far as position players go, I compare them to other players in the Hall who also worked the same position.
Helton is a career first baseman, who played 2,178 out of 2,193 games at that position. His WAR of 61.8 compares very favorably with other recent first basemen elected to the Hall, including McGriff at 52.6. Jeff Bagwell, who played almost every game of his career at first base, had a WAR of 79.6.
Taking into consideration Helton’s Coors Field-road splits (.345 to .287 batting average, 227 homers to 142, 119 OPS-plus to 80), I’m again giving him my vote.
There are only 14 third basemen in the Hall, making it one of the least represented positions. Of the most recent inductees, Wade Boggs and Mike Schmidt played practically every game at the hot corner. So did Rolen, who played all of his 2,023 games at third base.
Rolen had eight Gold Gloves and seven All-Star appearances, and his 70.1 offensive WAR is good for 69th all-time. It’s in the range of Hall-of-Fame third sackers Brooks Robinson and Ron Santo, but way below Schmidt, who stands alone with a 19th best 106.8 WAR and 548 homers. Rolen did enough to again receive my vote.
As far as A-Rod and Pettitte are concerned, I still endorsed them in spite of their admitted drug use.
A-Rod is the only other player in MLB history aside from Hank Aaron with more than 600 homers (696), 3,000 hits (3,115), 2,000 RBIs (2,086) and 2,000 runs scored (2,021). He has a gaudy 117.6 offensive WAR, 12th on the list. He was admittedly difficult to deal with and remains so today. That doesn’t change the fact that his numbers should put him in the Hall.
Same with Pettitte, who amassed 256 regular season wins and a record 19 more in the playoffs. He was the go-to starter during the years when the New York Yankees won five World Series titles. His 60.2 pitching WAR might be low, but it’s higher than 15 pitchers already in the Hall, including Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax. My cohort gave him only 10.7% of the vote on the last ballot.
Bonds (66%) and Clemens (65.2%) were sent on to the Contemporary Baseball Era committee of 16, where candidates need 12 of the 16 votes to be elected. The committee resoundingly rejected them early last week with fewer than four votes each.
Since each committee member is allowed to vote for only three of the eight candidates, that’s a total of 48 votes to go around. That left 32 votes for the remaining seven candidates.
Don Mattingly received eight, Curt Schilling seven and Dale Murphy six. The 11 remaining votes might have been split among the less than four-vote candidates: Bonds, Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Albert Bell.
Since the Hall isn’t transparent about the specific numbers below four, there’s no way of knowing how many votes Bonds received. Suffice it to say, Bonds earned 260 BBWAA votes last year and perhaps none from a committee made up of Hall of Fame players, Major League Baseball executives, two writers and a historian.
The message is abundantly clear: This committee is a death sentence for the best players of their era, who never failed a drug test or were suspended a single game.
“Maybe at some time we can forgive what Barry, Clemens, Sammy and Mark McGwire did,” said Dusty Baker, who managed Bonds in San Francisco from 1993 to 2002. “They meant so much to baseball, plus the energy and enjoyment they gave to the world. You still can’t take that away from them.”
The Hall giveth and the Hall taketh. I made the best of a very poor ballot and situation.