On January 24, 2023, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce the results of its 2023 Hall of Fame vote. Any electees will be inducted during Hall of Fame Weekend on Sunday, July 23. They’ll be joined by previously announced legends, such as Fred McGriff, elected unanimously to Hall on the Contemporary Era ballot.
Frankly, I’m happy that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Shilling, and Sammy Sosa are off the ballot. This frees up votes for other candidates. The first three were considered on the Contemporary Baseball Era ballot in December but came up short.
If I could actually vote, the first one I’d pick would be Jeff Kent (10th year on the ballot, 32.7% of the vote last year; 75% needed for induction). Frankly, I was a bit mystified. He was one of the strongest hitters as a second baseman. However, he was reportedly prickly to the press and even sometimes to his teammates.
The next three have also been on the ballot for a while
2. Scott Rolen (6th year, 63.2%) – a fine third baseman
3. Todd Helton (5th year, 52%) – definite HoF numbers diminished in writers’ minds because his home games were in a mile-high stadium
4. Billy Wagner (8th, 51%) – a solid reliever for many years
The 50% threshold is significant because every candidate who has ever reached it has eventually been elected. Well, except for Bonds, Clemens, and Schilling.
The PED guys
I’ve consistently given a pass to those involved with performance-enhancing drugs before 2004, as the system was not enacted by MLB. So I’d vote for two, but not two others.
5. Gary Sheffield (9th year, 40.6%). By the numbers, he’s certainly worthy. Here’s an article from USA Today in 2019, noting the pros and cons. Yes, he “received substances from friend Barry Bonds during their off-season training sessions. Those substances were determined to be the ‘cream’ and ‘clear’ PEDs distributed by BALCO.” But there’s no proof that he knowingly took PEDs.
6. Andy Petitte (5th year, 10.7%). He came clean about his using PEDs early, and again, it was not banned by MLB at the time.
Alex Rodriguez (2nd year, 34.3%). A great offensive and defensive infielder, one of the greats in baseball history. As Wikipedia noted, “Rodriguez amassed a .295 batting average, over 600 home runs (696), over 2,000 runs batted in (RBI), over 2,000 runs scored, over 3,000 hits, and over 300 stolen bases, the only player in MLB history to achieve all of those feats.”
Yet, not only did he access PEDs before 2004, he was using them a half decade later and, of course, lied about it. He was ultimately suspended for the 2014 season. If the writers passed on Bonds and Clemens, A-Rod should at least wait for a few years.
Manny Ramirez (7th year, 28.9%), a quality player, served a 50-game suspension in 2012 for the second violation of the drug policy.
7. The problem with Carlos Beltrán (1st year) is the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He acknowledges that the team’s 2017 World Series title is stained. “We did cross the line.” But he doesn’t know why he was singularly mentioned in a report by name when, and I believe it’s true, it was an organizational problem. He was named as the New York Mets manager but was fired in 2020. But I don’t see his culpability to be great enough to keep him out of the Hall.
Omar Vizquel (6th season, 23.9%), a great defensive shortstop, “is seeing his chances at the Hall of Fame disappear because of two scandals involving domestic violence and sexual harassment.” The latter is particularly lurid.
The others on my would-be ballot
8. Francisco Rodriguez (1st time), a solid reliever
9. Jimmy Rollins (2nd year, 9.4%) – I’m hoping his numbers go up in a less crowded ballot
10. Andruw Jones (6th year, 41.4%) – great defensive outfielder. He provided great offense, too, until his numbers took a precipitous drop.
The only other one I considered was Bobby Abreau (4th year, 8.6%).