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Ballot No. 25: Álex Rodríguez, Adrian Beltré, Carlos Beltrán, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Chase Utley, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, Andy Pettitte

The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot marks my 25th consecutive year of fulfilling this incredible privilege as a BBWAA voter. That first ballot came in late 1999, and I mailed it back just before the new millennium arrived with Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez in Cooperstown.

We have elected 45 Major League greats over that quarter-century, and I voted for all of them except Jim Rice (2009), Andre Dawson (2010) and Bert Blyleven (2011). I overhauled my own voting approach in 2015 to prioritize WAR and JAWS metrics and always check the maximum 10 boxes, a big change from the old small-ballot days of “elite of the elite” certainty.

For most of that time, we would mail back our ballots and it was a mystery until the announcement. That all changed with social media and the BBHOF Tracker, which added more accountability and made voters more informed. It even allowed us to factor in a candidate who might be in danger of falling off the ballot.

One topic dominated this quarter-century of balloting, of course, and that was steroid use. Some voters used their ballot to take a stand. Others, self included, purposely avoided the issue because no writer will ever know all who did and didn’t.

Everyone will be in the Hall one day soon enough — Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Álex Rodríguez, etc. Feelings fade and performance prevails. Look how many Negro Leaguers were enshrined long after people of certain beliefs faded away. Times just change. Today we know what a large percentage of plaques (Bill Mazeroski?!) don’t belong there.

That whole PED issue caused a major ballot bottleneck that ultimately resulted in the election of an astounding 18 players over a six-year period, from 2014-19. Younger fans had become upset that their favorite players were excluded from the Hall, so this was a reactionary wave.

Now we are back to a crawl — only four electees in the four years since that period ended. The steroid debate goes on, as A-Rod and Manny Ramírez have obvious numbers for entry but will be denied, probably through their 10-year eligibility.

Another key issue over this quarter-century was the downsizing of the voting body. The Hall of Fame instituted a procedure that required voter registration, to determine how many people still cover baseball and to “sunset” those who stop covering it. It has reduced the number of voters during this quarter-century from a high of 581 in 2011 to only 389 last year. That skews younger, more stats and analysis, more 10-check ballots, more public and accountable.

So Happy New Year the traditional way, with the following 10 check marks, in order:

Álex Rodríguez, Adrian Beltré, Carlos Beltrán, Joe Mauer, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Chase Utley, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield and Andy Pettitte.

Here is a closer look at how I completed the 2024 ballot and the bubble breakdown.

1. Álex Rodríguez. Two of the top five all-time home run hitters are not in Cooperstown, Bonds (762) and A-Rod (696). Hank Aaron is second with 755 and Babe Ruth third with 714. Albert Pujols, fourth with 703, will be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration on the 2028 ballot. All five plaques should be there, not to mention Pete Rose’s. One day it will all be corrected. As noted, I have never factored the steroid subject into voting. No writer will ever know all who did and who didn’t. Even if you exclude A-Rod because he admittedly used, you don’t know that David Ortiz from last year’s HOF class didn’t. I voted Bonds/Clemens the whole way. I don’t go there.

2. Adrian Beltré. Obvious first-rounder despite never winning a ring. Not in Mike Schmidt’s class at 3B, but has a higher voting percentage as “good guys” are overcompensated today. If he’s almost unanimous, then Ichiro definitely should be unanimous next year. Ichiro > Beltré.

3. Carlos Beltrán. No. 8 all-time in WAR among center fielders, only Mike Trout isn’t in (yet) above him. Here’s another great example of inconsistency among voters. Proven cheater, knew what pitches were coming and condoned it for at least the last full year that I worked for MLB.com (2017), yet he has a much higher voting percentage than A-Rod, who is far more deserving statistically. Who decides what cheating is good and what is bad? Even if you cheated for one game, you cheated!

4. Joe Mauer. No-brainer going by WAR/JAWS, first-ballot. Doesn’t have much October street cred as Twins generally sucked in the postseason, but you can’t argue with his rank.

5. Todd Helton. Should have already been in, this time he’ll probably make it for a trio. Doesn’t matter what altitude he played in, he was steady excellence for a long, long time. I don’t know about you, but I still love a guy who plays his whole career with one franchise.

6. Andruw Jones. No. 14 all-time in WAR among center fielders, far ahead of a bunch of undeserving Hall of Famers like Hack Wilson or Earl Combs. And he’s 11th in JAWS! Lloyd Waner is in despite being 97th in JAWS. We know stuff today. Stop the madness and vote for this guy.

7. Chase Utley. No. 15 all-time in WAR among 2B, just ahead of Jackie Robinson. Ranks 12th in 2B JAWS, right above Lou Whitaker, who is ridiculously omitted from the Hall to date. It’s just further reminder that Whitaker (No. 7 in WAR) should be in alongside his double play partner Alan Trammell.

8. Billy Wagner. Ninth year on the ballot and was in the low 60s for percentage around Christmas. I started voting annually for Wagner in 2020, the year after the bottleneck was cleared. Think he will get in next year, especially if three get in this year. Ask any hitter he faced.

9. Gary Sheffield. Tenth and final year on the ballot, guessing Sheff will come up a little short…  but once again doing what I can here. Became more popular with writers in later life.

10. Andy Pettitte. The Yankee left-hander was king of the postseason era, the guy who won after a playoff loss. He ranks 65th all-time in WAR (60.2) among starting pitchers, which is strong. There are only eight starting pitchers above him who are excluded, save for the ones who are either locks down the road (i.e. Jason Verlander and Clayton Kershaw) or the banished (i.e. Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling). Have voted for him every year but it doesn’t look like he will go in through the BBWAA. I feel there is still too much legend to ignore. DISCUSS

BUBBLE

Any of these guys could be a nice No. 10. Maybe next year.

11. Jimmy Rollins. Will probably vote for him next year, was No. 10 here but want to help keep Pettitte on for more discussion. I waited long enough to take a peek at the Tracker so I know J-Roll is in no danger of falling off the ballot. Let’s be honest, Utley/Rollins was a good notch below “Trammaker” in Detroit. But you can still make a case for Rollins, who ranks 26th in all-time WAR among shortstops with 47.6. Except for A-Rod, only three shortstops above him are not in the Hall: Bill Dahlen, Bert Campaneris and Jim Fregosi. Campy is a gross omission to date, more deserving than J-Roll.

12. Manny Ramírez. Dropping him this year as a “lost cause” candidate, the same way I eventually dropped Big Mac. I’m done at least for now. Numbers are obviously Cooperstown-worthy but no room for him on the 2024 ballot.

13. Bobby Abreu. On-again, off-again bubble pick for me over the years. He ranks 20th all-time in RF WAR, right behind Sheff. Abreu is halfway through his eligibility, and looks like a struggle.

14. Omar Vizquel. Still can’t see it from the BBWAA. And yet I still see him getting in via an Era ballot one day as his glove was so stupendously good. Why is his campaign so lifeless? He has sabotaged his own case with a several off-field issues.

Big cliff dropoff here.

15. David Wright. Coulda shoulda woulda been a contender, just didn’t play long enough for the Mets. Even Don Mattingly made a longer case before he faded from contention. Great guy and great memories, even for the USA in that first World Baseball Classic.

That’s it. Frankie Rodríguez needs too much hype and too much arcane metric creativity, don’t see ever voting for him.

Looking forward next year to Ichiro. Will he be the second unanimous first-ballot selection? I think he should be, but there’s always that someone in our crowd.

Writers are still a good group to do this voting. The Era committees have improved, with many wrongs righted in recent years. There are still missing legends, still plaques that should be yanked off the wall, but bottom line there are awe-struck patrons in the Gallery whenever you walk through the Hall of Fame and that’s what it’s all about, right?

Looking forward to more fun years of elections, at least until the sun sets down here in sunny St. Pete…

Mark Newman is a recipient of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and author of No. 1 bestseller Diamonds from the Dugout. He has been a pro sports beat writer for The Miami Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and San Jose Mercury News; VP/GM at The Sporting News, and from 2002-2018 was a familiar byline to millions of baseball fans as Enterprise Editor and lead national writer for MLB.com plus the first 26,000 tweets & first 1.2 million followers as @MLB. The Indiana University graduate is a longtime Hall of Fame voting member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America working 25 World Series.

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2024 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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Where Is the Love?

Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway asked this little question 50 years ago, and I’m thinking of it now as I fill out my 22nd Hall of Fame ballot with Alexa providing background vocals.

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Pete Rose, definition of a Hall of Famer with 4,256 hits, is living out his life at age 81 by signing autographs, doing podcasts and represented with no plaque in Cooperstown.

But you can be sure Ichiro Suzuki, a good guy with 4,367 hits if you include Japan, will have slurpy voters at his feet for a first-ballot selection in 2025.

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Barry Bonds, maybe the best player in the history of baseball, just came and went.

Even the Great Era Sages of Cooperstown let him come and go.

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Roger Clemens, one of the five best pitchers in the history of baseball, just came and went.

Even the Great Era Sages of Cooperstown let him come and go.

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Curt Schilling never had a chance only because his words offended others. It’s like the 3,116 strikeouts, 80.5 WAR and bloody sock never happened.

Even the Great Era Sages of Cooperstown let him come and go.

Where is the love?

Where is the love?

You said, you’d give to me

As soon as you were free

Five year waiting period after retirement. Ten-year eligibility period on the ballot. Great Era Sages of Cooperstown pontifications. In Charlie Hustle’s case, life.

Is this thing really working?

Imagine if Elon Musk got ahold of the Hall of Fame selection process. I detest much of what he’s doing to Twitter, but I’d still love to see him shake the hell out of this thing.

First he would suspend every voter.

Then he would give in to newspaper execs and he would open it up to a public vote.

Then suddenly all of you would decide elections from now on. Hell, you’re the patrons.

I’ve got nothing on you season-ticket holders in the field boxes who attend every home game and travel on the road, who watch your team wherever including Spring Training.

But for now this process is still up to people like me: about 400 of us BBWAA voters who covered the game a long time, and then the rotational Era Committees get their hands on the leftover scraps like Harold Baines or Fred McGriff.

I don’t know about my peers but I read your comments. Does any other organizational body get as soundly trashed as Hall voters? You say nice things, too. But I’m not blind or deaf.

Will it ever be?

Where is the love?

Now I’m looking at the ballot for 2023 Induction Weekend and it’s kind of a blend of privilege and satisfaction, confusion and futility. I read the accompanying materials in the big envelope as usual, including No. 5 on the BBWAA Rules for Election. It reads verbatim:

5. Voting — 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.

If I’m counting right, that’s six criteria, and exactly half of them pertain to whether a guy is a good guy or not. Integrity, Sportsmanship, Character — the “ISC” clause. And the first two on-field criteria are basically the same thing.

We need to start by rewriting that sentence. Morality is clearly being dictated. This is not about raising children, it’s about putting the best players in the Hall of Fame.

We suck at it right now. Some clique-ish press box buds will see it as “mission accomplished” — kept those assholes out of Cooperstown! No, you just denied fans some all-time greats.

Do the best players of our lifetime even have a legitimate chance?

You told me that you didn’t love him

And you were gonna say, goodbye

But if you really didn’t mean it

Why did you have to lie?

Was it a lie?

I’m looking at this ballot and my first thought is that some of these guys who I used to see as sure Hall of Famers don’t have a chance based on what we’ve just seen. It’s not even close. Sorry, folks, but shutout-a-comin’.

Álex Rodríguez jumps off this ballot, head and shoulders above the rest. He could have 1,000 home runs and no shot ever. Wasn’t good guy enough, wasn’t ISC.

Manny Ramírez? I considered putting him in the Lost Causes group and unchecking. He could have 1,000 home runs and no shot ever. Wasn’t good guy enough, wasn’t ISC.

Carlos Beltrán should be a first-ballot pick, second at worst. He’s already getting the ISC treatment. Some voters are doing it just to make a statement, then they’ll hit him up after supposedly making him sweat.

But I also see a lot of REALLY GOOD GUYS, so technically they should have just as good a chance this year. It’s half the criteria! Torii Hunter, best guy ever! R.A. Dickey, I remember him playing Wiffle ball with inner-city kids and writing a book. Bronson Arroyo, WHAT A GUY! Vote them all in. J.J. Hardy speech coming up.

John Lackey, I’m afraid, has virtually everything going against him, but “contribution to his team(s)” does make him stand out. Kind of like Josh Beckett, not a voter friend.

There are only three ways I see this moral ballot mentality changing:

A) Rule No. 5 is rewritten to make sense.

B) Infusion of younger voters as BBWAA 10-year sunset clause purges morality voters.

C) The Elon approach, blow it all up, piss off Elton John, and have everyone vote.

Man, this isn’t covering the 2024 Election. It’s about a baseball pantheon.

Where is the love?

You said, was mine, all mine

Till the end of time

Was it just a lie?

Where is the love?

I thought I would be happy to reach the point where no one was going to ask whether I’m voting for Bonds and Clemens. With those two gone, with Schilling gone and David Ortiz inducted, that’s four of my last 10 check marks that are replaced. I thought it would feel like a “fresh” era in the voting process, and refreshing not to be asked about Bonds and Clemens.

It’s not how I pictured it, though. It feels moot and ridiculous. But I still take it seriously. So without further ado, here are the 10 checks on my ballot. Since I’m just listening to Roberta Flack, you can refer to last year’s column for actual supporting baseball data:


1. Álex Rodríguez.
If you had, had a sudden change of heart

I wish that you would tell me so

2. Carlos Beltrán.
Don’t leave me hangin’ on the promises

You’ve got to let me know

3. Manny Ramírez.
Oh, how I wish, I never met you

I guess, it must have been my fate

To fall in love with someone else’s love

All I can do is wait

That’s all I can do, yeah yeah

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

4. Jeff Kent.
Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

5. Andruw Jones.
Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

6. Andy Pettitte.
Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

7. Gary Sheffield.
Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

8. Scott Rolen.
What a guy!

9. Todd Helton.
What a guy!

10. Billy Wagner.

What a guy!

STILL ON THE BUBBLE . . .

11. Omar Vizquel.
Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

Where is the love? (Where is the love?)

So, where IS the love?

It is right there, a stroke of a pen, the freedom of Pete Rose and the acknowledgement once and for all that the Hall of Fame is for the best players in history. Open the door.

He is already past average life expectancy. Continuing to punish him for ethical reasons is arrogant and not in the Best Interest of Baseball.

Will it ever be?
Where is the love?


Mark Newman is a recipient of the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and author of No. 1 bestseller Diamonds from the Dugout. He has been a pro sports beat writer for The Miami Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and San Jose Mercury News; VP/GM at The Sporting News, and from 2002-2018 was a familiar byline to millions of baseball fans as Enterprise Editor and lead national writer for MLB.com plus the first 26,000 tweets & first 1.2 million followers as @MLB. The Indiana University graduate is a longtime Hall of Fame voting member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America working 25 World Series.

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2023 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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TRACKERJAX: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Scott Rolen, Álex Rodríguez, Curt Schilling, David Ortiz, Manny Ramírez, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Andruw Jones.

Yes, that’s the headline. Because if you’re writing the first-ever Hall of Fame Ballot explainer column hosted on the BBHOF Ballot Tracker, and that guy Ryan Thibodaux is technically your new publisher, then you’re writing about the candidates as you check their names on the BBWAA ballot before signing it and mailing it back. And you’re going to write about a lot of voting trends, because all we care about here are four things really:

1. November 22, 2021, Hall of Fame ballot is officially announced and mailed.

2. December 31, 2021, the deadline for about 400 ballots to be returned.

3. January 25, 2022, when new Hall of Fame President Josh Rawitch announces voting results.

4. July 24, 2022, Hall of Fame Inductions.

That’s it. This column doesn’t care about Management vs. Union, except in the ramifications a possible work stoppage might have for any future Hall of Fame cases. Albert Pujols and Mike Trout are first-ballot no matter what, but what about some perennial All-Star who might slink one spot lower in the all-time JAWS rankings at his position, and maybe wind up on the bubble as someone’s No. 11 like Gary Sheffield is on mine?

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2022 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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2021 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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2020 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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2019 BBHOF Tracker Summary and Leaderboard

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2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker

The 2019 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker can be found at bit.ly/hall19.

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