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T.R.’s Memoirs: Adrian Beltre and the rest of my 2024 Hall of Fame ballot

(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)

 

Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Rangers for 32 years before retiring in 2020. He has been a Hall of Fame voter since 1999. Here’s how he is voting this time around.

 

Retired Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is going into the Hall of Fame next summer, and I am clearly the one who put him there. Just like I did for Nolan Ryan a quarter-century ago.

Beltre was the first name checked on my 2024 Hall of Fame ballot, the vote coming 25 years since my first-ever vote was cast for Ryan. That was in 1999, when Ryan was a first-ballot Hall of Famer by getting named on 98.79 percent of the votes cast.

At the time, Ryan received the second-highest percentage of votes by a player on a Hall of Fame ballot behind Tom Seaver at 98.84. Mariano Rivera later became the first unanimous inductee back in 2019.

Beltre isn’t going to be unanimous, but he is going to be in the Hall of Fame stratosphere. In the latest Hall of Fame Tracker, a popular website established and scrupulously maintained by California businessman Ryan Thibodaux, Beltre has been checked off on 134 of the first 136 ballots revealed. That’s 98.5 percent.

Remember, a player needs 75 percent to be elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Last year 398 ballots were cast, and 292 were needed to be selected. Scott Rolen was the only one to clear 292, getting 76.1 percent of the vote.

Yeah, to be honest, Beltre didn’t really need my vote anymore than Ryan needed it 25 years ago. It’s more like I needed to either vote for both or risk fan/reader mayhem of the highest order.

Don’t kid yourself. Baseball fans take this Hall of Fame stuff quite seriously.

Which is why I feel an obligation to reveal and explain my vote. It is a privilege to vote, but with that privilege comes the duty of disclosure.

So …

One important point. You are allowed to vote for up to 10 players. There are 26 on the ballot. Each year I carefully review each player.

I also discuss it with others. Sarah Langs, an astute baseball analyst for mlb.com who helped me greatly when I was covering the Rangers, is a particular favorite to consult.

I have been known to change my mind on players from year to year. I don’t apologize for that. On some players, you simply change your mind, or feel stronger or less strong than in previous years.

Enough of the bullshit.

Here are my 10 in alphabetical order:

Carlos Beltran: Didn’t vote for him last year. Thought he was a borderline case. After further review, he’s probably a little better than borderline. His World Series shenanigans didn’t help his case, but his offensive numbers and three Gold Gloves in center put him on my ballot.

Adrian Beltre: Rangers fans know him well. For those who don’t, I covered him pretty thoroughly a few weeks ago.

Todd Helton: I must confess I have been hard on Coors Field hitters in the past, but Sarah was a big advocate last year and convinced me. He may not get there this year but probably will eventually.

Andruw Jones: I have wavered on him in the past. Offensively, he is not a Hall of Famer. Combine it with the defense, he gets over the line. I’d probably be stronger if I’d watched him play more. but he was an National League guy in his best seasons and I covered the Rangers.

Joe Mauer: He had a .323 batting average and an .873 slugging percentage in his first 10 seasons. Plus, three Gold Gloves as a six-time All-Star catcher. There were three batting titles and an MVP season. Then he hit .278 with a .746 OPS as an average first baseman over his last five seasons. But he should be just like Buster Posey in a few years. Catching is tough.

Alex Rodriguez: Once again, I refuse to sit in judgment of the steroids era. Still too many unknowns about that time in baseball history. Rodriguez is trying to rehab his image, but it ain’t working with enough voters. Second year on the ballot and right now he is at 34.9 percent.

Gary Sheffield: He’s on my ballot. Manny Ramirez is not. Both were great hitters. Neither were great defensively. This is Sheffield’s last year on the ballot, so I am going to give him the vote I didn’t last year. Still ambivalent about him.

Chase Utley: I voted for Jimmy Rollins last year. This is Utley’s first year on the ballot. Sarah and I discussed the two Phillies middle infielders and decided Utley was more worthy. Early indications are other voters agree, although not enough to help Utley get to Cooperstown this year.

Omar Vizquel : After a lifetime of watching, covering, studying and talking about baseball, I am absolutely convinced that a premium defensive shortstop is incredibly valuable to a team. I missed Ozzie Smith, but Vizquel was by far the best I saw. Vizquel was trending toward eventual Hall of Fame inductions until his candidacy took a severe blow from revelations about spousal abuse that led to a messy divorce. Mrs. Vizquel was far from convincing about the allegations, but there was another separate, disquieting incident involving sexual harassment with another person that was dealt with in a confidential settlement. These are serious issues that make you think hard, but I checked his name off. He was a Hall of Fame shortstop.

Billy Wagner: In my opinion, he is right up there with Rivera and fellow Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman. For my team, I’d take him over Lee Smith, who is in the Hall of Fame.

T.R. Sullivan

T.R. is a Military Brat and graduate of the University of San Francisco who retired in 2020 after a 40-year career with the Denison Herald, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.Com. He covered the Texas Rangers for 32 years.

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1 Comment

  1. Patrick January 11, 2024

    Thank you for sharing your ballot and insights! I dislike Player X is in and I like Player Y better rationale for candidates generally, but they are really specious for relief pitchers. There have been more relief pitchers elected to the HOF by the writers since 1985 when Wilhelm went than any other position but for LF and it’s a tie there at 7. Rather than saying I’d take Wagner over Smith, who actually went in via Era Committee, I think what voters should really be asking themselves is why and whether all of these relief pitchers really belong in the HOF. Frankly I find it absurd that pitchers who throw only one inning at a time and finish careers with less than 1/3 of the IP as many HOF pitchers are even considered let alone elected. Look closer at Wagner and the ridiculously low 903 IP total and you’ll see he only appeared in 504 save situations, so nearly 400 IP were either low leverage situations, IOW standard relief situations, or high leverage situations that don’t meet save qualifications. Now I’ll gran the latter are important, but even if 100 of those appearances meet that criteria he also had 131 3 run save appearances. And those simply are NOT high leverage situations. For example, he saved 97.7% of those 3 run saves, but Hoffman and Rivera were both over 98%. There are 22 other relievers who had at least 200 saves and overlapped with Wagner, out of their total of 1593 3 run saves the average was 96.9%, not significantly different than Wagner. Isringhausen and Jose Mesa each had over 100 opportunities and each was over 98%, better than Wagner. K-Rod had 75 opportunities and saved 100%. Armando Benitez had 90 and saved 98.9%. So Wagner goes from a paltry 903 IP to around 500 IP in high leverage, save type opportunities. The idea that someone has a HOF career with so few IP and NO offensive contribution seems completely unjustifiable to me. Perhaps you and your colleagues might reconsider this idea that all relievers in the HOF belong there, and that any reliever on the ballot who compares favorably to them is also worth voting for.

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