Fans tired of waiting for news regarding this year’s Major League Baseball (MLB) free-agent market can pivot their attention to the 2024 Hall of Fame election announcement.
Major League Baseball Announces 2024 Hall of Fame Class
What is it?
The MLB Hall of Fame, located in Cooperstown, New York, is a tourist attraction and haven of sorts for baseball fans eager to learn about legends of the sport and see memorabilia that goes back to the beginning of baseball’s presence in this country. In 1936, the Hall of Fame opened, and the inaugural class honored five of the finest players from that era: hitters Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner, and pitchers Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson.
Since that year, the museum has conducted annual elections, usually announcing the class in January and officially inducting them in a public ceremony in Cooperstown in July. As a result, trailblazers like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays, and all-time greats like Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr, and Mickey Mantle are remembered forever and honored for their achievements.
How Voting Works
Active Baseball Writers Association for America (BBWAA) members who have written about the sport for at least ten years can vote for who makes the Hall-of-Fame. Players must have played at least ten years and been retired for five years before they can appear on the ballot.
While there have been so many talented players in MLB over the decades, the best are alone allowed to grace this special place. Eligible players get in if they receive at least 75% of the votes, while those who fail to reach the threshold drop off the BBWAA ballot after ten years or if they at any point fail to receive five percent of the votes. Thus, the ballot keeps evolving as new players enter and others depart. In 2019, former New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera became the first player inducted unanimously.
Some players deserve to be included but are not due to banishment (Pete Rose) or steroid use (Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens). Bonds, the league’s all-time home run leader, is out of years on the BBWAA ballot but has a chance at getting elected in the future by one of the Era Committees. These groups offer a second chance to players who fell off the ballot and help elect deserving managers, executives, and umpires.
Last year, they chose former player Fred McGriff, who joined the BBWAA’s pick Scott Rolen. Their nominee this year is longtime Major League manager Jim Leyland, who guided the Miami Marlins to the 1997 World Series title before leading the Detroit Tigers for many seasons.
On January 23, the BBWAA announced that Adrían Beltre, Joe Mauer, and Todd Helton are joining Jim Leyland in the 2024 class. Beltre and Mauer, two of the best players in the past decade, were elected in their first eligible year, while Helton finally crossed the threshold in his sixth attempt. Beltre lived up to his favored status, earning 95% of the vote; Helton got 79%, and Mauer received 76%.
Third baseman Beltre cemented his Hall-of-Fame status throughout his 21-year career (1998-2018) with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, and Texas Rangers. According to the BBWAA, only Baltimore Orioles’ legend and fellow Hall-of-Famer Brooks Robinson played more games at the ‘hot corner’ than the Dominican Republic native.
Beltre did not need much minor-league development, debuting for the Dodgers at the young age of 19. A few years later (2004), he hit an MLB-leading 48 home runs and finished as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) runner-up. Beltre rebounded from a disappointing end to his time with the Seattle Mariners (2005-2009) to star on the 2010 Boston Red Sox squad. Finally, he shone with the Texas Rangers for the rest of his career (2011-2018), making three of his four All-Star-Game appearances and four of five playoff trips as a Ranger.
His success and consistent play carried deep into his thirties as he did not decline as quickly as other players his age. Beltre, whose number is already retired by the Rangers, finished his career as the sole infielder other than fellow Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter to accumulate over 3,000 hits and win five Gold Glove awards.
Mauer played fifteen Major League seasons with the Minnesota Twins, who chose the St. Paul Minnesota native first overall in 2001’s MLB draft. He was arguably the best catcher and one of the best players in baseball during his years behind the plate. (2004-2013). Mauer remains the only catcher to win three batting titles. He also earned his one MVP award in 2009 when he set career-highs in batting average (.365), home runs (28), and RBIs (96).
Although concussion symptoms hampered his overall abilities and forced him to move to first base for his final five seasons, the numbers and accolades he achieved in his prime proved more than enough to land him a ticket in Cooperstown.
Like Mauer, first baseman Helton spent his entire career with one team, spending 17 seasons (1997-2013) with the Colorado Rockies. He joins 2021 inductee Larry Walker as the initial two representatives of this team in Cooperstown, both able to overcome the advantages of hitting at their hitter-friendly home ballpark to make the Hall. Helton anchored the Colorado lineup his whole career.
He still holds multiple team records, such as 369 home runs, 1,406 RBIs, and 2,519 hits. The five-time All-star was an all-around player as he also won three Gold Gloves for his defensive ability.
Outlook for those who fell short
As always, some notable players did not receive enough support. Closer Billy Wagner will likely get elected in his final chance next year after needing five more votes this year. On the other hand, outfielder Gary Sheffield fell short in his last chance. Former Philadelphia Phillies’ second baseman Chace Utley and New York Mets’ third baseman David Wright are the other first-years who received enough votes to remain on the ballot.
Check back this time next year to see what happens. In the meantime, get ready and buckle up because the 2024 MLB season will be here sooner rather than later, giving fans another glimpse at potential future Hall-of-Famers like Mike Trout and Justin Verlander.