Here's my seven for the Hall of Fame - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Hall of Fame

Here’s my seven for the Hall of Fame

Photo Credit: Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

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A year ago, I voted for five players on my first Hall of Fame ballot. That seemed about right.

This year, I’m voting for seven, and that seems right, too.

My friend and colleague Peter Schmuck voted for nine players, and he’s not unusual. According to the Hall of Fame tracker, which is compiled by @NotMrTibbs, 38.5 percent of the more than 100 voters who have publicly released their ballots have chosen to vote for the maximum 10 candidates.

I’m not one of them.

It’s not going to happen, but I feel the Hall would be cheapened if each of the seven candidates I voted for received the 75 percent needed for enshrinement. Two or three sounds about right, but I think that seven is  the right number this year.

By the way, none of the other voters has the same seven candidates on their ballot. I voted for Adrian Beltré, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Gary Sheffield, Chase Utley and Billy Wagner.

First, let me tell you who I didn’t vote for.

Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez and Omar Vizquel were non-starters. Ramirez and Rodriguez because of their performance-enhancing drug transgressions ,and Vizquel because of his well-documented disgusting behavior.

There were two others I thought about, Carlos Beltrán and Jimmy Rollins.

Beltrán’s statistics are good enough to qualify him for Cooperstown, but I’m still deeply troubled by his involvement as the ringleader of the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal in 2017.

Perhaps in the future, I’ll change my mind. Perhaps, he’ll be elected without me voting for him. As of Thursday, Beltrán had 65.2 percent of the publicly announced votes.

Last year, Beltrán received 46.5 percent. For some reason, those who don’t choose to announce their votes before the January 23rd Hall of Fame announcement tend to vote for fewer candidates, so Beltrán’s actual number may be lower than he’s now getting.

Rollins received 12.9 percent last year in his first year on the ballot, and this year, he’s not showing much progress in the early returns. He had a 47.6 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which puts him far below recent Hall of Fame shortstops Derek Jeter, Barry Larkin, Cal Ripken Jr., Ozzie Smith and Alan Trammell.

Rollins won the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2007 and was a four-time Gold Glover and three-time All-Star.

While six of the 10 players most similar to him according to BaseballRefernece.com are Hall of Famers, including Larkin and Trammell, his .743 OPS just doesn’t measure up.

I again voted for Helton, Jones, Sheffield and Wagner.

Helton was a narrow miss a year ago. His candidacy is unfairly undermined by those who think his stats were a byproduct of playing in Colorado’s Coors Field. Sure, he batted. 345 with a 1.048 OPS at Coors, but he also hit .287 with an .855 OPS away from Colorado.

Many contemporary voters have begun to measure a player’s 10-year peaks, and Jones benefits by that trend.

Jones finished second in the National League’s Rookie of the Year voting in 1997, then won 10 straight Gold Gloves for his outstanding play in center field for the Atlanta Braves. His 51 home runs led the majors in 2005, and his 128 RBIs led the NL that year, but his numbers declined after he turned 30. Jones hit 434 home runs, and though his batting average was just .254, his .823 OPS helps the case.

Sheffield’s offensive numbers were superb (509 home runs, .907 OPS) along with nine All-Star nods and five Silver Slugger awards. His defense was atrocious (-27.7 Defensive WAR), but his offensive WAR was a hearty 80.7.

I think he’s adequately explained his peripheral involvement with Barry Bonds, and while he may fall a bit short in his final year of eligibility, Sheffield should be elected by a future Era committee.

Wagner has a good chance in his next-to-last year of eligibility. He received 68.1 percent of the vote last year and is tracking higher so far this year. The seven-time All-Star was a dominant closer and had a lifetime WHIP under 1. His 2.31 ERA and 422 saves are terrific. Coincidentally, the player he’s most similar to is new Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel.

Of the new candidates, Beltré was obvious. I was fortunate enough to be present in Texas for his 3,000th hit in 2017, and he should be a near unanimous choice.

Mauer was a dominating hitter as a catcher (.328 average, .889 OPS) and was a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger, a three-time leader in batting average and a three-time Gold Glover. While he didn’t catch in his last five years, and his offensive numbers weren’t terribly strong then, his excellence during his first decade merits election.

Utley’s offensive numbers aren’t that strong. His 1,885 hits would be quite low for a Hall of Famer. He was a six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger at second base.

He was a valuable part of eight postseason teams with the Phillies and Dodgers. Utley’s 64.5 WAR is just a bit below that of Craig Biggio, who had over 3,000 hits and is the most recent second baseman elected.

His early projections leave him well short of Hall of Fame election, though it’s just his first year on the ballot.

Note: The Orioles signed right-handed pitcher Dominic Freeberger, an undrafted free agent to a minor league contract. Freeberger, a Baltimore native, graduated from Calvert Hall College and last year was the Big East player of the Year at Connecticut.

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