Players on MLB 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot Who Are Getting Screwed By Voters

Zachary D. RymerJanuary 24, 2023

Players on MLB 2023 Hall of Fame Ballot Who Are Getting Screwed By Voters

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    Andruw Jones' career ended poorly. That doesn't mean Cooperstown-worthy stuff didn't happen.
    Andruw Jones' career ended poorly. That doesn't mean Cooperstown-worthy stuff didn't happen.AP Photo/David J. Phillip

    The results of the voting for baseball's 2023 Hall of Fame class won't be announced until Tuesday evening, but it's not too soon to have bones to pick.

    Because based on how things are looking right now, some guys deserve better.

    It would be impossible to know without Ryan Thibodaux's indispensable Hall of Fame ballot tracker, which, as of Monday evening, has Scott Rolen and Todd Helton trending toward getting elected with more than the requisite 75 percent of the vote.

    As percentages have been known to drop when ballots that haven't been made public are counted, that could change. But while small-hall folks might disagree, the position here from more of a big-hall viewpoint is that both Rolen and Helton deserve to be in Cooperstown.

    As for the guys who aren't projected to get in this year, there are six for whom we'd like to go to bat. Because while the cases against them getting plaques aren't entirely without merit, the cases for them ought to hold just as much (if not more) water.

    Before we get to them, we'd like to first address the guys who are polling about where they ought to be.

No Argument Here

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    HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 27:  Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees works out on the field before the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Not counting Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Cain, Mike Napoli and others who are polling at 0 percent, here's the list of guys who we think are getting more or less the support they deserve:

    • Gary Sheffield (9th year on ballot): 63.2 percent
    • Jeff Kent (10th): 51.9 percent
    • Alex Rodriguez (2nd): 40.0 percent
    • Manny Ramírez (7th): 37.3 percent
    • Jimmy Rollins (2nd): 12.4 percent
    • Omar Vizquel (6th): 8.6 percent
    • Francisco Rodríguez (1st): 8.6 percent
    • Torii Hunter (3rd): 3.2 percent
    • Huston Street (1st): 0.5 percent
    • R.A. Dickey (1st): 0.5 percent

    Rodriguez, Ramírez and Sheffield may have 1,760 career home runs between them, but another thing they have in common is strong ties to performance-enhancing drugs that kinda-sorta-definitely put a damper on their cases for Cooperstown. The first two served PED-related suspensions, while Sheffield admitted to using steroids.

    As he's up from 32.7 percent of the vote last year, support for Kent has seemingly gotten a big boost in his final year of eligibility. But despite his MVP award from 2000 and record-setting 351 home runs as a second baseman, all-encompassing stats such as JAWS—that's "Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score" for the uninitiated—don't characterize him as a Cooperstown-caliber representative for the position.

    The same holds true for Rollins, an MVP in his own right, among shortstops. And while Vizquel and Hunter combined to win 20 Gold Gloves, their defense doesn't rate highly enough among shortstops and center fielders to distract from their modest offensive track records. That especially goes for Vizquel, who was also accused of domestic violence in 2020.

    There's likewise a domestic violence arrest in Francisco Rodríguez's off-field history. And while he did rack up tons of saves—437 total and a single-season record 62 in 2008—his on-field history is otherwise lacking relative to the standards set down by relief pitchers already in the Hall.

LHP Mark Buehrle

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    CHICAGO - JULY 23:  Mark Buehrle #56 of the Chicago White Sox throws the final pitch of the game to Jason Bartlett to record the 18th perfect game in major league history against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 23, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois.  The White Sox defeated the 5-0.  (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
    Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 3rd

    Voting: 10.8 percent


    The Case Against Him

    If ever there were an ideal pitcher for the Hall of Very Good, it has to be Mark Buehrle, right?

    He may have been an All-Star five times throughout his 16-year career, but he finished in the top five in the Cy Young Award voting exactly once. And while he did log an impressive 3,283.1 innings, his 117 ERA+ is only tied for 181st all-time, and his career rate of 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings is only impressive if judged by leaguewide standards from before 1960.


    The Case for Him

    And yet we propose: the whole "man out of time" is precisely what made Buehrle so special.

    Buehrle was active during an era in which fastball velocity was going up while the pace between pitches and pitchers' workloads were trending down. He said "nope" to all of the above, operating more like a speedrunner while working in the mid-80s with his fastball, and he went 14-for-15 in besting 200 innings annually between 2001 and 2015. Even now, he still has the most 200-inning seasons of any hurler during the 30-team era.

    Oh, and then there's the perfect game. And the no-hitter. And the four Gold Gloves. And his part in the Chicago White Sox's 2005 World Series run that, despite popular belief, did indeed happen. Buehrle pitched to a 3.52 ERA over 23 innings in three starts that October, and he even got a save in Game 3 of the World Series two days after he started Game 2.

LHP Andy Pettitte

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    Baseball: World Series: Closeup of New York Yankees Andy Pettitte (46) victorious, waving after winning game vs San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium. Game. 4. San Diego, CA 10/21/1998CREDIT: V.J. Lovero (Photo by V.J. Lovero /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)(Set Number: X56626 )
    Set Number: X56626

    Year on Ballot: 5th

    Voting: 17.3 percent


    The Case Against Him

    Even setting aside his admission about using human growth hormone in 2002, Andy Pettitte is like if Mark Buehrle was constantly in the right place at the right time.

    Both his 3,316 innings and 117 ERA+ are eerily Buehrle-like, which suggests it wasn't strictly from his talent that his 256 wins and five World Series rings sprung. Namely, the good fortune to play on some outstanding clubs with both the New York Yankees and Houston Astros throughout his 18 seasons.


    The Case for Him

    Pettitte's case is a good example for why not all ties to PEDs are created equal. He said he used HGH in an attempt to make a quick recovery from an injury, which points to the gray area between "performance-enhancing" and "performance-allowing."

    Pettitte also deserves better than to have his wins and rings dismissed as circumstantial. Particularly not the latter, as he was a genuinely good postseason performer. He had a lower ERA in the playoffs (3.81) than he did in the regular season (3.85), and not exactly over a small sample size. He's the all-time leader in postseason starts and innings.

    Pettitte's place in Yankees history is further bolstered by the fact that he ranks behind only Whitey Ford in WAR among the team's all-time starting pitchers. We also can't help but snarkily wonder if he was a better pitcher than Derek Jeter was a hitter, as that 117 ERA+ of his paints him as more of an above-average performer than Jeter's 115 OPS+.

RF Bobby Abreu

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    CLEARWATER, FL - FEBRUARY 23:   Bobby Abreu of the Philadelphia Phillies poses for a portrait during Phillies Photo Day at Bright House Networks Field on February 23, 2006 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 4th

    Voting: 19.5 percent


    The Obvious Case Against Him

    Bobby Abreu played for 18 seasons in the majors, yet he was an All-Star all of twice and a top-10 finisher in the MVP voting exactly zero times. Such things would seem to complicate his Hall of Fame case, vis-à-vis the "Fame" part.

    Apart from that, right field isn't the most prestigious position, and Abreu doesn't even crack the top 20 for the all-timers for the position as ranked by JAWS.


    The Case for Him

    Welp, somebody brought up JAWS for right fielders. That leaves us little choice but to do an obligatory comparison between Player A and Player B:

    • Player A: 59.5 WAR, 41.2 WAR7, 50.3 JAWS
    • Player B: 60.2 WAR, 41.6 WAR7, 50.9 JAWS

    Per these figures, Player B's Cooperstown case is as good, if not slightly better, than Player A's case. Which brings us to big reveal time! Player B is Abreu and Player A is a guy who won the American League MVP in 2004, slugged 449 career home runs and, ultimately, got into the Hall of Fame on his second year on the ballot in 2018: Vladimir Guerrero.

    Abreu was nothing if not a dynamic force during a prime that ran from 1998 all the way to 2010, averaging 21 home runs per year and ranking second in walks and fourth in stolen bases for that span. He also averaged a roughly All-Star-caliber 4.6 WAR over those 14 seasons, which would have made him more of a star if he'd been born a decade or so later.

CF Carlos Beltrán

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    HOUSTON - OCTOBER 9:  Center fielder Carlos Beltran #15 of the Houston Astros connects with an Atlanta Braves pitch during game three of the National League Division Series on October 9, 2004 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.  The Astros won 8-5.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 1st

    Voting: 55.7 percent


    The Case Against Him

    This is actually a reasonably strong debut on the ballot for Carlos Beltrán, but one nonetheless can't help but wonder if he'd be doing better if not for the central role he played in the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal of 2017.

    If not that, it would perhaps be fair to ding him on account of how he was never the best player even though he was consistently very good throughout his career. In 20 years, he placed in the top five of the MVP voting and in WAR exactly once apiece.


    The Case for Him

    OK, so, the sign-stealing thing is bad. But while there's no getting around that, any notion that it should be the defining part of Beltrán's legacy is to miss the forest for the trees.

    Instead, how about giving more weight to the fact that Beltrán is one of the 10 greatest center fielders who ever lived? It's a real one, according to JAWS, anyway, and that ought to pass muster with anyone who remembers Beltrán's three-time Gold Glove-winning defense and an offensive peak wherein he nearly averaged a 30-30 season annually in an eight-year span between 2001 and 2008.

    Further, "legendary" doesn't even begin to describe Beltrán's track record as a playoff performer. Adam Wainwright curveballs notwithstanding, he's one of only four hitters with double-digit homers and steals for his postseason career, while his 1.021 OPS is tops among the 97 players who've ever taken at least 200 trips to the plate in October.

CF Andruw Jones

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    ATLANTA, UNITED STATES:  Andruw Jones (R) of the Atlanta Braves celebrates after taking a walk in the 11th inning against the New York Mets as Mets catcher Todd Pratt (L) walks back to the bench 19 October, 1999 during game six of the National League Championship Series at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA. The Brave won the game 10-9 to win the best-of-seven game series 4-2.  (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)  AFP PHOTO/Jeff HAYNES (Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
    Photo credit should read JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 6th

    Voting: 68.1 percent


    The Case Against Him

    Nobody's going to deny that the first act of Andruw Jones' career was an absolute banger. But after that, the party didn't so much peter out as stop altogether. He basically had nothing left after he turned 30 in 2007, producing just 4.7 WAR over his final six seasons.

    Unlike Beltrán, that leaves Jones on the outside looking in at JAWS' top 10 center fielders of all time. Also unlike Beltrán, Jones' postseason track record is more solid than astounding. In 76 career games, he managed a .796 OPS and 10 home runs.


    The Case for Him

    Even despite his fall from grace after his 30th birthday, Jones nonetheless has a strong claim as the greatest of all time in at least one respect: by defensive WAR, the 10-time Gold Glover is easily the best defensive center fielder who ever lived.

    And even if nothing much came after it, it's not as if Jones' prime was short-lived or, heaven forbid, unmemorable. After establishing himself at the tender ages of 19 and 20 in 1996 and 1997, he had a nine-year run between 1998 and 2006 wherein he averaged 35 home runs and produced more total WAR than anyone not named Alex Rodriguez or Barry Bonds.

    Granted, things have been and clearly still are trending in the right direction for Jones ever since he debuted with a meager 7.3 percent of the vote in 2018. But by all rights, he should already be a Hall of Famer by now.

LHP Billy Wagner

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    SAN FRANCISCO - SEPTEMBER 20:  Billy Wagner #13 of the Houston Astros pitches during the game against the San Francisco Giants on September 20, 2001 at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco, California.  The Astros won 5-4.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Year on Ballot: 8th

    Voting: 73.5 percent


    The Case Against Him

    Save for designated hitter, no position presents a more difficult path to Cooperstown than that of relief pitching. There are all of seven relievers in the Hall of Fame, and only Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley and Hoyt Wilhelm place above the average JAWS of the bunch.

    Billy Wagner, meanwhile, sits comfortably below that line. And among the other things about his Cooperstown case that aren't up to par are his counting stats, as he racked up "only" 422 saves over "only" 853 appearances over "only" 16 seasons.


    The Case for Him

    Psh. Counting stats. Who needs those when there are rate stats that qualify Wagner as one of the single most dominant pitchers to ever come through Major League Baseball?

    Among all pitchers who've logged so many as 900 innings, Wagner ranks second to only Rivera with his 187 ERA+ and 49 OPS+, the latter being an era- and park-adjusted version of the OPS against him. As his career strikeout percentage of 33.2 is the best of all time, there can be no better testament to the nastiness of his fastball-slider combination.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Billy Wagner, 90mph Slider and 101mph Fastball, Individual Pitches &amp; Overlay (with tails). <a href="https://t.co/vC4Jddxvw9">pic.twitter.com/vC4Jddxvw9</a>

    Similar to Jones, it's all well and good that Wagner is trending toward getting inducted, but he should likewise already be in by now. Whenever he does finally get the call, we'd like to issue a standing recommendation that his plaque simply read, "Trust us—you wouldn't have wanted to face him."


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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