Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Joe Mauer into Baseball Hall of Fame

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will include two of the best pure hitters of their era and one of the greatest, most indelible third basemen in baseball history.

Joe Mauer, Todd Helton and Adrian Beltre were elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, results of which were presented from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Beltre, who received support from 95.1% of the 385 writers who cast ballots, and Mauer, voted in by 76.1% of BBWAA members, made it in their first year of eligibility. Helton (79.7%) was making his sixth attempt.

The three will be joined by Jim Leyland, the 22-year manager who was voted in by the Contemporary Baseball Era Non-Players Committee in December, at an induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York, on July 21.

Gary Sheffield received 63.9% support in his 10th and final year on the ballot. Billy Wagner fell just short, receiving 73.8% in his second-to-last year of eligibility and thus missing induction by only five votes (Mauer, meanwhile, made it by only four votes). Andruw Jones (61.6%) and Carlos Beltran (57.1%) also received support from more than half the voting populace.

Players need 75% approval from voting members of the BBWAA, with those who receive less than 5% falling off the ballot.

Beltre, who didn't make his first of four All-Star teams until his age-31 season, received the fourth-highest vote percentage for a third baseman in his first year on the ballot, behind only George Brett, Chipper Jones and Mike Schmidt.

"I always wanted to be the best I could be -- and I enjoyed playing the game, and I wanted to play hard, and with that came accumulating some stuff that put me in a position to be where I'm at today," Beltre said on a video conference with reporters. "But I just loved the position, loved to play the game, and I was just happy to be out there, competing with my peers."

Beltre accumulated the third-highest WAR ever among third basemen in a 21-year career that saw him play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and, most notably, theTexas Rangers. He is among only four players throughout history -- regardless of position -- to reach 400 homers and 3,000 hits while also accumulating at least five Gold Gloves. Beltre will become the fifth Dominican-born player to enter the Hall of Fame, alongside Juan Marichal (1983), Pedro Martinez (2015), Vladimir Guerrero (2018) and David Ortiz (2022).

Beltre nearly won an MVP with the Dodgers in 2004 and starred for the Red Sox in 2010, but his career didn't fully blossom until he joined the Rangers as a soon-to-be 32-year-old in 2011.

Over an ensuing six-year stretch in Texas, Beltre slashed .308/.358/.516 while accumulating 167 home runs, 563 RBIs and 32.4 fWAR, seventh most in the majors. He earned three All-Star selections, won two Silver Sluggers and received three Gold Gloves for Rangers teams that consistently competed for championships, carving a path to Cooperstown.

"At that time I was a quote-unquote contract year guy, and I was always trying to find motivation for me to perform better," Beltre said. "I appreciated that the Rangers gave me the chance to come to their ballpark and their city and be part of the great team that they already had. The way that the front office received me and my family, the way my teammates received me, it was just a great combination for both."

Mauer won batting titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009, becoming the only catcher in history to lead his respective league in batting average on three separate occasions. Voted American League MVP after a sensational 2009 season, Mauer is one of six catchers ever with at least three Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. Unusually tall for his position at 6-foot-5, Mauer batted .306 in a 15-year career spent entirely with the Minnesota Twins, accumulating 2,123 hits and 143 home runs.

He joined Johnny Bench and Ivan Rodriguez as the only catchers to be voted into the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

"I don't take this announcement lightly," Mauer told MLB Network, which broadcast the Hall of Fame results live. "Just seeing the graphic of the two catchers on the first ballot -- they're two of my favorites. I admired those guys and look up to those guys and got to compete against Pudge for years there in Detroit. Just have the utmost respect for the Hall of Fame and the players that went ahead of me and have done great things. I'm just so kind of all over the place with emotions but can't wait to get there and show my kids some of the history of this game -- this beautiful game."

Helton saw his support increase dramatically in recent years, from 52% in 2022 to 72.2% in 2023 to nearly 80% in 2024. His career numbers -- a .316/.414/.539 slash line, 2,519 hits, 369 home runs and 1,406 RBIs, not to mention three Gold Gloves -- put him in elite territory at his position, but voters had been turned off in past years by the offensive boost provided by Helton's home ballpark of Coors Field, where he spent his entire career with the Colorado Rockies.

Helton nonetheless finished with a career 133 adjusted OPS, which neutralizes ballpark factors, tied for 32nd among first basemen who accumulated at least 3,000 plate appearances.

"You don't get to pick where you play, and you always want to hit better at your home park," said Helton, who carried a career OPS of 1.048 at home and .855 on the road. "I'm not embarrassed or anything by my home and road numbers. Going on the road after hitting in Colorado is hard. The ball breaks more, and it's a huge adjustment going through the season, going through that rigorous grind of being able to make those changes midseason. It is a good place to hit, but there is some drawbacks and toughness about going and playing there."

Wagner, like Helton, also had seen his support grow of late, gaining nearly 23 percentage points in two years. The longtime closer, who spent nine of his 17 seasons with the Houston Astros, accumulated 422 saves, behind only Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith, Francisco Rodriguez and John Franco. He finished his career with a 2.31 ERA and struck out 33.2% of the batters he faced, third among pitchers who threw at least 750 innings.

Wagner's nine seasons with 30-plus saves and a sub-3.00 ERA trail only Rivera (14) and Hoffman (11), both of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

Sheffield was a nine-time All-Star and a five-time Silver Slugger who finished among the top 10 in MVP voting six times and is one of four players with 2,500 hits, 500 home runs and 250 stolen bases, along with Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Willie Mays. But voters have soured on him because he was mentioned in the Mitchell report investigating the prevalence of performance-enhancing drugs within the sport.

Sheffield's case will turn over to the Hall of Fame's Historical Overview Committee, which will select ballots to be considered by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee for the Class of 2026.

Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, more strongly tied to PEDs than Sheffield, received approval from only 34.8% and 32.5% of BBWAA members, respectively, making scant progress since first becoming eligible. Rodriguez will have seven more chances while Ramirez is down to his last two.

The following eight players, all eligible for the first time, fell off the ballot after receiving less than 5% support: Jose Bautista, Victor Martinez, Bartolo Colon, Matt Holliday, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes and James Shields.

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