The ballot has been completed and placed in the mail. Another year of Hall of Fame voting is in the books for me.
This marked the 25th year I’ve voted for the Hall of Fame. Each active member of the Baseball Writers Association of America with at least 10 years of continuous service is eligible to vote.
The task gets a little tougher every year. Social media has shed more scrutiny than ever on the voting process. Steroids and other forms of cheating make the decisions more difficult on who should be immortalized in Cooperstown.
One thing that never changes, though, is that I never forget what an honor and privilege it is to have a vote. Fans may not always agree with my vote, but they should know that I take it seriously and don’t flippantly just check boxes on a ballot.
With all that out of the way, here are the nine players I voted for:
Carlos Beltran – Yes, he was the only player named in Major League Baseball’s report on the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal. What the Astros did was wrong. To think they were the only team doing it, though, is silly. They just happened to get caught. Beltran had 435 home runs, 312 stolen bases, and nine All-Star Game berths. That is a Hall of Fame career, at least to me. Beltran is the only newcomer on the ballot who got my vote.
Todd Helton – The careerlong Colorado Rockies first baseman gets dinged by some voters for playing his home games in the high altitude at Coors Field in Denver. The same argument used to be used against Larry Walker, but he eventually got voted into the Hall. It’s hard to ignore Helton’s .316/.414/.539 slash line in 17 seasons.
Jeff Kent – I’ve changed my mind the longer he has on the ballot and now he is in his 10th and final year. I didn’t vote for Kent when he first became eligible for the Hall in 2012 but his .290 career batting over 17 seasons with 377 home runs clearly makes him one of the best second basemen ever. And just to prove that my ballot isn’t a popularity contest, I can unequivocally say Kent is one of the least-favorite players I have ever dealt with.
Manny Ramirez – He was suspended twice for testing positive for steroids, which I am quite aware of. However, my opinion about the PED guys is this: I’d bet my bottom dollar that some players in the Hall used steroids. We’ll never know for sure who is on the list of players who used chemicals to enhance their careers. What I do know is Ramirez was a weird dude, but he sure could hit, finishing with 555 home runs and a .996 OPS in a 19-year career.
Alex Rodriguez – I can basically repeat the previous paragraph when it comes to ARod, another superstar who got popped for steroids. The man hit 696 home runs, the fifth-most in baseball history. We can’t pretend like it didn’t happen. When it comes to baseball, I’m not a cancel culturalist. It is why I voted for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens during each of their 10 years on the ballot.
Francisco Rodriguez – I have always had a hard time figuring out what to do with closers. I once asked Trevor Hoffman, a Hall of Fame closer, what he thought was the best statistical benchmark for the position and he said 30-save seasons. KRod had eight of them as well as six 40-save seasons. His 437 career saves are the fourth-most in history. I have a feeling I’m going to be clearly in the minority here, but Rodriguez gets my vote.
Gary Sheffield – I wavered on him over the years but the more I reexamine Sheffield’s career, the better he looks. The 509 home runs obviously stand out but something else that jumps off his Baseball Reference page is a .393 career on-base percentage, including an insane .465 mark in 1996 for the then-Miami Marlins. Sheffield wore out his welcome in a lot of places as evidenced by playing for eight teams in 22 seasons. Yet he was one of the most-feared sluggers of his generation.
Omar Vizquel – Let’s get past the elephant in the room and that is Viquez was accused of domestic violence in 2020. I certainly don’t condone spousal abuse but, rightly or wrongly, he was never charged with a crime. On the playing side, he was the best defensive shortstop I have ever seen – a list that includes Ozzie Smith.
Billy Wagner – Like Kent, I have rethought my stance on Wagner over time. The little left-hander had 422 career saves and nine seasons with at least 30. Wagner also held opponents to an anemic .187 batting average over 16 seasons. Though John Franco had two more career saves, a strong case can be made that Wagner is the greatest lefty reliever in baseball history.