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Preview of MLB’s 2023 Hall of Fame class: Fred McGriff waiting for company

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The drum roll will cease at 6 pm Tuesday when the National Baseball Hall of Fame reveals which players will be inducted into Cooperstown by vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

For the second straight year, the incoming class could be on the thin side if there is one at all. Last year David Ortiz was the only player to receive the necessary 75% of the writers’ vote for induction. Ortiz was named on 307 of the 394 ballots cast (77.9%).

If a player is elected he will join Fred McGriff, who was elected by a unanimous vote in December by the 16-member contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee. McGriff spent 10 years on the BBWAA ballot and never received more than 39.8% of the vote.

Third baseman Scott Rolen is the top vote getter from last year still on the writer’s ballot. Rolen received 63.2% of the vote, falling 47 votes short of election.

Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame Ballot Tracker, charting the results of 176 ballots that have been made public before Tuesday’s announcement, has Rolen receiving 79.5% of the vote and former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton receiving 79% of the vote. Those percentages are expected to drop when all ballots are counted.

Who’s on the 2023 ballot?

There are 28 players on the ballot.

Holdovers (14): Rolen, Helton, Billy Wagner, Andrew Jones, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, Andy Pettitte, Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu, Mark Buehrle and Torii Hunder.

New guys (14): Bronson Arroyo, Carlos Beltrán, Matt Cain, RA Dickey, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, JJ Hardy, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Jhonny Peralta, Francisco Rodríguez, Huston Street, Jered Weaver and Jayson Werth.

A player can stay on the ballot for 10 years. To remain on the ballot, a player must receive 5% of the vote annually.

What about a Cleveland connection?

  • 2B Jeff Kent: He spent half a season in Cleveland in 1996. Then he moved on to San Francisco where he hit another gear to become the all-time leader in home runs among second basemen. This is Kent’s final year of eligibility on the ballot. Last year he received just 32.7% of the vote. He’s trending on Thibodaux’s Hall of Famer Tracker at 51.1%
  • OF Manny Ramirez: If not for multiple positive PED tests, Ramirez would already be in the Hall of Fame because of his 555 homers. With a trio of steroid-tainted players — Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa — falling off the ballot last year, Ramirez could gain some votes from a changing voting body that assumes every player was juicing during the steroid era, thus leveling the competition. But it’s unlikely he’ll gain enough votes to reach 75% in his three remaining years on the ballot. Ramirez received 28.9% of the vote last year and is trending at 37.5% this year.
  • SS Omar Vizquel: In 2020, Vizquel’s third year on the ballot, he received 52.6% of the vote. If that trend had continued, Vizquel may already be in Cooperstown. But allegations of domestic abuse and a lawsuit by a batboy against Vizquel when he was a minor manager for the White Sox have damaged his candidacy. His vote total dropped to 23.9% last year and he’s trending at 8.5% this year.
  • SS Jhonny Peralta: In an underappreciated career, Peralta had the misfortune of replacing Vizquel as Cleveland’s shortstop. He played 15 years in the big leagues, hit 202 homers, including 103 with Cleveland. It’s unlikely he’ll receive 5% of the vote to stay on the ballot.
  • 1B-DH Mike Napoli: Without Napoli, the Indians would not have reached the World Series in 2016. He played just one year in Cleveland, but it was memorable as he set career highs in homers and RBI. Like Peralta, Napoli is most likely a one-and-done candidate.

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Newbies who deserve a chance to stick around

Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez should get a closer look despite this being their first year on the ballot.

Beltran, outside his entanglement in the Houston Astros’ sign stealing scandal, had a great career. He played 20 seasons, went to nine All-Star Games and won three Gold Gloves. He hit 20 or more homers in 12 seasons, drove in 100 or more runs eight times, scored 100 or more runs seven times and stole 312 bases at a 86.43% rate.

In the postseason he hit .307 in 65 games with 16 homers and 42 RBI.

The Houston scandal will cost Beltran votes, but he’s done more than enough to stay on the ballot and eventually be inducted.

Closer Billy Wagner, in his eighth year on the ballot, has seen his percentage of the vote climb from 10.2% to 51% largely because his 422 saves rank sixth all-time. Rodriguez ranks fourth all-time with 437 saves behind Hall of Famers Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith. It would be a shame to see him get overlooked.

A-Rod and Shef

Alex Rodriguez received 34.3% of the vote last year, his first on the ballot. He wasn’t just tainted by steroids, he was suspended because of them. He ranks fifth all-time with 696 homers and fourth all-time with 2,086 RBI.

Unlike Ramirez, the BBWAA voting body might contract enough collective amnesia over the next eight years to put Rodriguez in the Hall. No doubt there are players in the Hall who used steroids, but none who have been suspended for a full season because of them as Rodriguez was in 2014.

Sheffield, on the other hand, has always claimed that when Bonds introduced him to steroids, he didn’t know they were performance enhancers. He also never flunked a steroid test.

This is Sheffield’s ninth year on the ballot and he’s gaining ground. He played 22 years and hit 509 home runs.

Never forget

  • LHP Mark Buehrle, third year of eligibility: He pitched an MLB-record 200 plus innings in 14 consecutive seasons. In 2015, the last season of his career, the streak ended when he pitched 198 2/3 innings. Buehrle from 2001 through 2015 never made fewer than 30 starts and won 10 or more games in each season.
  • CF Andrew Jones, sixth year: Won 10 Gold Gloves. Had 10 seasons of 20 or more homers. Among the players with 10 or more Gold Gloves, only Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Schmidt have more home runs.
  • OF Bobby Abreu, fourth year: He is one of just eight players with at least eight seasons of 100 runs, 100 RBI and 100 walks. Bonds, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome and Ted Williams are the others.
  • SS Jimmy Rollins, second year: Rollins was the NL MVP in 2007, won four Gold Gloves and went to three All-Star Games in his 17-year career. He combined speed and power at the shortstop position, hitting 20 or more homers four times, scoring at least 100 runs six times and stealing 20 or more bases 13 times. He was a 30-30 man in 2007, a rarity for a shortstop.

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