The results of the 2023 BBWAA portion of the Baseball Hall of Fame vote have been announced, and Scott Rolen is now a Hall of Famer after receiving 76.3 percent of the vote. Here are the full results with official voting percentages. Players needed 75 percent of the vote to make it and at least five percent of the vote to stay on the ballot for up to 10 years for the next year.
Let’s delve deeper into the bigger takeaways of our Hall of Fame season.
1. This is actually a two man class
First off, the Contemporary Era committee has already picked Fred McGriff. There will be a Hall of Fame ceremony honoring two players next summer. McGriff is 59 years old while Rolen is 47 years old. Both played for a handful of teams and it should be a fun weekend of events.
2. Rolen’s case can give hope
In 2018, Rolen received just 10.2 percent of the vote in a much more crowded vote. But as ballots were erased over the years with inductions from Hall of Famers and big-name players who dropped out without induction, voters’ ballot spots cleared for Rolen. There was also a surge of support from multiple corners of the internet, indicating that Rolen’s defense deserved much more credit and this showed up in stats like WAR.
Rolen’s rise from 10.2 percent of the vote to author vote was the largest in history. It’s a record that may not last long, as there are a few players that we’ll discuss below that make a move similar to Rolen.
Big steps from fairly small beginnings are certainly an issue for several of the prominent candidates on this ballot.
3. Helton right on the edge
As I detailed last month when discussing Roles, it’s incredibly rare for a player to top 62 percent in the voting and shortly thereafter not be elected, if just for one or two more rounds of voting. Rolen was above that mark last year and did it this time. Next up is Todd Helton.
Helton got 72.2 percent in his fifth year. It would be unprecedented for a player to achieve such a level of votes in their fifth year and not be inducted into the Hall.
Using the available data, zero public ballots had 10 votes that did not include Helton. That means that even with players like Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer up for grabs next year, the overwhelming majority of voters either voted for Helton or have spots open to add him. There will be new voters. Some voters will expire because they no longer cover the game. Some voters are reconsidering their stance on players once they get so close to 75 percent.
For all these reasons, Helton will almost certainly be elected next year.
4. Beltrán has hope
Carlos Beltrán has a statistical dossier that belongs in the Hall of Fame, but since his retirement the sign-theft scandal has tarnished his Hall of Fame chances (full breakdown here).
The good news for Beltrán is that he starts with a pretty decent number: 46.5 percent of the vote on his first try.
It’s not the best comparison for looping in PED-connected players, but it’s the best we have. The percentage of players who were disfellowshipped from the Hall of Fame for being tied to PEDs began in the mid-30s or lower. Most were actually lower, it was really just Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in their mid-30s.
Since Beltrán starts here he is already in a much better position. Anecdotally, I’ve also read several columns by prominent writers who said they plan to reconsider it in the coming years after not voting Beltrán on his first ballot here. And some people really do consider the “first choice Hall of Famer” to be a sacred honor.
Overall, I think the results for Beltrán are overall positive. We’ll see how far he gets next time – without the ‘first ballot’ thing being attached and possibly some of the above authors reconsidering his case – but without making blanket statements.
5. A-Rod has less hope
Alex Rodriguez’s Hall of Fame case is complicated. We all already knew that. Before last year’s vote, we couldn’t be sure how exactly the vote would pan out for him. This was his second round on the ballot and it was his first without the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.
Bonds might be the best roadmap here between PED ties and a positional player’s all-time great numbers, though Bonds was never suspended under MLB’s JDA and A-Rod was pinned with one of the biggest penalties in history. Bonds began in the mid-30s and reached 66 percent in its senior year. The electoral body will continue to evolve towards a new-school mentality, but there are future voters who would have voted for Bonds and will not go with A-Rod due to the suspension.
Well, A-Rod got 34.3 percent of the vote last year and 35.7 percent this time.
That’s probably in the realm of stagnation, isn’t it? I know I often mention things about changing electoral bodies, evolving opinions and stuff like that, but he’s hardly moved.
Though things could change, he just seems stuck.
6. Wagner, Jones in decent shape now
Billy Wagner started 2016 with around 10 percent of the vote (see Roles section above). It was only 16.7 percent in four rounds, but he’s on the move now.
Wagner has two ballots left and a real shot at getting home. It could even happen next year. He’s very close now.
Andruw Jones is not quite as close, but still within reach. He started sweating just to stay over five percent. He only got 7.5 percent on his second ballot, but then he started to get some traction.
This was Jones’ sixth time on the ballot, so he has four more voting cycles to account for less than 20 percent. If so, he would easily break Rolen’s record.
Still, with both players, but especially with Jones as he’s further away: there’s always a risk of a plateau. That is, a player can hit a certain percentage and then stagnate. It varies from player to player as each individual Hall of Famer case is unique and all are chosen by an ever-changing electorate.
Overall, though, things are looking good for Wagner and it really seems like Jones has the momentum to eventually involve him. Someone who has plateaued in recent years and had a possibly great night was a great all-time bat waggler.
7. Sheffield within reach?
This was Gary Sheffield’s ninth time on the ballot. He made big gains in 2019-21, from 13.6 percent to 40.6 percent, but in 2022 he hit exactly 40.6 percent again. It looked like all hope might be lost. Instead, he’s veered into the possibly overused but still funny “so you tell me there’s a chance” realm.
Sheffield got 55 percent of the vote this year.
Maybe there’s been a nice upswing in the last year? Kent received an increase of more than 13 percent, although that would not be enough. One of the biggest jumps in a single year at the last election was Larry Walker, who jumped from 54.6 percent in his ninth year to 76.6 percent to be in his last attempt.
If Sheffield can make such gains in the electoral body next year, he will step in. This is of course a very high hill to climb, but it is possible.
8. Kent drops out of the election
Jeff Kent was the only player in this ballot for the 10th time. As such, it was his proverbial swan song. We knew he wouldn’t come close, but he set a new high with 46.5 percent of the vote, more than 10 percentage points above his previous high of 32.7 percent. Getting nearly 50 percent of the vote while hanging around on the ballot for a decade is a feather in his cap. Just getting on the ballot is tough, and Kent can rest easy knowing he’s obviously made an impact on baseball history.
Also, I expect Kent will do much better on committee votes (like McGriff), so this could be a blessing in disguise. I’d bet he’ll be in the hall within the next decade.
9. Possible reason for optimism?
The following players are lower on the ballot but have a chance to catch a bolt of lightning in a bottle like Rolen did (and much like it seems like Helton, Jones and maybe Sheffield and Wagner are).
- Andy Pettitte jumped from 10.7 percent to 17. This is his fifth year on the ballot, so he’ll need some bigger jumps, but it’s a starting point.
- Bobby Abreu went from 8.6 to 15.4 percent in his fourth year. It’s a very nice bump.
- Jimmy Rollins rose from 9.4 to 12.9 percent. Very modest indeed in terms of wins and vote share, but it’s only his second round and Chase Utley is coming soon. When talking about Utley and Rollins on the ballot together, it’s always possible that there is mutual pressure to vote for the double-play combo. It didn’t work for Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell, but times are changing.
- Mark Bührle went from 5.8 to 10.8 percent. I’ve recently looked at his case as an all-time workhorse, and there may be more to come.
- This was the campaign debut for Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. He started with 10.8 percent of the votes. While Rolen’s entry gives hope to all players, Wagner’s move is particularly revealing as K-Rod and other closers advance at an elite level. Closing is a lot harder to make the hall, but Wagner’s arrival next year could help pave the way for some momentum for K-Rod.
10. No man’s land
Now for the players who seem to have no chance of induction despite continuing to linger on the ballot.
- Manny Ramirez actually went from 28.9 percent to 33.2 percent, but he’s not even halfway home and has only three ballots left. I just don’t see enough room for improvement.
- Omar Vizquel’s descent continues. From 52.6 in 2020 to 49.1 to 23.9 and now to 19.5 percent on the sixth attempt. There’s a better chance he’ll drop out of the ballot before his 10 years are up than to turn things around and get the anchor.
- Torii Hunter went from 5.3 percent to 6.9 percent, but he’s still awfully close to 5 percent after a very small gain in his third year. He’ll probably have to get up over 10 percent next year to have any hope at all, but I guess that’s all a formality.
11. Five percent
The following players failed to reach five percent of the vote, meaning they will be removed from the vote: Bronson Arroyo, RA Dickey, John Lackey, Mike Napoli, Huston Street, Matt Cain, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier, JJ Hardy, Johnny Peralta, Jered Weaver and Jayson Werth. Remarkably, these were all first-time visitors. Each holdover received at least five percent of the vote.