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The Athletic’s Voters Explain Their Selections for the 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballots

Look, we get it.The Baseball Hall of Fame is a breathtaking idea. It’s a celebration. It’s a history lesson. It’s a pilgrimage. The museum in Cooperstown is home to heroes and memories and the posters on our walls. The very notion can fill a fan with wonder, and actually being there feels like going to church, and the Louvre, and Game 7 of the World Series, all at once.

And so, we care a great deal about who gets in and who does not. Passion and debate come with the territory. In press boxes and clubhouses and postgame hotel bars, we debate these decisions among ourselves.

Here, we’ve collected some of the ballots — and some of the internal thinking — of many of The Athletic’s Hall of Fame voters. As you can see, we disagree even among ourselves. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. — Chad Jennings

Daniel Barbarisi’s ballot

Carlos Beltrán, Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Billy Wagner

Looking at Mauer’s career numbers in aggregate — .306/.388/.439, 143 homers, 428 doubles, amassed over 923 games at catcher, 603 at first base, 310 at DH — it strikes me that he is one of those odd cases where the whole isn’t actually greater than the sum of its parts. The whole is excellent in its own right — those are good numbers. They’re even Hall of Fame numbers, with the right context. But they don’t fully do justice to the individual pieces that comprise it, those superlative seasons early in his career that couldn’t possibly have come from a man playing his position.

Remember what a unicorn he was? Back when he was hitting .328 and .347 and then finally .363 as a catcher, with respectable-to-excellent slugging through that whole period. Mauer and the obviously dissimilar stolen base threat Jason Kendall are always paired up a bit in my mind because they both reside in the neighborhood of “Guys who do things catchers aren’t supposed to do.”

And then he stopped doing so many of those things, and stopped being a catcher really at all, and without that all-important context for a while, it felt like everybody had been robbed of watching something special; Mauer at first base was a pale imitation. Safe to say we didn’t understand head injuries well enough then, certainly still don’t, but it’s hard not to wonder how long he could have kept up that brilliant production from the catcher’s spot if injuries hadn’t been an issue.

Grading on a curve when it comes to injuries is tricky — who’s to say what this or that player could have been if it were not for some injury or another, and so it’s cleaner just to say what they actually were. But in Mauer’s case, that’s clear: a special hitter and excellent defensive catcher and pitch framer whose numbers put him among the very best to ever play a demanding position. To me, that’s an easy vote. My semi-informed guess is that Mauer doesn’t get in this year, but hopefully his time is coming soon, if only for a chance to remember how high the highs were.

Daniel Brown

Carlos Beltrán, Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, Chase Utley, Billy Wagner

As a fan of the Hall of Fame Tracker operated by Ryan Thibodaux (aka @NotMrTibbs on X), I’ve seen how his followers hate “drops” — voting for a player one year but not the next. The justifiably snarky joke is, “I guess (candidate) had a terrible year.” Har-har. For the record, I plan on voting for Bobby Abreu again next year, as he ranks 21st all-time in JAWS among right fielders, sandwiched between Hall of Famers Dave Winfield (20th) and Vladimir Guerrero (22nd). But I dropped Abreu this year as part of some strategic voting. There are players who need every checked box they can get to clear the 75 percent threshold (Sheffield, Wagner) and others who need to generate momentum as their years on the ballot wane. I surprised myself by voting so enthusiastically for Utley, but his JAWS ranks 12th all-time among second basemen and his WAR-7 (the sum of a player’s seven best WAR seasons) trails only Rodriguez among players on the ballot this year.

Steve Buckley’s ballot

Carlos Beltrán, Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

The early returns suggest Beltrán won’t be getting into the Hall of Fame this year. That’s the bad news for those of us who believe he belongs in Cooperstown. The good news? He’ll likely get the call in the next two, three or four years. And he darned well better get that call, or else I’m going to be setting a world record for being a broken record.

As I wrote last year, and will do so again next year, Beltrán has already been punished for his role in the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. And the punishment was a whopper: Hired later to manage the New York Mets, he never even made it to spring training. When the sign-stealing verdict came in, Beltrán was out as manager of the Mets.

A.J. Hinch, former Astros manager, sat out during a one-year suspension and then was hired to manage the Detroit Tigers. Alex Cora, the former Astros bench coach who in 2018 managed the Red Sox to a World Series championship, also was handed a one-year suspension after he had already stepped away as Boston’s manager via one of those mutual-parting-of-ways deals.

But Red Sox upper management was practically in tears after making the announcement, all but telegraphing that Cora would be back in 2021. Which is exactly what happened.

Fair enough. Hinch and Cora paid dearly, even if, OK, their punishment was sitting out the 2020 pandemic season. By whatever means one measures their culpability and the ensuing punishments, they should have been invited to return. And yet here’s Beltrán, stuck in Fly Creek — which is my way of saying he’s just outside of Cooperstown. (Fly Creek, N.Y., is only a few miles from Cooperstown.)

Admittedly, we could remove the cheating scandal from the discussion and Beltrán would not be a Willie Mays-like Hall of Fame lock. But he combined power (435 home runs) with speed (312 stolen bases), won three Gold Glove awards, had 70.1 career WAR according to Baseball Reference (identical to Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Scott Rolen),

and … let’s stop there because, again, it’s not stats that are keeping Beltrán out of the Hall. It’s bats, or whatever the Astros were using when they banged on trash barrels to pass along the other teams’ signals.

A year ago, I characterized the Astros’ sign-stealing caper as something you might have expected in a 1930s “Little Rascals” short but not in big-league baseball. This year I’m breaking up the routine by suggesting it was something you might have seen in a 1930s Marx Brothers movie, only with Harpo squeezing some kind of horn to relay the signals, and actor Edgar Kennedy as MLB commissioner Rob Manfred doing a slow burn after discovering the scheme. Now unless your…

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