Griff’s 2024 Hall-of-Fame ballot explained
Cooperstown voting is a privilege not to be taken lightly
When I first began forging what has evolved into a lifelong, 52-year, career in major-league baseball, back in the mid-70s at Jarry Park, the late Montreal Expos’ president, John McHale, himself an imperfect, unapologetic baseball lifer, offered up some advice that has remained with me and shaped my outlook. “Love the game and respect anyone who chooses to make baseball their life,” said McHale.
Years later, as he was being inducted into the underrated Canadian Baseball Hall-of-Fame in St. Marys (ON), I reminded him, as baseball columnist at The Star, of that career-guiding advice and thanked him for the wisdom and clarity. He smiled.
With that as background, understand there has always been respect for those that are being inducted into the Hall-of-Fame and the voting process that brought them to Cooperstown. The responsibility for Hall-of-Fame voting has belonged to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) since the Museum first opened its doors in upstate New York in 1936. It is an honour and privilege that the vast majority of writers, career scribes with 10-plus years of membership in the Association, take very seriously. My belief is if you choose to vote, it should be governed by love for the game and respect for the players. Which brings me to respect in voting for Jose Bautista.
It’s amazing how social media can take the same Hall-of-Fame voting result and twist it both ways as being a negative. When a player with borderline credentials for Cooperstown gets shut out in his first year or is knocked off the ballot with less than 5-percent, there is always blustery outrage from some quarters decrying the fact said player (e.g. Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter) didn’t earn at least the minimum to hang around for Year 2. “Take the vote away from the writers!”
But if a writer does actually move forward to cast a vote for that type of peripheral player, based on respect and personal observation, reward for a career well done, there will always be a segment of social media that calls you out as incompetent. I voted for Bautista out of respect for how he played the game … and it’s my ballot.
Griff’s 2024 ballot (alphabetically): Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner.
As background, the basic rules governing Hall-of-Fame balloting are that you can vote for a maximum of 10 players -- but not mandated that you use all 10 spots. In fact, over my 20 years of voting, I have included 10 names just six times. To earn induction, a candidate needs to be named on 75-percent of the ballots submitted. In the years, starting with 2005, when I first became eligible, the number of mailed-in ballots by the BBWAA has fluctuated between 389 and 581. Each year, eligible members must re-apply to vote. It’s not automatic. You have to feel the honour.
As an aside, I take great pride in having personally attended and witnessed games with every one of the 66 Hall-of-Famers that has been voted to Cooperstown since 1985. Not watched those games on TV, but actually been at the ballpark. I may not be certain about WAR, but I do know what eye-test is good for. Good God, y’all.
Continuing with the explanation of the thinking that has governed this year’s ballot, I feel there was a similar Bautista-respect factor contributing to the three-year run of Mark Buehrle, after he first became eligible in 2021. I watched the smooth lefty with great respect and admiration over his final three active seasons in Toronto (2013-15) extending his streak to 14 straight seasons of logging 200-plus innings. In addition to the classy way he carried out his job between the lines, there was always the pleasure of bearing witness to the way Buehrle respected those that chose to live the game and his attempts to mentor his young teammates, like Marcus Stroman.
But it’s been three years on my ballot for Buehrle and this is not the Hall-of-Respect, it’s the Hall-of-Fame, so now, after paying homage by having him remain on the ballot this long, he has maxed out nationally at 11-percent in ‘21, I have removed him from my list. In doing that, I also felt obliged to remove Andy Pettitte, a player I had linked to Buehrle in ’21 upon reviewing their similar accomplishments.
In fact, in Pettitte’s first two years of eligibility (2019-20), I hadn’t voted for the Yankee lefthander, but once I decided to show some respect to Buehrle, I felt I then had to include Pettitte, a similarly, but also peripherally qualified star. This year, with Buehrle coming off my ballot, Pettitte was also removed.
My one addition of a repeat candidate this year was lefthander Billy Wagner. I have never been a huge fan of relievers as Hall-of-Famers, so had never included the flame-throwing lefty up to this point, but after realizing the irrevocable changes in the game over the past half decade, with starters being asked to do less and with the ever-increasing importance of bullpens, I felt I didn’t want to look back in 10 years and say, “How could I not have voted for Wagner?” So this year I did.
Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer are the other first-year players on my ballot, joining Bautista. For Beltre, the fact Scott Rolen was inducted last year as a third-baseman, the quirky one becomes an immortal lock. He is an all-star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger performer and at the hot corner he’s got next. As for Mauer, I believe catcher has been under-represented at Cooperstown and Mauer now deserves the honour.
The three holdovers on my ’24 ballot are Todd Helton, Andruw Jones and Gary Sheffield. No explanation necessary. There’s likely one other almost-certain Hall-of-Famer here and I will likely be back on the Carlos Beltran bandwagon next year, but he needed a pause after being a part of the much-documented disrespect of the game of the 2017 Astros. Fans have not forgiven that group…and may never. That mistake in judgment won’t keep Beltran out, but nobody remembers how many years it took for a player to get in, just that that this guy is a Hall-of-Famer. Beltran will be there.
The 2024 Hall-of-Fame announcement will be revealed on MLB Network, January 23. A personal thank you for preaching love and respect goes out to John McHale and Aretha Franklin. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.