The 2024 Baseball Writers’ Association of America vote is in — and Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton are the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Billy Wagner fell just five votes short of the 75% threshold for enshrinement. The three new Hall of Famers will join Jim Leyland, who was elected in December by the contemporary baseball era committee, in Cooperstown in July.
ESPN MLB experts Buster Olney, Bradford Doolittle and Jesse Rogers break down what the 2024 vote means, and look ahead to what the future holds for this year’s candidates — and those joining the ballot in 2025.
Let’s get into it.
Besides the three elected, who is the biggest winner on this year’s ballot?
Olney: In Andruw Jones’ first year on the ballot, he polled at 7.3%, barely qualifying for a second try — and in Year 2, he scored 7.5%. But in recent years, he has gained momentum and now seems on the cusp of election, with his voting percentage soaring to 61.6% in his seventh year of eligibility. He seems to be benefitting from next-level analytics, with voters finally crediting him for his game-changing defense. That shift could make it inevitable he’ll make a speech in Cooperstown.
Rogers: Just a year ago, Carlos Beltran looked to be somewhat of a question mark — now, after receiving 57.1% of votes this year, he seems a near-lock, considering he has eight more chances to be enshrined. His poor showing last year could have been voters doling out a minor punishment for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal — but in the end, he’ll be a Hall of Famer. It just might take a few more tries.
Doolittle: Tough to pick one between Beltran and Jones, so I’ll cop out and call it a stalemate. Both picked up enough support that given their trajectories and the years they have left on the ballot, they seem close to lock status. The uncertainty around Beltran has cleared up after just two cycles on the ballot, which for me is a bit of a surprise. I thought he’d be cast into limbo land for longer than this, but now I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get in next year.
Who is the biggest loser from this year’s voting results?
Olney: By all statistical measures — other than the writers’ voting percentage of 63.9% — Gary Sheffield is a Hall of Famer. But after failing to gain election in his final year on the ballot, Sheffield now gets thrown into HOF purgatory; his only chance is to wait for selection from some special committee years from now. And unfortunately for Sheffield, if he ever gets that honor, he’ll have had to wait for the perspective of committee voters to change. It was little more than a year ago that they rejected Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who, like Sheffield, have been kept out of the Hall because they were named in the dubious Mitchell Report.
Rogers: Oh, it’s definitely Sheffield. Yes, he was mentioned in the Mitchell Report, but he was never suspended for a failed test — and that’s an important distinction to me. Call me old-school, but I’m all for one of the last great players to walk (1,475) more than strike out (1,171) getting in. Add his 509 home runs and 253 stolen bases to his resume, and Sheffield did it all. His increased percentage from 55% last year to 63.9% in 2024 was nice, but voters need to take a closer look during a player’s final year of eligibility. Not enough of them did.
Doolittle: Sheffield is the obvious pick but in a way, getting off the BBWAA ballot at least is a chance for him to move on. I personally think he’ll do well when his case comes in front of an era committee. But just to add a different name here, I’ll go with Pettitte. I really thought his support would start to tick upward. I didn’t think he was likely to get in, but I thought he had a larger base of support than this.
What is one trend that stands out to you from this year’s voting totals?
Olney: During Beltre’s career, he collected more than 3,000 hits, nearly 500 homers, five Gold Glove Awards and consistent MVP consideration over the decades he played — and beyond his production, he had an excellent reputation as a teammate. If there is a legitimate reason to not vote for him, well, we haven’t heard it. But somehow, 19 writers decided to not include him on their ballot — just as some writers decided not to vote for Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter. Maybe Mariano Rivera will be the first and last unanimous selection.
Rogers: It’s the continuation of a decades-long trend for the Hall: Players can easily get in on their first try, but doing so unanimously is a different story. Would the 4.9% of voters who didn’t think Beltré deserved the honor have voted for him next year? Or the year after? It kind of defies logic — unless those voters simply don’t believe he deserves it at all, which would also make little sense.
Doolittle: David Wright got very little support though, thankfully, he received enough votes to remain on the ballot. I don’t know that he’s a Hall of Famer, but it’s not that hard to build a case for him. If you look at what he did in his first 10 seasons, there are very few players who have been left out of the hall who produced what he did (at least once you cross off active players, those still on the ballot and those left out for non-playing reasons). We’re still not focusing enough on the number of high-quality seasons someone like Wright put up and too much on compilation.
Which one player’s vote total is most surprising to you?
Olney: Beltran’s big spike is our first real indication of how some voters will treat those linked to the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. If Beltran was nailed with some first-ballot demerits, it wouldn’t be the first time — so was Roberto Alomar, because of his spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck. Alomar was elected in his second year on the ballot, and Beltran too seems to be trending strongly toward election in the next two or three years.
Rogers: Alex Rodriguez. With so much uncertainty about how to handle the steroid era, I’m surprised someone who has failed tests and has suspensions on his record is getting even 34% of the vote. That total hasn’t changed much from what he got last year or the year before, though, so it’s clear about a third of voters are in one category in this debate; two-thirds believe he should not be in the Hall of Fame.
Doolittle: I don’t know that it’s a major surprise, but I thought Chase Utley would do a little better than 28.8% on his first trip through the process. He’s not in a bad spot, though, and I expect his momentum to uptick quickly from here.
Based on this year’s results, who do you think will get in on next year’s ballot?
Olney: The Class of 2025 might turn out to be enormous. Ichiro Suzuki should be a unanimous selection, of course — how could you not vote for him? Wagner, who fell just short this year, Jones and Beltran are within range of election, as well, and CC Sabathia could get the call in his first year on the ballot. Think about this: Sabathia finished his career with 61.8 WAR, which puts him in the same statistical neighborhood as Juan Marichal, Don Drysdale, Dennis Eckersley and Jim Bunning — all HOFers.
Rogers: Wagner has been inching towards enshrinement and his final year of eligibility, 2025, will help push him over the top after he received 73.8% of the vote this time around. Wagner’s reputation fits with the relievers who have already gone into the Hall. Back in 2016, he was hovering at about 10%, so it has been a long, slow climb. But where you start should have no bearing on your finish. Voters nearly got him over the hump these last two years; 2025 will be his time.
Doolittle: Ichiro is a no-doubter, and I think Jones and Beltran will get over the top. I say Wagner finally gets in after nine misses. A really interesting candidate will be CC Sabathia, whose case might say a lot about the standards we will consider for Hall of Famer starters in the future. I think he’s in, with the only question being whether or not his “first ballot” status hinders him. And if that’s our class, with America, Curacao, Puerto Rico and Japan all represented, Cooperstown will be a fun place to be in July 2025.