theScore's mock HOF ballot: Rolen to Cooperstown, 4 others fall just short
With the 2023 Baseball Hall of Fame class set to be announced Tuesday, 16 of theScore's news editors submitted their own mock ballots with whom they believe are worthy of enshrinement in Cooperstown. We also published the results of our user ballot.
Barely meeting the minimum threshold of 75% by earning votes from 12 of 16 voters at theScore is our only 2023 inductee: Scott Rolen.
While the giants of the early steroid era have fallen off the ballot, there's still very little for voters to agree on. However, enough agreed that Rolen was worthy of enshrinement based on being one of the best defensive third basemen ever, and certainly no slouch at the plate, either.
With eight Gold Gloves, the only players more decorated for their defense at the hot corner are Brooks Robinson (16), Mike Schmidt (10), and Nolan Arenado (10). Drastically underappreciated, Rolen was prolific for his longevity and reliability at a demanding position as well, playing 2,023 of his 2,028 career games at third base. Those other five games were pinch-hit appearances on days off.
And while the seven-time All-Star lacked an especially dominant or lengthy peak, he still wound up accruing enough FanGraphs WAR to rank 10th all time among third basemen. He also sits 10th by JAWS (Jay Jaffe's metric for evaluating whether or not a player is worthy of Cooperstown based on previous inductees). Furthermore, by JAWS, he's right behind Paul Molitor, who made it in handily on his first ballot with 85.2% of the vote.
Now entering his sixth year on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, Rolen has shown steady gains, climbing from 10.2% of support in 2018 to 63.2% this past winter. A climb of 12 percentage points in one voter cycle is daunting, but he's certainly trending in the right direction with enough runway to eventually earn a plaque.
Missed the cut
The voters just couldn't find it in their hearts to agree on anyone else beyond Rolen, though.
A-Rod has hands down the most compelling case on paper, ranking second among shortstops by JAWS - behind only the legendary Honus Wagner - after winning three MVP awards, making 14 All-Star teams, winning 10 Silver Sluggers, and hitting 696 career homers (fifth-most all time). However, unlike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens - who sometimes earn the benefit of the doubt for not breaking any written rules during their careers - Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season due to using performance-enhancing drugs and his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Beltran also has a reasonably strong claim to some real estate in Cooperstown, but the honor eludes him here, likely because he's credited as one of the masterminds of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal. Whether other players on the team are penalized similarly when their eligibility comes around remains to be seen, though it's worth remembering that the New York Mets fired him as skipper before he ever managed a game due to the fiasco.
In his fifth year of eligibility, Helton has been a polarizing case as well, but for very different reasons. The five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger was never implicated in anything nefarious, but he lacks longevity, and some voters seem to consider playing at Coors Field a PED of its own. For what it's worth, though, his .855 OPS on the road is still beyond excellent. And his 2000 campaign, during which he led MLB with a 1.162 OPS during the height of the steroid era and somehow finished fifth in NL MVP voting, is one of the great underappreciated seasons.
Then there's Jones, the final eligible legend to finish just one vote shy of induction. The case for the five-time All-Star revolves heavily around the fact he's very likely the best defensive center fielder in history, winning 10 Gold Gloves. Ozzie Smith, who finished his career as a below-average hitter, earned enshrinement for being the best defensive shortstop - so why withhold that honor from Jones? Center field might not be as premium a position as shortstop, but Jones also hit pretty well for his career, mashing 434 homers (or 406 more than Smith).
Others who earned noteworthy support include Abreu, Wagner, Ramirez, Kent, and Sheffield. Wagner, arguably the best left-handed closer ever, is in his eighth year of eligibility and remains curiously overlooked. Ramirez is a lot like A-Rod in that his resume is certainly plaque-worthy, but the suspensions make him unpalatable to some. And Sheffield is in his penultimate season of eligibility and eclipsed the 500-homer plateau.
Notables falling off our ballot