Baseball Hall of Fame ballots 2023: The Athletic’s voters reveal their selections

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling no longer dominate the annual conversation around Hall of Fame voting, having collectively fallen off the ballot in their final years of eligibility. But that doesn’t mean everything is suddenly straightforward, especially with this year’s addition of Carlos Beltrán, so inexorably tied to the 2017 Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal. Meanwhile, with those big names gone, candidates like Scott Rolen, Andruw Jones, and Billy Wagner could see the gains made in recent years accelerate.

We asked some of The Athletic’s writers who vote for the Hall to share their ballots and to write a few words about one particular candidate or decision they found particularly interesting or compelling (Some others, like the annual column from Jayson Stark, will follow separately). Here’s how their votes stacked up.

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s results will be announced on Jan. 24.

Dan Barbarisi’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner

I’m a big believer in the value of defense and appreciative of the continued efforts to quantify it, so I’m thrilled that I could vote for three players who were — at their peaks — top players at key positions. Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones are among the best to ever play at their spots, and to me that should be the first qualification referenced in their Hall credentials, not the second. Carlos Beltran excelled in center over the first half of his career, as well. With Rolen and Jones, even if their offense can feel secondary in their reputations, they still combined for 750 home runs and both OPS’d above .800 over their careers. Beltran doesn’t really need the defensive argument to buttress his candidacy, and he’d probably be in this year if it weren’t for the sign-stealing scandal, but he was fantastic over his years with the Royals and Mets.

Rob Biertempfel’s ballot: Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Francisco Rodríguez

I’ve become sort of an advocate for putting relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. That wasn’t my intention when I became a voter a decade or so ago, but it’s worked out that way. I’ve checked the name of at least one reliever on nine of my past 11 ballots.

Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera were no-brainers. I banged the drum five years for Lee Smith, who was snubbed by the writers but finally made it in via the Today’s Game Era Committee in 2019. Last year, I voted for Joe Nathan, who didn’t get enough support to return to the ballot this year, and Billy Wagner.

Francisco Rodríguez is the lone newcomer on my ballot this year. Over 16 seasons, K-Rod led the American League in saves three times, posted a 2.86 ERA and averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings. His 437 career saves rank fourth all-time behind Rivera (652), Hoffman (601) and Smith (478).

There’s more to it than saves, of course. The closer’s gig can be a fickle thing — sometimes, it makes perfect sense to use your best high-leverage guy in the eighth or even seventh inning — so you can’t truly gauge a guy’s dominance merely by his saves total. There’s an “it” factor that boosts special relievers to Hall of Fame level. Ask any hitter, and they’ll tell you who’s got it.


Billy Wagner in 2001 (Ronald Martinez / Allsport)

Daniel Brown’s ballot: Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

I’m not a “big hall” guy, per se, but as an electorate we’ve gone too far the other way — we’re at risk of our second BBWAA shutout in three years and our third since 2013. I checked 10 boxes in hopes a few of the underdog candidates, such as Bobby Abreu, might gain momentum as our understanding and appreciation of their careers evolve. I added Billy Wagner after not voting for him last year, my first time doing this. Wagner’s 24.9 R-JAWS ranks sixth all-time among relievers (the first five are all in the Hall) and, as Jay Jaffe has pointed out, at the 800-inning level, Wagner’s .187 batting average against is the lowest in history. The struggle was justifying Wagner (27.7 career WAR) over very good starters Andy Pettitte (60.2) and Mark Buehrle (59.1). But JAWS puts both of those starters below the threshold of an average Hall of Fame starting pitcher (73.0). Going by S-JAWS, Pettitte and Buehrle rank below the likes of Chuck Finley, Kevin Appier and Tim Hudson. In contrast, Wagner’s R-JAWS figure trails only Cooperstown residents Mariano Rivera, Dennis Eckersley, Hoyt Wilhelm, Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman.

Why vote for Wagner but not Francisco Rodríguez? That was another struggle. But by rate stats, Wagner was far more dominant. Wagner has the edge in ERA (2.31 to 2.86), ERA+ (187 to 148), K% (33.2 to 28.5) and slugging (.296 to .341).

Carlos Beltran in 2011. (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

Steve Buckley’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

My 2023 Hall of Fame ballot is the exact same as everyone else’s 2023 Hall of Fame ballot: It has more flaws than the 1932 Red Sox. (And let me tell ya, pal, I was there.)

The problem is that the process requires voters to conjure all sorts of imaginary hoops, and to then jump through them. The era of performance-enhancing drugs took hoop-jumping to Olympic-level status, as voters had to make a choice: Either wave ’em all home, or — and this is where it gets tricky — make choices based on such variables as when said voter thinks a player started juicing, or if being named on this or that highfalutin report, or testing positive on this or that test, should count as real evidence. It’s maddening.

And now we have a brand-new level of madness: How to judge the Hall of Fame worthiness of players involved in the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal. And leading off for your Houston Astros, No. 15, Carlos Beltrán!

I’m not going to trifle with a long, drawn-out statistical breakdown as to why I believe Beltrán belongs in the Hall of Fame. He has the numbers. On that basis, he belongs. But we all know it’s not about the numbers in this case, just as it has never been about the numbers with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. With Beltrán, it’s about being a central player in the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme — which included banging trash cans as a means to communicate to their batters what the opposing pitcher was throwing. Trash cans! It sounds like something The Little Rascals would have done back in 1932.

The Astros were caught, and in the ensuing investigation it was decided that no players would be punished so long as they spilled their guts to MLB’s various detectives. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was suspended for one year, as was Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who had been Hinch’s bench coach in 2017.

Hinch later resurfaced as manager of the Tigers. Cora was welcomed back as Red Sox manager after sitting out the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Both men owned up to their culpability.

And then there’s Carlos Beltrán. No longer a player, as he had retired after the 2017 season, he didn’t receive the “Get Out of Jail Free” cards that were handed out to Jose Altuve, George Springer and the others. What he did get was the humiliation of being fired as manager of the Mets without ever managing a game. And he has yet to be given a chance to manage in the big leagues.

Bottom line: He is the only uniformed member of the Astros who has truly paid a price for what happened in 2017. And to now withhold a Hall of Fame vote for him is just piling on. I enthusiastically include Carlos Beltrán on my 2023 ballot.

As for the rest of my ballot, well, it sucks. As does everybody’s.

Marc Carig’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

Here are some frequently asked questions about my ballot (lightly edited because grammar on social media is atrocious):

Q: How is the career home run leader for second basemen not a Hall of Famer?
A: Unfortunately, Jeff Kent’s defense at second was never a strength and he doesn’t quite measure up when evaluating his career through metrics like fWAR and JAWS. Great player though.

Q: Billy Wagner ewwwwww
A: I agree. Wagner was filthy. He was dominant and racked up strikeouts before it was cool.

Q: Carlos Beltrán in but Manny and A-Rod no? That’s a joke dude.
A: The joke, dude, is getting suspended for PEDs — twice — when it was clear that baseball had become far less tolerant of chemical enhancement. Beltrán did not do that.

Q: Beltrán’s a cheater. You’re OK with cheaters being in the Hall of Fame?
A: God, when you put it that way it sounds bad! (Also, it’s quite likely that ship has sailed.)

Q: Beltrán was probably nice to him, while A-Rod and Manny were big fat jerks who hurt his feelings!
A: Those guys were fine. You’re the big fat jerk who hurt my feelings!

Jimmy Rollins. (Ben Warden / Icon SMI/Corbis / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dan Connolly’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

One thing that has bothered me for years is that I’ve had too many players I’ve wanted to select, and could only use 10 spots annually. Therefore, some players who I thought were worthy fell off prematurely because the electorate was stuck with the steroid-users dilemma. That was Kenny Lofton in 2013; he should have been on the ballot for several more years so he could be properly vetted. But he fell through the cracks and was one and done, while 10 players on that ballot ultimately were elected, not including Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.

This year, with the clearing of the “Big Three” and others, I have a much more open ballot. And so, two players I voted for last year partially to keep them in the discussion — Torii Hunter and Jimmy Rollins — had room to stay on my ballot for 2023. But I regrettably dropped Hunter this year after voting for him in his first two years of eligibility. I lean heavily on defense, and Hunter is one of baseball’s greatest center fielders. He also was a good hitter and a quality human. So, I wanted to keep considering his case. This year, though, after studying his career even more thoroughly, I’ve decided he is just a step on the wrong side of the Hall line for me. Given Hunter survived the cut last year by only two votes, my decision may push him off for good.

That’s something that we, as voters, can’t consider much: what our vote may do to a candidate’s chances. We have to select players based on meeting our criteria, whatever that may be, and stick with it. Those who don’t have the responsibility of Hall voting may not understand why a long-retired player can move on and off a ballot. He either is or isn’t, right? But if you take this voting seriously, and we all should, you want to make sure you get it right. So, you have to be willing to listen to others, find additional research and look at careers through various prisms. I analyze each case every year. And I rarely switch my vote, but sometimes it happens. Unfortunately, this time it did, negatively, with Hunter.

Gary Sheffield in 2007. (Mark Cunningham / aMLB Photos via Getty Images)

Rustin Dodd’s ballot: Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield

My ballot is pretty simple: I had six holdovers from last year: Helton, Jones, Ramírez, Rodriguez, Rolen and Sheffield. Unless the Hall of Fame offers specific guidance on players linked to PEDs — or opts to remove them from the ballot — I’m going to vote for players who I deemed to have Hall of Fame careers. Rodriguez and Ramírez fit that description. Likewise, I added Carlos Beltrán, whose statistical case seems clear to me. His connection to the Astros sign-stealing scandal gave me pause. But he appeared on the ballot and his career as a whole feels Hall of Fame worthy.

The other four players I strongly considered were Bobby Abreu, Jeff Kent, Andy Pettitte and Billy Wagner. Kent and Pettitte fall considerably below the JAWS standard, as outlined by the incredibly helpful work of Jay Jaffe. Each still has reasons to be in Cooperstown, in my opinion, particularly Pettitte. But the more I studied their statistical cases, the more I was sure that the intangible and historic parts of their resume did not make up for their statistical case. I also elected not to vote for Billy Wagner. He is admittedly one of the best relievers of all time, but I believe, given the innings they throw and their overall statistical value, the standard for relievers making the Hall of Fame should be incredibly high. Wagner did not clear that, in my opinion.

Lastly, I did vote for Bobby Abreu, who has an intriguing, albeit, borderline statistical case. Unlike Pettitte and Kent, he’s relatively new on the ballot. His numbers are compelling—he reached base more times than Tony Gwynn, for instance. And I think it’s important to make sure we think about overall value when voting for the Hall of Fame. He’s highly unlikely to come close this year. But with open slots on my ballot, I decided to vote for him, hoping voters give him a closer look in the future.

Dan Hayes’ ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

I’m a big-Hall believer. In the past few years, I would have liked an opportunity to vote for more than 10 candidates. Sammy Sosa would have been on my ballot earlier than in his last year as a candidate. Same goes for Fred McGriff, who fortunately last month gained entry via the Contemporary Era committee. But much like Jeff Kent, who I’ve added this year in his last year, I think all three are Hall of Famers. This trio was just lower down in the pecking order than the group I’ve previously voted for thanks to the backlog of players who didn’t gain entry. By keeping Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and Curt Schilling out of the Hall and on the ballot, we did these other deserving players a disservice. Kent protected Bonds like no other hitter after he left Pittsburgh. That duo was ferocious.

Though Kent’s defense was average at best, he’s the best offensive second baseman of all time. He won a Most Valuable Player award and had three other top-10 finishes in an era where offensive performance was gaudy. It was difficult to keep him off the ballot before. Though it may be futile, I’m glad to finally include Kent.

Andruw Jones in 2007. (Rob Tringali / Getty Images)

Chad Jennings’ ballot: Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

I covered Andruw Jones for a couple of years at the end of his career, and he was no Hall of Famer then. His last year with the Yankees, if you didn’t know any better, you might have believed he was on the team strictly because he and Derek Jeter were buddies. So, yes, I’m well aware of what Jones’ career looked like at the end.

I’ve never hesitated to vote for him, though. Jones’ peak was tremendous, and I remember the way he captured the imagination in the 1990s. An elite defender at a premium position, hitting 35 home runs a year for the best franchise of the era — he was one of the game’s defining players for more than a decade, and the advanced metrics support that subjective assessment. To me, that’s a Hall of Famer. Easy decision.

But I’m fine with it if you have a different definition. I’ve always appreciated the fact I’m a small piece of this voting body. Jeff Kent has always been a close call for me, especially this year — I hate the idea of being the one vote standing in his way of election — but I ultimately decided he’s just not a Hall of Famer for me. Great player, but not a Hall of Famer. Bobby Abreu? I’m less certain. There are enough interesting comparisons to Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield that I’m happy to support him. And if something like 300 others feel the same way, he’ll get in, with each of our individual opinions and perspectives playing a small part in the bigger process.

Keith Law’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield

I’m more of a small-Hall guy, so we’ve reached a lull where the truly obvious candidates are either already in or have been pushed out by the Hall’s failure to provide any guidance whatsoever on how voters should treat players with PED allegations. That leaves me with probably the most uninteresting ballot I’ve had since I started voting, with just one new player, Beltrán, who I thought was a Hall of Famer during his career and who was one of the very best players in all of baseball in his peak years from 2006-2008. (Arbitrary endpoints, of course, but he was fourth in rWAR in that span, behind Rodriguez, obvious Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, and borderline candidate Chase Utley.) Beltrán actually has the same rWAR as Rolen, who clearly belongs, and I give them both a little bump for being such well-rounded players who contributed substantially on defense as well as at the plate.

Jeff Kent in 2002. (Tom Hauck / Getty Images)

David O’Brien’s ballot: Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Billy Wagner

You might think it pointless for me to make a Hall of Fame case for Jeff Kent, since this is his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot and the second baseman is going to fall well short of the 75 percent required for election. You might think that, but that’s not going to stop me from doing it. So read on to learn why I still vote for a guy whose surly demeanor and reputation as a bad defensive player have conspired to keep him out of Cooperstown.

Really, that’s a big reason I keep voting for him: Because a surly reputation should not have any impact on whether we vote for a player. Also, it should be noted Kent’s supposed defensive weakness has been overstated.

I vote for players I think have production deserving of the Hall of Fame, with a notable exception being the use of steroids — if a player tested positive, or was strongly linked. I trust my judgment from being around the game and talking to other players to have a real good idea of stars who used. And even when there wasn’t a testing program in MLB, steroids were illegal without a prescription. Players who used knew they were cheating, or should have known.

Steroids won’t make a player great, but can help a good player become very good, and a great player become an otherworldly machine that destroys the record book and makes formerly hallowed marks seem tainted or hollow. Can you tell me, without looking it up, what the career home run record is now? Or the single-season mark? For most of my life, 755 was sacred.

But back to Kent. He’s by far the all-time home run leader among guys who played his position primarily, with 377 homers including 351 as a second baseman. He had 42 more than the next-most from a second baseman, and that guy, Robinson Canó, was twice suspended for PEDs. Next on the list: Rogers Hornsby, a two-time MVP who hit 301 homers and had a .577 career slugging percentage, which ranks 15th in history and is the only slugging percentage by a second baseman better than Kent’s .500.

Kent had four top-10 MVP finishes with San Francisco, including winning the award in 2000. He won four Silver Slugger awards including one in his age-37 season. His defense wasn’t great, but was serviceable according to most advanced analytics. He didn’t have soft hands and made plenty of errors, but had good range and was as hard-nosed as any second baseman, known for completing double plays with runners trying to take him out when that was permitted.

Did we mention he has the most homers ever by a second baseman?

C. Trent Rosecrans’ ballot: Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

When I first started voting in 2014, I stumbled on a philosophy. In short, I would rank the players and for pretty much every season, the Hall of Fame’s restriction to just 10 votes made the decision of who was worthy of a vote easy, because my personal line (thanks to other decisions) meant I always had more than 10 worthy candidates. I voted for fewer than 10 just once and that year bothered me the most of all my ballots.

With Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling off the ballot, this would be the year to have fewer than 10. However, my thinking has evolved. While it sounds like a semantic argument, I have come to the conclusion that I am a voter, not a selector. My vote is merely part of the process, not the entire process. The Baseball Writers Association of America has asked the Hall of Fame to expand the number of votes allowed and also presented with what Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dubbed the “binary ballot,” which would simply be a yes or no vote on each player. Without that ability, I err on the side of inclusion. I’ve struggled with relievers in the past, but based on other inclusions, I believe that Billy Wagner is worthy of my vote, as is Bobby Abreu, the other holdover who got a vote from me for the first time this year.

Bobby Abreu in 2005. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

Eno Sarris’ ballot: Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltrán, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner

Leaving Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez off the ballot, while also voting for Carlos Beltrán and Gary Sheffield, was the perhaps strange result of a difficult process of thinking through the various cheating scandals involved. In the end, I looked to baseball’s enforcement policies as guidance. In the Astros scandal, it was clear that culpability was to be borne by the organization and not the players, and for the PED era, testing started in the 2004 season, providing an uneasy before-and-after line that may not make sense to many. Before that testing policy, however, I feel that baseball was complicit in the situation.

The only other name that might cause some consternation was Bobby Abreu, who was a consistent performer that wasn’t ever really a top-10 player in any given season. That alone is disqualifying to many fans, but a weird thing happens when you’re a top-25 player for long enough: it adds up. As an example, in each of his first three seasons, Abreu was never top 10, but over the course of those three seasons, he was the sixth-best player in baseball by Wins Above Replacement. In the end, I couldn’t ignore that he finished his career with more WAR, homers, stolen bases, and a better OPS than more than half of the current Hall of Fame outfielders. Consistent excellence deserves to be applauded.

Joe Smith’s ballot: Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Manny Ramírez, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, Billy Wagner, Andy Pettitte

Voting for the Hall of Fame is always a great honor — and very challenging. There’s no such thing as a perfect ballot, and I don’t claim mine to be. I kept the holdovers from my last ballot — including Scott Rolen, Gary Sheffield, and Billy Wagner. The Ramírez-Rodriguez choices have been controversial, no doubt, as both have failed PED tests on their resume. I can see why some others don’t vote for them. They’re also two of the greatest hitters of all time. I find it hard for a museum of baseball history to not include them (though it’s fair to have their transgressions included somewhere for context). I added Pettitte this year. While I know it’s not a slam dunk case, from his career ERA to his admitted HGH use, I felt his overall body of work and 256 wins were put over the top by his postseason accolades. He was a big-game, money pitcher on five World Series-winning teams (his 19 career postseason wins and 267 innings pitched are both MLB records). There are a few other guys I considered, and will continue to evaluate, from Carlos Beltran to Bobby Abreu to Jimmy Rollins.

(Top photo of Beltran with the Astros in 2017: Bob Levey / Getty Images)


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