A Trio of Legends Earned Immortality in the Baseball Hall of Fame
In a surprising breath of fresh air, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America elected three players to the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, marking a ballot boom that hadn’t been seen for several years. BBWAA writers elected ballot newcomers Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer as well as lifetime Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton on his sixth ballot. The trio joins former manager Jim Leyland as the class of 2024 to be inducted later this summer.
Adrián Beltré- 95.1%
It was a foregone conclusion that Beltré would be a lock for the Hall of Fame once his eligibility came around. As a member of the 400-homer club and considered one of the best defensive third baseman of all time, Beltré amassed a lot of the round numbers and accolades that voters invest in. Over a 21-year career, Beltré was a model of consistency in his 30s and ended up with 3,166 hits, 477 homers and the third-highest Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement (93.5) mark of any third baseman in history. While he had been a quality player during his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners, Beltré began to tail off in his final year with the M’s in 2009.
Beltré took a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox in 2010 and began the second half of his career. He led the league with 49 doubles in 2010 and clubbed 28 home runs while driving in 102 runs. He earned All-Star honors and his second career Silver Slugger Award while also finishing in the Top 10 in MVP voting. That resurgence showed that 2009 was just a fluke as he signed a significant deal with the Texas Rangers where he would finish out his career. From 2011-18, Beltré was a staple for the Rangers and became a franchise icon. He helped lead the team to the World Series in his first season. During his eight years in Texas, he slashed .304/.357/.509 in 1,098 games and slugged 199 home runs with 699 RBI. He also won three Gold Gloves in Texas and two Silver Slugger Awards. He is just the fifth player born in the Dominican Republic to reach the Hall of Fame and the All-Time hits leader for a player born in the Dominican Republic.
Todd Helton- 79.7%
It took six tries on the ballot for Todd Helton but the face of the Colorado Rockies is finally headed to Cooperstown. Drafted by the Rockies in 1995, the franchise’s first homegrown superstar spent his entire 17-year career in purple pinstripes. Despite being widely considered one of the best players of his generation among his peers, the writers took exception to the fact Helton spent his entire career with Colorado. The notion that he played half his career at the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field was enough to disqualify and discredit the accomplishments of his career in the eyes of many. In his first year on the ballot in 2019, he garnered just 16.5% of the vote but made astounding leaps each year, coming just 11 votes shy of election in 2023. He easily cleared that mark in 2024 and now joins Larry Walker as the only players representing the Rockies in Cooperstown.
Helton took full advantage of playing at Coors Fields, as evidenced by his phenomenal .345/.441/.607 slash with 227 home runs in 4,841 plate appearances at Coors. However, it’s well known now about the effects of leaving altitude to play on the road. Players have often struggled with the adjustment but Helton conquered it for 17 years. In 4,612 road plate appearances, he batted .287/.386/.469 with 142 home runs. The .855 away OPS is higher than Hall of Famers such as Dave Winfield (.841), Eddie Murray (.838) and Tony Gwynn (.835). He was a prolific doubles hitter (592) with a keen eye at the plate, finishing his career with more walks (1,335) than strikeouts (1,175). Over his career, Helton was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger while also earning three Gold Gloves. He leads the Rockies in almost every major offensive category.
Joe Mauer- 76.1%
By a margin of just four votes, lifetime Twins catcher Joe Mauer cleared the bar to become just the third catcher to get into the Hall of Fame on his first try. The St. Paul, Minnesota native was drafted first overall by the Twins in 2001 and spent his entire 15-year career in the Twin Cities. The case for Mauer was a little more nuanced that the other two inductees as Mauer saw his career hindered down the line due to concussions. There was also the matter that he wasn’t able to play as many games as a catcher because of the concussions and spent five seasons as a league-average first baseman. Still, he was able to do enough overall to garner enough votes to creep over the 75% threshold and represent the Twins in Cooperstown.
With 143 home runs and a career slugging percentage of .439, Mauer displayed a balanced offensive approach. Furthermore, his keen eye at the plate is evident in his impressive on-base percentage of .388, showcasing an ability to draw walks and contribute to his team’s offensive output. He had just one season in which he struck out 100+ times and had six seasons in which his walks outnumbered his strikeouts. What’s impressive is that in the first half of his career from 2004 to 2011, he never struck out more than 65 times in a single season. His .306 career batting average is tied for the sixth-highest among catchers with at least 3,000 plate appearances, and his .388 on-base percentage is tied for third. He’s the only catcher with three batting titles, and his total of 44.6 bWAR during his 10 years as the Twins’ primary catcher from 2004-13 was the best at his position during that stretch. He was a six-time All-Star, three-five-time Silver Slugger, three-time Gold Glover, three-time batting champion, and the 2009 AL MVP.
Legends Never Die
The Class of 2024 for the Hall of Fame displays three different paths to Cooperstown. Helton and Mauer displayed loyalty and high production with their teams while also being two of the purest hitters of their generations. They were able to beat the odds and their accomplishments were able to break through the reservations and doubts that many voters and fans have about their careers. Their peaks were enough to get the recognition, and every adjacent just helped grow their case. Beltré on the other hand was the prototypical Hall of Famer that has plenty of the counting stats and accolades worthy of enshrinement and was able to do so over two decades. He essentially had two lengthy careers and became a beloved figure across the game. Not all Hall of Famers are alike, and the voters were able to induct three unique players all worthy of the Hall of the Fame.