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Two of the 21st century's most prolific producers at their positions, third baseman Adrián Beltré and catcher Joe Mauer, were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday night. Former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton was also selected, becoming the first hitter to spend his entire career playing at elevated Coors Field to make it to Cooperstown, NY
Beltré was named on 95.1 percent of ballots in his first year on the ballot, an unsurprising addition to the first-ballot Hall of Fame club with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and 93.5 Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference – 40th in of MLB history. Among third basemen, only Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews accumulated more WAR. The gregarious superstar had his best years with the Texas Rangers — he also played 21 MLB seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox — and is the fifth player from the Dominican Republic to receive a plaque in Cooperstown.
“For me, it’s humbling enough that I’m just proud to even be mentioned alongside these guys,” Beltré said. “I know I was a decent player, but I'm proud that I was able to play for a long time and compete at the highest level. Whatever comes after that, I was okay with it. But today is a great day for me. It's an honor to be in the Hall of Fame. I’ve never dreamed of this.”
Mauer, who was also elected in his first year of election, receives the honor of being the first player born in the 1980s to receive the award. He was born on April 19, 1983 and developed into one of the most powerful catchers of the modern era throughout his career as a homegrown star with the Minnesota Twins. The 2009 American League MVP finished the year with a .306 batting average and three batting titles, the most by a catcher. Mauer received 76.1 percent of the vote, exceeding the 75 percent hurdle by just four votes.
“I really didn't know what to think. “This is my first attempt and to date there is obviously a lot of excitement, people's opinions are wide ranging across the board,” Mauer said. “…Getting that call was great and the emotions really started to flood in.”
Helton was selected in his sixth year, overcoming skeptics about his elite offensive numbers as he played half of his games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. He played 17 seasons and hit .316 with 369 home runs, 142 of which came away. These numbers earned him 79.7 percent of the vote.
“Just his consistency, playing and putting hard every day [up] Pay every day. “I don't think the numbers he put up are attributable to Coors Field because he did the same thing on the road – a model of consistency,” said Beltré, a noted prankster, adding that the only hit , which he had against Helton, was that the … The Rockies star always called him “feo” – ugly in Spanish – when he saw him.
“I think I would use the word 'validate,'” Helton said. “I spoke to my wife – that was the only thing I said. Like everything I've done, this really happened. And it was good enough to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
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Helton had to wait his turn, but he serves as a role model for those who were close to voting but didn't make it. The closest misses this year were closer Billy Wagner and slugger Gary Sheffield, both of whom saw growing but insufficient support. Wagner came much closer in his ninth year in the writers' election, reaching 73.8 percent with 284 votes, missing the threshold by just five percent. Sheffield received 246 votes, giving him 63.9 percent in his tenth and final year of election.
Sheffield will have to wait for the era committees that consider the candidacy of executives, managers and players who are no longer eligible to give him a chance, as will be the case with his 1990s counterpart Fred McGriff in December 2022 was. Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for steroid use and whom voters continued to deny entry despite an all-time statistical record, received 34.8 percent of the vote in his third year in office.
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Also in the top 10: Andruw Jones, 61.6 percent, in his seventh year of election; Carlos Beltrán, 57.1 percent, second year; Manny Ramirez, 32.5 percent, eighth year; and Chase Utley, 28.8 percent, first year.
Beltré, Mauer and Helton will join former manager Jim Leyland in this year's Hall of Fame class, which will be honored July 21 in Cooperstown, NY