The 2022 Hall of Fame class was loaded. When Jimmy Rollins, Tim Hudson, and Prince Fielder are some of the low-end first-years, and two of them don’t even receive five percent of the vote, you know it’s an insane class. Between Álex Rodríguez, David Ortiz, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, 2022 was one of the most highly-anticipated Hall of Fame votes in years. But with every fantastic high comes a dreadful low, and 2023’s Hall of Fame class is just that.
Just look at this graphic. Look in horror at the names that the official MLB Twitter account is trying to pass off as Hall of Fame-worthy. It’s despicable. There’s only one guy on this list with any real shot at Cooperstown, and it’s Francisco Rodriguez. Everybody else might as well start writing their mandatory Twitter letdown posts, because they’ve got as much of a chance of getting into the Hall as I have of getting back into the San Diego Zoo after I tried stealing one of their giraffes.
The emotional side of my brain would like to put three guys from this list into the Hall: Carlos Beltrán, Jered Weaver, and K-Rod, but the rational part of my brain knows the truth. Those first two don’t have a chance in hell.
Beltrán is by far the best position player in this year’s class. Not only does he lead all hitters in career on-base percentage, OPS, and OPS-plus, but he’s also one of the greatest defensive center fielders of all time, recording 40 Defensive Runs Saved in center during his 14 seasons at the position. To put that in perspective, Andruw Jones, arguably the greatest defensive outfielder of all time, recorded 60 DRS in 14 years in center. Torii Hunter, another highly touted defensive outfielder, recorded 36 DRS across 14 seasons in center. Basically, Beltrán is up with the titans of defensive outfield play and his bat is the best of the 2023 class.
That said, his involvement in the 2017 Astros cheating scandal will keep him out of Cooperstown. He already wasn’t going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that he pretty much solidifies himself as someone on the outside of the Cooperstown bubble looking in. The rumor that Beltrán was actually the first Astro to start stealing signs certainly doesn’t help, and the excuse he made for cheating isn’t a good look either. Telling everybody you would’ve stopped if you knew it was illegal doesn’t really make sense when the entire organization kept the cheating on the down low, because they knew it wouldn’t be looked at fondly. If you’re hiding something you’re doing, it probably isn’t a legal maneuver.
If Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens aren’t in the Hall of Fame, then Beltrán surely won’t either. He wasn’t on their level from a statistical standpoint and his cheating scandal is just slightly less reprehensible than theirs. Bonds and Clemens never got particularly close to reaching the Hall. Beltrán surely won’t either, and if he does, then the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) needs to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror.
For Francisco Rodriguez, the argument comes down to how highly touted closers are. Much like the fullback in football, the closer position has lost a lot of weight in recent years as players like Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, and even Aroldis Chapman to some extent have all experienced hills and valleys. The closer position has become a rotating door for most teams with no one reliever holding down the fort in the ninth inning. Don’t get me wrong, having someone with that mentality who can lock down the ninth is appreciated, but it’s no longer the must-have position it was in the 2000s.
While K-Rod was a phenomenal closer, it’s hard to argue that he was on the same level as any of the relievers to have reached Cooperstown in recent memory: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Lee Smith. Rodriguez had higher highs (ie: his 62-save 2008 season), but the BBWAA has always valued longevity over peak, and frankly, Rodriguez’s was too short. That combined with the decline in value for the closer position doesn’t spell good fortune for Rodriguez. Personally, I’d vote for him, but I just don’t see a future where he gets in.
Every other first-year falls into one of these two categories: 1) good, but never elite, or 2) elite, but not for long enough. Jered Weaver probably comes the closest to breaking out of these categories. He had a five-year stretch from 2009 to 2013 where he had an ERA under 4 and an ERA-plus over 100 in each season. He also had three top-five Cy Young finishes. However, I’ve always believed that eight years of dominance was the minimum for a Hall of Fame bid.
Furthermore, Baseball Reference has a Hall of Fame meter that compares players to Hall of Famers and determines how likely they are to be voted on based on their stats, accomplishments, and longevity. Anything above 100 is considered likely. Anything below is unlikely. Aside from Beltrán and Rodriguez, the highest rating for any player this year belongs to Huston Street at 57. John Lackey has a 48. Jered Weaver has a 47. That’s not even close to where they need to be.
The lowest rating to earn a Hall of Fame bid since 2010 belonged to 2017 inductee Tim Raines (91), so there’s absolutely a chance for someone below the threshold to be voted in, but Street, Lackey, and Weaver are too far off, way too far off.
Like I said earlier, there’s a chance for Francisco Rodriguez, but that chance is slim at best. Altogether, this could be one of the weakest Hall of Fame classes we’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t be surprised if only two players were on the ballot in 2024.