The Baseball Hall of Fame may see a new addition by the end of the night when the Baseball Writers Association of America vote results are posted on the MLB network at 6:00 pm ET.

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All 28 former players – 14 returning and 14 newcomers – are vying for this year’s vote to be recognized as one of the best to ever play the game. What most fans don’t realize, however, is that the roster of players accepted to Cooperstown is much larger than you might think. Oh, getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame or the Hockey Hall of Fame and certainly the Basketball Hall of Fame is still harder, but it’s not just a small circle, the elite of the elite, that gets elected. You can disagree with this philosophy, but it has been that way ever since the first class of five immortals was elected in 1936.

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So you might be surprised to know that Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner could be elected.

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Have they done Feel like the Hall of Fame while it’s active? Probably no. They need 75% of the vote to join Fred McGriff, who was elected in December through the Contemporary Era committee, at the inauguration ceremony in July. They may not make it there, meaning the writers’ association may be throwing out its second lockout in three years, though, since the ballots don’t include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Kurt Schilling, who ended their eligibility for the BBWAA program in the past. year, it has its advantages. the weakest list of names in two decades, which helps candidates on the brink.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key questions surrounding the announcement.

1. Will Rollin hit?

It will be a nervous anticipation for Rolen. Via Ryan Thibodeau Hall of Fame website, which tracks ballots publicly released by voters, we know that Rolin won 79% of the vote as of Monday afternoon. In general, however, players see their percentage decline after the final totals are revealed. Last year, Rolen lost almost 8 points from the preliminary result to the final percentage, gaining 63.2% (receiving only 34.2% of private ballots).

As for Hall of Famer Rolen’s case, it’s pretty strong even by the tough BBWAA standards. While he lacks some career metrics — for example, he barely hit 2,000 hits and finished with 316 home runs and 1,287 RBIs — third base is sort of a hybrid position, part offensive and part defensive, and Rolen was an eight-time winner. A golden glove with strong defensive performance to back up that reputation. His defense is a big part of his Hall of Fame business.

In 2004, his then manager Tony La Russa called him the best third baseman he had ever seen. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, himself a 10-time Golden Glove winner, said Rolin was “better than me.” The idea of ​​Rolen as one of the best defenders in this position is not rewriting history. Despite being a big guy at 6’4″ and weighing over 200 pounds, he had shortstop first-pitch speed (he finished second in the high school Indiana Mr. Basketball awards) and a strong arm as well. Baseball-Reference.com’s defensive stats indicate that Rolin is the third-best third baseman (behind Brooks Robinson and Adrian Beltre), and I believe those numbers. They helped lift his career WAR to 70.1—ninth among third basemen—and the ninth best third baseman of all time—a strong Hall of Famer candidate.

From the Philadelphia Phillies’ rookie season from 1997 to 2004, when he finished third in MVP voting, Rolen was ranked third among all players in positions in the WAR, behind only Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. Of course, Rolin’s all-round skill was underestimated in those days, especially in that era of pumped attacks. However, he hit .287/.379/.524 and averaged 28 home runs and 102 RBIs over those eight seasons. It didn’t help that his early seasons, before moving to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2002, were mostly played with poor Phillies teams.

He wasn’t the center of attention either. “Rolin doesn’t say a word here,” Cardinals teammate Steve Kline said in 2002. – He’s just playing ball. and he just plays hard all the time. He gives you everything he has.”

Here is one way to look at Rolin’s WAR 70.1 from a different perspective. Since 2000, the BBWAA has selected 38 non-participants (I’m excluding them because of their lower WARs). The average career WAR for this group is 73.5, so Rolen is not much below average. He is also right in the middle of the average – 19 players above him with more WAR, 19 players below him with less. Yes, that third place in 2004 was his only top 10 MVP, and in his 30s he missed a lot of time due to injuries, but for me Rolen is comfortably above the bar.

2. How close will Wagner get?

For the eighth time on the ballot, the former Houston Astros/Phillies/New York Mets/Atlanta Braves player scored 73.5%. Although it will be just under the 75% threshold, it will be a significant increase from last year’s total of 51% and will give it a great opportunity to come out on top in 2024. Don’t miss the chance that it will fall this year. , However. Unlike Rolen, Wagner’s final score was almost indistinguishable from the previous year’s public preliminary vote results, as he lost only 0.7 points. With a few extra votes, he could get 75%.

Wagner hit the big time when he came up with the Astros in 1995, a short left-hander with a lightning-fast fastball that would hit triple digits with today’s technology. His fastball has been compared to Nolan Ryan’s. Early in his career, the Astros forced him to give up his crooked ball to work on a side slider. In the meantime, he just threw his fastballs one after the other. Batters still couldn’t touch him. In 1997, he became the first 50-inning pitcher to hit 14 batters in nine innings. His career strikeout rate of 11.92 per nine innings remains the best among pitchers with at least 900 innings.

He has also been surprisingly consistent – his only season with an ERA above 3.00 was when he was injured in 2000 and only played 28 games. His 2.31 career ERA is only a hair higher than Mariano Rivera’s (2.21), although Rivera has thrown more innings and more than doubled his career WAR (from 56.3 to 27.8). Wagner was also the exact opposite of Rivera in limited postseason games, posting a 10.03 ERA in 11⅔ innings. He has the sixth most saves of all time behind Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Lee Smith (all Hall of Famers), but also behind Francisco Rodriguez (who is included in this bulletin) and John Franco.

No doubt, these are strong arguments, and now his election seems inevitable – be it this year, next year, or by some future committee. My only problem: The hall is already bloated with closers, at least compared to other positions. Since the introduction of the modern middleman in the 1970s, more of them have been elected to the Hall of Fame than to any position other than starting pitchers. By position, the Hall of Famers who generated most of their value in the 1970s or later were starting pitchers (17) and closing pitchers (seven), with all other positions six or less.

While I understand that closer is a “stance” and should be judged on the merits, it’s also clear that voters were softer on closer while maintaining strict standards in other positions. For example, Andy Pettitt garnered just 17% of the vote, despite throwing 2,413 more innings than Wagner, and played a huge role in the postseason, winning five World Series titles for the New York Yankees.

3. Will support for Todd Helton and Andrew Jones continue to grow?

Last year, Helton received 52% of the vote, his fourth highest on the ballot, while Jones won 41% on his fifth ballot. As with Wagner, Helton’s 50% mark is a good sign for a future induction. In fact, we could underestimate Helton’s chances a bit by writing about Rolen and Wagner first. He edged out Rolin in the public vote with 79.6%. His preliminary score fell 5% last year, so it looks like he’ll be right on the 75% threshold too. Jones is 68%.

I did some digging into their cases last week, but they were both high performers who weren’t that good in their 30s. Helton struggled with back injuries and Jones quickly burned out after he turned 30. Both, however, have played five seasons of 6+ WAR – and only 47 players since integration in 1947 have done so. Helton did this with offense for five years, during which he hit .349/.450/.643; Jones did it with arguably the best center field defense of all time and over 400 career home runs. Their career WAR total – 61.8 for Helton, 62.7 for Jones – is a bit bland.

Jones joins Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. as the only outfielders with 10 gold gloves and 400 home runs (Mike Schmidt is the only other player to do so). Of course, this is done to make Jones look good, but he is clearly not in the same company as Mays or Griffey as a versatile player. (In fact, to put it even more bluntly: Mays’ career WAR is higher than Griffey PLUS Jones. Willie Mays was good!)

Jones has created about 119 more runs than average as a hitter. It’s comparable to Mike Greenwell, Johnny Grubb, Carlos Peña, Matt Stairs and Michael Cuddier. His case relies on his defense, which is incomparable to Mays and Griffey.

4. What will Carlos Beltran do?

The most interesting new candidate on the ballot is Beltran. Like Rolin, he was a great two-way player, a nine-time All-Star and three-time Golden Glove center fielder who was one of the best performers in the postseason of the wild card era, hitting .307/.412/. 609 with 16 home runs in 65 playoff games. He has more impressive scoring stats than Rolen, with 435 home runs, 1,582 runs, and 1,587 RBIs. This makes him one of 29 players in the newly invented but exclusive 400/1500/1500 club, and of those 29, only Mays and Alex Rodriguez also stole 300 bases. In the 2003-04 season, Beltran captured 83 bases in 90 tries; he was also 31 out of 32 in 2001. Young …