Three of the most accomplished hitters of their generation received baseball’s highest honor on Tuesday. Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where they will join former manager Jim Leyland — elected by the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee — on the induction stage on July 21.
Beltré and Mauer reached the Hall in their first appearance on the ballot, and Helton in his sixth. Beltré received 366 of 385 votes from 10-year members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, leading all candidates with 95.1 percent.
Beltré, 44, is the only infielder in history with 3,000 hits, 400 homers and five Gold Glove Awards. He capped a 22-year career in an eight-year final flourish with the Texas Rangers, finishing second to Brooks Robinson in games played at third base, with 2,759.
Mauer received 76.1 percent of the vote after a 15-year career spent entirely with his hometown Minnesota Twins, who drafted him first overall from a St. Paul high school in 2001. Mauer, 40, is the only catcher to win three batting titles and the only member of this new Hall of Fame class to be a Most Valuable Player; he won the American League honor in 2009, one of four seasons in which he led the Twins to the postseason.
Helton played all of his 17 seasons with the Colorado Rockies, helping lift them to their only pennant in 2007. Helton, 50, made it to Cooperstown with 79.7 of the vote, completing a steady climb that started with just 16.5 percent support in 2019. Among hitters whose careers began after 1930, only Stan Musial and Ted Williams can match Helton in all three figures that connote offensive dominance: batting average (.316), on-base percentage (.414) and slugging percentage (.539).
Billy Wagner, meanwhile, finished just shy of election at 73.8 percent in his ninth year of consideration. Wagner did not amass 20 percent of the vote until his fifth year on the ballot, but has risen consistently and has one more chance to be elected. Wagner, 52, had 422 career saves and a 2.31 ERA, which would trail only Mariano Rivera among Cooperstown relievers.
Candidates have 10 years to be considered by the writers — as long as they maintain at least 5 percent each year — and this ballot marked the end for Gary Sheffield, who had 509 homers in a 22-year career. Sheffield received 63.9 percent of the vote and is eligible for consideration by future committees.
Sheffield was named in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball but never served a suspension. Two decorated sluggers who did serve suspensions also fell short of election: Alex Rodriguez collected 34.8 percent in his third appearance on the ballot, and Manny Ramirez got 32.5 percent in his eighth.
Andruw Jones and Carlos Beltrán continued their upward climbs. Jones, a 10-time Gold Glove center fielder with 434 home runs, moved to 61.6 percent in his eighth year. Beltran, whose 70.1 WAR (Baseball Reference) trailed only Rodriguez and Beltré on this ballot, reached 57.1 percent in his second year. Beltrán won baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award for community service, but also helped orchestrate the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme in 2017.
Besides Beltré and Mauer, the top-polling newcomer to the ballot was Chase Utley, a six-time All-Star second baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies. Utley got 28.8 percent support on Tuesday, more than Jimmy Rollins, his longtime double-play partner. Rollins, the Phillies’ career hits leader, had 14.8 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.
Another franchise hits leader, David Wright of the New York Mets, made his debut with 6.2 percent, just enough to stay in consideration for the next ballot. Newcomers in that field include two former league MVPs, Ichiro Suzuki and Dustin Pedroia, and two former Cy Young Award winners, C.C. Sabathia and Félix Hernández.
(Photo of Adrián Beltré and Joe Mauer in 2018: Brace Hemmelgarn / Minnesota Twins / Getty Images)