It was a little past 8 a.m. in Tokyo when the newest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced.
Next year there could be some big celebrations over breakfast in Japan.
Ichiro Suzuki headlines the group of players who are eligible for voting a year from now. That ballot is also expected to include Cy Young Award winners CC Sabathia and Félix Hernández — and the final chance for reliever Billy Wagner, who fell five votes short this time.
Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton and Joe Mauer were voted in this year by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The results were announced Tuesday night in the eastern U.S. The time change between the Hall’s location in Cooperstown, New York, and Suzuki’s home country of Japan should be quite relevant in 2025.
The outfielder appears to be a lock for induction after surpassing 3,000 hits in the major leagues and becoming one of the greatest Asian stars to play in America, a couple of decades before Shohei Ohtani took the sport by storm.
What’s less clear is how Sabathia and Hernández will fare. Sabathia surpassed 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts. Hernández didn’t pitch nearly as long but had a better ERA and WHIP than Sabathia.
The BBWAA hasn’t elected a pitcher since 2019, when Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and Mariano Rivera went in. With starters shouldering lower workloads these days, it will be interesting to see how voters adjust. Justin Verlander figures to have a good shot after he retires. For Sabathia and Hernández, that’s less clear.
“I think Sabathia is probably going to be a pretty strong first-year guy,” said Ryan Thibodaux, whose online Hall of Fame ballot tracker reveals votes as they’re made public both before and after the announcement of the results. “I don’t know if he gets all the way in his first year.”
ONE MORE CHANCE
Wagner’s approval rate increased from 68.1% to 73.8% this year, but he still fell short of the 75% threshold for election. Next year is his last one on the ballot, and candidates in that spot often receive a bump. He won’t need much of one to get in.
In addition to Beltré, Helton and Mauer, Gary Sheffield will be off the ballot next time. This was his 10th and final year, and he ended up at 63.9%. With only one obvious favorite for induction arriving — Suzuki — various holdover candidates could have a good chance to move closer to 75%.
Overall, 1,237 “yes” votes were taken up this year by players who won’t be in the ballot for 2025. Last year that number was only 483, which may explain why candidates like Andruw Jones (61.6%), Bobby Abreu (14.8%) and Andy Pettitte (13.5%) seemed to tread water a bit this time.
Carlos Beltrán did make it to 57.1%, an increase of over 10%.
Thibodaux pointed out that the “middle tier” of newcomers to the ballot next year — like Hernández, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, and Troy Tulowitzki — could garner a decent number of votes, even if they aren’t elected. Candidates need to reach 5% to stay on the ballot.
“I think we might have more people who kind of make 5% than usual among next year’s candidates,” Thibodaux said. “I think overall, though, it should be a year where (holdover) candidates do have an opportunity to gain some votes. This was kind of not one of those years.”
IT’S GETTING LATE
Chase Utley received only 28.8% approval on his ballot debut, but he has plenty of time to build on that. Abreu, Pettitte and Jimmy Rollins (14.8%) are further along in the process.
Abreu has been on the ballot five years — halfway to the 10-year limit — and Pettitte has been on for six. This was the third year for Rollins.
“If (Abreu) is going to make a move, it probably is going to need to be now,” Thibodaux said. “Sheffield, he started to make his first big jump around this time. Obviously, it wasn’t enough for him. It would be kind of now or never to start showing signs of progress.”
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