Andruw makes another leap in HOF bid

Closer Wagner also gains in voting; slugger Sheffield holds steady

January 26th, 2022

ATLANTA -- Andruw Jones will need to wait at least one more year. But the former Braves outfielder has gained reason to be more optimistic about the odds of him eventually being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jones’ hopes were elevated on Tuesday night, when he learned he was included on 41.1% of the Hall of Fame ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He remains well shy of the 75% needed for election. But he is also a long way from the support he received during his first two years on the ballot -- 7.3% in 2018 and 7.5% in 2019.

This year’s result extends the rise Jones realized when he garnered 19.4% of the votes in 2020 and 33.9% in 2021. The 10-time Gold Glove Award winner is eligible to remain on the ballot for the next five years. His recent improvement trends at least somewhat like that of Larry Walker, who received 34.1% of the votes in 2018 and 54.6% in 2019 before being elected in 2020.

Other former Braves still hoping to gain enshrinement include former closer Billy Wagner and former outfielder Gary Sheffield. Wagner received 51% of the votes this year, up from 46.4% in 2021. Sheffield garnered 40.6% of the votes, which equaled his 2021 percentage.

David Ortiz was the only player elected via this latest writers ballot. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling each fell short during their 10th and final year of eligibility. With each of them no longer a candidate, there is a chance Jones, Wagner and Sheffield could garner additional votes in the coming years. BBWAA voters can choose a maximum of 10 candidates each year.

Three first-time candidates spent a portion of their careers in Atlanta, but none garnered the 5% support required to remain on the ballot. Pitcher Tim Hudson got 3%, first baseman Mark Teixeira 1.5% and catcher A.J. Pierzynski 0.5%.

Here is a look at the cases for Jones, Wagner and Sheffield:

Jones batted .254, tallied 434 home runs and had an .823 OPS over a 17-season career that included five All-Star appearances and the NL Hank Aaron Award in 2005, when he finished second to Albert Pujols in balloting for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. The only other outfielders to win as many as 10 Gold Gloves are Ichiro Suzuki and four Hall of Famers -- Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey Jr.

Jones was the author of an uneven career that started with a bang and ended with the thud created by the steep decline experienced late in his career. He produced MLB's third-best fWAR from 1998-2007. The two men who ranked ahead of him in that span were Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. The man ranked immediately behind him was Chipper Jones, his longtime Braves teammate who was a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee in ’18.

Jones led all Major Leaguers with a 26.6 defensive bWAR during his 11 full seasons (1997-2007) with the Braves. Ivan Rodriguez ranked second with 16.5.

Though Jones’ production declined significantly after he turned 30, the level of success he had during the first decade of his career might still be enough for him to eventually become the next Braves icon to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

From 1995 (debut seasons for Wagner and Mariano Rivera) through 2010 (Wagner’s final season), Rivera led all relievers in fWAR with 34.9. Wagner ranked second with 24.1, and Trevor Hoffman ranked third with 24.0.

The baseball world has wisely minimized the significance of pitching wins. Maintaining this same line of reasoning in relation to Wagner, who had 422 career saves, as opposed to 652 for Rivera and 601 for Hoffman, there’s reason to argue voters have placed too great of a significance on save totals when evaluating a reliever’s qualifications.

Hoffman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2018, and Rivera was unanimously elected in ’19. While Hoffman totaled 179 more saves, Wagner had a better ERA (2.31 vs. 2.87), higher strikeout rate (33.2% vs. 25.8%) and lower OPS surrendered (.558 vs. .609).

Sheffield, who played in Atlanta from 2002-03, is one of 20 players to produce at least 500 homers and a .900 career OPS. Ortiz is one of those players. The only members of this group not yet elected to the Hall of Fame are Sheffield, Bonds, Rodriguez, Pujols, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera.

Pujols and Cabrera are still active.

Sheffield is also one of 46 players to produce a 140 OPS+ and a bWAR of 60 or higher. He stands with Bonds, Rodriguez, Ramirez, McGwire and Shoeless Joe Jackson as the only retired members of this group who have not been elected.