ATLANTA -- Two years after gaining just enough support to remain on the ballot, Andruw Jones has been given reason to look forward to the possibility of one day being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Jones’ optimism grew on Tuesday, when he learned he had received a vote from 33.9% of the Hall of Fame ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. That number is far from the 75% required to be elected. But with six more years of eligibility, the former Braves center fielder is trending in the right direction, like 2020 electee Larry Walker did during his final years of eligibility.
For the first time since 2013, no players drew enough votes to be elected. But former Braves pitcher Tim Hudson had just enough support to extend his ballot eligibility. A player must receive 5% of the votes to remain on the ballot. He received 5.2% in his first appearance on the ballot.
Fourth year of eligibility
Ballot history: Jones did not draw more than 7.5% of the votes during either of his first two years but saw his total rise to 19.4% in 2020. With 33.9% of the votes this year, his rise is similar to what Walker experienced when he went from 21.9% in ’17 to 34.1% in ’18. Walker’s vote total rose to 54.6% in ’19, and he gained election after drawing 76.6% in ’20.
Case: Jones batted .254, tallied 434 home runs and constructed an .823 OPS over a 17-season career that included 10 National League Gold Glove Awards, 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 within this span were Barry 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.
Seventh year of eligibility
Ballot history: Sheffield didn’t receive more than 13.6% of the votes during any of his first five years of eligibility. His candidacy has gained life, as he has drawn 30.5% and 40.6% the past two years.
Case: Sheffield is one of 19 players to produce at least 500 homers and a .900 career OPS. The only other members of this group not yet elected to the Hall of Fame are Barry Bonds, Rodriguez, Pujols, Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
Pujols is still active, and Ortiz and Rodriguez will debut on the 2022 ballot. Bonds, Rodriguez, McGwire, Ramirez and Sheffield were all linked to performance-enhancing drugs during their careers.
Sheffield, Bonds, Rodriguez, Ramirez, McGwire and Shoeless Joe Jackson are the only retired players who have not been elected after producing a 140 OPS+ and a bWAR of 60 or higher.
Sixth year of eligibility
Ballot history: After not drawing more than 16.7% of the votes through his first four years of eligibility, Wagner’s candidacy has has drawn 31.7% and 46.4% the past two years.
Case: From 1995 (rookie seasons for Wagner and Mariano Rivera) through 2010 (Wagner’s final season), Rivera led all relievers with 34.9 fWAR. 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).