It’s that time of year, folks. Tomorrow, Tuesday, January 23, 2024, we will learn the new class for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
It’s always exciting anticipating who will go to Cooperstown. This year will feature a surefire first-balloter in third baseman Adrian Beltre. Former MVP and three-time batting champ Joe Mauer could get in despite middling career numbers.
And, of course, there are plenty of ex-Yankees on the ballot this year. Namely Andy Pettitte, whose case we outlined earlier this offseason. He’s entering his sixth year on the ballot, while another former Bronx Bomber is getting his tenth and final chance on the BBWAA tally.
Let’s take a look at the seven eligible ex-Yankees and determine each of their individual cases for the Hall of Fame.
Bartolo Colon. Big Sexy kicks us off even after spending just one year with the Yankees. The hefty righty started his big comeback in the Bronx in 2011, posting a clean 4.00 ERA and 3.83 FIP after missing all of 2010 recovering from an injury. Colon pitched seven more years, capping a 21-year career with the Rangers.
It’s tough because Colon does indeed fit Mike Francesa’s compiler argument. He has a Cy Young, but otherwise made just four All-Star teams and never won a World Series. Colon also drew a PED suspension in 2012. His 4.12 ERA and 4.15 FIP make him a weird combination of Jack Morris and Luis Tiant, although with a worse career ERA than both.
Bartolo Colon may get into the Hall someday, but it won’t be this year.
Alex Rodriguez. I don’t care about the numbers, the accolades, his rising stock on the ballot, any of it. Alex Rodriguez, despite his incredible natural talent, used PEDs and actively tried to cover his tracks while under investigation. The BioGenesis drama means that even in an era where everyone and their uncle was using steroids, he doesn’t deserve a plaque. Moving on.
Andruw Jones. What a strange, strange legacy indeed. Jones won ten Gold Gloves playing center field in Atlanta and had a pretty powerful righty bat to boot. He slugged 434 homers in 17 seasons with the Braves, Dodgers, White Sox, Rangers, and Yankees, plus two more years with Japan’s Rakuten Golden Eagles. Jones’ two years in New York also marked the end of his career, though he was a serviceable platoon bat in the Bronx.
Jones’ problem, rather, is that he declined hard. He hit .222 in 2007, his last in Atlanta, and then hit .158 in 75 games with LA the next year. Even with his comeback story, he was popped for domestic violence in late 2012.
However, this is his seventh year on the ballot and his stock is rising. He drew over 58% of the vote last year and will probably get in at some point, just not in 2024.
Andy Pettitte. The big lefty is an odd duck on the ballot because of just what type of pitcher he was in his era. Pettitte debuted in 1995 and was a soft contact/finesse pitcher in an age dominated by steroid-fueled power and high-velocity fastballs. And yet, Pettitte still pitched for 18 years, won five World Series rings, and his career numbers almost mirror Hall-of-Famer Jack Morris’.
But despite that, Pettitte remains stuck around 15-20% of the vote. Here’s hoping he gets a serious boost in his sixth year of eligibility.
Bobby Abreu. The former outfielder is entering his fifth year on the ballot and received 15.6% of votes last cycle. Abreu and his reliable lefty bat spent two-and-a-half of his 18 seasons with the Yankees and also played for the Astros, Phillies, Angels, Dodgers, and Mets. A .291 career hitter, Abreu managed 254 home runs and over 2,000 hits and 1,000 RBI each in the Steroid Era’s prime.
His resume doesn’t feature any major awards and only two All-Star Games. However, the Hall of Fame’s standards are changing with more modern data and Abreu finished his career with a 60.2 WAR and .817 OPS. He won’t get in this year, but deserves to at some point.
Carlos Beltran. Unlike Abreu, Beltran is a near-slam dunk for Cooperstown. This is his second year on the ballot and he received 46.5% of the vote last year, so his stock should go up in 2024. Beltran hit .279 over 20 years with seven teams and hit 435 home runs and over 2,700 hits. He won his lone World Series ring with the Astros in 2017.
It’d take an incredible jump in votes for Beltran to make the cut this time, but he definitely should soon. Even with his ties to the Astros’ cheating scandal, the BBWAA seems past that.
Gary Sheffield. In his tenth and final year on the writers’ ballot, Sheff should cross the finish line. He got 55% of the votes last year and public ballots so far imply he’ll either get in or just miss this time. Regardless, his .292 lifetime batting average and 509 home runs mean he should get in, even with his ties to steroids.
As a Yankee, Sheffield was a reliable power bat for two years before injuries held him to 39 games in 2006. Sheffield also burned some bridges before the Yankees traded him to Detroit. That same year, in an infamous HBO interview, he essentially accused then-manager Joe Torre of racism.
And there is why it’s taken this long for Gary Sheffield’s Hall of Fame stock to rise. Throughout his career, he was a talented hitter with an unpredictable, sometimes prickly personality. Accusing Torre is just one example. In 1990, he accused the Brewers of racism because…they asked him to move to third base from shortstop. Sheffield also accused the Dodgers of racism in a contract dispute in 2002.
In the end, Gary Sheffield is probably a Hall of Famer. If he isn’t, he can only blame himself.