Some Hall of Fame balloting banter

At the risk of offending someone, I must state the following:

I don’t care about your Hall of Fame ballot or your explanation for it. And that’s especially true if you don’t have a vote and it’s a mock.

Same rule applies to your fantasy team. It's a fantasy if you think you can hold my interest after about 20 seconds.

OK, I’m glad we got that out of the way. Here’s my ballot, with the class of 2024 announced tonight at 6 p.m. on MLB Network.

Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Joe Mauer, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner. No one with ties to the Orioles.

I hate a watered-down Hall and prefer to tighten my choices. Chase Utley would have been a seventh if I had to go there. But I didn’t.

Sheffield was omitted in the past, but I reviewed his numbers again and decided to include him in his 10th and final year on the ballot. I probably should have done it earlier.

His resume includes the following:

Played 22 seasons for Brewers, Padres, Marlins, Dodgers, Braves, Yankees, Tigers and Mets. Named to nine All-Star teams (1992-93, 1996, 1998-2000, 2003-05). Won five Silver Slugger Awards - one as third baseman (1992) and four as an outfielder (1996, 2003-05). Finished in the top 10 of his league’s Most Valuable Player voting six times, finishing second in 2004 and third in 1992 and 2003. Hit at least 20 home runs in 14 seasons, including eight with 30 or more and two with at least 40. Recorded at least 100 RBIs in eight seasons and scored 100 or more runs in seven. Led the league in batting average in 1992, total bases in 1992 and on-base percentage in 1996. Batted .300- or better in eight full seasons.

I had to clear my head of a few things that bothered me about him, including a minus-27.7 dWAR, admitting a long time ago that he purposely threw the ball away with Milwaukee if angry at the official scorer, and being linked to Balco, the California nutritional supplements company whose founder was charged with distributing steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to professional athletes.

Sheffield denied using them and said he ordered vitamins.

The man was a menace at the plate, and if full-time designated hitters can get into the Hall, Sheffield’s toxic defense – and at times clubhouse presence - can be excused. The numbers shook me into taking his side.

I won’t vote for Manny Ramirez or Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez admitted his usage. Ramirez was suspended twice.

I didn’t jump at Helton during his initial years on the ballot but eventually came around. This is his sixth year, and I believe he’s still hurt by the perception that his numbers are inflated because he played in Colorado.

Jones is an easy call for me, and I don’t know why it’s a debate. A 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field. Hit 51 home runs in 2005. Hit 25 or more homers in 10 seasons. Exceeded 100 RBIs five times. Stole 20 or more bases four times. What's the hesitation?

His last five seasons were poor. So what? He should be in, and this is his seventh year on the ballot.

Beltré is No. 1 in the no-brainer category and he’s going to soar past the required 75 percent in votes. How does anyone exclude him unless it’s the lame “no first-timers” attitude?

Mauer, the only catcher in history with three batting titles, got my vote in his first year on the ballot, but some people point to his 3,942 plate appearances as a first baseman/designated hitter and aren’t as certain.

Wagner has a shot in his ninth year. I keep trying.

I didn’t vote for Francisco Rodríguez again and he has more saves than Wagner. Got to revisit that one next year. I was quick to dismiss.

I’ll do the same with Carlos Beltrán, and yes, I know about his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter make me pause and move on, but that, too, could change. José Bautista, once an Orioles Rule 5 pick, doesn't make me pause. I just keep moving.

Omar Vizquel won 11 Gold Gloves at shortstop and amassed 2,877 hits, but a lawsuit in 2021 alleging that he sexually harassed an autistic batboy while managing the White Sox minor league affiliate in Birmingham – a settlement was reached in 2022 – makes it impossible for me to check off his name. Agree or disagree. He won’t ever get my support.

Electees will be inducted on July 21 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Candidates remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for 10 years if they appear on five percent of ballots cast.

I’ll close by saying that Dave Parker should have been elected a long time ago. I view him as one of the biggest snubs. And I kept voting for Dale Murphy until he fell off the ballot.

The Hall of Slights also, in my humble opinion, includes Dick Allen, Dwight Evans, Lou Whitaker and Steve Garvey. And don’t get me started on Shoeless Joe Jackson.

I couldn’t vote for Rafael Palmeiro. You know why. But man, his membership in the 3,000-hit, 500-home run club and his defense at first base make it feel so unfortunate.

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