MLB Legends Who Should Have Made the Hall of Fame in 2024

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On January 23, 2024, the Baseball Hall of Fame announced the 2024 Hall of Fame class. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) inducted three candidates: Adrián Beltré, Todd Helton, and Joe Mauer. Beltré led the way with 95% of the vote in his first year on the ballot, while Mauer also squeaked in on his first try with 76.1% of the vote. The Hall of Fame is a prestigious yet highly controversial institution. From steroid usage to old-school voting methods, there have never been more seemingly worthy candidates falling short of the needed vote count. Here are five players that deserved enshrinement this season.

Andruw Jones, Center Field

Nearly every player on this list didn’t get to 75% due to something other than their play on the field, whether it be steroid usage or position. Andruw Jones is the lone snubbed player on this list who avoided steroid rumors and played a premier defensive position. He is the biggest snub on this list, but that is nothing new to Jones. Jones nearly fell off the ballot after his first year of eligibility, receiving just over 7% of the vote. Had he received less than 5%, he would not have been on future ballots.

That Jones nearly fell off the ballot in his first year is baffling, considering only 10 center fielders in history have a higher career WAR than Jones. His only crime was that the productive end of his career ended abruptly. By the time Jones turned 30, he had accumulated 64.3 fWAR. He played five more seasons and only accumulated 2.7 combined fWAR. Jones was a rare two-way talent, widely regarded as one of the best defensive center fielders of all time while also hitting 434 career home runs. Anybody who bet on sports in the early 2000s would have bet Jones to win a Gold Glove every season. Few players in baseball history were better than Jones on their best day, and he deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

Álex Rodríguez, Infielder

Now, we get to the complicated ones, starting with Alex Rodriguez. Andruw Jones put up massive numbers during his career, but they pale in comparison to ARod. He is fifth all-time in homers with 696 and 13th all-time in fWAR at 113.7. Rodríguez is a three-time American League MVP, a 14-time All-Star, five-time AL home run champ, and won ten Silver Slugger Awards. Let’s be clear: Rodríguez is not just a Hall of Fame talent, but arguably one of the ten best players in history. However, his use of performance-enhancing drugs has, to date, barred him from enshrinement. With or without steroids, ARod is one of the all-time greats.

Billy Wagner, Relief Pitcher

Aside from designated hitter, no position is less represented in the Hall of Fame than relief pitchers, and for fair reasons. Ultimately, the best pitchers are starting pitchers; even the best relievers were only relievers because they could not start. The bar to get into the Hall of Fame for a relief pitcher is much higher than that for other positions, something Billy Wagner has found out the hard way.

Wagner is sixth on the all-time saves and fWAR list among relievers, with 422 and 24.0, respectively. That last number trips up so many relievers, as the average fWAR of Hall of Famers is above 60. Wagner is unique, though. Only two relief pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched have a higher strikeout percentage than Wagner’s 33.2%. He was as dominant as any reliever in history, and many believe he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Manny Ramírez, Outfielder

Another steroid-era exception, Manny Ramírez, was destined to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame before the performance-enhancing drug scandals. Known as one of the most disciplined hitters in baseball history, Manny finished his career with a .315 lifetime batting average and 555 home runs, which was good for 15th best all-time. He was a 12-time All-Star and led the AL in batting average, home runs, and RBI at least once. Ramírez was a nine-time Silver Slugger, a World Series MVP, and known as one of the best pure hitters of all time. He undoubtedly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Chase Utley, Second Baseman

Like Wagner, Chase Utley has an uphill climb due to his position. There are only 20-second basemen in the Hall of Fame, a position once marked by light hitters and slick defenders who weren’t good enough to play shortstop. Since 2000, the BBWAA has only enshrined three second basemen. Utley’s 61.6 fWAR puts him right on the edge of enshrinement, but Jeff Kent’s 56.0 fWAR wasn’t good enough to get him in, ultimately dropping off the ballot after the maximum ten attempts.

However, unlike Kent, Utley has a strong case due to a peak that is among the best at his position. The six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger hit 259 career home runs, the seventh most among second basemen. Further, he was arguably the best player on two pennant-winning Phillies teams, one that won the World Series.

Who Else Missed the Cut?

There are far more worthy players than were listed here, including Andy Pettitte, Carlos Beltrán, and Gary Sheffield. While players like ARod and Utley have several more chances to get in, time is running out for Jones and Wagner, who are entering their final years on the ballot. Next year will be crucial for their hopes of entering the Hall of Fame.

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