Beltré was named on 95.1 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility, an unsurprising addition to the first-ballot Hall of Fame club with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and 93.5 Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference — 40th in MLB history. Among third basemen, only Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews accumulated more WAR. The gregarious superstar had his best years with the Texas Rangers — he also played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox over 21 MLB seasons — and is the fifth player from the Dominican Republic to get a plaque in Cooperstown.
“For me, it’s humbling enough that I just feel proud to be mentioned even close with those guys,” Beltré said. “I know that I was a decent player, but I’m proud of the fact that I was able to play for a long time and be able to compete at the highest level. Whatever comes after that, I was fine with that. But today is a great day for me. I’m honored to be in the Hall of Fame. It’s something I never even dreamed of.”
Mauer, also elected in his first year of eligibility, earns the honor of being the first player born in the 1980s to get the nod. Born April 19, 1983, he became one of the best-hitting catchers of the modern era while playing his whole career as a homegrown star with Minnesota Twins. The 2009 American League MVP finished with a .306 batting average and three batting titles, the most by a catcher. Mauer earned 76.1 percent of the vote, clearing the threshold of 75 percent by just four votes.
“I really didn’t know what to think. This is my first go at it, and obviously there’s a lot of buzz leading up to today, people having opinions all across the board,” Mauer said. “… To receive that call was amazing, and the emotions started to really flood.”
Helton earned election in his sixth year, overcoming those skeptical of his elite offensive numbers because he played half of his games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. He played 17 seasons and hit .316 with 369 homers, 142 of which came away from home. Those numbers earned him 79.7 percent of the vote.
“Just his amount of consistency, playing hard every day, putting [up] numbers every day. I didn’t think the numbers he put up were because of Coors Field because he did the same thing on the road — a model of consistency,” said Beltré, a known jokester, adding that the only knock he had on Helton was that the Rockies star used to call him “feo” — ugly in Spanish — whenever he saw him.
“I think I would use the word ‘validate,’ ” Helton said. “I was talking to my wife — that was the one thing I’ve said. Like everything I’ve done, that really did happen. And it was good enough to get into the Hall of Fame.”
Helton had to wait his turn, but he serves as a model for those who came close to election but fell short. This year’s nearest misses were closer Billy Wagner and slugger Gary Sheffield, both of whom saw their support grow but not enough. Wagner came much closer in his ninth year on the writers’ ballot, finishing at 73.8 percent with 284 votes, falling just five short of the threshold. Sheffield got 246 votes, leaving him at 63.9 percent in his 10th and final year on the ballot.
Sheffield will have to wait for the era committees, which review the candidacy of executives, managers and players who are no longer eligible, to give him a chance, as fellow 1990s slugger Fred McGriff got in December 2022. Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for steroid use and whom the voters continued to deny entry despite an all-time statistical résumé, got 34.8 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot.
Also in the top 10: Andruw Jones, 61.6 percent, seventh year on the ballot; Carlos Beltrán, 57.1 percent, second year; Manny Ramirez, 32.5 percent, eighth year; and Chase Utley, 28.8 percent, first year.
Beltré, Mauer and Helton join former manager Jim Leyland in this year’s Hall of Fame class, which will be honored July 21 in Cooperstown, N.Y.