Major League Baseball
Baseball Hall of Fame voting: Pedro Moura unveils his ballot
Major League Baseball

Baseball Hall of Fame voting: Pedro Moura unveils his ballot

Updated Jan. 18, 2023 7:15 p.m. ET

The last of this year's National Baseball Hall of Fame ballots, postmarked by New Year’s Eve, might still be making their way to Cooperstown, but this round of Hall of Fame voting is officially over.

In 20 days, the 2023 class will be revealed. Yet I can reveal here today my ballot, my first after 10 years in the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. I voted for four players. As part of our weekly "Extra Innings" notebook, I’ll explain each of my choices below. Please note that I disqualified candidates who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs after enforcement began.

Gary Sheffield

Sheffield was a feared hitter with limited interruption for essentially the entirety of the 1990s and 2000s. He walked, he hardly struck out and he swung with ferocious power. His hitting history is, without doubt, of Hall of Fame caliber. 


From 1992 to 2005, he averaged nearly 600 plate appearances per season and logged an OPS+ that was a remarkable 53% better than average. For his career, he was 40% better than the average hitter. He never won an MVP, but he was the best hitter on a championship team with a postseason worth remembering in 1997. He reached base in each of the Marlins’ 16 October games and logged an on-base percentage over .500.

Gary Sheffield stands at bat on April 13, 2003 in Miami, Florida. Photo By Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

His career WAR looks borderline because of defensive metrics that rate his play unreasonably poorly. By FanGraphs’ defensive measurements, Sheffield is the worst documented defender to ever play Major League Baseball. It’s worth unpacking that because Sheffield suffers in unique ways. 

He debuted as a shortstop but broke his right foot less than one month into his first full season. He told the Brewers, but their doctors did not detect the injury, and he played — poorly — on the injury for nearly three more months. He went to his own doctor, who correctly diagnosed it. Milwaukee then made him a third baseman, and he was so disappointed that he admits he sometimes purposely threw balls away. None of that, obviously, helps his metrics.

Later in his career, Sheffield continued to play the outfield while metrics indicated he should probably be stationed at designated hitter. Ultimately, his defensive play is rated as worse than not playing defense at all. I’m of the belief that no player should be penalized for such a discrepancy; that’s the team’s responsibility.

If you rate Sheffield as a traditional bad defender and not the worst of all time, he looks like an obvious Hall of Famer. The 2006 book Game of Shadows implicated Sheffield in the BALCO steroid scandal, and he has admitted to using a testosterone-based steroid before and during the 2002 season, before testing began. He is not known to have ever tested positive for PEDs, and the drugs to which the book connected him were not, at the time, banned in baseball.

Billy Wagner

Wagner doesn’t quite have the longevity of most other relievers who have made the Hall of Fame, and he certainly doesn’t have the postseason track record of the most famous Hall of Fame closer, Mariano Rivera. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have voted for him. But, alongside many other voters, I’ve grown convinced over time that his regular-season success was dominant enough that he warrants enshrinement.

Reliever Billy Wagner at Turner Field on April 7, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Wagner was born right-handed, but early arm fractures forced him to learn to use his left hand. He wielded baseballs with it like few ever have. Four times in his career, Wagner struck out 1.5 or more batters per inning he pitched. 

Cumulatively, he struck out nearly 12 men per nine innings. Over his 19 seasons, Rivera never came close to matching that figure. Over his 18 seasons, Trevor Hoffman, another Hall of Fame closer, bested it one time. Sure, Wagner’s longevity does not compare to theirs, but their dominance doesn’t match his, either.

It’s always been hard to appropriately judge relievers’ Hall of Fame candidacies. From a pure value basis, none are close to qualifying. But Jay Jaffe’s work has helped contextualize their work, and he notes that Wagner’s performance in terms of Win Probability Added fits in with his elite peers.

Todd Helton

Sure, it would be nice to know what kind of statistics Helton would have logged over a full season played away from elevation. His career numbers look much better at Coors Field than away from it; almost 200 OPS points better. That margin is the fourth-highest home-road split in the sport’s history.

 Todd Helton bats against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game One of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs. Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

I view Helton as a borderline candidate. Ultimately, I voted for him because of the five-season run he registered from 2000 to 2004. He had almost a 1.000 OPS outside of Colorado then, and well over that threshold when playing at home. Few hitters have sustained that sort of dominance over a half-decade, and Helton was no slouch for many years outside of that window.

Scott Rolen

I see Rolen as a clear Hall of Famer, and I suspect he will soon be one. He offers enough of everything to qualify: offensive and defensive excellence, as well as longevity. He wasn’t as fun to watch hit as Sheffield, nor as dominant as Wagner, and his statistics don’t bounce off the page like Helton’s, but Rolen checks every box. 

For 15 consecutive seasons, from 1997 to 2011, he was an above-average player. He was a consistent All-Star and Gold Glover, and he earned MVP votes some 12 years apart. He won a World Series. He lacks nothing.

I did not vote for Carlos Beltrán, Andruw Jones or Jeff Kent. Kent, in my opinion, is just short. I could be convinced to vote for Beltrán in time, but the extent of his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal remains somewhat uncertain. If he indeed spearheaded it, I’m not sure that warrants enshrinement. Jones is something of an inverse to Sheffield, as he clearly lacks the offensive history of a Hall of Famer, but his all-time defensive abilities thrust him into the conversation. The character clause factors into his case, too, for he was arrested for threatening to kill his wife and injuring her. She filed for divorce days later.

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Pedro Moura is the national baseball writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the Dodgers for The Athletic, the Angels and Dodgers for the Orange County Register and L.A. Times, and his alma mater, USC, for ESPN Los Angeles. He is the author of "How to Beat a Broken Game." Follow him on Twitter at @pedromoura.


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