For one voter, this Hall of Fame election is all about Gary Sheffield

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

There are an unusually high number of viable candidates and accompanying storylines leading up to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. announcement of voting results for baseball’s latest Hall of Fame class.

How close will longtime Rangers star third baseman Adrian Beltre come to being a unanimous selection?

Will Joe Mauer, who had a spectacular but abbreviated career as a catcher before health issues forced a position change, be a first-ballot choice, or will he have to wait a year or two?

Can Todd Helton overcome the stigma of the Coors Field effect on his stats?

Will reliever Billy Wagner’s dominance of hitters offset his lesser-counting stats and poor/limited postseason work?

Similarly, how will Andruw Jones’ defensive majesty and power be judged against the cliff-like end of his career?

Does Carlos Beltran’s involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal seem any less egregious with the passing of another year?

Here in Tampa Bay, and a handful of other big-league markets, there’s a bigger question:

Will Gary Sheffield finally get his due?

This is the 10th and final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot for the Tampa-born slugger. While he has moved increasingly closer over the past five years to the needed 75% — reaching 55 last year — he seems likely to fall short again.

Tracking of ballots posted publicly through Monday afternoon showed Sheffield right on the cusp, at 74.7%.

But that’s from about half of the around 400 that were submitted by 10-year-plus members of the BBWAA by the Dec. 31 deadline. The number of supporters tend to drop off a bit from voters who don’t offer their ballots up for public discussion/dissection/destruction. (For example, the tracker, available at tracker.fyi and on X via @NotMrTibbs, also shows Beltre, Mauer, Helton, and Wagner being elected, with Jones and Beltran close.)

I voted for Sheffield, as I have each of the previous nine years. (I also voted for Beltre, Mauer and Wagner but no one else as part of my recent shift to “Small Hall” philosophy.)

Hall of Fame voting is not all about one thing. Not set statistical standards or specific comparisons, but rather a broader perspective of dominant impact at the time.

I truly believe that Sheffield’s combination of performance — topped by his 509 home runs, among a list of impressive credentials — and widely acknowledged standing as one of the game’s most feared hitters make him Cooperstown-worthy.

Maybe there is some hometown bias in there, but I’m not alone.

Just ask two of the most recently elected Hall of Famers, Fred McGriff and Jim Leyland, who teamed with Sheffield during his career and now tout his candidacy.

There is a lot to unpack in fully understanding Sheffield, as we and others have tried to over the years. His reputation, in some ways, precedes him.

He speaks his mind, and with a candidness some find off-putting. (”I am who I say I am,” he says often.) Conflicts and controversies were plentiful during his 22 seasons in the majors. There are questions and some cloudiness over his early 2000s involvement with Barry Bonds, and ties to performance-enhancing drug usage and the BALCO scandal.

Sheffield insists, then and now, he never did anything improper, including his widely reported use of a steroidal cream, and was unfairly included in baseball’s 2007 Mitchell Report on PEDs.

More telling for this discussion, he never failed a test or was suspended for PED usage, which has been my squiggly line in voting previously for Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire but not Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez or Rafael Palmeiro.

(Quick explanation: There’s no way for any voter to truly know who used what and when, much less how it impacted a player’s career. So I set the bar at who got caught once it was known to be illegal.)

Will Sheffield get into the Hall this time? Probably not. The BBWAA has never elected more than four players in any year, and of the 194 ballots in the tracker, there are only a handful for Sheffield that don’t also include the bulk of the pack ahead of him.

Will his chances be better in a few years with an Era Committee voting of 16 Hall of Fame players, executives and veteran media members? Maybe. That’s how McGriff, a fellow Tampa native, got in. But there is judging in that room, too. And the small group dynamic — with 12 votes needed — is tough, as Lou Piniella found out in falling one vote short each of the past two cycles.

I felt good about voting for Beltre and Mauer as first-year candidates. I’ve supported Wagner and other elite relievers who have been under-represented in the Hall. I’m just not sold on Helton or Jones, and I don’t feel good about Beltran but will remain open to discussion in future years.

But my fear is that Sheffield, who wagged his bat menacingly, strikes out again.

Times ballots

Eduardo A. Encina

Adrian Beltre

Todd Helton

Andruw Jones

Joe Mauer

Gary Sheffield

Billy Wagner

John Romano

Carlos Beltran

Adrian Beltre

Todd Helton

Joe Mauer

Manny Ramirez

Alex Rodriguez

Gary Sheffield

Chase Utley

Marc Topkin

Adrian Beltre

Joe Mauer

Gary Sheffield

Billy Wagner

• • •

Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.

Never miss out on the latest with your favorite Tampa Bay sports teams. Follow our coverage on Instagram, X and Facebook.