After long-time Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz earned 77.9% of the writers’ vote in his first year on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, the attention of fans who take part in the discourse surrounding the selection process turns towards the next year’s new Cooperstown hopefuls.

In 2023, players who retired from Major League Baseball following the 2017 season will be eligible for a spot on the writers’ Hall of Fame ballots. Although not necessarily a deep group, among the 2017 retirees are a number of players with interesting cases to be made for them, and against them.

Of the players who called it a career at the end of 2017, 34 are former All-Stars, led by nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran. The 20-year veteran racked up 435 home runs and 312 stolen bases in his career, marks concurrently matched by only Andre Dawson, Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds across MLB history.

However, Beltran’s key involvement in the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal during his final season is sure to sour plenty of baseball writers on his resume. Much like in the case of Shoeless Joe Jackson and the 1919 White Sox, Hall of Fame voters will have a very hard time justifying the inclusion of any 2017 Astros player on future ballots, especially Beltran, who was notably the only player mentioned in the commissioner’s report regarding the incident.

A first-year-eligible pitcher who will certainly garner some attention on ballots in 2023 is three-time AL saves leader Francisco Rodriguez. Known by fans as “K-Rod” due to his impressive strikeout numbers, the six-time All-Star still remains MLB’s single-season saves leader. Rodriguez’s record 62 saves in 2008 was the peak of what would become a 437-save career, the fourth-most in MLB history.

Despite his on-field success, it is also the responsibility of the baseball writers to assess whether each player meets a certain level of moral fortitude when creating their ballots, an idea known as the character clause. In Rodriguez’s case, instances of assault and domestic violence during his playing career may be what sinks his Hall of Fame bid.

With the 2022 Baseball Hall of Fame class complete, voters seemed to be out of the woods, putting some of the game’s most polarizing cases in the rearview mirror. Players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, and Sammy Sosa missed the cut this time around, making them ineligible for next year’s voting cycle after 10 unsuccessful tries. Their Hall of Fame chances for the foreseeable future will be in the hands of the Today’s Game Committee, a 16-person panel that requires 12 votes in favor of a player in order to enshrine them in Cooperstown.

Regardless, the upcoming ballot doesn’t appear to be supplying much relief to the writers in terms of simple Hall of Fame cases. Returning players such as Alex Rodriguez, Omar Vizquel, and Jeff Kent lay the groundwork for the newcomers like Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez on what may be the most troublesome ballot in Baseball Hall of Fame history.

Featured Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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