May 18, 2024

Twenty-six players are on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot released Monday, but only one is considered a lock for induction next summer: former Dodger Adrián Beltré.

Beltré assembled an impeccable resume after signing illegally with the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic when he was only 15 years old in 1994. Over a major league career that spanned 21 seasons from 1998-2018, Beltré had 3,166 hits that included 477 home runs and 636 doubles.

The third baseman led the majors with 48 home runs in 2004, his last season with the Dodgers. Beltré signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners, and five nondescript seasons later, blossomed in one year with the Boston Red Sox and eight with the Texas Rangers.

Beltré told The Times in 2018 that he made a tactical mistake during negotiations with the Dodgers after his landmark 2004 season. He said the Dodgers offered him only a three-year contract for about half the $64 million he received from the Mariners over six years.

“It was a mistake on my part to show it too much, that I wanted to stay [with the Dodgers],” he said. “They wanted to use that against me in the negotiation … I wanted to stay there forever. But it didn’t happen.”

Adrián Beltré throws a player out for the Dodgers.

Dodgers third baseman Adrián Beltré throws out Milwaukee Brewers’ Gary Bennett at Dodger Stadium on June 2, 2004.

(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Beltré’s 93.5 bWAR ranks behind only Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews among third basemen and he won five Gold Glove awards.

Beltré’s consistent production, clubhouse popularity, and distance from any connection to performance-enhancing drugs should give him an overwhelming chance to get the requisite 75% of votes from the Baseball Writers Assn. of America in his first year on the ballot.

The two players whose on-field accomplishments rival or exceed Beltré’s can’t say the same regarding steroids use. Álex Rodríguez ranks fifth all-time with 696 home runs and Manny Ramírez ranks 15th with 555, but neither is expected to come close to getting enough votes for induction.

Former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton is the holdover who came closest last year when he received 72.2% of the votes. Left-handed reliever Billy Wagner (68%) and outfielders Andruw Jones (58%) and Gary Sheffield (55%) are the only others who had more than 50% of the votes a year ago.

This is the 10th and final year on the ballot for Sheffield, and Wagner is on the ballot for the ninth time.

Other newcomers who should draw considerable attention include former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and former Phillies, Dodgers and UCLA second baseman Chase Utley.

Mauer was the American League MVP in 2009 when he batted .365 and all eight catchers who exceeded his career 55.2 bWAR are Hall of Famers. Utley’s career 64.5 bWAR ranks him among elite second basemen, and he was regarded as an exceptional clubhouse presence.

Also on the ballot for the first time are former Dodgers and Padres first baseman Adrián González, sluggers Matt Holliday, José Bautista, Victor Martínez and David Wright, infielders José Reyes and Brandon Phillips, and pitchers Bartolo Colón and James Shields.

Getting into the Hall of Fame via the BBWAA vote has proven exceedingly difficult in recent years. Only Scott Rolen made it this year, only David Ortiz in 2022 and no one was elected in 2021.

Beltré, however, is expected to ensure that at least one player will deliver his induction speech next summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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