These players are all on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year, and they’ve all made it into my own personal Hall of Fame too...though maybe not for the same reasons. We’ll learn how they fare in the sanctioned voting in a few days, but here’s how they rate on my ballot.
There are many moments that make up his candidacy but his inclusion was sealed by his high-fiving a Red Sox fan at the outfield wall in Camden Yards, then perfectly executing a double play to get the runner at first.
Colón makes my Hall for longevity (21 years in MLB) and generally being prolific (in strikeouts, wins, number of teams). And for still playing at 50 years of age! He was recently drafted by the Karachi Monarchs in Pakistan, making him possibly the oldest player to be selected in the second round of anything that’s not my cousin’s beer softball league.
And there’s a Red Sox connection. He pitched in seven games (the shortest tenure, by the way, in his MLB career) for the Sox in 2008. In September of that year, after a couple of stints on the then-DL, he was moved to the bullpen. He didn’t like that, and left the team to address personal matters in the Dominican Republic. The Red Sox suspended him without pay after he refused to return. Cue the end of his Red Sox career.
A-Rod earns a spot in my Hall of Fame for lying, steroid-taking, and generally being insufferable. For being far too good to need to cheat but doing it anyway. On July 24, 2004, Jason Varitek had enough of his crap and shoved his glove in A-Rod’s deserving mug.
I had just moved back to Massachusetts after years of living in NYC and this moment summed up everything for me. It felt personal, beautiful. I cut the iconic image out of the paper and saved it on my fridge until I moved out of that apartment. Later that season, during Game 6 of the ALCS, A-Rod continued to build his Hall of Fame credentials when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove while running out a dribbler to first base.
Then there was that time in 2007 when he shouted “I got it!” to throw off the Blue Jays’ infield. And also the time he rear-ended my friend in Seattle, but sat in his car and refused to look at her, speak to her, or provide insurance information. This was before he was super-famous, but she called it first: he was an a-hole, even then.
Beltré reenergized his career with Boston in 2010. He went toe-to-toe with David Ortiz, leading the Sox in batting average and tying Papi for the team lead in RBIs. He led the Majors in doubles (49) and slashed .321/.365/.553. Oh, and he was a great defender at third base; remember those days?!
Adrián González (and his cell phone)
Oh boy, what happened here? Beltré, who wanted to stay with the Sox, was let go to make room for González (because Kevin Youkilis had to switch positions to accommodate González). He built his résumé on either sending a text message, or allowing it to be sent from his phone (the truth and details are still fuzzy), which was highly critical of manager Bobby Valentine. This incident really shone the light of day on the clubhouse toxicity of 2012. The underlying drama here (underneath the obvious drama) is that Kelly Shoppach was assigned blame for the text—after he was traded to the Mets—and was furious about it. Did González send the text but let Shoppach take the fall? Did he let someone else use his phone? No matter what, González didn’t hold himself accountable in any public way. He sounds like a terrible teammate, and within a month or so, was traded to the Dodgers (along with other malcontents Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford—plus Nick Punto) in an attempt to relieve financial pressure, as well as rid the clubhouse of bad juju. The Sox were vindicated all over again when the Dodgers in 2017 informed Gonzalez that, after spending the earlier part of the postseason on vacation in Italy, he wasn’t welcome to return to the team for the World Series, except as a fan. This guy.
Sheffield was often a source of consternation for me when I lived in NYC because I generally had to survive his nightly in-game exploits two or three times: as they happened, and then the next day via newspaper headlines and my Yankee-loving colleagues. It was tough.
But Sheffield’s talk, not his bat or glove, earns him a spot here. In an interview with Real Sports in 2007, he offered his compartmentalized take on steroids while continuing to maintain his innocence in the BALCO scandal: Since steroids are injected in the gluteus maximus, he stated, the cream and the clear that he admittedly ingested (via skin and under the tongue) leave him steroid-free. What a clean but contorted conscience this guy must have!
But I do think he had something valuable to say about how Black players seemed to be treated differently within the Yankee clubhouse; that is, they were more regularly called out in the form of a team discussion, while white players were given the courtesy of having difficult conversations behind closed doors. I think that’s a valuable observation, even if (as Sheffield himself noted) these differences may not have been deliberate, conscious acts.
I tell myself every offseason I’m not going to say anything crazy. I’m just going to have a peaceful season... Can’t do it. I’m cut from a different cloth. – Gary Sheffield
I’ve told myself that several times this offseason. Stars, they’re just like us.
One of my least favorite players of all time. That’s all.
I’ll give it to him that HGH wasn’t yet banned when he used it in 2002. But the talk had been going around for years about these types of underground treatments and what they were for. And notably, Pettitte didn’t come forward until his name was publicly revealed. He came up with a silly claim that he only took it (yes, yes, he said it was only for two days) to “promote faster healing” from an elbow injury, specifying that he “felt an obligation” to return to his team. “I wasn’t looking for an edge,” he said. Well, that’s noble, but secretly taking a medication from another player’s personal trainer in order to recover faster from injury pretty clearly falls in the category of receiving an edge. Call it what it is.
The visual of Hunter’s legs pointing towards the heavens, headstand-style, was the cherry on top of David Ortiz’s grand slam on October 13, 2013. The slam gave the Sox the opportunity to dig out of a 5-1 deficit in that ALDS game, on their way to an eventual and much-needed Sox World Series victory.
I’ve elected the cop too.