Wait ’til next year.
Todd Helton came up just short of election into the National Baseball of Fame when the votes were announced Tuesday afternoon.
The Rockies’ iconic first baseman, who played 2,247 big league games over the span of 17 seasons and became the face of Colorado baseball, received 72.2% of the vote, falling just short of the required 75% needed for election.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Helton said in a phone interview from his home in his native Knoxville, Tenn. “But I can’t control it. I’m just thankful for the people who voted for me.”
The Class of 2023 is a small one. Scott Rolen, the former Phillies, Cardinals, Blue Jays and Reds third baseman, was the only player elected Tuesday. He received 76.3% of the vote and cleared the bar by only five votes. Rolen joins Fred McGriff, who was unanimously elected by the 16-member Contemporary Baseball Players Committee on Dec. 4.
The duo will be inducted on July 23 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Players are selected into the Hall of Fame by eligible voting members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Helton received 281 votes and would be a Hall of Famer if he had garnered just 11 more votes. Perhaps those votes will come in 2024.
“I don’t think about it one way or another, just hope and pray for next year,” said Helton, who will once again coach Rockies prospects at spring training this year.
Helton received just 16.5% of the vote in his first year on the ballot but jumped to 52% last year. That was a significant milestone because every player who’s reached the 50% threshold has eventually made it to Cooperstown, except for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.
Though odds are good that Helton will eventually be elected, next year the ballot gets more crowded with talented candidates. The list of newcomers is headed by third baseman Adrian Beltre, catcher Joe Mauer, and second baseman Chase Utley.
From his debut on Aug. 2, 1997, at Pittsburgh to his final game on Sept. 29, 2013, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Helton slashed doubles, launched home runs, bedeviled opposing pitchers, played first base with a 24-karat flair, and earned his teammates’ lasting respect and affection. But it wasn’t quite enough to get him to Cooperstown this year.
In his fifth year on the ballot, Helton knew that the vote was going to be close. He admitted that he was nervous on Tuesday as the announcement neared.
“I was more nervous than I should have been,” Helton quipped.
As of Monday afternoon, he stood at 79.6%, with Rolen right behind him at 79.0%. That was according to Ryan Thibodaux’s Baseball Hall of Fame Tracker, which tabulates the votes of the BBWAA members who choose to make their ballots public.
But the Hall of Fame Tracker had counted just 172 public ballots, about 45% of the total, and players usually lose a little bit of ground when all of the votes are totaled.
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Helton was hoping to become the second Rockies player to be selected, joining teammate Larry Walker, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2020. Walker, who made it in his 10th and final year, has likely paved the way for Helton by reducing the stigma for players who racked up mile-high numbers by playing home games at Coors Field.
Helton, a .316 career hitter who hit 369 home runs and mashed 592 doubles (20th all-time), made five All-Star teams and won three Gold Gloves.
Helton posted batting averages above .300 12 times and won a batting title when he hit .372 in 2000. He posted on-base percentages above .400 nine times, and slugging percentages above .500 eight times. He mashed 40 doubles or more seven times and 30 home runs or more six times.
But Helton’s Hall of Fame detractors note that he had big home-road splits and they reason that his career was fueled by his home-field advantage. For his career, Helton slashed .345/.441/.607 with 227 home runs in 4,841 plate appearances at Coors Field vs. .287/.386/.469 with 142 homers in 4,612 plate appearances on the road.
Road to Cooperstown
Following are Todd Helton’s yearly vote total for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He needs 75% to be elected. Helton will remain on the ballot until at least 2028.
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