Getty Images

Here it comes, another "hypothetical" Hall of Fame ballot. I enjoy working them up, but I'll enjoy it even more when I can drop the hypothetical. I'm pleased to say that I'll be voting for the 2025 Hall of Fame class, which means this is my penultimate hypothetical ballot before we dig into the real thing. 

We do have a few things to quickly sort through before getting to the players. 

First up, in looking at my hypothetical ballot from last season, there was significant clearing. I had the maximum of 10 names listed. David Ortiz gained enshrinement while Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa fell off the ballot. This means even if I'm sticking to my guns on the five other names, I have up to five new open spots. 

Secondly, there's the PED issue. I've covered it extensively over the past decade-plus, but there are always newbies and it never hurts to refresh the minds of my dear readers. The incredibly short version is this: If a player was suspended under the Joint Drug Agreement by Major League Baseball, he's a no for me. If not, I'm open to voting yes. You'll note the inclusions of Bonds, Clemens and Sosa from last year's iteration. 

On this current ballot, this is where we say goodbye to Manny Ramírez and Alex Rodríguez. They were both suspended, rather significantly so, while knowingly violating rules that were put in place for the purposes of a fair playing field. I've heard some say that they were Hall of Fame talents before knowingly using PEDs and, frankly, that makes it even worse. A-Rod didn't need the extra help to stick in the majors or to overcome injury or any of the other excuses. He was already the most talented player in the league and still did everything he could to cheat the game. I'm open to changing my mind in the future, but for now, it's a no. 

Some easy yes votes are my holdovers from last year in Gary Sheffield, Andruw Jones (both cases here from last year, if you'd like a deeper explanation), Billy Wagner (pitcher examination here), Todd Helton (Coors Field discussion here)  and Scott Rolen (breakdown here). 

I'm at five and have explained the easy no for two of the biggest other names. 

The biggest remaining name is a newcomer with a Hall of Fame resume in Carlos Beltrán. I ran through this case here

There is, of course, his heavy involvement with the 2017 Astros. I've wrestled with this back and forth and I might well change my mind again before it's a real ballot. A team-wide operation of sign-stealing feels different than an individual player juicing, to me, and if I were to attempt consistency here, I guess it would be that no Astros players were suspended by the league, whereas PED players were suspended. I've also said I would vote for worthy candidates who weren't suspended for PEDs even if they were connected in other ways. No, I don't think it's 100 percent consistent, but such a standard is impossible. Yes, I'm well aware many people will vehemently disagree and, well, that just goes with the territory. 

Ultimately I'm coming down on a yes for Beltrán . 

That is six spots. I don't have to use the remaining four. In fact, there are no other newcomers that are easy yes votes. I'm open to consideration on Francisco Rodríguez down the road, though I wrote here about how I feel like it should be much tougher for closers to make it and why Wagner is a cut above K-Rod. My guess is K-Rod will never get a vote from me. 

I also think I should make a distinction here in filling up the ballot. I'm not necessarily saying all 10 players getting my votes should absolutely, 100 percent, be Hall of Famers. The voting process includes hundreds of ballots and a player needs to get 75 percent of the vote. That's an incredibly high threshold. For every blank square next to a player's name, he'd need to get three votes just to stay put. 

I'm an admitted Big Hall person and there are plenty of Small Hall people who will submit blank ballots or just vote for one or two players. This isn't a "you cancel me out" situation. Not even close. This is one blank vote cancels out nearly three yes votes. If we wanted to be more specific, 26 blank ballots cancel out 74 filled in. As a Big Hall guy, I'll expand a little bit -- but not too far! -- to include players I feel like are borderline or even slightly below borderline. 

And, keeping everything here in mind, I have room to consider holdovers Bobby Abreu, Jeff Kent, Jimmy Rollins, Mark Buehrle, Andy Pettitte, Torii Hunter and Omar Vizquel. 

It's Kent's final year on the ballot and while I don't necessarily think a final-year bump should be a common thing, I have spots available and have explained why Kent is worthy of support. We'll take him. 

I've run through Abreu's case before. I have him a bit short of the standard but not far off and here's where I circle back to my discussion on how high 75 percent is. He's close enough that I'd throw him a vote when available on my ballot, just to do my part in keeping him around and keeping the discussion alive. 

Buehrle is in similar territory for me and I'm coming around even more due to his workhorse resume. We'll add him, too. Pettitte is similar to Buehrle, though a slight step behind and I'm barely (BARELY!) there on Buehrle. Pettitte is a no for now. 

This is where the line gets drawn. 

I love Jimmy Rollins, but with a career .264 batting average, 95 OPS+ and 32nd place in JAWS at shortstop, I just can't do it. Hunter isn't close enough, either. Vizquel was a very good fielder for a long time who had a career 82 OPS+ with just two above-average OPS seasons out of 24. Sure, if you want to say a "great" fielder, that's OK, too, but he wasn't Ozzie Smith nor was he really all that close to that. There seems to be a swell of movement that believes he's one of the greatest fielders of all-time and those people also loop in his hit total (2,877), but I'm just not seeing it. The numbers don't back up the defense claims and the empty .272 batting average shows the hit total is little more than 10,586 at-bats of opportunity (he's 18th in career at-bats and 44th in hits). Even with a defensive component, JAWS has him far behind Rollins and 43rd among shortstops, below Tony Fernández and Hanley Ramírez.  

That means my hypothetical ballot is: 

  1. Carlos Beltrán
  2. Gary Sheffield
  3. Scott Rolen
  4. Todd Helton
  5. Andruw Jones
  6. Billy Wagner
  7. Jeff Kent
  8. Bobby Abreu
  9. Mark Buehrle

Moving forward, at the bare minimum, Kent falls off the ballot for next voting cycle as this is his 10th and final try. Rolen could get in this time around, too, meaning it's possible for three open spots for the 2024 class. Newcomers Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer, Chase Utley and possibly a few others are going to have something to say. And then for 2025, Ichiro Suzuki and CC Sabathia enter the fray and ... I'm sorry for getting so far ahead of things -- I'm just too excited about that one since it'll be my first real vote. 

As things stand, if you hate my ballot you can rest easy that it's not the real thing. Yet.