It's that time of year again for The Baseball Writers Association of America to announce the annual Hall of Fame class. If you're looking for any former Chicago Cubs players to make it to Cooperstown, you'll have to wait another year, but the writers did elect three very deserving fan favorites. Adrián Beltré (95.1%), Joe Mauer (76.1%), and Todd Helton (79.7%) all made the cut this year and will be officially enshrined this summer.
From the moment his name appeared on the ballot, Beltré was a shoo-in for the Hall. Throughout his 20 seasons in the majors, the Dominican third baseman racked up a career 83.8 fWAR with a stellar .286/.339/.480 slash line, good for a 115 wRC+. He's considered one of the greatest to ever play the hot corner with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs, four All-Star appearances, five Gold Gloves, two Platinum Gloves, and four Silver Slugger Awards in stints with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox, and Rangers. On top of everything, he was one of baseball's most entertaining personalities, known for quarreling with Joe West and palling around with the shortstop beside him in Texas, Elvis Andrus.
Another first-timer, Mauer has a curious Cubs connection. In 2001, the Minnesota Twins drafted the backstop #1 overall ahead of Mark Prior out of fear that they wouldn't be able to sign the eventual Cubs hurler. That move landed the much-hyped Prior on the North Side, where he became a memorable, but tragically short-lived part of their fire-balling rotation with Kerry Wood while Mauer would anchor the Twins for his entire 15-year career.
That interesting/heartbreaking what-if scenario aside, Mauer's candidacy was interesting to consider. His ability was hardly in question - he posted a career .306/.388/.439 slash line with a 123 wRC+, 2,123 hits, six All-Star nods, five Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and three batting titles. He peaked with his absurd 2009 MVP season where he slashed .365/.444/.587 with a 170 wRC+ as a backstop. However, he only racked up 53 fWAR and, although his best years came as a catcher, he also spent over 5,000 of his over 13,000 innings played as a first baseman. Despite the doubts, he's now only the third catcher to become a first-ballot Hall of Famer, joining Iván Rodriguez and Johnny Bench.
Helton finally got the call on his sixth year on the ballot, uniting him with his fellow long-suffering slugger Larry Walker. After years of being held down by the "Coors effect," the career Colorado Rockie was acknowledged for his bat. As a first baseman, he held an impressive .316/.414/.539 career slash line and 132 wRC+ with 54.9 career fWAR. Cubs pitchers from that era will remember being tortured by Helton, who held a career .932 OPS against the Northsiders. Add in five All-Star nods, four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and a batting title, and his case was clear.
Billy Wagner barely misses the call to Cooperstown
Unfortunately, 2024 was still not the year for closer Billy Wagner, who fell just short with 73.8% of the vote. Chances are good that he'll get in next year, but it'll be his tenth round on the ballot, meaning he only has one shot left to make it to the Hall of Fame. He certainly deserves it as one of the greatest lefty relievers to ever play the game, with a career 2.31 ERA, 422 saves, and 1,196 strikeouts in 903 innings. He was also a seven-time All-Star between the Astros, Mets, Phillies, Braves, and Red Sox.
Congratulations to the three newest Hall of Famers who will join manager Jim Leyland in the Class of 2024. Leyland was elected by the Contemporary Era Committee last year for his impressive career in which he led three teams to a pennant and got the Marlins a World Series in 1997. The Cubs had a chance to send someone to Cooperstown with Lou Piniella, but the skipper fell a vote short of enshrinement from the committee.