Why David Ginsburg Added Todd Helton, Billy Wagner To His HOF Ballot But Not Scott Rolen

Longtime Baltimore sportswriter David Ginsburg checked the boxes for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Todd Helton, David Ortiz, Andy Pettitte and Billy Wagner on his Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, he revealed on Glenn Clark Radio Jan. 11.

Final results will be announced on MLB Network Jan. 25, with players needing 75 percent of the vote share to be elected to the Hall of Fame via the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva, Buck O’Neil were elected by Hall committees in December.

Bonds, Clemens and Pettitte are holdovers from Ginsburg’s 2021 ballot, while Ortiz is a first-year candidate and appears to have a strong chance of being elected to the Hall this year. Regarding his support for players connected to PEDs, Ginsburg explained last year that his stance has softened on such players because of a lack of clarity about who was doing what in the Steroid Era.

That stance remained the same this year, with Bonds, Clemens, Pettitte and Ortiz all being connected to PEDs in some way.

“First few years, no way, and a lot of the voters have followed suit,” Ginsburg said of growing support for Bonds and Clemens, who are still likely to fall short of election in their final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot. “Bonds and Clemens got a lot of votes last year and I assume they’re going to pick up a few more this year as you separate yourself from what did happen and realize that heck, you don’t know how many people were using steroids back then.”

Helton and Wagner were added by Ginsburg after not previously being on his ballot. Helton, who played 17 seasons with the Colorado Rockies, may have caught a break with the 2020 election of Larry Walker. That could open the door for other longtime Rockies hitters to make it to the Hall of Fame. Coors Field has been the most hitter-friendly park in the big leagues since it opened in 1993. Thus, offensive numbers for Rockies hitters are looked at more harshly than they otherwise would.

Helton is a .316/.414/.539 career hitter, having piled up 2,519 hits, 592 doubles and 369 home runs during his 17 years. He was an All-Star every year from 2000-2004, which marked a remarkable five-year run for Helton (.349/.450/.643 with 250 doubles and 186 home runs). He ranks No. 15 in JAWS among first basemen.

“I just can’t punish the guy [for Coors Field],” Ginsburg said. “That would be like, ‘Well, I could’ve left Ortiz off my ballot because he played in friendly Fenway for so long.’ I just think Todd Helton was a good hitter anywhere. Yeah, his numbers were better in Colorado — and everyone’s would be — but I think over the course of his career, batting .316 is pretty impressive to go along with quite a few home runs.”

Helton got 44.9 percent of the vote share last year and is trending up in this year’s early returns. The same can be said for Wagner, who got 46.4 percent of the vote share in 2021. Fellow relievers Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman were elected in recent years, but Wagner has an uphill climb compared to those two. Rivera (652) and Hoffman (601) are Nos. 1 and 2 in saves all time, while Wagner is sixth (422).

Wagner was remarkably effective throughout his 17-year career. The power lefty posted a 2.31 ERA in 903 career innings, managing to miss a ton of bats (11.9 K/9) without walking many (3.0 BB/9). In 2010 — his age-39 season and final campaign before retiring — Wagner had a 1.43 ERA, 13.5 K/9 and 37 saves.

Wagner is No. 6 among relievers in JAWS, with the top five all having been enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

“He wasn’t the greatest closer. We’ll give that to Rivera,” Ginsburg said. “But I think he put up enough solid numbers over the course of a lengthy career to warrant a spot in the Hall of Fame. I think there are [three] lefties in the top 15 on the saves list, and he’s one of them. I think he distinguished himself over the course of his career as a Hall of Fame closer.”

Longtime third baseman Scott Rolen is also gaining support, but not from Ginsburg quite yet. Rolen, who got 52.9 percent of the vote share in 2021, won’t be elected this year, but he could be the top holdover on the 2023 ballot with Bonds, Clemens and Curt Schilling all falling off the ballot after this year.

Rolen played for 17 years, hitting .281/.364/.490 with 2,077 hits, 517 doubles and 316 home runs. He earned National League Rookie of the Year honors in 2002, went to seven All-Star Games and won eight Gold Gloves. He is No. 10 in JAWS among third basemen.

Ginsburg says Rolen is “on the cusp” of his ballot. He’ll give a longer look at him as well as Torii Hunter, Manny Ramirez, Álex Rodríguez and Omar Vizquel. But Rolen’s postseason numbers (.220/.302/.376, five homers) helped keep him off Ginsburg’s ballot for now, as did the injury-plagued second half of his career.

“I don’t think he closed as strong as some of the other guys did, i.e. David Ortiz,” Ginsburg said. “He’s probably going to get in. He might even get my vote in the future, but I didn’t think he was strong enough to be my seventh guy on the ballot. I’ve never voted all 10 that I am allowed to pick.”

For more from Ginsburg, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credits: Courtesy of the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals Archive

Luke Jackson

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