Beltré, Mauer eligible for Baseball Hall of Fame next year

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Scott Rolen is headed to the Hall of Fame. Next year, make way for another star third baseman.

Adrian Beltre highlights the first-time eligibles for 2024. While Rolen’s election Tuesday capped an impressive six-year rise in his vote total, Beltre has a good chance to go in on the first ballot. Although he was never an MVP, he finished his career with 3,166 hits, 477 home runs and five Gold Gloves, remaining productive all the way through his final season at age 39.

Joe Mauer, Chase Utley, David Wright, Jose Bautista and Matt Holliday are also expected to make their debuts on the ballot next year. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles and was the American League MVP in 2009.

It was no surprise that several players made big jumps in the voting this year. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling – all of whom received majority support but fell short of the 75% threshold for induction – weren’t on the ballot anymore. Since there’s a 10-player maximum for each voter, when candidates like that are no longer an option, others can benefit.

Rolen improved from 63.2% to 76.3%, Todd Helton from 52.0% to 72.2% and Billy Wagner from 51.0% to 68.1%. Andruw Jones went from 41.1% to 58.1%.

The presence of Beltre, Mauer and Utley, however, could make it harder for other players to gain ground next year. Helton still has five more years on the ballot and Jones has four. Wagner, however, has only two more chances.

“Helton’s going to be pulling something like three-quarters of the vote, and Beltre might be the first guy to threaten a hundred percent since (Derek) Jeter and Mariano (Rivera), and then there’s certainly going to be a lot of Mauer and Utley support, I’d think,” said Ryan Thibodaux, who runs the online Hall of Fame ballot tracker that allows fans to follow the voting process as it unfolds each year.

“Is Wagner able to get that final 7% in one shot, or does it take him until his 10th ballot? I think that’s going to be really interesting to watch next year.”

DECENT START

Next year also seems like a significant one for Carlos Beltran, who received the support of 46.5% of the voters in his debut on the ballot. That type of first-year performance normally bodes very well for a candidate, but Beltran’s total was probably hurt by his role in the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal.

“I made a bit of a joke in our Slack of our tracker team, that we should have, this entire time, been tracking who either said explicitly or sort of hinted that they were giving like a one-year punishment,” Thibodaux said. “I can only kind of anecdotally say that I think there are a significant number of voters who are planning to vote for him next year who didn’t vote for him this year.”

Bonds and Clemens, dogged by performance-enhancing drug accusations, seemed to hit a ceiling in the vote after a while. If Beltran is treated in a similar fashion he could be in trouble, but if voters indeed are only planning to penalize him for one year, that should be evident in 2024.

LAST CHANCE

Gary Sheffield received 55.0% of the vote, and next year is his last on the ballot. He needs to pull off a repeat of Larry Walker’s final-year surge.

Walker was at 54.6% in 2019. Then he made it to 75% the following year in his last chance.

But Jack Morris received 67.7% in his second-to-last year and never did get voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He was later elected by the Modern Era committee. That puts the jump Sheffield needs in perspective.

“That is going to be a really tough leap for him,” Thibodaux said.

Brown hired as general manager of Houston Astros

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HOUSTON — In joining the World Series champion Houston Astros, new general manager Dana Brown’s goal is to keep the team at the top of the league.

“I’m coming to a winning team and a big part of what I want to do is sustain the winning long term,” he said. “We want to continue to build, continue to sign good players, continue to develop players and continue the winning success.”

Brown was hired by the Astros on Thursday, replacing James Click, who was not given a new contract and parted ways with the Astros just days after they won the World Series.

Brown spent the last four seasons as the vice president of scouting for the Atlanta Braves.

“He is very analytic savvy,” Astros’ owner Jim Crane said. “He’s a great talent evaluator based upon what we’ve seen at the Braves, seasoned at player acquisitions, seasoned at player development and retention. They were often able to extend some of their player contracts… he’s got great people skills, excellent communicator and, last but not least, he’s a baseball player and knows baseball in and out and we were very impressed with that.”

The 55-year-old Brown becomes the only Black general manager in the majors and joins manager Dusty Baker to form just the second pairing of a Black manager and general manager in MLB history. The first was general manager Ken Williams and manager Jerry Manuel with the White Sox.

Brown said he interviewed for GM jobs with the Mets and Mariners in the past and that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told him to stay positive and that his time to be a general manager would come.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “We understand that there are a lot of qualified African Americans in the game that know baseball and that could be a big part of an organization and leading organization in baseball operations. So at the end of the day, I think it’s good for our sport to have diversity and I’m really excited for this opportunity.”

Crane was asked about having the league’s only Black general manager.

“Certainly, we are very focused on diversity with the Astros,” he said. “It’s a plus, but the guy’s extremely qualified and he’ll do a great job. It’s nice to see a man like Dana get the job and he earned the job. He’s got the qualifications. He’s ready to go.”

Brown doesn’t have a lot of connections to the Astros, but does have some ties. He played baseball at Seton Hall with Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Astros and serves as special assistant to the general manager. He played against fellow Hall of Famer and special assistant to the general manager Jeff Bagwell in the Cape Cod league during a short minor league career.

Brown said he spoke to both of them before taking the job and also chatted with Baker, whom he’s know for some time.

“Dusty is old school, he cuts it straight and I like it,” Brown said. “And so that means I can cut it straight with him.”

Brown worked for the Blue Jays from 2010-18 as a special assistant to the general manager. From 2001-09 he worked as director of scouting for the Nationals/Expos. He began his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he spent eight years as their area scouting supervisor and East coast cross checker.

Click had served as Houston’s general manager since joining the team before the 2020 season from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Brown, who has been part of drafting a number of big-name players like Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman and last season’s National League rookie of the year Michael Harris, is ready to show Crane that bringing him to Houston was the right choice.

“Baseball is all I know, it’s my entire life,” he said. “So I want to empty myself into this city, the Astro fans and let Jim Crane know that he made a special pick.”