Next year's Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will be quite a bit better than this year's. While it obviously won't have Jeff Kent (who is being dropped off after his 10th year of eligibility) or the newly elected Scott Rolen, the newer guys could even feature two first ballot HOFers among a number of strong players.
Adrian Beltre is an automatic first ballot HOFer. As Dave Cullinane would say, this is a lock. He might have been the best defensive third basemen of his generation and finished his career with 3,166 hits and 477 home runs. He's also 11th all-time in doubles. I'm guessing he'll wear a Texas Rangers hat when he gets in. That's literally the only thing that is even remotely in doubt.
I also see Joe Mauer getting in eventually but it might take a couple years. Anytime you have a surefire HOFer like Beltre on the ballot, it can unfairly make everyone else seem a little weaker than they should. I explained in the blog below how the writers seem hellbent on throwing their power around making sure guys really earn their vote especially if it's getting that first ballot "honor".
Personally, I'd vote for Mauer any year he was on the ballot. He spent most of his career as a catcher and still won three batting titles. It wasn't like he was just hacking at shit either. He led the league on on-base percentage twice. It may have seemed like he was hurt a lot but unless you are Carlton Fisk, catchers do get hurt a ton. I know he wasn't as good when he moved to first base at the end of his career but he still finished with over 2,100 hits and a .306/.388/.439 slash line. My prediction is he gets in on the 2026 ballot. That group is very weak (best players are Ryan Braun and Cole Hamels). That could be a year for a lot of guys who are the fringe on this ballot to get in. Hopefully, I am wrong and Mauer gets in next year.
The road looks a lot tougher for Chase Utley. He got a very late start to his career and didn't play over 100 games in a season until he was 26 years old. Because of that, he only finished with 1,885 hits. You may not care about that at all but the writers do. In the last 50 years, the writers haven't voted in a single hitter with under 2,000 hits. Now, that may change when Buster Posey makes the ballot. He seems to have a ton of early support. But catchers are held to a different standard. I don't see Utley getting in.
The rest of the ballot is interesting but they are all players with major reasons why they won't get in. Bartolo Colon got popped for using PED's. David Wright was on his way to Cooperstown but his back ended his career far too early. He had even less hits than Utley (1,777). Matt Holliday and Adrian Gonzalez are great choices for the Hall of the Very Good. Jose Reyes would have been borderline at best before his domestic assault suspension.
Adding in all of the guys to a ballot that already has five guys remaining on the ballot that had 46.5% or more, this is going to be a really strong group. It's also going to be Gary Sheffield's final year on the ballot. Here's who I would vote for right now out of next year's group:
I hope I am wrong but my very early prediction is only Beltre and Helton get in.