Sunday, February 25, 2024

Todd Helton, Joe Mauer head to Baseball Hall of Fame after increasingly rare one-team MLB careers

The 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame class is set: Adrián Beltré, Jim Leyland, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton are heading to Cooperstown later this year. While Beltré was a no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famer and Leyland was elected by a committee in December, the induction of Mauer and Helton came down to the wire. Helton got 79.7% of the baseball writer’s vote, and Mauer narrowly cleared the 75% threshold with 76.1%.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class is not all Helton and Mauer share, either. We’re going to discuss the pair in this space and, more narrowly, their teams. Specifically, how they were both one-team players in their MLB careers. It’s something that’s becoming increasingly rare in this day and age, but both Mauer (Twins) and Helton (Rockies) only suited up for one franchise. Will we see the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout get there as well? Maybe some of the younger generation (Ronald Acuña Jr.?) can too, but it’s still a rare occasion. 

We last saw a one-team player make the Hall on the 2020 vote, when Derek Jeter did so. Before Jeter, it was Mariano Rivera and Edgar Martínez (2019), Chipper Jones (2018), Jeff Bagwell (2017) and Craig Biggio (2015) in the last decade and there doesn’t appear to be anyone else joining the group until Buster Posey (2027). That means only Helton and Mauer from 2021-26 head to the Hall of Fame from the one-team club.

Todd Helton was drafted eighth overall by the Rockies out of the University of Tennessee (fun fact: he was the backup quarterback behind Peyton Manning) in 1995. He never left the organization, debuting in 1997 and retiring after the 2013 season. He played 2,247 games with the Rockies and zero with any other ballclub. He holds the Rockies record for games played by 747(!), a figure that is more than double everyone aside from Charlie Blackmon, Carlos González and Larry Walker. 

Helton will join Larry Walker as the only players sporting a Rockies cap on their plaques in Cooperstown. Walker played for the Expos and Cardinals, though, so Helton is the first player in the Hall to only play for the Rockies. 

Joe Mauer was the first overall pick out of high school in the ballyhooed 2001 draft that featured college superstars Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira. He debuted as a 20-year-old catcher in 2004 and finished his career with the Twins in 2018. In his 15 seasons with the team, he played in 1,858 games. He ranks sixth in franchise history in games, but if we narrow it to only Twins (and not Washington Senators), Mauer only trails Harmon Killebrew. 

Mauer will join Killebrew, Rod Carew, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva with a Twins cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. Puckett, Oliva and Mauer are the only players in the Hall who only played for the Twins. 

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