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2020 HoF Class: Derek Jeter won’t be unanimous

BBWAA will deny perfection

Mariano Rivera stormed through the Baseball Hall of Fame doors last year with the first 100% total vote. This year, his longtime teammate Derek Jeter is on the ballot for the first time. Now, the speculation is whether or not Jeter will join Rivera in the “100 club”?

I say the answer is no.

Don’t @ me, hear me out. The Hall of Fame vote is completely unpredictable. Think of all the players prior to Rivera that didn’t get a 100% vote. Guys like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Greg Maddux.

There’s no automatic answer to the question. While Rivera stood out as tops among his peers, there are those members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) who may not feel that Jeter was the top at his position. And, may subsequently leave him off the ballot.

Voters may not feel that Jeter should be the first position player to be a 100. It’s a ridiculous reason but it’s one that affected the voting process for decades. Jeter should get a perfect score for his play on the field, his leadership in the Yankees’ clubhouse, and being one of the premier faces of Major League Baseball.

But as far as the numbers go, Jeter’s stat sheet should speak for itself:

2,747 Games Played (29th)
3,465 Hits (6th)
.310 Batting Avg
817 OPS
1,923 Runs Scored (11th)
358 Stolen Bases
5 World Series Rings, 7 Pennants
1996 AL Rookie of the Year
2000 World Series MVP
14-time All-Star
8 Top-10 MVP finishes

Jeter’s detractors over the years – other players, members of the media, etc., have said the Yankees would have won those titles with a different shortstop. They called him overrated and ranked him as one of the most overpaid players in the game. They point out his defensive shortcomings, never taking into account how many times he played in pain without saying anything.

But, the bottom line is that Jeter was one of the greatest all-around players in the game, taking everything into account…his numbers, his clutch play, his representation of the Yankees and the game itself. And, he did it all in the white-hot spotlight of New York and under the scrutiny of one of the most temperamental owners in any sport in George Steinbrenner.

Now it’s time to put the BS aside, and include the former Yankees’ captain on every ballot.

The Holdovers

In addition to Rivera, Edgar Martinez (85.4%), Roy Halladay (85.4%), and Mike Mussina (76.7%) received the minimum 75% of the vote or better to be inducted in the MLB Hall of Fame this past Summer.

The next five closest players to the required minimum were:

Curt Schilling 60.9%
Roger Clemens 59.5%
Barry Bonds 59.1%
Larry Walker 54.6%

I expect Schilling and Walker to see an increase but not attain the required 75% of the vote. Walker, in his 10th and final year on the ballot, was a great player, but doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. If you induct Walker then you better start looking more seriously at players like Bernie Williams.

I’m admittedly biased against “Ketchup-sock Schilling” but I can see an eventual path to the Hall based on metrics that go beyond his low number of career wins (216) and his lifetime ERA (3.46). He’s also in the 3,000 K club. That being said, while you can compare numbers to the recently inducted Mike Mussina, Schilling spent 14 of his 20 seasons facing weaker National League lineups. The feeling here is that he will eventually get in through the Veterans Ballot.

As far as the PED class goes, it’s hard to tell what the voters will do this year. The 2020 vote will definitely test how things shape up in the future for those who failed tests and those who remain under a cloud of suspicion. With both Clemens and Bonds close to 60% and with Jeter being the only player from this year’s freshman class worthy of election, it’s not inconceivable that one or both could get the required votes this time around (neither would ever get a vote from me).

A drop off would indicate they will never attain induction through the BBWAA. The prediction here is that both miss out this time around.

The Rest of the Field

It’s really simple to eliminate everyone other than Jeter when you see the players that are on the BBWAA ballot for the first time.

The top pitchers are Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett. The best hitters are Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, and Alfonso Soriano. The latter three cracked over 400 home runs in their career, but none of the aforementioned pitchers and players are Hall of Fame-worthy.

Most of this year’s freshman class will be eliminated from future ballots for not being named on 5% of the ballots.

The Veterans Ballot

The most interesting voting could come from this year’s Veterans Committee. They will be voting on Lou Whitaker, Tommy John, Dwight Evans, Dale Murphy, Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson, Dave Parker, and Steve Garvey.

I’ve felt for a long time Simmons deserves to be in the Hall and I stand by my convictions. He played 21 seasons with the main crux of his career being a 15-year period from 1971-1985. During that stretch, he caught 1,650 games and amassed the majority of his 2,472 hits.

Had he played first base his entire career, there’s no way that Simmons would be Hall of Fame material, but as a catcher, he is deserving of enshrinement. Currently, there are a mere 18 catchers in the Hall. Only one of which, Johnny Bench, played in relatively the same time period.

Bench, of course, was a sure-fire Hall of Famer. While Simmons doesn’t have Bench’s offensive numbers or defensive acumen, his overall game is still deserving of the nod.

There has been a long-held belief that the BBWAA did wrong by Lou Whitaker. Now, the Veterans Committee has a chance to put Whitaker into the Hall alongside his double-play partner Alan Trammell. Whitaker’s numbers are not all that different than Ryne Sandberg, who was inducted in 2005. Whitaker should be in Cooperstown this Summer.

Tommy John won 288 career games and threw over 3,500 innings in a 26-year career. That he played that long is amazing considering, and a testament to, the surgery that was named after him. His longevity isn’t enough of a reason to induct him in Cooperstown.

The Jeter Ballot

There’s a high probability that Jeter will be the only inductee in the 2020 class, marking this first time since 2012 (Barry Larkin) that the BBWAA selected only one eligible player. Whitaker and Simmons deserve to join him in the coming year’s class.