Monday, July 16, 2012

Derek Jeter, first unanimous baseball Hall of Famer?


The vote is in and it is unanimous. ”Could Derek Jeter be the first player to be unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame?”

That’s the question posed to many of the top baseball writers and broadcasters on hand for this year’s All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium. The answer was almost universal. He should be – but no, he will not.

The closest anyone has come to being unanimously elected was Tom Seaver, who received all but five votes in 1992. Nolen Ryan was on all but six ballots in 1999. The only others receiving at least 98 per cent are Ty Cobb, Cal Ripken and George Brett (98.2).

To be elected, a player must receive 75 percent of votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), who have been BBWAA members for at least 10 years. To remain on the ballot, players must receive at least five percent of the votes for up to 15 years, at which time their eligibility would be turned over to a veterans committee.

The question was put to several of those you see or hear regularly on ESPN – Chris Berman, Peter Gammons, Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian; writers from USA Today, Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Boston Globe and others; and the man in charge of conducting the annual Hall of Fame voting, BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell.

“I would say not,” said O’Connell. “I don’t think there will ever be anyone who will be elected unanimously. But to be honest, unanimity doesn’t mean anything to me. I think it’s the American way to be different so it doesn’t bother me.”

O’Connell said about 625 ballots are sent out each December. This past year, 573 were returned.

“Some newspapers (including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times) don’t let their writers vote,” said O’Connell. Also, this year nine blank ballots were turned in, supposedly by writers protesting the era of steroids.

There are those who take issue that HOF induction should be left to the writers but O’Connell disagrees.

“These are writers who have been watching baseball for more than 10 years who take voting very seriously,” said O’Connell. “Who better to vote? I think our track record is excellent. We get 95 percent return of ballots which is unheard of. I can’t see one member who should be taken out.”

Jeter’s qualifications are certainly impeccable. With more than 3,200 career hits (13th all-time) and just turned 38, it’s not out of line to project another 500 hits which would push him past No. 4 Stan Musial (3,630) and within range of No. 3 Hank Aaron (3,771) behind Pete Rose (4,256) and Ty Cobb (4,191). Equally important, he’s never been tarnished by the use of steroids which will keep many other current stars out of the Hall of Fame.

With that, here are the opinions of some of the media’s very best:

CHRIS BERMAN, ESPN – “Twenty-four voters didn’t vote for Willie Mays. Not everyone voted for Hank Aaron, I don’t get it. Jeter has more hits than anyone in my time. No one has ever thought of Jeter being a .370 hitter but he has more hits than George Brett. Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn; more than Cal Ripken who played 50 years. So the answer is no; no one ever has. What can I say? It’s goofy. But I’m not one of the 500 or 600 voters so they can’t blame me.”

TIM KURKIJAN, ESPN analyst and contributor to ESPN The Magazine and – “There’s no reason why not to vote him in but someone won’t vote for him if for no other reason than to call attention to themselves. I’m not saying he should be elected because he’s on the list of top five shortstops; that he has 3,000 hits, that’s he’s the captain of the Yankees. But if there’s anyone who ever played the game the way it is supposed to by play, it’s Derek. He ran hard to first base on every single play. He plays the game the right way. But Willie Mays was not elected unanimously; Hank Aaron was not voted unanimously so no.”

BOB NIGHTENGALE, USA Today – “He could – but I don’t think it will happen. Some voters will not vote for anyone in the steroid era. I think he will break Tom Seaver’s record. Greg Maddux comes up in two years and he has a chance.”

TYLER KEPNER, New York Times – “It’s so hard, so many voters. Just one person could turn in a blank ballot. He’s the one with the best chance. He’s certainly deserving. Maddux should be a unanimous. If someone does not vote for them, they should not have a Hall of Fame ballot.”

PETER GAMMON, MLB and formerly ESPN  – “There are so many sub-mathematicians that someone would come up with some figures against voting for him. He’ll certainly make it on the first ballot but some people who think that there’s not any one who belongs on the first ballot which I think is ridiculous. Either you’re a Hall of Famer or not a Hall of Famer.”

JEFF PASSAN, Yahoo! Sports – “No, never. He should be. I just don’t have enough faith in the voting process. But I will vote for him. I just don’t think it’s ever going to happen.”

BUSTER OLNEY, ESPN baseball and columnist, ESPN The Magazine – “I don’t think so. There will always be someone who wants to draw attention to himself.”

STEVE WEIBERG, USA Today – “I would like to hear one good reason not to vote for Jeter.”

PEDRO GOMEZ, ESPN – “I vote and there’s no question he’s deserving. But there’s probably someone who doesn’t think anyone should be elected unanimously.

MICHAEL SILVERMAN, Boston Globe – “Probably not. No one else has although he’s deserving.’

ADAM KILGORE, Washington Post – “Might but there’s always some schmuck who just won’t vote for it. Maybe Greg Maddux. But a lot of great ones didn’t make it.”

STEVE STONE, Chicago White Sox broadcaster and former Cy Young winner – “Babe Ruth wasn’t elected unanimously. Who could leave off Babe Ruth? No one should leave Jeter off but probably someone will.”

JOE POSNANSKI, Sports Illustrated – “Probably not but I don’t know who would vote against him. Greg Maddux too, He has the stats. Someone might say Jeter is overrated but it will be close (to unanimous).”

This year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held in Cooperstown on Sunday, July 22, when Barry Larkin and the late Ron Santo will become the 298th and 299th HOF members. Larkin received 86.4 percent of this year’s voting; Santo was elected by the Golden Era Committee.

Should you enjoy controversy, look what’s coming up. This next HOF election promises to be one of the most intriguing ever because of the field of new candidates – Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa. Stay tuned.

PHOTO: Always popular with sportswriters and broadcasters, New York Yankee second baseman drew big crowds at media interviews at the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City. (Photos by Alan Hoskins)