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Keith Strudler: Say Yes To The Hall

New York Sports fans finally have a reason to celebrate, if only for a moment. And for someone that admittedly hasn’t played sports for New York or anyone for some time. That’s because beloved former New York Yankee Derek Jeter was just voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. Also voted into this year’s class was Larry Walker, who made it in his 10th and final year on the list. That is the largest group voted in since 2016, which also had two inductees.

As you likely know, getting in requires at least 75% the vote, which comes from a big group of current and former baseball writers, known as the Baseball Writers Association of America. Getting that number is quite difficult, particularly as many in the group see protecting entry into the Hall of equal importance to say, NASA or Buckingham Palace. Which means the default answer for most every voter for most every candidate is “no.” It’s as if the entire association is made up of people who used to work at the DMV.

That said, only one player in history has gotten in with unanimous vote, meaning every single writer said yes on the very first ballot. That person was former Yankees’ reliever Mariano Rivera, who last year received 100% on all submitted ballots. That topped the previous mark of 99.3% for Ken Griffey Jr. in 2016, when three out of 440 voters didn’t give him the nod, much to the chagrin of anyone with common sense.

Which brings us to Derek Jeter, one of the greatest and most beloved athletes in American sports history, with all apologies to Red Sox fans. His election was a foregone conclusion, and it would be fairly impossible to create a coherent argument against it. It seems that at least one person disagrees. That’s one baseball writer, the single voter of 397 that did not include Jeter on their ballot. Which means that Derek Jeter will not become the second unanimous election into the Hall and such distinction will remain as elusive as an interview with Bigfoot.

There’s a lot conjecture and rationale about why people do or don’t vote for hall of fame candidates, especially ones that are pretty much a lock. In some cases, there’s a contrarian ethos that seems to permeate particular sports writers. Like one last year who until closing hours wasn’t convinced that Rivera belonged, despite a mountain of statistical evidence. It’s kind of like people who just aren’t quite convinced that global warming is real, even when they’re standing underwater in what used to be Miami. There’s another group of writers that may believe that someone like Jeter belongs in, but they just don’t deserve a unanimous vote. So they’ll vote no just to preserve the sanctity of that particular accolade, saving it for the moment when the messiah decides to play baseball.

I tend to take a fairly ambivalent view towards this and really any Hall of Fame. I’ve never really cared about comparing athletes from different generations any more than I care about comparing my first car in high school to what I drive now. For the record, it had a lot less dirt from soccer cleats and no dog ever threw up in the back seat. So perhaps I’m not the best authority on how any Hall of Fame voting should work, for baseball, football, or otherwise.

But as long as we’re going to maintain a Hall, I would suggest this. At it’s very core, any Hall of Fame should preserve all the best a sport has to offer throughout its history. It should recognize greatness, but certainly not at the expense of reasonable inclusion. It’s like if you went to the dessert hall of fame, you’d want to have a Hot Fudge Sundae and cupcakes, not just one because it was better.

In my mind, this is where baseball writers have it wrong. They see their job as keeping out as many people out as possible. If I’m a baseball fan, I want it just the opposite. I want them find a way to put as many great players in as possible. And if they deserve it, to give it them unanimously. On the first ballot. And believe it or not, it wouldn’t actually ruin the Hall. It might just make it a place more people want to go.

By the way, in their eighth year, Curt Schilling, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds have all cracked 60%, meaning they’re closing in as the window starts to shut. I have no idea whether enough sports writers will vote yes and let them in, baggage and all. But if this year is any guide, I’m fairly certain there’s at least one person that won’t.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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