Jeter was the best of bad Hall of Fame class

by Gary Shelton on January 22, 2020

in general

Jeter was nearly unanimous.

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

You say you're looking for someone who isn't going to be honored by the Hall of Fame. You're looking for someone who will honor the Hall of Fame by his presence.

Well, you've got Derek Jeter.

And after that, you've got Derek Jeter.

And did I mention Derek Jeter?

Jeter was elected to the Hall Tuesday, getting 99.7 percent of the vote. Only Larry Walker also got in and just barely.

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In Jeter's case, it was a foregone conclusion. He was going to get in if they had to move out some others to make room. His total percentage of the vote (one short of being unanimous) was second-highest of all-time, behind only former teammate Mariano Rivera, who was unanimous. (It was just ahead of Ken Griffey Jr., who missed by three votes; Ty Cobb, who missed by four; Tom Seaver, who missed by five; Nolan Ryan, who missed by six; and Cal Ripkin Jr, who missed by eight. Both Hank Aaron and George Brett missed by nine.

Aside from Jeter, however, it was largely an unlovable bunch of candidates. What? Were you really supposed to feel warm and fuzzy over Barry Bonds? Over Roger Clemens? Do you feel good about making Curt Schilling and his loony ideas immortal? ˙How about Sammy Sosa and Manny Ramirez?

Even for a guy who thinks performance should be 95 percent of the vote, that's a hard class to swallow. There were rule-breakers left and right, corner-cutters and out and out cheats. It's a hard group to embrace.

For the most part, yeah, I can see that Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame. Clemens, too. Maybe even Shilling (who should be the first inductee to wear a tin-foil hat).

But it's up to someone else to vote them in. I just can't bring to do it.

I know, I know. As a voter, that's passing the buck. But stats are one thing, and what you believe is another. I wouldn't have any problem if Bonds, Clemens and the Hole-in-the-arm gang get him. I'm just not going to help them buy a ticket.

Ah, but then there is Jeter, a Hall of Famer you can get behind.

No, Jeter wasn't perfect. You can find a lot of arguments about his lack of range. I once chastised Jeter for squawking his way onto base as he claimed he was hit by a pitch; replays showed it hit the end of the bat and never touched him. I thought that was beneath someone of Jeter's reputation, frankly. I still do.

Still, the public loved loving Jeter. In the time of steroids, they needed a Mr. Clean to admire, a winner who was slick and efficient, who wore his stardom like a leather mitt. Jeter was that guy. He was as admirable in the way he carried himself as, say, Cal Ripkin Jr. He was a star.

But for two decades, Jeter was the ultimate winner in the game. His Yankees won five World Series. He hit .310. He made 14 all-star teams. He had 3,465 hits. He drove in 1,311 runs. He scored 1,923 runs himself. He won five Silver Slugger Awards. He was a World Series MVP.

He was the voice of reason. There were other Yankees who would give you headlines with their bold talk. But when Jeter said something -- or did something -- it mattered. He was the Captain.

Yeah, that's worth remembering. I just would love to have the one guy who didn't vote for him explain to me why.

The rest of the class?

Larry Walker got in. I probably wouldn't have voted for him. His chief asset seemed to be that it was his last year on the ballot. But good for Walker for getting in.

Curt Schilling didn't. The guy with the bloody sock and the outlandish tongue got 70 percent of the vote. He'll probably get in next year. The voters on Mars will be excited.

Clemens got 61 percent and Bonds 60.7. To me, they're almost identical. The reason I would include both is that they both had Hall of Fame resumes before the world discovered steroids. I like Bonds better myself, but you can't feel horrible that neither got in.

Omar Vizquel got 52.6 percent of the vote. He would have gotten mine. He was slick and dangerous.

Scott Rolen got 35.3 percent of the vote. I wouldn't have voted for him. To me, his numbers are bigger than his legacy.

Billy Wagner? No. Gary Sheffield. Not quite. Todd Helton? No. Manny Ramirez. Hell no. Jeff Kent? No. Andrew Jones? No. Sammy Sosa? Double hell no. Andy Petite? No. Bobby Abreau? No.

For personal reasons, I supported Fred McGriff. I supposed Dale Murphy.

In all, it's hard to feel wronged in the name of anyone. Some years, there are. You can't understand why this guy got in and that guy didn't. You try to make sense of the numbers.

This year, there was Jeter.

And there was everyone else.

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