10 things we learned from the Hall of Fame voting

by Gary Shelton on January 23, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

There are lessons to be taken from the legends. There are morals in the lore. For all of the stories that will be told, and retold, from this year's Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, there are messages for the rest of us.

All you have to do is pay attention.

1. The Unanimous Guy: It's okay to agree on basic facts. The sun rises in the East. Death waits for us all. There is music on the radio. Oh, yeah. And Mariano Rivera is the best darned closer who ever put on cleats.

How good was Rivera? No one -- no one -- voted against him. No Yankee-haters. No wise-acre guy who doesn't want anyone to be unanimous because, by golly, Babe Ruth -- who played when televisions showed games on the radio --  wasn't unanimous. No contrarians. Four-hundred and 25 voters vote, and all of them had their thumbs up.

It's amazing when you remember that the closer is a relatively new phenomenon. I read a stat Tuesday night that said when Rivera

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started closing games, there were only two relievers in the Hall of Fame. Now, it's as essential as a good shortstop.

Rivera saved 652 games for the Yankees, and he was a part of five World Series winners. If you keep him out of the Hall, you might as well shut it down.

2. DHs are people, too: For a long time, the voters didn't seem to think so. Remember the snarky asides that DH's were "half a ballplayer." But Martinez was a solid contributor.

It was a 10-year wait for Martinez -- who was in his final year of eligibility. Martinez joins Red Ruffing (1967), Ralph Kiner (1975), Jim Rice (2009) and Tim Raines (2017) as the only players to be elected in their final turn.

Martinez didn't play his first full season in the majors until he was 27.

3. Drugs are bad ... still: Neither Roger Clemens nor Barry Bonds, both suspected of PED usage, came close to making the cut in this, their seventh chance. Clemens was named on 59.5% of the submitted ballots while Bonds received 59.1%, falling 66 and 68 votes shy, respectively.

Both players would be shoo-ins without the suspicions. Bonds won seven MVP awards; Clemens won seven Cy Youngs. But any linkage to performance enhancers can ruin a player's chances.

4. Why not the Crime Dog? In his final year on the ballot, Fred McGriff fell far short of eligibility. It's a shame. If you take away the 1994 strike, he would have had more than 500 homers. If you strip away the numbers of the PED users, his would been among the best in the game.

Even at that, it's easy to build a case that McGriff was a better player than Martinez and Harold Baines.

McGriff was 10th in the voting with 169 votes.

5. You don't have to win 300 anymore: For years, that was the golden number for pitchers. But this year, Roy Halladay got in after only 203 wins.

Get used to it. Baseball has turned into such a game of matchups and specialists that a starting pitcher doesn't win as often as he used to. Wins were never a reliable basis of judging a pitcher, of course, which means that from now on, voters will have to look deeper.

Halladay did win enough that he had a perfect game and a no-hitter in the playoffs.

6. The Moose is loose: Mike Mussina barely snuck into the Hall, getting only 76.7 percent of the vote. He made the cut by seven votes.

Still, he seems to fit. He had some of the best stuff in the game, and he left a lot of memories.

7. It doesn't help if you're a tool: Curt Schilling certainly had some Hall of Fame moments, but he's been a notorious knucklehead since leaving the game. He has ripped transgenders and Muslims.
How much did that hurt his candidacy? Who knows? He received 60.9 percent of the vote, which puts him and McGriff in position to be elected by the Today's Game Era Committee eventually (they are eligible in three years).
8. Better today than yesterday: If there is one bit of amusement to the voting, it's how retired players -- who don't get another hit or record another strikeout -- keep climbing in the voting. Mussina went from getting 20.3 percent of the vote in his first year and climbed (to 43 percent, to 51.6 percent, to 63.5 percent to getting in). Martinez went from getting 36.2 percent and climbed (to 43.4 to 58.5 to 70.4 to getting in).
9. Next year, say hello to Derek: There is always a certain amount of intrigue. Could Clemens and Bonds finally get past the arguments against them? Could Schilling get a boost from Donald Trump's endorsements.
Either way, the field will be led by ex-Yankee Derek Jeter.
10: A vote with no recount: Again, the only truly amazing thing that happened Tuesday was Rivera's being unanimous. It was never supposed to happen. In 2016, a buddy of mine -- Richard Justice of MLB.com -- wrote that there would never be an unanimous inductee. Now there is.
Think about it. No no votes. There were three no votes for Ken Griffey Jr., who had the previous high vote. Tom Seaver had five voters who didn't think enough of him. Nolan Ryan had six. Cal Ripken Jr. had 8.
Want more?  Ty Cobb had four. George Brett had nine. Hank Aaron had nine. Way down on the list, Ruth had 11 voters say no.
And Rivera? He pitched a no-no.
Good for him.

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