The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
2020 a pivotal year for Hall of Fame voting

Last year we saw the first unanimously elected player, Mariano Rivera, voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Every BBWAA voter acknowledged the Yankees relief specialist was the best-ever at his position.

We will likely see another unanimous selection this year, Derek Jeter, one of Rivera’s teammates on the Yankee dynasty teams of 1996-2003.  By the time he had finished his superb 20-year career, Jeter achieved the status of Yankee legend along with Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra.  Unlike Rivera, Jeter wasn’t necessarily the best shortstop ever to play in the majors, but his career numbers and role in attaining five World Series rings certainly match up with the best of all-time.

The big question in this year’s Hall election is whether Jeter will be the only selection, or some of the other players under the shroud of the PED era will finally get over the hump in receiving the required minimum 75% of the votes.

Aside from Jeter, the remainder of the newcomers on this year’s ballot don’t measure up to traditional Hall standards.  The best of the rest includes Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, Paul Konerko, Alfonso Soriano, and Cliff Lee, but none of them would even make the “Hall of Very Good” in my book. 

When you add the fact that the 2021 class will be completely void of Hall-worthy candidates (very good, but not great, players Tim Hudson, Mark Buehrle, and Torii Hunter top the list), voters will have difficulty filling out their entire ballot with 10 votes, unless they include players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Gary Sheffield, all of whom have been previously tainted by suspicion of PED use.  And there’s also Manny Ramirez who tested positively for PEDs.

Hall voters will be further tested on their position around treatment of players with PED use, when superstars Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz come up on the ballot for the first time in 2022.  Unlike Bonds and Clemens, there is little mystery about A-Rod and Big Papi, since both tested positive for PEDs.

Many voters have already changed their initial stance on Bonds and Clemens, evidenced by their percentages have risen in the past few years.  They are both currently shy of 60%.  With the shortage of other truly worthwhile candidates, the situation could provide the impetus for additional voters to get them to the required 75%.

If Clemens and/or Bonds are finally elected this year, I believe it will open the door wider for others (including those under suspicion, testing positive, and admitting to use) to get in.  That’s why this year’s results could be a real indicator in determining the future of Hall membership with respect to acceptance of PED users.

I’ve use my blog in past year to cast my own votes for the Hall of Fame, even though they are actually inconsequential in the grand scheme.

Re-visiting my votes in 2019, I included Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Roy Halladay, and Mike Mussina, all of whom got elected by the BBWAA voters.  I also voted for Bonds, Clemens, Curt Schilling, Larry Walker, Todd Helton, and Gary Sheffield.  I realize I’m in the minority by continuing to vote for Sheffield, who garnered only 16.5% in his fifth year of eligibility.  However, if Harold Baines and Ted Simmons are Hall of Famers (with whom I disagree), so is Sheffield.

This year I’m sticking with my six carryovers and adding Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Omar Vizquel, and Jeff Kent.  Yes, I’m crossing another threshold by including Ramirez, who tested positive for PED use.

I’ve been sitting on the fence in past years regarding voting for players with the PED halo.  I drew the line with players who actually tested positive; hence that justified (at least in my mind) my vote for Bonds and Clemens.

However, I’m crossing that line this year with Ramirez.  Here’s why.

The complaint against PED users has always been that those players “cheated” in order to gain an advantage.  When PEDs were first being used in 1998, highlighted by the home run craze generated by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, and then later by Barry Bonds, it created much-needed renewed interest in the game.  Major League Baseball initially turned a blind eye to the situation, until the Mitchell Report exposed widespread use.  It was only after public awareness of the situation that MLB was forced to take action with drug-testing and penalties.

More recently, MLB admitted to using a different baseball for the 2019 season, which contributed to the record number of home runs.  Again, it was good for boosting interest in the game, but didn’t it create a disadvantage for pitchers?  In my opinion, the situation amounted to a form of cheating by hitters, except in this case it was done on a planned league-wide basis, versus an individual choice basis like PED use.  But does that make it more acceptable?  Won’t the individual performance of players in this new “livelier ball” era skew comparisons with players from the past?  That was supposedly one of the complaints of the PED era.

What I’ve come to realize (and accept) is that the game evolves and goes through changes (planned and unplanned) that affect how the game is played.  The PED era was unfortunate in that MLB didn’t fully admit to and address it sooner.  But in looking back, it was just another period of change.  (Remember when cortisone shots were frequently taken by pitchers to overcome arm and elbow pain so that they could get their next start in the rotation?  Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax was famous for that.)

So, I am casting my vote for Ramirez now and will be voting for A-Rod and Big Papi when they become eligible in two years.  And 20 years down the road, if I’m still kicking, I’ll be voting for Cody Bellinger and Pete Alonso for the huge number of home runs they’re hitting now with the livelier, “juiced” baseball.

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