Scott Rolen leads Baseball Hall of Fame nominee class

None of the Baseball Hall of Fame nominees would have made a case like this. So let Montgomery Brewster – a failed but wealthy pitcher for the fictional Hackensack Bulls – sum up the message some voters have drawn names to enshrine this week.

“Write ‘none of the above’ on your ballot,” ordered New York City mayoral candidate Richard Pryor as the title character of “Brewster’s Millions,” the 1985 comedy. ‘between us !”

When the Hall of Fame announces the results of the latest Writers’ Ballot on Tuesday, “none of these answers” have a plausible chance of winning. Candidates need 75% of the vote to be registered, with 14 survivors and 14 newcomers to be considered this time around. Fred McGriff – elected by the Contemporary Era Committee in December – could be alone at the pulpit this summer in Cooperstown, NY

After choosing 22 players in seven elections from 2014 to 2020, the writers elected no one in 2021 and only David Ortiz last year. If the announcement reveals no new candidates, it will be the first three-year period with a single selection since annual voting began in 1966. (Elections were held in most, but not all, years before that.)

Writers have voted for the Hall of Fame since the first election, in 1936, when they selected five players, still the most they have chosen in a single year. The plaques of these five people – Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner – are displayed at the end of the gallery hall, in the center of the wall facing the entrance. They convey a sense of grandeur, a reminder that only the best of the best belong there.

“When you say someone’s name,” said Bob Hohler, a voter from his time with the Boston Globe, “you mean, ‘This guy’s a Hall of Famer.'”

The current ballot lacks irrefutable candidates. Leading home run hitters — Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez — have served suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Only two players besides Rodriguez have won the Most Valuable Player award (Jeff Kent and Jimmy Rollins), and top returning contenders Scott Rolen (63.2% last year) and Todd Helton (52%) , have never finished in the top three in an MVP. race.

Hohler, who covered the legendary 2004 Red Sox champions, cast a blank ballot for this election. He said the only candidates who met his standards for greatness were Ramirez and Rodriguez, whose documented histories of cheating kept them from voting.

According to Ryan Thibodaux, a Twitter user who follows the Hall of Fame vote, at least two other voters have publicly admitted submitting blank ballots. This is different from abstaining because it counts towards the total voter pool, thus increasing the number of votes needed to reach 75%.

But principles are principles: if a voter decides that no one deserves to be elected, that opinion can also be incorporated into the result.

“Maybe I voted for six or seven at first, but I’ve definitely moved on,” said Hohler, 71, who won’t vote in the next election as he’s reached a decade since his last year covering the baseball.

“I’ve been to Cooperstown many times, and it really is hallowed ground. I think we change it if we open the doors every year to eight or nine guys who were very good but just don’t belong on this platform. There are players you can make a case for at every level, but are they really worth it? »

The laborious process of being elected to the Hall of Fame often takes years to unfold; the writers did not elect anyone in 2013, but 10 players from that ballot were eventually inducted, four by special committees. Indeed, at least 30 writers in this election voted for 10 players, the maximum allowed.

“I’ve always been a ‘big venue’ guy because if we really had to stick to a small venue, there’s a lot of people who I don’t think should be there,” Mark Feinsand said. from, who voted 10. “If we put guys like Harold Baines and Craig Biggio, there are guys on this ballot who have had the same career as them. So the standard has been set for what constitutes a Hall of Famer.

Feinsand voted for newcomer to a ballot, Carlos Beltrán, along with Helton, Kent, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Rolen, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield and Billy Wagner. It’s an imperfect group, he says, but a group that belongs.

“The players I voted for all played leading roles in their time,” Feinsand said. “There’s no Ken Griffey Jr., no Derek Jeter, no Chipper Jones; everyone on this ballot has some sort of flaw on their resume. But you don’t have to be in the top 1% of the top 1%. If we started doing that, we would only have 38 players in the Hall of Fame. If you want to be a “small hall” voter, that’s fine – but it’s not a small hall.

McGriff, who hit 493 career home runs but peaked at 39.8% in his decade on the writers’ ballot, is the 269th player in the Hall of Fame. Around 22,850 people are considered to have played in the majors, meaning that inductees are indeed only 1% of the total.

Convince three-quarters of voters – out of a group of around 400 – that you belong to that top 1%? It’s hard. This election will prove it once again. But let’s remember the words of another fictional baseball man, Jimmy Dugan, the “A League of Their Own” manager, played by Tom Hanks:

“It’s supposed to be tough,” he said, later adding, “That’s what makes it great.”

nytimes sport

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