Beginning in January 2018, the BBWAA will have a new rule regarding the ballots for the Baseball Hall of Fame – all ballots will be made public. Up until January 2017, whether a ballot was made public was up to the voter him/herself or the newspaper the voter worked for. However, all that will change beginning one week after the announcement of the 2018 Hall of Fame class when the votes will be released.
I predict this will have a drastic change on the votes being cast for the Baseball Hall of Fame. No longer will voters simply be able to hide behind anonymity and cast votes for players like Aaron Sele while not casting a vote for Ken Griffey Jr. Voters will now feel pressure to explain their votes.
While this may lead to the voters feeling “peer pressure” and voting for popular players instead of deserving players, I do not see a player gaining induction that really did not deserve it in the first place – all it will really do is speed up the process so a player like Tim Raines will not waste away on the ballot for 10 years. Voters will no longer be able to withhold their vote because “no one gets a first-ballot vote from me” or “so and so was mean to me when I wrote about them”, at least not without being forced by their readers and social media to explain why.
The other effect of public votes will be we may finally have a player become the first unanimous inductee into the Hall of Fame. It is mind boggling that players such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Hank Aaron, Rickey Henderson or Greg Maddux among many others did receive 100 percent of the vote. The reasons there has never been a unanimous inductee have been numerous over the years – the circular logic of “Babe Ruth wasn’t unanimous so Player X sure won’t get my vote” is just the prime example.
With this recent change in voting, this may all change. In my opinion, there are three players coming up on the next three ballots that deserve to be the first unanimous inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame – Chipper Jones (2018), Mariano Rivera (2019) and Derek Jeter (2020). What are the chances of each being the first unanimous inductee?
Chipper Jones – slim chance. While Chipper is considered one of the greatest all-time third basemen in the game’s storied history, many voters will use his durability and lack of magic numbers (under 3000 hits, under 500 HRs) as reasons to not vote for him. While I do think he will receive over 90 percent of the vote, I think he falls shy of 100 percent.
Mariano Rivera – excellent chance. Mariano was the greatest closer in baseball history – there simply was no one more dominant at that position especially when the calendar turned to October. However, he is “just a closer” and I can see one or two voters not voting for him because he didn’t pitch multiple innings for saves like Rollie Fingers or Goose Gossage did so I predict Mariano will end up with 98 percent of the vote.
Derek Jeter – the best chance. Derek has the best chance of becoming the first unanimous inductee. Even though he will have his detractors for his defense, he has everything else you would want in a player – counting stats (over 3000 hits), longevity, World Series titles, awards (granted, no regular season MVP, though he arguably should have won the MVP in 2006), amazing moments, no hints of scandals, and no ties to PEDs that we are aware of. With the new balloting rules, and even with his defense, I find it hard to believe any voter can justify (at least logically) not voting for Derek. If he doesn’t receive 100 percent of the vote, the one voter that doesn’t vote for him will have the entire sporting world coming after him or her via Twitter, Facebook and every other avenue.
If one of these three players are not the first unanimous inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I am not sure if we ever will have one. These three are exactly what you are looking for in players and in people. Time will tell whether I am right or wrong.