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Derek Jeter: One vote from unanimous and other Hall of Fame ballot oddities

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At the outset, let me be clear about something: I do not really care about the particularities of the Hall of Fame vote as opposed to the results. I do not make a distinction between “first ballot” guys and guys who got in in year 10. I do not think that being a 95% or a 76% or a unanimous vote-getter makes any difference whatsoever. It’s a pass-fail test, with “pass” being 75% and everyone who makes it is a Hall of Famer.

Let me also say that vote totals for non-inductees are not really important either. I have, in the past, made light of random votes thrown to guys on the ballot, but it really and truly does not matter unless the one or four random votes here or there make the difference between someone getting in or not.

All of which is to say that this post is about fun and interesting observations, not outrage, OK? OK.

But really, man, I do wanna know who didn’t vote for Derek Jeter. Out of curiosity more than anything else.

As we noted yesterday, Captain Jetes was named on 396 of 397 ballots (99.7 percent), leaving him one vote shy of matching Mariano Rivera as a unanimous inductee. The BBWAA gives its voters the option of making their ballots public but does not require it, which means the identity of the voter who left Jeter off may never be known. We’ll know one way or the other in early February when the individual ballots are released.

There was a decent amount of surprise and at least some outrage about the Jeter snub on social media last night. I get it. As I wrote yesterday, not voting for Jeter for the Hall of Fame is kind of ridiculous. At least if the voter was not doing the strategic thing in which he had 11 or 12 guys he wanted to vote for, knew Jeter was a lock, and therefore left him off so he could vote for, like, Scott Rolen or someone. Again, not the kind of thing I’d do if I had a vote because I’m just not wired that way, but it’s a defensible approach I suppose.

If that was not what was going on — if someone turned in a totally blank ballot or if someone simply left Jeter off because they wanted to make some sort of point — well, I’d suggest they get out more and find something more positive to do with their life. It has to be exhausting being performatively starved for attention.

Beyond Jeter there were some other interesting things down the ballot, beyond just the “who will get in next year” angle of things. Let’s look at the guys on the bottom part of the list:

Gary Sheffield 121 (30.5)
Todd Helton 116 (29.2)
Manny Ramírez 112 (28.2)
Jeff Kent 109 (27.5)
Andruw Jones 77 (19.4)
Sammy Sosa 55 (13.9)
Andy Pettitte 45 (11.3)
Bobby Abreu 22 (5.5)
Paul Konerko 10 (2.5)
Jason Giambi 6 (1.5)
Alfonso Soriano 6 (1.5)
Eric Chávez 2 (0.5)
Cliff Lee 2 (0.5)
Adam Dunn 1 (0.3)
Brad Penny 1 (0.3)
Raúl Ibañez 1 (0.3)
J.J. Putz 1 (0.3)
Josh Beckett 0
Heath Bell 0
Chone Figgins 0
Rafael Furcal 0
Carlos Peña 0
Brian Roberts 0
José Valverde 0

Observations:

  • I know I talked about this last year, but I’m still rather surprised at how little support Andy Pettitte gets. I don’t disagree with the lack of support — I’d not vote for him — but I just assumed that his postseason stuff, the way his PED use was treated with kid gloves by the press, and the whole Core Four thing would help him more than it has, but it didn’t help Jorge Posada a dang bit so I probably should’ve seen it coming. Either way, it’s a lie that being from New York helps a player in Hall voting. If anything, it’s tended to hurt guys as voters gravitate to one or two big stars and chalk everyone else’s success up to team success. Ask Willie Randolph how that works. Or Bernie Williams. Or Keith Hernandez;
  • Still baffled at Sammy Sosa’s lack of support. I know he’s never getting in, but look at his vote totals compared to Manny Ramirez’s. A lot of voters have said that they would never vote for Ramirez because of failed tests after the imposition of drug testing. A lot of them have said that that’s worse, in their minds, than merely being associated with PEDs before testing. In light of that, wouldn’t Sosa get more support than Ramirez since the PED case is not concrete? It can’t be a pure merit difference because while, yes, Ramirez was a better player than Sosa, if a good number of voters judged them on just the quality of their play, Ramirez would have WAY more support, right?  Because a pure numbers case makes him a Hall of Famer. All I can see here is that, somehow, Sosa is being judged far more harshly for his PED use than Ramirez is, and that does not make sense to me;
  • There’s a contingent of voters out there who, publicly, have been trying to make Jeff Kent happen. It’s not translating to ballot support so I guess I’d say: Gretchen, stop trying to make Kent happen;
  • I’ve argued that Cliff Lee’s career was too short to be Hall of Fame worthy, even if he does have a Hall of Fame peak. So, fine, he’s not getting in. But I am kind of shocked that he only got two votes. That’s only one more vote than J.J. Putz got! Since when does a guy who, at his best, was the best in the game but only needed a handful of merely good seasons only a two-vote guy! Man. Tough room;
  • Speaking of Putz, I’m always fascinated with the single vote-getters, as they’re almost always a favor thrown their way by a friendly writer who was close to the guy when he played. Putz, Adam Dunn, Brad Penny, and Raúl Ibañez probably owe some guys a steak dinner;
  • As for the zero vote-getters, man, harsh. Maybe one too many no comments? Hard to say.

Anyway, that — apart from maybe wishing that, as a symbolic thing, that Adam Dunn got exactly 40 votes — is all I got from this year’s ballot.

Rob Manfred offers little insight, shows contempt for reporters in press conference

Rob Manfred
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke at a press conference, addressing the Astros cheating scandal and other topics on Sunday evening. It did not go well.

To start, the press conference was not broadcast officially on MLB’s own TV channel (it aired the 1988 movie Bull Durham instead), nor could any mention to it or link to the live stream be found anywhere on MLB.com. When the actual questions began, Manfred’s answers were circuitous or simply illogical given other comments he has made in the past. On more than one occasion, he showed contempt for reporters for doing their jobs — and, some might argue, doing his job — holding players and front office personnel accountable.

Last month, Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal broke a story about the Astros’ “dark arts” and “Codebreaker” operation, based on a letter Manfred sent to then-GM Jeff Luhnow. Diamond was among the reporters present for Manfred’s press conference on Sunday. Per The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, Manfred addressed Diamond, saying, “You know, congratulations. You got a private letter that, you know, I sent to a club official. Nice reporting on your part.” MLB’s response to the depth of the Astros’ cheating ways was lacking and, without Diamond’s reporting, we would have known how deeply lacking that response was. It is understandable that Manfred would be salty about it, since it exposed him as doing his job poorly, but it was an immature, unrestrained response from someone in charge of the entire league.

Onto the actual topic at hand, Manfred said he felt like the punishment doled out to the Astros was enough. Per Chris Cotillo, Manfred said Astros players “have been hurt by this” and will forever be questioned about their achievements in 2017 and ’18. Some players disagree. Former pitcher Phil Hughes even suggested the players have a work stoppage over this issue.

Manfred defended his decision not to vacate the Astros’ championship, saying, “The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.” The commissioner devaluing the meaning of a championship seems… not great? Counterintuitive, even? The “piece of metal” is literally called the Commissioner’s Trophy. Manfred went on to brag about the league having “the intestinal fortitude to share the results of that investigation, even when those results were not very pretty.” Be careful, don’t hurt yourself patting yourself on the back for doing the bare minimum.

Manfred said there was no evidence found that the Astros used buzzers and added that, since the players were given immunity, he doesn’t think they would continue to hide that when asked about it. He said, “I think in my own mind. It was hard for me to figure out why they would tell us, given that they were immune, why they would be truthful and admit they did the wrong thing and 17, admit they did the wrong thing and 18, and then lie about what was going on in 19.”

The commissioner expects the league to implement “really serious restrictions” on access to in-game video feeds for the 2020 season.

There has been some recent back-and-forth between the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger and the Astros’ Carlos Correa. Manfred isn’t a fan of the sniping through the media. He said, “I’m sort of a civil discourse person. It must be because I’m old. But, yeah, I think that the back and forth that’s gone on is not healthy.” The reason Bellinger and others are speaking publicly about the issue, attempting to hold the Astros accountable, is because the league did not do a sufficient job doing that itself. Bellinger wouldn’t feel the need to speak up in defense of himself, his teammates, and other players affected by the cheating scheme if he felt like the league had his and his peers’ backs.

Because the players involved in the Astros’ cheating scheme weren’t punished, some — like Larry Bowa — have suggested intentionally throwing baseballs at Astros players to exact justice. Manfred met with managers who were in attendance today to inform them that retaliatory beanballs “will not be tolerated.” He added, “It’s dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” Manfred has done nothing about beanball wars in the past, but it will now give the Astros somewhat of an advantage since pitchers will now be judged closely on any pitch that runs too far inside on Astro hitters.

Manfred also spoke about the ongoing feud with Minor League Baseball and basically reiterated what he and the rest of the league have disingenuously been saying since it was revealed MLB proposed cutting 42 minor league teams. Manfred’s talking point is that MLB is concerned about substandard facilities being used by minor league players, but not all of the 42 teams on the proposed chopping block have anything close to what could reasonably be considered substandard.

Lastly, Manfred was asked about the Orioles and tanking, and more or less danced around the issue by expressing confidence in the club’s ownership. The Orioles have won 47 and 54 games in the past two seasons. Payroll dropped by more than $50 million. The Orioles saw over 250,000 fewer fans in attendance in 2019 than in ’18. The O’s also saw a decline of over 460,000 fans in attendance from 2017 to ’18. But, yeah, it’s going well.

All in all, this press conference could not have gone worse for Manfred. The press found it condescending and the comments he made rang hollow to the players. Manfred seemed on edge and unprepared addressing arguably the biggest controversy baseball has faced since the steroid era. This is a dark time for the sport.