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Scott Rolen Leads Class of Baseball Hall of Fame Candidates


Not one of the candidates on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot would have made a case like this. So leave it to Montgomery Brewster — a washed-up but wealthy pitcher for the fictional Hackensack Bulls — to summarize the message some voters took from the names up for enshrinement this week.

“Write in ‘not one of the above’ in your ballot,” commanded Richard Pryor, running for mayor of Recent York because the title character in “Brewster’s Hundreds of thousands,” the 1985 comedy. “Don’t vote for any of us!”

When the Hall of Fame publicizes the outcomes of the newest writers’ ballot on Tuesday, “not one of the above” has a plausible probability of winning. Candidates need 75 percent of the vote to be enshrined, with 14 holdovers and 14 newcomers up for consideration this time around. Fred McGriff — elected by the Contemporary Eras Committee in December — could also be alone on the lectern this summer in Cooperstown, N.Y.

After selecting 22 players in seven elections from 2014 to 2020, the writers elected no person in 2021 and only David Ortiz last 12 months. If the announcement reveals no latest inductees, it would be the primary three-year span with just one selection since annual voting began in 1966. (Elections were conducted in most years, but not all, before that.)

The writers have voted on the Hall of Fame for the reason that first election, in 1936, once they chosen five players, still probably the most they’ve picked in a single 12 months. The plaques of those five — Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner — are displayed on the far end of the gallery hall, in the middle of the wall facing the doorway. They convey a way of grandeur, a reminder that only the perfect of the perfect belong there.

“Once you say someone’s name,” said Bob Hohler, a voter from his time with The Boston Globe, “you wish to say: ‘That guy’s a Hall of Famer.’”

The present ballot is lacking in unimpeachable candidates. The leading home run hitters — Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez — served suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Only two players besides Rodriguez won a Most Beneficial Player Award (Jeff Kent and Jimmy Rollins), and the highest returning candidates, Scott Rolen (63.2 percent last 12 months) and Todd Helton (52 percent), never finished among the many top three in an M.V.P. race.

Hohler, who covered the fabled Red Sox champions of 2004, submitted a blank ballot for this election. He said that the one candidates who met his standards of greatness were Ramirez and Rodriguez, whose documented history of cheating kept them off his ballot.

In response to Ryan Thibodaux, a Twitter user who tracks Hall of Fame voting, not less than two other voters have publicly acknowledged submitting blank ballots. That is different from abstaining since it counts toward the whole pool of voters, thus raising the variety of votes mandatory to succeed in 75 percent.

But principles are principles: If a voter decides that no person merits election, that opinion may be baked into the consequence, too.

“Perhaps I voted for six or seven early on, but I’ve definitely evolved,” said Hohler, 71, who is not going to vote in future elections because he has reached a decade since his last 12 months covering baseball.

“I’ve been to Cooperstown a pair more times, and it truly is hallowed ground. I feel we alter it if we open the doors every 12 months to eight or nine guys who were superb but just don’t belong on that platform. There are players you may make arguments for across the board, but are they really worthy?”

The laborious means of Hall of Fame election often takes years to play out; the writers elected no person in 2013, yet 10 players from that ballot were eventually inducted, 4 by special committees. Indeed, not less than 30 writers on this election have voted for 10 players, the utmost allowed.

“I’ve historically been a ‘big Hall’ guy because if we were truly going to stick to a small Hall, there are many individuals who I don’t think ought to be in,” said Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, who voted for 10. “If we’re putting in guys like Harold Baines and Craig Biggio, there are guys on this ballot who had every bit the profession that they did. So the usual has been set for what constitutes a Hall of Famer.”

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

“The players I voted for all had distinguished roles of their era,” Feinsand said. “There’s no Ken Griffey Jr., no Derek Jeter, no Chipper Jones; everybody on this ballot has some kind of flaw on his résumé. But you don’t need to be in the highest 1 percent of the highest 1 percent. If we began to try this, we’d only have, like, 38 players within the Hall of Fame. If you wish to be a ‘small Hall’ voter, that’s nice — however it’s not a small Hall.”

McGriff, who hit 493 profession homers but peaked at 39.8 percent in his decade on the writers’ ballot, is the 269th player within the Hall of Fame. About 22,850 individuals are considered to have played within the majors, meaning that the inductees, indeed, represent only one percent of the whole.

Convincing three-quarters of the voters — from a bunch of roughly 400 — that you just belong in that top 1 percent? It’s hard. This election will prove that again. But let’s remember the words of one other fictional baseball man, Jimmy Dugan, the manager from “A League of Their Own,” played by Tom Hanks:

“It’s purported to be hard,” he said, later adding: “The hard is what makes it great.”

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