One Lost Vote Shouldn't Be a Blemish on Derek Jeter's Hall of Fame Legacy
Whether you're a diehard Yankees fan, or your favorite team is whoever beats the Bombers, Derek Jeter's Hall of Fame results caught your attention on Tuesday.
To some, it garnered a pretty serious reaction. "He missed being inducted unanimously by HOW many votes? Perhaps you gasped, or sent your television remote flying across the room. For others, the announcement spurred a maniacal chuckle.
Either way, Jeter's near-perfect induction is a big deal in the grand scheme of Major League Baseball history.
It took 83 years for the first individual to be voted into the Hall of Fame unanimously -- Mariano Rivera, the best closer of all-time, earned the most exclusive claim to fame in baseball history last year. It was only fitting that the second player to ever achieve such a distinguished and momentous honor would be his former teammate, No. 2 ... right?
Instead, one single voter from the Baseball Writer's Association of America chose to leave The Captain off their ballot. One of 397 revered baseball writers took the opportunity to make a pretty controversial statement.
Then again, ask yourself: does it really matter? The answer is an emphatic no.
Jeter received the highest percentage of votes (99.7) for any position player in baseball history. That's more than Ken Griffey Jr. (99.3), Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.5) and Ty Cobb (98.2), just to name a few. And yet, at the end of the day, 0.3 percent away from unanimous is worth the same result as Larry Walker's 2020 Hall of Fame candidacy -- the right fielder joined Jeter on the ballot by receiving 76.6 percent of the vote, the 13th-lowest tally in the Hall's hallowed history. Six fewer votes and Walker would've been on the outside looking in for a tenth consecutive year.
Cy Young -- yes the Cy Young -- received only 76.1 percent of the vote in 1937 (somehow his second year on the ballot, after failing to earn enough votes in the Hall's inaugural induction the year prior). Even after eclipsing the necessary 75-percent requirement by the skin on his teeth, the pitcher's equivalent of a Most Valuable Player Award ended up being named after the guy for cryin' out loud.
It's like the difference between a scorching line-drive single off the bat of, say, Aaron Judge -- with exit velocity numbers in the triple digits -- and a 'Jeterian' blooper to the right side. Each goes into the record books the same way: '1B.'
Leading up to Tuesday's ceremony, whether or not the word 'unanimous' would be attached to his Hall of Fame induction didn't cross Jeter's mind.
"I look at all the votes that I got," he said on a Baseball Hall of Fame conference call later in the evening. "It takes a lot of votes to get elected into the Hall of Fame. Trying to get that many people to agree on something is pretty difficult to do. That’s not something that’s on my mind, I'm just extremely honored and excited to be elected."
No matter where your baseball allegiances reside, there's one thing we can all agree on: Derek Jeter deserved to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
He was durable at one of the game's toughest positions to play, manning shortstop in a Yankees' franchise record 2,747 games over his illustrious 20-year career.
He was dominant in the postseason. Over an MLB-record 158 postseason games played, Jeter produced what would be the equivalent to one of the best single-seasons of his career. He hit .308 in the months of October and November, setting all-time marks in hits (200) and runs scored (111). Not to mention, he was a five-time World Series champion.
He was a model of consistency. From Opening Day in 1996 -- crushing his first-career home run to kick start his AL Rookie of the Year campaign -- to his final game at Yankee Stadium -- delivering a walk-off base hit to right field in a script the best screenwriter couldn't even compose -- his game never changed. Mr. November compiled 3,465 hits over two decades in the big leagues, the sixth-highest total in baseball history.
To Jeter, it was his unwavering ability to remain positive and turn the page. "Mind over matter" as he called it.
"I took a lot of pride in playing the game hard and doing my job every day and being consistent and caring about one particular thing: helping our team win. That’s the bottom line," Jeter explained.
The 14-time All-Star's tenure in a New York Yankees uniform is this modern generation's standard. You can debate his ranking among the game's all-time greats until you're blue in the face, but his reputation alone as a generational talent and face of the sport both on and off the diamond is the epitome of deserving of a plaque in Cooperstown.
It may have made your mouth drop, but don't let a single ballot's omission take the focus away from a sublime ballplayer receiving this game's ultimate honor. We may not see another Hall of Fame résumé of this caliber for a long time.
After all, Jeter still got the call like any other Hall of Fame inductee. And regardless of the percentage attached to his name, he reacted like any other electee would have.
"Everyone told me it was a foregone conclusion. I didn’t buy it, so it was not a relaxing day," Jeter admitted. "Once you get the phone call ... I don’t even know if I said anything for a while because it is the ultimate honor and it’s a very humbling experience. To be elected into the baseball HOF is truly a dream come true."
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