Was the Jeter-less Ballot a Good Thing for Baseball?


There was never a single doubt in anyone’s mind that Tuesday’s announcement of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 would not include the name Derek Jeter. The chances of that not being the case were nonexistent.

And in not surprising news, The former shortstop and longtime captain of the New York Yankees got the call. He’s a part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2020.

The outrage and arguments that ultimately ensued across the social media landscape stemmed from the fact that he was not voted in unanimously missing out by a single vote.


One writer out of 397 actually dared to leave Jeter’s name off their ballot. It was seen by most as a bad move on the part of the writer but, when you think about it, whoever he or she is really doing the game a favor by preserving the rarity of a unanimous vote.

There is a reason that only one player, Jeter’s former teammate, Mariano Rivera, has been given a unanimous one-way ticket to Cooperstown. There is a reason that his feat was special and unprecedented.


No one could possibly justify any reason to not put Rivera on the ballot. No one could make any kind of criticism on his game or behavior off the field.

There really are no arguments that Jeter shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. There are no reasons why he should not have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Everyone is aware that he was clutch, calm under the biggest spotlight and in some of the biggest situations that you can encounter in baseball. He had 3,000 hits, giving him an automatic pass to the Hall. On top of it all, he was the consummate professional and role model for children and adults alike.

Yet one could argue that despite his five Gold Gloves, especially during the late ’90s and early 2000s, several elite shortstops were as worthy or maybe even more worthy of the award than Jeter. He was not the greatest defensive player ever but he was miles above the being worst.

Jeter did pretty much everything right. He played the game and lived his life with integrity. He was calm under the most extreme pressure. He always excelled in baseball’s biggest stages in October and November from the late ’90s to his infamous “flip play” in 2001 until his final game at Yankee Stadium in 2014. Jeter had two hits in that game, the second being a game-winning walk-off. There was never a time when Jeter wasn’t clutch.


It could also be, very poorly argued, but argued nonetheless, that being on the Yankees surrounded by a constant lineup of other elite hitters may have allowed him to get more pitches to hit, helping him surpass the 3,000 mark. On the other hand, he still had to hit those pitches and he did. Both arguments are minor but they do poke some slight holes in his overall game.

Rivera, on the other hand, is much harder to criticize. Much like Jeter, he was a role model, albeit quieter one that didn’t have Jeter’s movie-star good looks. He threw a virtually unhittable cutter that was still baffling batters after two decades.

He gave up just five walk-off home runs in his lengthy career. The average reliever often allows that many homers or more in a single season. He became the greatest closer of all time. I’ve never heard someone say otherwise, have you?

He played on five World Series Championship teams, made appearances in 13 All-Star Games and currently holds the all-time records for games finished, saves and ERA+. Rivera was as close to perfect at his craft as it is possible to be.

Both Jeter and Rivera were incredibly special and memories of their dominance will live on as long as the game does. The difference is slight but when it came to Mo there wasn’t a single part of his game or his life in the spotlight as part of the Yankees’ Core Four alongside Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, that was in any way porous. There just weren’t any holes in his game and not a single reason to not vote for him.

Rivera was special. How special would his unprecedented unanimous vote be if it occurred the following year to an elite player but not one who was as close to perfection as Rivera?

There is a reason Mariano is the only one. There was something extra special, something different about him. He was put on the mound day in and day out, in the most pressing position in baseball.

Electing Jeter unanimously wasn’t a necessity, it was just something people wanted because he meant so much to them and to the game. He always will. Electing him to the Hall of Fame his first time on the ballot was a necessity and still puts him in excellent company.

His induction this year was always going to happen, that was never in question, the question in everyone’s mind was how many votes would he get? The answer was 396 out of 397 and that’s still a huge honor. Mariano’s unprecedented induction vote was something special and it should remain that way, at least until Mike Trout’s name turns up on the ballot.


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