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MLB Hall of Fame discourse is fun – but eye test should be No. 1

Remember the good ol’ days when the Baseball Hall of Fame election day used to be suspenseful? 

We always guessed who might be getting elected each year, but now those predictions are imprinted in the exit polls, with more than 50% of the Baseball Writers Association of America voters already publicly revealing their ballots. 

So, with the except of possibly one or two cases, we know what’s going to happen at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday when the Hall of Fame makes its official announcement. 

Third baseman Adrian Beltre will get the largest vote total and he can immediately start working on his speech and getting housing and hotel rooms for friends and family for July 21 in Cooperstown, New York.

The proud city of St. Paul, Minnesota, can start beating its chest with another homegrown player in the Hall of Fame with Minnesota Twins catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer being elected on the first ballot, joining Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor and Jack Morris. 

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The Colorado Rockies should finally have something to celebrate with first baseman Todd Helton becoming their first homegrown player to be elected into the Hall of Fame. 

The greatest suspense likely will be whether closer Billy Wagner gets in now or has to wait until next year. 

Slugger Gary Sheffield’s popularity has dramatically increased among voters, but it appears to be just a little too late, and likely will have to rely on the Contemporary Era Committee. 

Everyone else on the ballot might as well turn off their cell phone for the day because the Hall of Fame is not calling. 

This is what surveys from Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs) and the analytic studies from Jason Sardell (@sarsdell) have already informed us. 

It would seem that the Hall of Fame would politely ask writers to stop sharing their vote so the suspense of the day isn’t ruined, just as the BBWAA tells its voters not to disclose their choices on their MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year ballots. 

The Hall of Fame’s greatest suspense is when the Contemporary Era Committee meets in December with no ody ever divulging their vote, before or after the meeting, which resulted in manager Jim Leyland getting elected this year and Lou Piniella falling a vote short. 

But in the BBWAA election, Hall of Fame officials say they actually enjoy the daily updates, the publicity, the banter, the debates, the public shaming, and the growing number of writers who simply are trying to appease their audience. 

Look, you don’t have to vote for the maximum 10 players. 

You don’t have to vote for anyone if you choose. 

All you need to know is that the writers who vote for the maximum number of players are universally praised in social media circles. 

The ones who have a small Hall of Fame ballot are mocked. 

The Hall of Fame will never have to worry about another empty class ever again at this rate. 

If everyone believed there are at least 10 Hall of Famers on every ballot each year, we’ll have 100 new Hall of Famers by the time Shohei Ohtani retires. 

What’s happening is that we have so many analytic and statistical studies now that we can make anyone on the ballot look like they belong in the Hall of Fame. 

Take a look, and you’ll see Bobby Abreu checking in at 19.9% of the vote on his fifth year of the ballot with several voters saying they wish they had room on their ballot to vote for him. 

Please, nothing against Abreu, he had a nice career, but was there ever a soul who wrote or uttered that he was a future Hall of Famer while watching him play? 

Anyone?

The guy made the All-Star team just twice and never finished higher than 14th in the MVP race, but because we look at on-base percentage differently now, he’s suddenly a Hall of Famer? 

Let’s see, we don’t elect Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens into the Hall of Fame because of their links to performance-enhancing drugs without ever being suspended or fined, but Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are still attracting more than 33% of the vote on public balloting. Rodriguez received the longest drug suspension in baseball history. Ramirez was suspended twice from baseball. 

Please, make it make sense. 

Mauer was sensational as a catcher when he first came up, winning three batting titles in his first five years, but wound up catching in just 921 games, and none in his last five years when he was a first baseman averaging eight homers and 58 RBI a season. 

So now he deserves to join Johnny Bench and Pudge Rodriguez as the only catchers in baseball history to be inducted in their first year of eligibility? 

No wonder why the likes of Don Mattingly, Keith Hernandez, Lou Whitaker, Kenny Lofton and Bobby Grich would have easily been elected to the Hall of Fame if voters viewed players the same way today. 

Then again, the way we analyze things today, Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew with their 33 All-Star selections, 15 batting titles and career .338 and .328 batting averages respectfully, might have had to wait. Sorry fellas, your exit velocity, lack of power and scarcity of walks aren’t worthy of first-time elections. 

We somehow have ignored the eye test, knowing a Hall of Famer by simply watching him, using statistics to merely support what we witnessed. 

There are only two players on this year’s ballot that I thought were no-doubt Hall of Famers while they still were playing, and I voted for both: Beltre and Sheffield. Beltre may be the greatest all-around third baseman since George Brett, and Sheffield was the most feared hitter outside Bonds. 

The other selections on this ballot: 

Todd Helton: I could never understand how Helton deserved to be in the Hall of Fame before Fred McGriff. Well, now that McGriff finally is in thanks to the Contemporary Era Committee,  Helton gets my vote. Maybe it wasn’t fair all of these years to punish him for hitting just 369 homers despite having 4,038 games at Coors Field. 

Carlos Beltran: He is not only one of the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history, one of only five players with at least 400 homers and 300 stolen bases, who dominated the postseason, but one of the greatest clubhouse leaders and respected players among his teammates I’ve witnessed. 

Billy Wagner: He was striking out the world (11.9 batters per nine innings) back when hitters were actually embarrassed to strike out. He also yielded a .187 on-base percentage, the lowest since 1900. 

Andruw Jones: He was spectacular his first 12 years, but his career absolutely cratered the last five years. He would have the lowest batting average (.254) of any Hall of Famer in history. He also was the finest defensive center fielder I’ve ever seen with 10 Gold Gloves to prove it. It’s time to forget the ugly ending. 

Seven players, and perhaps over time, they’ll all get in with time on the ballot and help of the Contemporary Era Committee. 

Next year, I’ll be checking the names of Ichiro Suzuki and CC Sabathia, too, who should be overwhelming choices to be elected on the first ballot, with Suzuki perhaps a unanimous choice. 

There will be no need to look at their stats or run any comparison charts. 

The eye test works just fine. 

Follow Nightengale on X: @Bnightengale

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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