Sam Borden's got a column on SI.com today, idly wondering if Jeter will become the first player in history to be unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It's a question that shouldn't matter because HOF voting is so flaky — Tom Seaver has the highest percentage of any electee — but it does, because it's baseball and Derek Jeter and the only conversations left are about his legacy.
The argument for Jeter is sound: he was a great player, he won championships, he was never tainted by arrests or steroids or off-the-field scandals, and he's a likable guy who the media adores. No matter whether he's overrated — even a properly rated Jeter is deserving of a unanimous Hall of Fame vote. But so are many, many players who haven't received that "honor."
Here's a tautology for you - to some voters, Derek Jeter won't receive every vote only because he shouldn't receive every vote.
Hall of Fame voters, on the whole, are professionals who take their responsibilities seriously and do an admirable job. But there are some who take it upon themselves to be the arbiters of some mythical matrix of baseball history. The ones who figure that Jeter can't be the first. If not for their gatekeeping, they reason, the game would have no connection to the past — Derek Jeter can't be a 100 percent Hall of Famer because he's not as deserving of that honor as those who came before.
It's stupid, of course. History is organic, and we don't need HOF vote totals to create and argue our hierarchy of legends. But some people won't vote for Jeter because some people didn't vote for Rickey Henderson. And some voted no on Rickey because some had voted no on Cal Ripken. It's that petty logic all the way back to the very first Hall of Fame class — blame the assholes who didn't vote for Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb. This is all their fault. It's the same logic that kept Robbie Alomar from being a first balloter. As if there's some actual distinction on his Cooperstown plaque about not getting elected on his first try.
Railing at that tiny minority of voters who think they're too important to give a straight answer to a simple yes/no question is a pointless endeavor, we know. But that's what happens when an electorate is composed by inertia instead of by a meritocracy.