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It’s hard to tell if Cooperstown got good or bad news on Wednesday night, but pragmatic White Sox fans could claim unequivocal victory.
No players met the 75 percent threshold to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, with Curt Schilling topping out at 71.1 percent. It’s the first time the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to induct a player since 2013.
But toward the bottom of the ballot, Mark Buehrle cleared the 5 percent minimum by more than double. He led all first-time candidates with 11 percent of the vote, getting selected on 44 of 401 ballots.
That’s a good showing for Buehrle, as long as you acknowledged that any path to baseball’s greatest honor was going to be a slog. It’s even more encouraging for his durability that he garnered support from those who don’t make their ballot public. He ran at 8.3 percent on the 195 ballots collected by Ryan Thibodaux’s crew, versus 13.1 percent on the private ballots. It’s possible that Buehrle received some nods from voters who thought he might not get another chance, but he has quite a bit of cushion to absorb the loss of such fleeting support.
Because Buehrle’s case is more idiosyncratic than elite, it’s possible he’ll never garner more support than the low double-digits. Still, I’ll point you to Scott Rolen, this cycle’s biggest success story. Rolen advanced past 50 percent for the first time in four chances, which represents a ton of progress.
In his first year, Rolen netted support on just 10.2 percent of the vote.
Here’s how the rest of the field fared:
By crossing 50 percent with six years remaining on the ballot, Rolen looks like he’s on the scenic route to the Hall. That’s great to see, because he clears all the standards for enshrined third basemen. Todd Helton and Billy Wagner also made strides to put themselves in the picture.
The rest of the ballot is much messier. The two players who appeared on track for enshrinement this year or the next couldn’t find voters for the next step. Schilling stalled out in the low-70s because he’s an increasingly toxic CHUD who is using the results to martyr himself, while Vizquel has disturbing domestic abuse allegations hanging over his head.
Unfortunately, Vizquel isn’t alone. Bonds and Jones were accused of abuse by their partners, and Clemens had a pretty gross relationship with a teenager. With the ballot’s biggest holdovers carrying so much baggage, the Hall’s directors might breathe a sigh of relief that they won’t have anybody spoiling Derek Jeter’s COVID-delayed induction, whenever it’s allowed to commence.
You have to look at the undercards to settle for silver lining. Buehrle’s initial round of support registers as a positive, and while I’ve made the case that Buehrle might benefit from starter reconsideration as ballot after ballot produces pitchers who couldn’t match his brand of excellence, he may also enjoy earlier benefits of being a guy voters wouldn’t feel awful about backing.
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Another positive development for White Sox fans: Joe Posnanski closed out his review of the top 100 players not in the Hall of Fame with a very surprising No. 1: Saturnino Orestes Armas (Minnie) Miñoso Arrieta. It’s not surprising Miñoso made the list, but it is odd seeing him ahead of Bonds, Clemens and Pete Rose, and I’m here for it. As Posnanski says, beyond being a great player, Miñoso was “a force for good in the game.”
Posnanski covers Miñoso’s career in great detail — the years he lost to the color barrier’s slow dissolution, the battles he endured as Chicago’s first Black MLB player, the success he enjoyed for teams that couldn’t quite topple the Yankees, the post-retirement comebacks that trivialized his record.
He also emphasizes the point that I feel hasn’t been properly appreciated: Miñoso’s existence as a double minority, dealing with prejudices stemming from the color of his skin and his first language. That also meant that he was a double pioneer, blazing a trail as a Black ballplayer in Chicago, and for future Latin American Hall of Famers.
Speaking of Roberto Clemente, there has been some talk — rightfully so — about retiring his number for every team because of the extraordinary impact he had on the game. Well, Miñoso was Clemente’s hero. Miñoso was Hall of Famer Tony Pérez’s hero. Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda called Miñoso the Jackie Robinson for Latinos.
I’m thinking — hoping — that the recategorization of the Negro Leagues as a major league will make Miñoso’s missing years tangible and get him over the hump. It’ll be too late for him to enjoy it, but there are so many other people ready to be happy for him.