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Another Hall Of Fame Ballot, Another Chance To Get It Wrong

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 27: Former MLB player Alex Rodriguez commentates prior to Game One of the World Series between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on October 27, 2023 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Baseball's Hall of Fame ballot was released this day, and with it the start of "How Many Ways Can We Brick Alex Rodriguez?" season. In a ballot that has four likely inductees and two more that ought to be, the compelling story will be finding reasons to think A-Rod makes people's faces crater like an orange in the sun too long, the only valid reason being his television work.

He won't get in this time either, to be sure. His baseball résumé, like Barry Bonds's, is too compromised by his off-field shortcomings, at least to a solid third of the electorate in Bonds's case and two-thirds in Rodriguez's. When the prime argument against Rodriguez is the fact that he is him, that's a difficult bar to clear. He is always going to be him, and being on TV only reminds people that he is indeed still him.

Thus, this ballot, long though it might be on likely inductees, will probably be unable to derail the notion that the Hall of Fame voters act in concert to reward their alleged friends and punish their fictional enemies. You cannot muster a healthy argument against Adrian Beltre, for example, but his candidacy will be pegged to A-Rod's because they essentially played the same position for at least half of Rodriguez' career, so Beltre will be asterisked by something that as far as we know did not involve him.

This should not affect Beltre, as he is dispassionately ranked as the fourth-best third baseman of all time by, behind only three Hall of Famers and ahead of six others in the top 10. The same logic would seem to help catcher Joe Mauer, the seventh-best catcher by B-R’s reckoning, and stuck behind six Hall of Famers and ahead of four others in the top 11. In addition, Todd Helton missed induction by 11 votes a year ago (out of 389) and Billy Wagner by 27, so they have a better than decent chance of having to write their speeches. On the sympathy side, Gary Sheffield is in his last year of regular eligibility, but only three players (Jim Rice, Larry Walker, and Edgar Martinez) have ever gotten in in their last year.

The truth is, if you don't get in right away, say in your first three years, your chances of getting in at all are minimal no matter your qualifications or qualms. This is Rodriguez's third year and he's right where Bonds and Clemens were when they began, and began to stall out. But as he has never quite managed to be a sympathetic figure either in or out of the game, the anomaly of his continued exclusion will be just another one of those weird baseball things that make people wonder about baseball.

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