For Derek Jeter, a journey that began when he was drafted sixth overall by the Yankees as a skinny 17-year-old out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1992 will culminate on Tuesday night in his election to baseball’s Hall of Fame.
The former Yankees captain and shortstop is a five-time World Series champion, was the 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, finished his 20-year career with 3,465 hits (sixth-best in MLB history) and currently is the CEO of the Miami Marlins.
Jeter’s stewardship of the Marlins has been spotty, but his public life and playing career are the stuff dreams are made of. He was one of the faces of baseball and will headline the Hall’s Class of 2020.
Jeter’s election to the Hall was just a matter of the five-year wait time once he ended his playing career with an infield single at Fenway Park on Sept. 28, 2014.
Three nights earlier, Jeter ended his Yankee Stadium career with a positively Jeterian walk-off single to rightfield. The storybook career (at least in front of the home fans) had a storybook ending, and now the final chapter will take place in Cooperstown on July 26.
Tuesday’s announcement will take place at about 6 p.m. The results of the voting by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will definitively answer two burning questions:
* Will Jeter join Mariano Rivera as the only players to earn 100% of the vote?
* And will anyone other than Jeter be voted in by the BBWAA?
The ballots start trickling out in late November. More are released before the end of the year. And a torrent of ballots were made public Monday as several major news organizations — including ESPN, USA Today and The Boston Globe — released theirs en masse.
Whatever happens Tuesday, Jeter already knows he’s going to be joined at the podium by former Cardinals, Brewers and Braves catcher Ted Simmons and representatives of the late union leader Marvin Miller. Both were elected to the Hall of Fame in December by the Modern Era Committee.
But will there be any additions to the Class of 2020?
As of Monday night, the jury was still out on former Expos, Rockies and Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker, who had been named on 83.3% of the 202 public and eight anonymous ballots (51% of the total) tallied by the indefatigable volunteer Ryan Thibodaux (@NotMrTibbs on Twitter).
Walker hit .313 with 383 homers in a 17-year career. He was a five-time All-Star and was the 1997 NL MVP. He drew 54.6% of the vote in 2019 after debuting at 20.3% in 2011.
Former Red Sox ace Curt Schilling had been named on 79.0% of the ballots. All-time greats (and suspected steroid cheats) Barry Bonds (71.9%) and Roger Clemens (71.0%) were the only other players above 50%.
Because 75% is needed to get into Cooperstown, it would seem as if Walker has a very good shot on his 10th and final year of eligibility on the BBWAA ballot, and that the other three have a decent chance.
But past years have shown that the percentages dip when the entire vote is announced. BBWAA members do not have to make their ballots public; last year 16% of those who voted chose to do so anonymously.
As the numbers-crunching website FiveThirtyEight wrote a few days ago: “Voters who make their ballots public ahead of time share characteristics, like voting for more candidates rather than fewer. And voters who choose to stay private collectively appear to vote more based on traditional, rather than advanced, metrics and take a firm stand against steroid use, which means they are especially unlikely to vote for candidates like [Scott] Rolen [a stathead favorite] or Barry Bonds.”
Various projection models show that Walker will fall just short of 75%. But some of those same models projected that Mike Mussina would fall just short last year, and the former Yankees and Orioles pitcher got in with 76.7%.
Mussina was only in his sixth year of eligibility. Schilling, Bonds and Clemens are all in their eighth year of eligibility.