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Sport Opinion: Who is rogue Hall of Fame voter? Derek Jeter doesn't care, so neither should we

06:10  22 january  2020
06:10  22 january  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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Ok, so who’s going to step up and be the whistleblower in baseball’s latest controversy?

Who left Derek Jeter off their Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, making sure he didn’t join New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera as baseball’s only unanimous electees?

Jeter received 396 of the 397 votes, obtaining the highest voting percentage, 99.7, of any position player in election history.

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Still, it was not 100%. So, let the witch-hunt begin.

Yet, just as Jeter did throughout his 20-year major-league career, he deftly sidestepped the storm the anonymous voter created, refusing to let it tarnish his glorious moment.

“Well, I look at all the votes I got,’’ Jeter said. “Do you know how hard it is to get that many people to agree on anything? It takes a lot of votes to get elected into the Hall of Fame."

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The fact that someone didn’t vote for him?

Sorry, let everyone else worry about it.

“That’s not something on my mind,’’ he said. “I’m just extremely excited and honored to be elected.’’

Still, the idea that someone purposely left Jeter off their ballot, or perhaps turned in a blank ballot, won’t suddenly be forgotten.

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He’ll be asked about it Wednesday at the Hall of Fame news conference. He’ll be asked about it in South Florida as the CEO of the Miami Marlins. He’ll be asked about it until the July 26 induction ceremony in Cooperstown, New York.

Jeter won’t touch it. Not now. Not at the Hall of Fame. Not ever.

Ken Griffey Jr., who was three votes shy of being a unanimous selection in 2016, remembers the same furor during his election.

Sure, he would have loved to have been the first unanimous selection, but nowadays does anyone even remember?

FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter smiles as he speaks during a news conference in Miami. Derek Jeter is among 18 newcomers on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, and is likely to be an overwhelming choice to join former New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in Cooperstown after the reliever last year became the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File) © AP FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2019, file photo, Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter smiles as he speaks during a news conference in Miami. Derek Jeter is among 18 newcomers on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot, announced Monday, Nov. 18, 2019, and is likely to be an overwhelming choice to join former New York Yankees teammate Mariano Rivera in Cooperstown after the reliever last year became the first unanimous pick by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)

“I don’t even think about it,’’ Griffey told USA TODAY Sports. “It doesn’t bother me. I just think it’s harder for voters to leave guys off nowadays because you have to reveal your ballot. So if you vote a little different, the scrutiny comes. It makes you more accountable.’’

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Still, while most active voters in the Baseball Writers' Association of America publicly reveal their votes, it’s not a requirement. So, the lone soldier may never be exposed.

Besides, by not being unanimous, Jeter can be just one of the guys in baseball’s greatest fraternity.

“He’s got 12 minutes to make a speech,’’ Griffey said, “and then we’ll start throwing stuff at him. We’ll treat him like a visiting player at Yankee Stadium, throwing batteries and apples at him. We’ll say, 'This is what it’s like playing at your house.’ "

Jeter, just like Griffey, was an icon of his sport. He epitomized class and grace on and off the field. He represented baseball as well as anyone who wore the uniform.

He played through baseball’s steroid era, the BALCO investigation that severely tarnished Barry Bonds’ career, and the Biogenesis scandal that resulted in 13 players being suspended, including teammate Alex Rodriguez.

Now, at a time the Houston Astros were caught cheating using electronic equipment, and with the Boston Red Sox under investigation, Jeter once again provides a shining light with his election.

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“Look, there are situations the sport has gone through throughout its history,’’ Jeter said, “and at times it can seem pretty ugly. I also understand people make mistakes and fortunately people have to pay for those mistakes.

“I think the game is going to move on obviously, and it’s going to be in a better place for it.’’

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And if anyone is looking for a role model, look no further than Jeter, who played the game the way it was meant to be, overcoming early struggles to become one of the greatest shortstops in history.

He remembers being so overwhelmed after signing with the Yankees out of high school in 1992 that he sat on his hotel balcony every night and sobbed. He made 56 errors his first season in the minors, still a South Atlantic League record.

“Man, that first summer in ’92 in Tampa,’’ Jeter said, “I was just trying to make it to ’93. I thought I was completely overmatched and thinking I made a mistake signing a professional contract.

“To think of the Hall of Fame never crossed my mind.’’

Why, even with everyone telling him he was a slam-dunk, telling him years ago he better start preparing his speech, he refused to listen.

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“Everyone kept saying it was a foregone conclusion,’’ Jeter said, “but I never looked at (it) this way. I tried to stay away from that conversation.

“I had a great relationship with Reggie [Jackson], and he would constantly remind (me) when I came to the park, 'You’re not a Hall of Famer yet.’ ’’

Well, now he joins Jackson, and will be part of perhaps the most celebrated induction ceremony in history, joining Canadian outfielder Larry Walker. Hall of Fame officials are anticipating record crowds, exceeding the 82,000 in 2007 that saw Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. feted.

“This means a little more to me,’’ Jeter said. “I grew up a Yankee fan. It’s the only organization I wanted to play for. I was fortunate to play 20 years in New York with a lot of thanks to the [George] Steinbrenner family.

“That’s one thing I always want to be remembered as: remembered as a Yankee.’’

What won’t be remembered is the unknown voter.

Jeter doesn’t care.

So why should we?

Follow USA TODAY Sports MLB columnist Bob Nightengale on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Opinion: Who is rogue Hall of Fame voter? Derek Jeter doesn't care, so neither should we

Related slideshow: Who's going to Cooperstown? (Provided by imagn)

a baseball player holding a bat on a field: The Baseball Writers' Association of America has spoken and the votes are in. To earn election to the Hall of Fame, players must be named on 75 percent of ballots cast by eligible members of the BBWAA. Click through the gallery to see who made and didn't make the cut. The formal induction ceremony will be held during the Hall of Fame Weekend on Sunday, July 26 at the Clarks Sports Center in Cooperstown. Note: This gallery only includes the top 10 candidates based on voting percentage. 

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