The Baseball Hall Of Fame Vote Is Here

The Baseball Hall Of Fame Vote Is Here And Trust Me, You Do Not Want To Miss This One

Who's getting the call to Cooperstown and how do they get there?

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Every year, the Baseball Writers' Association of America, often abbreviated to BBWAA, votes on a slate of candidates who played in Major League Baseball, and the winners of the vote are inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, located in Cooperstown, New York, the often-rumored birthplace of modern baseball. How does the BBWAA vote work exactly? Well, that's a pretty complicated answer, but I'll do my best to answer it.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America is, well, pretty self-explanatory. It is a body of over 700 baseball writers, generally concentrated in the 26 cities across the USA with Major League Baseball teams. To be eligible to vote, you have to have been either an active or honorary member for over 10 years, as well as have been an active baseball writer for the 10 years leading up to the date of the vote.

Every member that is eligible receives a ballot with all of the names of the eligible candidates for that year to vote for, and, out of those candidates, they may select as few as none and as many as 10, with no explanation needed for any vote. They must, however, return the ballots by mail, and should they not be postmarked by a certain date, the ballot will not be accepted and that writer's vote would essentially be blank. Any candidate that appears on 75% of the ballots or more shall be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

To be eligible for the Hall of Fame, one must have played Major League Baseball for a minimum of 10 years and must have been retired or have not appeared in a game for at least five years. On top of that, once you are eligible, you only have 10 years to be voted in or else you will no longer be eligible. However, you can fall off the ballot even earlier because of a rule stating that any candidate that receives less than 5% of the overall vote shall no longer be eligible for the Hall of Fame.

Other than those qualifications, there are a few exceptions, namely for people who had an impact on the game's landscape, like owners or managers, umpires, etc. People who fell off the ballot can be saved, however, since the adoption of 16-man committees that focus on certain periods of baseball history so that they can be better represented in the Hall of Fame and past mistakes can be rectified.

It's by no means a perfect system, and, normally, everyone is upset about their favorite player not getting in or someone they don't think deserves to get in getting in. This has particularly become an issue in recent years as baseball has been coming to terms with the steroids scandals that rocked it in the 1990s and the 2000s.

Players such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, and Alex Rodriguez, all of which except McGuire and A-Rod are eligible for the Hall of Fame, have numbers that should make them easy fits in the Hall of Fame. However, all of their careers were tainted by either rumors of PEDs (performance-enhancing drugs) or they were caught/admitted to using them. There has been an argument for many years in the baseball world as to whether or not these players deserve inclusion in the Hall.

Barry Bonds holds the records for most career home runs and most home runs in a single season, yet he has failed to get more than 60% of the vote in the several years he's been eligible. Andy Pettite, the longtime Yankees ace and member of the Core Four of the late 90s-early 2010s is the only player in MLB history to have started games for 10 or more years and have had a winning record in every season he pitched, yet many say he is expected to fall off the ballot this year, his first year of eligibility.

Personally, I feel that using PEDs gave you an unfair advantage over other players, so if there is evidence to suggest you cheated, you aren't getting my vote. Many of the older members of the BBWAA agree with me, but as the organization grows younger, including many writers who grew up watching the annual homerun race between McGuire and Sosa, then saw Bonds shatter every homerun record out there, they aren't as adverse to PEDs. Now, both sides have excellent arguments, and both have poor arguments, but overall, I personally side with keeping those guys out of the Hall of Fame. You can disagree with me, but I won't have those guys on my ballot down below.

Onto this year's ballot, where there are some very intriguing candidates for consideration. As I said, Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa are all eligible this year, all of whom are in their seventh year out of 10 years of eligibility. Last year, Bonds and Clemens both topped 55%, whereas Sosa was just above 7%. For the past several years, both Bonds and Clemens have been steadily increasing their totals, while Sosa's has consistently gone down. If this trend continues this year, it's entirely possible that Bonds and/or Clemens top 60% or even 65%, while Sosa falls off the ballot. That's by no means a guarantee, but, based on my analysis of the trends, is a likelihood.

Edgar Martinez is on this year's ballot, and, no matter what, this will be his last appearance. You see, last year he received 70.4% of the vote, falling only a few votes shy of induction. He's been trending up recently, so many perceive him as likely to get in this year. He better hope he does, though, seeing as this is his 10th and, therefore, final year on the ballot before he is ineligible. The only other player in his 10th year of eligibility is Fred McGriff, who last year received only 23.2% of the vote. To jump all the way to 75% would be a massive step-up and is seemingly unlikely. Unfortunately for him, it seems his time has come and he didn't make the cut, at least according to the writers.

There is no shortage of great first-year eligibility players on this ballot. Roy Halladay, the longtime starter for the Toronto Blue Jays and then the Philadelphia Phillies, is fondly remembered as one of the most unhittable pitchers of his day, holding 2 Cy Young Awards as a result. His accolades also include him having famously thrown two no-hitters in 2010, one being a perfect game and one of the last ones thrown to this point in baseball history, and the other being in the first round of the MLB Playoffs, making it only the second no-hitter ever thrown in postseason history and the first since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series.

There's also Todd Helton who, throughout his career with the Colorado Rockies, amassed over 2,500 career hits and an OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) of .953, an absolutely astronomical number. There are other fantastic candidates on the ballot for the first time this year, including Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, and Michael Young, but the top of the list is, undoubtedly, Mariano Rivera.

Throughout his 19-year major-league career, all of which was spent with the New York Yankees as part of that Core Four, he amassed more saves than any other player in major league history, 652. With a lifetime ERA (earned-run average per 9 innings) of 2.21 and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of exactly 1.000, he is one of the greatest relief pitchers and arguably the best closer of all time.

Many people have, for many years now, predicted he will become the first player in the history of the Hall of Fame to be named on every single ballot, the first unanimous pick in the history of the Hall. The closest to date was Ken Griffey Jr. who, in 2015, received 99.7% of the vote, not appearing on just five ballots. Mo may be deserving of the accolade, and of the handful of ballots already made public he does appear on all of them, but we won't find out until the results are revealed on January 22.

With all of that said, I would like to show you my personal ballot (if I was an eligible voter for the BBWAA, but, hey, semantics).

Lance Berkman

Roy Halladay

Todd Helton

Edgar Martinez

Fred McGriff

Mike Mussina

Mariano Rivera

Billy Wagner

Larry Walker

As you may notice, there are only nine votes listed above. I personally felt that these nine candidates were, far and away, the most deserving of my vote and that there weren't any other candidates that deserved to be included as much as these nine. Now, I struggled with this decision immensely, as I am of the belief that if one has the power to vote one should use it to its fullest extent.

I am very much opposed to the idea of not voting for anyone and I have personally developed new voting rules that require a minimum of five votes and any number of votes less than 10 requires an explanation to be included as to why more candidates weren't selected. I also believe that there should be two spots included on the ballot where you can vote for candidates that have fallen off the ballot and, if they receive 7.5% of the vote, then they are added back next year.

Discretion aside, there were several players I toyed with including, those players being Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Roy Oswalt, Scott Rolen, Omar Vizquel, and Michael Young. As I said, I didn't personally feel that any of these candidates were as deserving as the least deserving of the nine I did vote for, so I only voted for those nine.

I wish my ballot would be counted, but alas, I am not a member of the BBWAA, nor would I be eligible to take part in this year's vote if I was a member. Hopefully, at least some of the voters agree with my ballot and my reasoning. I do hope that some of these candidates receive sufficient support to get in this year or, at the very least, get close to getting in. All we can do now, though, is wait.

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Why An Athlete Is Not Defined By Their Level

Pressure can drive athletes crazy.
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With tryout season among us, it is so important that this be addressed before the teams for this upcoming year are formed.

So many athletes that tryout, don't make the team they want and either quit to "take a year off" or jump ship to a gym that promises them to place the athlete on a higher level. I know that every athlete wants to be on level 5 team, the division is the most prestigious of all of them, especially because going to worlds is the end game for most athletes.

The problem these days in the cheerleading world is that our athletes are trying to level up at a rate that is just not quite realistic. If an athlete is on a level 1 team, the chances of her being on level 4 next year are slim. It is necessary for athletes to experience each level for at least a year to learn all of the fundamentals of the level and build on them for their foundation as an athlete to be more concrete. This produces the best athlete possible.

A lot of athletes think that all that they need to jump levels is tumbling and that is just not the case. When teams are formed, coaches take a look at many different things, these qualities include but are not limited to: mental toughness, dedication, tumbling, stunting abilities, pace of learning, dance and attitude.

Contrary to popular belief, there are so many factors that go into forming a team. This team not only has to be suitable for individual athletes but putting a team together is like a puzzle and as coaches we have to put a team together that will work well and have all the necessary percentages of skills to be competitive in their division.

We are concerned about building well-rounded athletes, not an athlete that is only capable in one facet of cheerleading. Some athletes are great level-4 tumblers but have level-2 stunt ability and those two will not equal a level 4 athlete until we boost the stunting ability of said athlete.

Putting an athlete on a team to just tumble is doing a disservice to not just the team, but also the athletes themselves. If this athlete joins a level 4 team to just tumble all year, when their tumbling progresses to that of a level 5 athlete, they will still have level 2 stunting skills and won't be put to good use when they are level 5 eligible. A well-rounded athlete is the kind of athlete that wins Worlds.

SEE ALSO: To The Coach That Took My Confidence Away

When athletes take their time and learn their level, they are not just learning completely new skills each year, but building on them. If done correctly, each year an athlete should improve on all points of cheerleading and not just one. The rules in each level lead to progressions for the level that it directly follows, so that athletes can safely learn skills by going up the ladder one step at a time.

What most don't realize is that skipping steps is such an unnecessary practice. If Susie stays on level 2 for an extra year, she is not "learning nothing", she is improving on the skills that she didn't quite execute completely the year before, this will perfect her performance in this level and give a more solid foundation for her to build on when she is on a level 3 team.

Pressure can drive athletes crazy. Parents, your athletes have so many years ahead of them to be on a level 5 team and go to worlds, so pushing for a 10-year-old, that is just not ready, to be on a level 4 team is unreasonable. Let your 10-year-old learn maturity and mental toughness at a level that is more appropriate, when your athlete is pushing herself too hard it takes the fun out of the tryout process and creates unnecessary stress on the athletes.

Lastly, please be sure to support whatever decision your coaches make for your athlete's placement, they know your child and they are not trying to hurt their pride, but build them up so they can accomplish all of their goals as an athlete. Know that the level your kid makes this year doesn't define him or her as an athlete, but helps them grow into the cheerleader they have the ability to become!

Cover Image Credit: National Cheerleaders Association

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Dexter Fowler Deserves An Apology

Roughly a fourth of the way through the season, it's very clear that a lot of us were wrong about Fowler.

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Baseball is a mental game just as much, if not more of a physical one. Baseball is one of those unique games where failure is present at all times. If you hold a .300 batting average, you've got a pretty good chance of getting into the Hall of Fame. For context, Ty Cobb holds the record for highest career batting average at .366 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In any other sport, if you're only successful 30% of the time, you're rarely viewed as excellent in your sport.

But I don't think the nature of the game usually sways fans from shortsighted opinions and conclusions about the players, especially if they're on our own team. Cardinals fans went through something very similar with our own Dexter Fowler, and some of us really dragged him through the mud. In the second year of his five-year, $82 million deal, Fowler had the worst statistical years of his career. A .180 batting average with a .278 OBP were the cornerstones on what was a very confusing year for many Cardinals fans.

But I want to be very clear when I say that there were two camps with the Fowler situation: those who thought the year was simply a statistical outlier and those who thought that Fowler was at the end of his career, the Cardinals were foolish to give him the money and that the team would be better off trading him if they could find a suitable trade partner for such "broken goods". And maybe this is just my biased Cardinals Twitter point of view, but I felt like the second group was definitely the vocal majority.

But what I think we often forget to remember is there are real people out there playing that game. As weird as that may sound, sports fans often forget that athletes are just as vulnerable to the mental lows that plague so many everyday Americans. Dexter Fowler spent the majority of last season in a deep depression that was both caused and a source of his poor performance on the field. And I'm sure all the negative press he got and the angry fans in his mentions didn't help in the slightest.

But the Cardinals never gave up on him, and for good reason. The numbers Fowler has put up this season are outstanding thus far with still roughly 80% of the season left to play. The commitment the front office showed to Fowler is a reflection of the culture established that makes players want to come and play for this organization. The Cardinals never gave up on him, and so many fans should have taken that same approach. As I said earlier, those are real people out there playing in those Cardinal uniforms.

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