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A Litmus Test for Voting Eligibility

by Tom Phillips

Yesterday marked the announcement of the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. The class will be limited to Jim Rice, eleceted in his final year of eligibility, and former Yankee leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson, voted in on his first year on the ballot by 94.8% of the votes.

94.8%. That's an interesting number. That means 28 individuals didn't have Rickey on their ballot. I'm sure I'm not the only one in joining ESPN's Jayson Stark in asking, "What the heck were they thinking, and why do these 28 individuals have votes to cast in the first place?"

One would be hard pressed to come up with a reason to not have voted for Henderson. Let's look at a few career stats. Henderson was a 10 time All-Star. He was the 1990 AL MVP. He stole 1,406 bases in his career, almost 50% more than Lou Brock who is number two on the all time list with 938. He has the single season stolen base record of 130. He scored 2,295 runs in his career, #1 on that list as well. He was indisputably the greatest leadoff hitter, run scorer and basestealer in the entire history of the sport of baseball.

And 28 individuals who claim to be in the know about the sport refused to put him on their ballot. This is an absoute travesty. Oh sure, we'll hear claims like protests of the steroid era, or that no one should get in on the first ballot due to respect for the old time greats, or maybe as honest ones as "hey, I just don't like Rickey."

But you know what? Those 28 individuals should lose their vote. No player was a more feared baserunner than Henderson. No player in history was targeted to be kept off the basepaths as much as he was. A walk was a triple in Rickey's book.

You can't describe the angst and pressure that opposing pitchers faced when Henderson got on first. It's inexplicable, game changing, and historic.

Yet 28 "baseball writers", and I use that term loosely, decided that he wasn't qualified to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, for whatever reason. Well guys, there is no reason, if Henderson's not a first ballot guy, then who is?

The 2009 vote is and will always be a travesty and a joke, and if there was justice in the world, then these 28 people that place their importance above the game's would have their voting eligibility revoked.

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