7 realities about the 2019 Hall of Fame vote

January 17th, 2019
Former New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera laughs during a news conference as he introduces the 2016 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year award winner Baltimore Orioles' Zach Britton before Game 4 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)Kiichiro Sato/AP

On Tuesday evening, the results of this year's Hall of Fame voting will be announced, and we will all briefly be happy about it. We'll see video of the new inductees receiving the call that they're now Hall of Famers, and it will be touching. We'll revel in our favorite memories from their playing careers. And then we'll get the actual voting results, and we'll spend the next 364 days yelling on the internet about it.
Transparency in the Hall of Fame voting process has been a mostly unalloyed good, but with that transparency comes the divisiveness and polarization that comes with essentially every aspect of American life right now. The joy of Hall of Fame voting has been drained from the process: Everyone's bunkered down and ready for a perpetual fight. So, today, a few days before the results are released, we thought we would mentally prepare you for the fights … and advise you on how to avoid them. So here are seven things you might be tempted to get yourself angry about on Tuesday and why you should relax. It's all going to be OK.
• Complete Hall of Fame coverage
1. Mariano Rivera isn't going to get 100 percent of the votes.
It is bizarre, this newfound obsession with absolute unanimous agreement on inner-tier Hall of Famers. We saw this a few years ago with Ken Griffey Jr., in which there seemed to be some sort of public hunt to track down the three monsters who didn't vote for him. But there were reasons not to vote for Griffey, if you looked hard enough. Rivera is going to be a Hall of Famer. He's going to get almost every vote, and he's going to deserve them. But you can make arguments against voting for Rivera: He was a reliever (which by definition, from his era, is a failed starter), he has a lower career bWAR than Bret Saberhagen and Chuck Finley,  and voters know he's going in so they want to save one of their limited votes for a player who needs their support more. I don't agree with those arguments, but they're not insane. If someone doesn't vote for Rivera, it will not be necessary to draw and quarter them in the public square. It'll be fine. Different opinions are good.

2. Curt Schilling isn't going to make it in again, but it's going to be closer.
Ryan Thibodaux's vote tracker has Schilling just under the 75 percent threshold on public ballots, and while the percentage will surely go down when all votes are counted, he's likely to improve on his 51.2 percent from last year. This continues a pattern for Schilling: The less of a public nuisance he makes himself, the higher his vote total goes. This is all a bit absurd -- Schilling sharing dumb, false, problematic memes on Facebook does not, in fact, retroactively make him a worse pitcher -- but at this point, this appears to be the coin of the realm. He has until 2022 to get in via the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and he's close enough now that he has a good shot at making it. This is for the best. Can you imagine what Steve Carlton would have shared on Facebook, had it been around when he was up for the vote? 
3. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds still won't get in, but the referendum is coming.
As with Schilling, 2022 is the last chance for the greatest pitcher and the greatest hitter of the last 25 years, two gentlemen whose alleged involvement with PEDs has stalled, but not stopped, their progression toward the 75-percent threshold. This is setting up 2022 as the battleground, an entire year in which you'll want to avoid sports talk radio and daytime television "debate." (Though you should probably be doing this now.) The ugliness of Hall of Fame voting in recent years has been in large part about PEDs, and one way or the other, that's going to end in 2022. So feel free to save your breath for all the screaming you'll have to do in three years.

4. The designated hitter is now free from its earthly bonds.
Even if one appreciates the argument that comprehensive statistics like WAR show just how much defense does matter in evaluating a player's total career value, it has always seemed churlish to keep out designated hitters just because they didn't lumber around on defense. If you think Rivera is a Hall of Famer, well, he was every bit the specialist that Edgar Martinez was, and it's fair to argue that Rivera's specialty was far more narrow. Anyway, the 2019 season will be the 46th season with the DH. There is no need for this position to be a black sheep anymore. If Martinez gets in, as is looking increasingly likely, you can finally stop marginalizing one of the 10 positions on a baseball team. Be free, DH, be free!

5. We will find our next Tim Raines or Bert Blyleven.
We always need one, a player who statheads and analytical folk all rally behind, partly out of merit and partly because humans always need a reason to convince themselves they are smarter than other humans. Blyleven engendered Raines in two campaigns that were ultimately successful. The question is: Who's the cause celebre this year? Larry Walker is the likely candidate, and next year is his final one on the ballot. So who takes over for him? The bet here is Scott Rolen, who does better on Jay Jaffe's JAWS system than you might think and could help make up for the historical avoidance of third basemen in the Hall. After Walker, Rolen is about to be your "Hipster, I Voted For Rolen Before It Was Cool" pick.
6. Anyone you're angry about being snubbed still has another chance, and you probably won't even care by then.
Remember how furious both sides of the "Is Jack Morris a Hall of Famer?" debate used to get at each other every year? Every Morris vote was a referendum on how we discuss the game, and man, was it ever exhausting. Well, Morris never did get voted in by the BBWAA … but the year after he fell off the ballot, the Modern Baseball Era Committee went ahead and put him in anyway. And you know what? It was fine. It was no big deal. The Republic still stands. Harold Baines, a great player and a terrific guy who hardly any human being thought was a Hall of Famer when he was playing, just got in via the Today's Game Committee. And you know what? It's fine. It's fine! We're all OK! All these debates are just that: Debates. Some of these guys will end up getting in anyway, and some won't, and it will not affect your life one way or the other. Smile. This is supposed to be fun.
7. This is just a museum, people.
Have you been to Cooperstown recently? It's great, but it's also just a museum. If you are inducted into the Hall, you get a plaque, you get to make a speech and you get to add "HOF" to all the memorabilia you sign the rest of your life. You do not immediately ascend to heaven, or get a bigger brain or something. It's just a wing of the museum. The museum itself is unchanged by who is in it: It's a museum, after all. You go there because you love baseball and you get to spend a whole day just marinating in it. The Hall of Fame is important, but not in the way we talk about it, the constant "who's in, who's out, what does it all mean?" battles. It's just a charming little building in a charming little town in upstate New York where you can go have baseball even if it's snowing and nobody's playing any baseball. It doesn't have to be more than that. It shouldn't be. We don't have to let it be.