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Why Derek Jeter should be a unanimous Hall of Famer

No. 2 should become the second player inducted into the Hall of Fame with 100 percent of the vote.

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

By now, everyone knows that Derek Jeter will be a Hall of Famer in a matter of hours. It’s a no-brainer: he achieved great success both personally and on a team level and did it completely the right way, never attracting or creating negative attention. His legacy of consistent winning is unrivaled in modern baseball, and may never be seen again as the sport shifts away from traditional dynasties and becomes more parity-driven. Simply put, he’s the quintessential Hall of Famer.

But, that alone isn’t enough. Although there is no higher honor in the game than becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Jeter deserves more. Yes, I’m talking about the holiest of holy grails – the unanimous Hall of Fame induction. If any credentialed voter leaves Derek Jeter off of his or her Hall of Fame ballot, they will need to have an extremely clever defense ready to deploy. Even then, thousands of fans will listen, but I’m not sure they will agree.

I understand that the 100 percent vote is an honor only one other player has achieved, Jeter’s teammate, Mariano Rivera, just last year. But just because only one other player has broken the seal doesn’t mean that no one ever can. If anything, it should encourage voters to break from the strange tradition that cost other deserving unanimous Hall of Famers this prestigious honor. Take, for instance, the top 20 highest-percentage vote-getters in Baseball Hall of Fame history, via Baseball Reference:

I will never understand how three voters could leave Ken Griffey Jr. off of their ballots, five leave Tom Seaver off theirs, six leave Nolan Ryan off theirs, or nine voters leave Babe Ruth off theirs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax didn’t even top 90 percent voting. To any baseball fan, this shouldn’t make any sense.

Now, not every player can be unanimously inducted. To have over 400 people all agree on anything is an incredibly difficult, borderline impossible task, but there is a certain class of players special enough to be worthy of the honor. Players who are generational icons, players who are recognized around the world, players who have trophy cases for their trophy cases, players that you can’t tell the history of baseball without.

Jeter fits right into that description. He was the catalyst of baseball’s most recent true dynasty, a year-in and year-out championship contender. He may not have always been the best player on those teams, but he was the captain, and his team’s success is inarguable.

Granted, most of this argument so far has been based on intangibles, which Jeter has more of than perhaps any other player in recent memory. However, they’re integral to Jeter’s Hall of Fame case – you can’t evaluate Jeter without mentioning his leadership, durability, consistency and reputation.

It’s not that Jeter doesn’t have numbers either, because he sure does. Only five men have more hits than Jeter’s 3,465. He leads the Yankees, MLB’s most successful and storied franchise, in hits, doubles, stolen bases, and times on base, and finished his career less than 40 runs shy of the franchise runs record. In terms of all-time MLB shortstops, he has the most hits and runs scored.

And those figures are just accounting for the regular season. Jeter played in more playoff games than anyone else in MLB history. It adds up to just about an entire extra season in the playoffs over his career – 158 games, to be exact, more than 30 above any other player. The Yankees won 97 of those games, an impeccable .614 winning percentage, en route to five World Series championships in seven trips. And despite all that additional wear and tear and the pressure of facing the game’s toughest competition, most of his postseason numbers are equal to or even better than his regular season totals.

Some will argue that Jeter has several pronounced drawbacks. His rate stats aren’t particularly special, he never won an MVP, only led the league in an offensive category three times, only drove in 100 runs once, and never even hit 25 home runs. His defensive acumen, while clutch and highly instinctual, was average at best among his peers on pure athleticism and range, and dipped heavily near the end of his career. In terms of WAR, he’s the 10th-best shortstop and 88th-best player of all-time.

But these arguments and metrics don’t account for Jeter’s most notable trait – his consistency. Jeter simply never had a bad year until his last, when he was 40 years old. From 1996-2012, Jeter hit below .291 once. Over that 17-year span, he averaged 151 games played, 194 hits, 15 home runs, 73 RBI, 20 steals and a .313/.382/.448 triple slash. Try finding anything in life, much less baseball, that consistent over 17 years.

And, although Jeter-haters will groan, he did it all as the central figure in New York City, the most media-intensive and stressful place to play a sport in America. Like it or not, it’s part of his story, and another bullet point on his resume. Whether you watched baseball or not from 1995-2014, you knew who Derek Jeter was, and only for the right reasons.

We can debate about how good Jeter truly is when it comes to the pantheon of MLB legends. Statistically, he’s not the best to ever play the game, or even close. But for a credentialed MLB voter to not cast a Hall of Fame vote for Jeter, perhaps the most impactful player of the last 20 years, is just silly.