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How Cubs great Ron Santo gets 12 votes for Hall of Fame election

Big League Stew

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Chicago Cubs great Ron Santo died a year ago this December. So it figures that his best shot for baseball's Hall of Fame would come now.

On Thursday, the Hall released the names of the 10 candidates on its "Golden Era ballot" — players and executives whose prime came between 1946-72 — and Santo has the best chance of any for election. The other candidates include players Ken Boyer, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Allie Reynolds and Luis Tiant, along with executives Buzzie Bavasi and Charlie Finley.

Santo has been up for election 19 times, including the past four by some form of a Veterans Committee. So why will Santo get in this time? Three factors:

• Voters come from a 16-person committee, a cross-section of informed parties including eight Hall of Famers, five major-league executives and three media members. In the past, Santo's fate has been left to 80-some Hall of Famers on a do-nothing, elect-nobody Veterans Committee. He got 70 percent of the vote in 2007, when 57 of 82 supported Santo's election, the best of anyone at any time among the current candidates. To get elected this time, a candidate still needs 75 percent, but that's only 12 votes.

• All of the candidates are contemporaries. Hall of Fame voters should compare candidates to those already elected, but eliminating candidates who came long before or long after Santo gives voters less to think about.

• This might be the biggest key: Brooks Robinson is on this 16-person voting committee. {YSP:MORE}

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Robinson not only has supported Santo's candidacy in the past, but he can be a living reminder to the committee that the Hall needs more third basemen. Santo is the best third baseman eligible who's not in the Hall, and third base is under-represented in Cooperstown. (Al Rosen, who's also on the committee, can attest to this.) Robinson doesn't even have to make these arguments. All he has to do is vote his conscience. And if Brooks Robinson votes for Santo, how are 11 others not going to follow suit?

"Brooks Robinson thinks Santo's a Hall of Famer, but I don't? What's wrong with me?"

It's not necessarily the right way to get someone elected, but let's just look at it as a means to an end. The committee includes several voters with Chicago or Cubs ties; Billy Williams was a teammate, of course — his statue faces Santo's at Wrigley Field. Gene Michael used to manage, and work in the front office for the Cubs. Roland Hemond once traded for Santo; Dave Van Dyck of the Chicago Tribune is as knowledgeable and fair as they come. All of these guys aren't unabashed Santo supporters, but he could do a lot worse.

Other than the Cubs winning the World Series, getting to the Hall was Santo's greatest unfulfilled wish. He might be gone, but the wish lives on for his fans. Regardless, he deserves to be there. You've read the arguments back and forth, so there's no sense in going into more detail. Santo's career , on both sides of the ball, comprehensively measures up to that of a typical Hall of Famer — not borderline.

And this is going to be his best shot.

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