“Were you dominant? Joe Nathan hopes to stay on Hall of Fame ballot

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Joe Nathan’s major league career, the former closest is quick to admit, enjoyed excellent timing. He came to Minnesota, via a trade with the Giants, just as Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins, the Twins’ top bullpen relievers, left as free agents.

His timing is not as good this year.

Nathan knows he won’t be elected to the Hall of Fame when the Class of 2022 is revealed Tuesday night, but he’s hoping that at least 5% of the electorate — about 400 members of the Baseball Writers Association of America — l ‘ll put on their ballots, which would earn him a spot on next year’s ballot, too. Next winter’s election will not include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling or Sammy Sosa, controversial figures whose candidacies, which have reached the 10-year maximum this year, risk ousting his own.

“I’ve had [voters] tell me they would have voted for me, but they didn’t have a seat,” Nathan said, due to a 10-player limit on the BBWAA ballot. “This ballot is pretty crowded. It would be super exciting to stay on the ballot because it gives the guys a chance to take a closer look.”

A closer look would reveal a seven-season tenure as the greatest relief pitcher in Twins history, and arguably one of the best in baseball history. From joining the Metrodome in 2004 until leaving as a free agent after the 2011 season, Nathan saved 260 games in 288 opportunities, posting a 2.16 ERA and striking out 561 batters in 463 innings.

That last number is a hurdle for some voters, as relievers throw relatively few innings compared to starters. Nathan has heard the argument that a lack of sleeves makes closures less worthy of consecration, but he thinks roles shouldn’t matter, especially one as visible and valuable as a modern closure.

“I’m like, yeah, that was the job. One round at a time,” Nathan said, pointing out that closers like Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have reached Cooperstown in the past 15 years. “The criteria should be, were you dominant at your position? My position was closer, and that’s who you should be compared to.”

According to the bbhoftracker.com website, which counts ballots as they are publicly revealed by voters, Nathan will need an increase in votes on unrevealed ballots (the vote will is completed in December) to reach the 5% threshold to remain on the ballot. Only four voters included Nathan among the 177 that were revealed on Monday.

“It would be nice if that happened, but I’m not going to go crazy thinking about it,” Nathan said. “Honestly, it’s just a huge honor to have been included on the ballot. To even have the opportunity to make it happen is not something I would have ever dreamed of when I was a kid. “

Nathan is one of five former twins on the Hall of Fame ballot this year; ironically, he was traded for one of them, catcher AJ Pierzynski. Additionally, Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter and David Ortiz are also among the 30 nominees. Hunter received 38 votes a year ago, his first on the ballot, a 9.5% result that qualified him for this year’s vote. Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer were also on the ballot last year but did not meet the 5% minimum.

Ortiz is a freshman candidate and is expected to be elected when final numbers are announced on Tuesday. Anyone who meets the 75% requirement will be inducted on July 24, along with five players – including former twins Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva – selected by two veterans committees in December.

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