Patrick Reusse
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The first step to reach baseball’s Hall of Fame comes with a rigorous standard. Eligible players are required to receive 75 percent of the votes from the baseball writers that hold ballots.

There was an outcry in 2013 when no candidate reached 75 percent. Since then, there were a dozen players elected by the writers from 2014 to 2017, and then four more were announced for 2018 on Wednesday:

Chipper Jones and Jim Thome were slam-dunk first-timers, and they were joined by outfielder Vladimir Guerrero and closer Trevor Hoffman.

The number of eligible voters has been reduced in recent years, creating a somewhat younger group that appears more generous in offering its approval.

There were 422 ballots submitted and 317 votes needed. Jones received 410 and Thome 379, making it easily as first-time candidates.

Edgar Martinez reached 297 (70.4 percent) with one year remaining on the baseball writers’ ballot. He has made a huge jump in recent years, indicating there are many fewer voters now who see someone who primarily played as a designated hitter as less worthy.

I voted for Martinez for the first time on this ballot. It wasn’t because of a changed view on a designated hitter or the fact he’s near the end of his time on our ballot.

It was from talking with Tom Kelly more than once, and having him say that, as an opposing manager, the hitter he feared the most when facing the Mariners was Martinez.

I had always looked at Edgar’s numbers as being a little short, but when you hear the former Twins manager — the best baseball man you’ve ever met — rave without prodding …

Then you go back and remember a hitter that was never out of balance with that perfect swing, always dangerous, and with numbers that are very good, and you vote for him.

I’m not sheepish about it taking so long to vote for Martinez. I’ve always reserved the right to change my mind. It also took a few years to vote for Jim Rice before I got there.

A year ago, I didn’t vote for Pudge Rodriguez, even though his numbers were exceptional as a catcher. I wasn’t doing this as a statement to never vote for Pudge.

It was just the fact that he went from a Michelin Man to a jockey when steroid testing became more aggressive. I decided to wait a while to see if any new information on Rodriguez might surface.

Pudge went in as a first-timer on the ballot in 2017 at 76 percent, so that’s that.

That’s also the raging controversy with the Hall of Fame ballot, of course: What to do with the great players strongly connected to steroids?

I don’t vote for them. I also don’t spend time worrying that there likely are other steroid users being elected to the Hall, at the same time Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds continue to come up short.

It’s the American way. If you get caught doing the bad deed, you pay the price. If you don’t, you can end up with a prize.

In my opinion, Bonds and Clemens were caught, so that’s that.

There are two truly ridiculous arguments to justify sending these wonderful, record-producing PED cheats to Cooperstown:

One, Bonds and Clemens were already Hall of Famers before we saw the positive effects of PEDs with them. Yeah, and Bernie Madoff was a renowned financial wizard before he started stealing people’s money by the hundreds of millions.

Two, Bud Selig was the baseball commissioner and he was elected to the Hall of Fame by a committee in 2017. That is a signal of the game’s tacit approval of what took place in the Steroid Era. Yeah, but I can’t recall Bud hitting splashdown home runs in San Francisco, or overwhelming batters at age 40 with wicked pitches.

There’s not much to whine about with the results of the 2018 Hall of Fame, but whine nonetheless will the WARmongers, with complaints such as:

“Carlos Lee received a vote. This proves the baseball writers are unqualified to have voting power.”

Actually, I voted for the maximum of 10 players for the first time, with five of those as newcomers: Jones and Thome because they were slam dunks, Omar Vizquel because he belongs, and Scott Rolen and Johan Santana to keep them on the ballot.

Rolen will remain with 43 votes (10.2 percent). Santana won’t be back with 10 votes (2.4 percent). Big picture, it doesn’t matter, since the Twins Hall of Fame always was going to be Johan’s reward … not Cooperstown.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on AM-1500. preusse@startribune.com