Neal: Announcement of MLB Hall of Fame voting carries less drama than it should

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La Velle's 3-2 Pitch: Three observations and two predictions on Sundays.

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The results of the baseball Hall of Fame election will be announced on Jan. 25. But if you follow social media or visit a certain website, you have a good idea how the vote is going.

I am looking at a copy of the ballot I mailed in on Dec. 31, the deadline to vote. You will not find out here who I voted for. OK, I'll reveal one of the players I voted for: Joe Nathan. The former Twins pitcher had a ridiculous six-year run in which he saved 246 games while posting a 1.87 ERA. He then underwent reconstructive elbow ligament surgery, recovered, and saved another 130 games. If Billy Wagner is getting support for the Hall of Fame, then Nathan deserves serious consideration.

That's it. If you want to learn the other names on my list, you'll have to wait until after the announcement, when I have agreed to have my ballot published on the Baseball Writers Association of America website.

You will not see a picture of it posted on social media, which many of my fellow voters have done. You will not read a full story that explains all my choices. I love my scribes, but I disagree with the penning of the annual "Look Mom, I filled out my ballot" columns.

There are two big days on the Baseball Hall of Fame calendar: The induction ceremony in late July and the annual announcement of the induction class. This year's class could be a whopper after the veterans committee selected six players from the Golden Age and Early Era to be enshrined, including Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat.

The Hall deserves to announce and celebrate its new members and enjoy its day in the sun. But so many ballots are being revealed before the announcement that a certain website tracks them and tabulates the results. As of Friday, more than 150 ballots had been counted by this website, which won't be named here.

No, it doesn't affect the vote. But it kills the suspense leading up to the announcement.

That isn't fair to the candidates themselves as these unofficial results are tabulated over a two-month period. They should not have to find out in December that the early returns show that they have 18.6% of the vote. That's wrong.

Candidates and their families don't deserve to have their cases played out online for two months before election results are revealed. The Hall of Fame shouldn't have its announcement spoiled by a website. No spoilers.

So you'll just have to wait until the end of January to dissect my vote. I wish more voters felt the same way.

Holes in Vikings D

One of the baffling developments of the Vikings season is that they finished second in the league in sacks but allowed the ninth-most points per game (25.1) and the fifth-most passing yards per game (252.9).

The Vikings edge rushers should be set next season, with a healthy Danielle Hunter and an emerging D.J. Wonnum. They should move on from tackle Michael Pierce, who was ineffective when he wasn't injured. They might let go of linebacker Anthony Barr, although he played well toward the end of the season when he was finally healthy.

But the secondary was a headache. Not Patrick Peterson, who should be re-signed. But they should look at free agents such as Desmond King or Levi Wallace to shore up the other corner spot. And they still need another corner to handle the slot and a safety to pair with Harrison Smith.

Finally, Kaat's time

Jim Kaat's number should have been retired by the Twins a long time ago. Kaat won 190 of his 283 games in a Twins uniform and forged a reputation as the best fielding pitcher in the game. And he was part of a 1970 Twins team that had five future Hall of Famers on it: Kaat, Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, Bert Blyleven and Rod Carew. He also was a brilliant television analyst, able to articulate the game like no other.

What's a true crime is that 17 Twins players have worn No. 36 after Kaat left in 1973, including the likes of Steve Shields, Warren Morris, Clete Thomas and Blaine Boyer. I challenge the Twins to have as many of these No. 36s as possible on hand when Kaat's number is retired on July 16. Especially Joe Nathan, who probably lived up to Kaat's on-field excellence the most.

... AND TWO PREDICTIONS ...

Picking playoff upsets

Most of the favored teams will win during the NFL postseason's super wild card weekend. Except one. Look for the Cardinals defense to force Matt Stafford into mistakes and end the Rams' Super Bowl dreams. And watch for one other possible upset on Sunday: 49ers over Cowboys.

Tough stretch for Wolves

The Timberwolves, starting Sunday against Golden State, will face nine consecutive teams with winning records in what will be their most challenging stretch of the season. They will go 4-5, with victories over the Warriors, Knicks, Jazz and Nuggets.

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