Hall of Fame Flap Brewing?

Almost two weeks ago, I posted my take on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. I listed the 10 players I would have voted for and then I predicted that none of the players on this year’s ballot would garner the necessary 75% support to be elected to the Hall by the actual voting members of the BBWAA this year.

Wednesday afternoon at 1 pm CT, we will find out if I was right. (UPDATE: Indeed, no players were elected by the BBWAA.)

Baseball-Hall-Of-FameI thought, at the time I wrote my piece, that my prediction that nobody would be elected this year would be a “fringe” prediction. I’d seen some people predict Biggio would be a first ballot HOFer and others thought Piazza might have a shot or that Morris might finally get elected.

But since I posted my opinion, I’ve noticed that a lot of people… including a significant number of voting members of the BBWAA… are likewise predicting that nobody will be elected. What’s getting a lot of attention, in light of those predictions, is the anticipated public reaction, should the BBWAA voters indeed throw a shutout.

I guess that hasn’t happened in something like 15 years or more, so I suppose it is a bigger deal than I thought it would be. But really, I can’t believe people should be all that surprised, considering the combination of:

  • An unusually large ballot.
  • A significant number of big name players eligible for the first time, almost all of which carry the yoke of suspected or confirmed PED usage.
  • Few carry-over players from last year that have slam-dunk HOF credentials, even absent PED suspicions.

The bottom line is that if you want to try to make a case for NOT voting for them, you could do so for every player on the ballot, without even having to resort to the silly, “I won’t vote for anyone his first year of eligbility,” thing. That being the case, why should anyone be surprised if more than 25% of the voters do, in fact, choose to make a case for not voting for each player?

Some people, though, think the result would be a travesty. Other than the Hall, itself, which could see attendance at the annual induction ceremony dwindle to an all-time low, since none of the inductees by the Veterans Committee are even still alive (should be a short ceremony, eh?), I’m not sure why anyone should really mind.

I’ve read articles making the case that a shutout would indicate the process is broken… that the voters must be allowed to vote for more than 10 players. I disagree. If anything, I think it indicates that the process is working the way the Hall has always seemed to want it to work. They’ve liked that it’s a tough admission ticket in to that club.

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t like the idea that many voting members of the BBWAA have chosen to designate themselves as the morality policy for potential HOF ballplayers. I just don’t think┬áthat they, as a group, are in any way morally superior to the players they’re sitting in judgment of.

But, unless the rules change would be to clarify to voters that they must not hold suspected PED use against a player and instead must vote purely on his talent between the lines, changing the rules won’t stop voters from exercising their right to stick it to Barry Bonds.

No, letting the voters vote for more players will just make it easier for the borderline players to get elected. It would also make it much easier to get the 5% necessary to stay on the ballot for another year. Over time, I think we’d see ballots with 50-60 names on it. Is that really what they want? I hope not.

Look, I believe Jack Morris is worthy. I believe Tim Raines is, too. I also am aware that with the high quality players scheduled to be added to the ballot in the next couple of years, it could very well mean those and other players I think are worthy will not ultimately be elected. That’s unfortunate.

It’s also the way it’s supposed to work.

The nervous nellies who would have us believe that we’ll have more years, in the future, where nobody is elected than we have when the writers do elect someone are just plain over-reacting. I know… sports writers over-reacting… hard to believe, isn’t it? But the rules changes being advocated would, I believe, be an over-reaction that would make the decision to give the league that wins the All-Star Game the home field advantage in the World Series seem thoughtfully well-measured, by comparison.

Next year, we’ll see Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine added to the ballot. If we go through the process with those guys eligible, not to mention holdovers like Morris, Raines, Biggio and Piazza, and we still don’t see anyone elected, I’ll be shocked. Not gonna happen. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three players elected in next year’s class.

If the Hall did change the rules to allow voters to vote for, say, 15 players, you might see twice that many elected… maybe more. I’m a “big Hall” guy, but even I have limits and I don’t want to see Baseball’s HOF start to look like the NFL’s, where half a dozen or more players get elected every year.

But that’s exactly what is likely to happen if you let voters check 15 boxes. How many writers would NOT consider Maddux, Thomas and Glavine among the 15 most worthy players? How many would take advantage of the relaxed standard to vote for Morris, Raines, McGriff, Martinez, or any of the other borderline players?

Relaxing the voting rules to allow voters to put a check mark beside more than 10 players would be a stupid thing to do and I’m pretty confident the decision makers at the Hall of Fame will refrain from doing that.

We should thank them for their restraint… and thank God that Bud Selig isn’t in charge of making the rules for the HOF.

– JC