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 that 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

5 thoughts on “Hall of Fame Flap Brewing?

  1. Voting for more players doesn’t make sense. Right now, there is no requirement that a member of the BBWA needs to vote for 10 people. Some vote for 3-4. Some 7. If there was a requirement that they have to check off 10 boxes, then you don’t lose as many people each year, and someone will probably always get in. But as a writer, if I only feel 5 guys meet Hall of Fame qualifications, why would I vote for a 6th, let alone a 15th.

  2. I totally agree, Joel. From what I’ve read, though, there seem to be a number of BBWAA voters who want to raise the limit to 15. I just don’t get it. It’s almost like they’re saying, “hey, from this point on there are always going to be a bunch of PED using players that half the writers won’t vote for, so we need to adjust the rules or nobody will ever get in again.”

    That makes NO sense to me. EVEN IF the result is that we go 2-3 years without electing anyone, the result shouldn’t be increase the number of guys they can vote for… the result SHOULD be that the BBWAA, as a group, comes together to form a consensus concerning how they’re going to approach the known PED users… either strongly encourage everyone to leave them off their ballots or strongly encourage them to ignore the PEDs. That’s how you would break the logjam. The BBWAA seems to want to retain the honor of being the gatekeepers to the Hall… but they want someone to give them an easy way out of this predicament. As I wrote, I actually don’t believe it’s a predicament at all… and we’ll see plenty of inductees over the next few years, even if there are none this year.

  3. I wish I could remember who wrote the article I read that made a really compelling argument. Essentially, everyone turned a blind eye during the ‘steroids era’, from MLB to owners to managers to other players and the players’ union. Many folks in positions of power went out of their way to protect baseball from scrutiny. If those in the game refuse to police it themselves, and the buck gets passed, and passed, and passed, the people who get that buck in the end, the BBWAA, have a really tough decision to make. The argument (which I had already strongly agreed with, but hadn’t been able to put this eloquently) was that someone needed to pass judgment, and it should have been done long ago, and it’s hypocritical to blame the BBWAA for doing so now when they’re the last ones in a position to do so.

    Honestly, I think “integrity” being one of the criteria for inclusion means the BBWAA has already decided what they think writers should do about the steroids era. And Pete Rose, and Shoeless Joe. Those players aren’t any less famous or remembered for their lack of inclusion in the HoF, and I don’t believe Barry F’ing Bonds or Roger Clemens will be forgotten either…but it might not be appropriate to enshrine them as heroes.

    I just wish it didn’t impact Jack Morris, and I hope that the blank ballot protests are over now, and the writers can get back to choosing which players to enshrine based on whether they meet the criteria individually (including the ‘integrity’ criterion).

  4. lisa, I was actually encouraged that Morris didn’t slip down further this year. It turns out there were only five blank ballots returned and I saw at least a couple of guys ONLY voted for Morris… which tells me they might have otherwise done the blank ballot thing but didn’t want to be responsible for screwing him over. It’s going to be VERY close for Jack in his final year next year, I think.

    I respectfully disagree with your characterization of the writers being the final people at the end of the line with responsibility for policing because nobody else would. If that group really was so concerned about the purity of the game, where were they when McGwire, Bonds and Sosa were juicing in the 90s? To me, they SHOULD have been the outside eyes keeping players, union and the owners honest, but they seem to have been no more interested in players’ integrity then than anyone else was.

    The BBWAA takes a lot of pride in their role as gatekeeper of the HOF. If their job is more difficult now, I believe it’s just as much due to their own past failures as it is anyone else’s.

  5. unless there is a serious push for Morris, I dont see him getting in next year. He only gained 7 voted from the year before. Then, you have Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine on the ballot (should be automatic votes, but I guess you never know)

    Mike Mussina is there and his numbers just look so much better than Morris

    then there is Frank Thomas on the ballot, and he should be a no brainer.
    then you have the folks who didnt vote for Biggio and Piazza this year because its a first year ballot thing.

    I think Morris had to make it this year to make it at all because next year, the deck is kinda stacked against him.

    (for the record, I think Morris is a very good player, just not a HOFer. But if he is in, its not an outrage or anything.)