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How to fix Hall of Fame voting

Dec 20, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT


For a long time we’ve been talking about the inevitable logjam on the Hall of Fame ballot due to PED-implicated players getting some but insufficient support for the next 20 years or so.  We’ve also been talking about how the Hall of Fame is on the fast track to irrelevancy if something isn’t done about this and about the manner in which the voters approach their task. Buster Olney weighed in on it all this morning.  It’s not an issue that’s going to go away.

But what to do about it?  That’s a subject The Common Man takes up over at The Platoon Advantage today. He runs down the potential ways in which the voting system could be changed if the Hall of Fame were inclined to change it (note: it’s not at all inclined).  Player votes. Super Committees. Fan votes. Blogger votes (!).  And then some reformation of the BBWAA vote.  He lists the pros and cons. It’s a good handling of it.

Personally I am really starting to not like the idea of baseball writers voting on the Hall of Fame at all, but I also must confess that I don’t see a clearly better way of dealing with it for most of the reasons TCM writes. Maybe some super committee system could work, but it’s risky. Every other possibility has serious, serious downsides.

What I would like to see is the BBWAA make its Hall of Fame electorate look a lot more like its postseason award electorate.  Dispense with the ten-year waiting period currently in place and let most or all active writers — who are the most tuned-in to the game — vote.  Cull from the voting ranks the many, many people who are no longer involved in baseball writing and/or have not been for years or, in some cases, decades.  As TCM noted, strongly, strongly encourage voters to write about their ballots after the fact so that we can see the sausage being made.

I have been pretty pleased with how all of that has worked with awards voting for the past several years. I would really like to see the Hall of Fame vote get the level of care and scrutiny by the voters that the postseason awards  get.

  1. nategearhart - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    I agree about getting rid of the 10-year wait period. In fact, they should reverse it: if you haven’t published anything baseball-related in the past, say, 5 years, you lose the vote. That helps cut down on the “back in my day” business by getting more voters who appreciate how friggin’ awesome baseball is RIGHT NOW.

  2. thefalcon123 - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    This problem is going to get very bad. In as little as two years, 20 names who are at least debatable HOF candidates will be on the ballot with Fred “493 homers, 50 WAR” McGriff being the worst among them.

    With that many well qualified candidates on the ballot, it will make it almost impossible for anyone to get the 75% needed to election. Outside of really obvious choices like Maddux or Randy Johnson, there are going to be a number of players better than 70% of hall of famers who will have no chance. And players like Frank Thomas and Mike Piazza need just enough guys to throw Bagwell-esque allegations at them to keep them out. McGwire, Sosa, Bonds and Clemens likely will not be enshrined…which is mindblowing. The biggest stars of their era will not be represented because they were among the at least 50% of the league using PEDs.

    The BBWAA unwillingness to deal with steroids in a logical fashion and research who they’re actually putting in means the all-time home run leader will likely be excluded while George Kell is enshrined. Not much of a hall of fame if you ask me.

    • nategearhart - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      When Greg Maddux or Randy Johnson or David Eckstein or whoever gets enshrined, I’d love to hear him take the voters to task in his speech for denying his peers entry. It cheapens Maddux’s presence if NONE of the hitters he faced are there, too.

      • b7p19 - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:57 PM

        Eck would totally make that speech if it was for the good of the game.

      • alang3131982 - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        The bigger problem is what happens when people cant vote for Bagwell or others b/c the number of votes are limited. We’re going to see legitimate Hall of Famers not get the low threshold to remain on the ballot.

      • umrguy42 - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        As a Cards fan, I love Eck, but he’s only ever gonna get into a “Hall of Scrappy”…

    • Richard In Big D - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      The all-time hits leader is excluded, too, but not for cheating as a player. The same can’t be said for the all-time HR leader…

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:11 PM

        The all-time hits leader is excluded, too, but not for cheating as a player

        Are you advocating putting Rose in the HoF?

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        I will advocate putting Rose in the hall of fame. Ban him from professional association with MLB? Fine. Pretend that he didn’t exist, or didn’t do the things he did on a baseball field, because of a moral issue and the hall creeps one step closer to irrelevance.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:36 PM

        because of a moral issue

        What moral issue? He broke a rule specifically written in every clubhouse. This isn’t an issue over whether gambling is good or bad in and of itself. It’s an issue that he knew what he was doing was wrong, and did it anyway.

      • thefalcon123 - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:48 PM


        1. I do think Pete Rose should go into the hall of fame.

        2. BUT, Pete Rose broke a rule and was formally punished with a lifetime ban by MLB. His punishment was not an arbitrary decision made by a percentage of sportswriters.

      • alang3131982 - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:03 PM

        there’s a huge difference between the two. Rose broke a long-time established rule for which the penalty was known. Rose has never been considered for the Hall because he was banned from Baseball.

        Bonds is going to be different. he may have broken a rule (depends on when steroids were made illegal) but there is no post-playing penalty associated with it.

      • paperlions - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        The rule Rose broke should be irrelevant to HOF enshrinement. There is no logical reason for those banned from being employed by MLB shouldn’t be properly recognized if they had HOF caliber careers.

        Just because a dumb rule exists (in this case, if you are on the MLB banned list you can’t be on the HOF ballot), doesn’t mean it should be accepted without question. This rule serves no purpose.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:32 PM

        You know who else broke rules? Every baseball player ever. I still say that the fact that he broke the rules does not negate all of his career accomplishments. Should Fangraphs/BRef delete his page?

        If the HoF is supposed to document the history of baseball and its greatest accomplishments, how can they exclude the leader in one of the most prominent stats in the sport? I have a feeling he will be in as soon as he is dead, and I am not sure if that makes the whole situation more or less farcical…

      • yazmon - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:50 PM

        “The rule Rose broke should be irrelevant to HOF enshrinement.” The rule Rose broke WAS irrelevant to HOF enshrinement until the commissioner made the new rule that made it relevant, this just to make sure Rose did not get voted in by any sympathetic writers.

    • sailbum7 - Dec 20, 2011 at 9:54 PM

      I do not like the idea of these PED users being held in the same regard as those who did it naturally. If they are allowed into the hall there needs to be a notation on every display for one of these players pointing out that the performance that got them into the hall was drug assisted. The rampant PED use in baseball is a stain on the memory of the game and should not be allowed to be swept aside in order to make some people feel good about seeing their drugged up heroes in the hall.

  3. theonlynolan - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    The Hall of Fame should acknowledge steroid usage during this era of baseball the same way they do integration before 1947. It’s a museum about the game’s history so tell the story and vote the best players of this era in the same as all others. Integration, greenies, low offensive environments, every era needs to be evaluated for what it was. It’s not like hitters were the only ones juicing so put something up in the Hall that says steroid use was running rampant throughout the sport and put the best players in. Otherwise, I fear, Cooperstown will become an irrelevant, outdated institution.

  4. Richard In Big D - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    How about some sort of a system where each group has a vote (BBWAA; bloggers; retired players, coaches and managers; fans; current and retired front-office types) among themselves. Then whoever is elected by 4 out of the 5 groups is in. It would make arguing over the results seem kind of petty, and no one faction could keep anyone out for whatever reason. PLEASE NOTE: Fans are NOT one of the groups I mentioned, and there is a very good reason for that: the average fan is stupid! (If you want to argue that with me, please look at all-star voting results from recent years before opening your mouth in preparation for foot insertion). Also, if a person qualifies as a voter in more than one category, they must choose one group with which to be affiliated. This isn’t Chicago in 1960, it’s baseball!

    • umrguy42 - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM

      I’m confused – you say in your first sentence fans should be one of the groups. Your Note, however, contradicts this…

  5. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 20, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    Joe Pos’s readers have a pretty decent ballot:

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:04 PM

      I would be perfectly fine just letting Joe Posnanski choose the hall of fame by himself.

      • largebill - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:49 PM

        Duane Kuiper likes that idea.

  6. theonlynolan - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    Any situation in which the fans are allowed to vote is doomed to failure. Just look at what a pointless exercise the All-Star Game has become.

    • paperlions - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      That same example should also exclude players and coaches from voting.

      • theonlynolan - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:13 PM

        I don’t disagree. There’s no perfect system.

  7. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    While we are all fairly certain Bonds hit lots of HRs while on steroids, he hit many of the HRs off of pitchers on steroids. Doesn’t that double negative cancel itself out?

    The truth is that there are most assuredly steroid users already in the hall, and there will be more in the hall. I will take an Ali Babba approach to banning them; we have to ban every single one with absolute certainty of each player’s guilt or innocence (impossible) of just let the guys who played really, really good baseball in. Isn’t that the point anyway?

  8. 78mu - Dec 20, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    The first and easiest reform would be to make the votes public. At least then everyone would know who voted for David Segui while ignoring Tim Raines.

    • 18thstreet - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:17 PM

      Plenty of writers make their ballots public.

      • 78mu - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:39 PM

        Less than half write about their votes and even then we have to take them at their word. In the article TCM says only 127 of 580 voters posted their ballots publicly.

      • 78mu - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:52 PM

        Wouldn’t you like to know the voter that didn’t think Willie Mays deserved to be in the HOF? Or Aaron, Musial, Williams, Seaver, Morgan, Brett, Bench or all the other no-brainers that were not unanimous? Some of the ‘most knowledgeable’ voters shouldn’t be allowed near the HOF.

  9. purnellmeagrejr - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:39 PM

    I went to the Hall of Fame with my grandparents when I was about 10. Had a wonderful time. Even though I was way too young to see him play, I would have been disappointed if Ty Cobb wasn’t in. The fact that I would prefer Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Raf P., etc. not be admitted might be hypocritical – I think everybody maintains inconsistent stances -or, it might be because Babe Ruth’s 60 Home runs really meant something to me and the fact that inferior players were able to better those marks as a result of ingesting a chemical demeans the accomplishments of the players who were Baseball History to me.

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:21 PM

      Well, one inferior player DID break Ruth’s mark with no chemical help…Roger Maris. In fact, Roger Maris is the only member of the 60 home run club with less than 500 career home runs…or 400….or 300.

      Babe Ruth didn’t play against black people. Think about that for a moment. He played a game against only white competitors. He dominated it and deserves his place in the hall unquestionably. But all things were not equal in his era. The only way to judge a player is by how good he was against his competition. By the standard of late 90’s shortstops, Cal Ripken’s numbers look absolutely mortal. Finding a shortstop to hit 23 homers, bat .275 with 80 RBIs wasn’t that huge of a deal. But in 1980s, no other shortstop not named Alan Trammel came within a mile of that. And that is why Ripken is considered an all-time elite…because he was the best at his position in his era.

      If Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds’a accomplishments demean Babe Ruth, then I think you are viewing baseball through the wrong glasses. Babe Ruth dominated the 1920s like no one else has every dominated before or since. The elite hitters of this era don’t take anything away from Ruth or Gehrig or Morgan or Bench…they are just the guys who dominated in THIS era.

  10. umrguy42 - Dec 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    You might say “super committees are bad” – but I have to wonder about a committee similar to the one NASCAR uses for their HoF (not the nominations, obviously, I think the current rules are probably ok, setting aside the Pete Rose discussion).

    Basically a mix of execs, retired players, retired coaches, media, somebody from the HoF, maybe owners, etc. – and one ballot from the fans.

    Would make more sense than the weirdness that is the NFL’s selection process, anyway…

  11. aceshigh11 - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    My Dad and I are going to go to Cooperstown next Monday…it’s only about 2 hours from where I grew up, and neither of us have been there yet.

    I look forward to talking about this issue with him on the drive over…he’s definitely more of an anti-PED purist than I am…maybe I can sway him eventually.

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    The current system is a bit skewed in terms of checks and balances with the writers. One of the big knocks writers have against certain players getting into the HoF is that they never won a MVP, or only ranked so high so many times. Especially with the life time voting rights, this seems to say, “I didn’t vote for him then, so I can’t vote for him now.” These guys are only accountable to their younger selves.

    Seems legit.

  13. lionsplayoffs - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Whatever it takes to keep the cheaters out of the Hall. This is the only thing left that punishes the cheaters. They’ve got their money, that’s enough.

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:46 PM

      Cool! Let’s see:

      Babe Ruth corked his bats, so he’s out.
      Willie Mays used greenies, so he’s out
      Gaylor Perry doctored the ball, so he’s out.
      Whitey Ford doctored the ball, so he’s out
      Willie Stargell DISPENSED greenies to teammates, so he’s definitely out!

      • nategearhart - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:18 PM

        Don’t bother, falcon….this dude never seems to reply to his replies. I’ve been trying to get a friendly debate going with him for a while now, with no luck.

  14. simon94022 - Dec 20, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    This wouldn’t be a problem if we were talking about marginal Hall of Famers. But Bonds and Clemens are among the super elite, who have no more than a half dozen comparables in the entire history of the game. Bagwell and A-Rod are also on any legitimate voter’s no-doubt-about-it list.

    Rose’s fault was more serious, since it potentially involved cheating to LOSE. That said, I agree with others that he should remain banned for life but still be admitted to the Hall.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:15 PM

      To some extent, if Rose was cheating to lose, doesn’t that make his accomplishments that much more impressive? He did all that schite when, sometimes, he was trying not to…perhaps.

  15. nothimagain - Dec 20, 2011 at 4:42 PM

    Getting rid of voters who subvert MLB’s rules in favor of their own (e.g. no one is worthy of being voted for on the first ballot, designated hitters should not be in the hall of fame) would be a good start.

  16. dadawg77 - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    Well maybe getting rid of pedophiles would work. If Bill Conlin stays in the Hall of Fame then Bonds and the others should go in.

    • largebill - Dec 20, 2011 at 5:52 PM

      Huh? I’m not a big fan of Conlin, but those are serious charges. Is there a story involving him that I missed?

  17. largebill - Dec 20, 2011 at 6:00 PM


    I understand your line of thinking in wanting to do away with the minimum ten year membership rule for HoF voting. However, I have to disagree. We don’t have that rule for seasonal awards and further limit the voting to two per city that has a team because they are considering the immediate past season. With players being considered for the HoF we are talking about evaluating performance that can include seasons 25 or more years back. People focus on the old guy who screws up and leaves Rickey Henderson off his ballot. Thing is that did not effect the results. Having a larger electorate protects against one mistaken voter overly affecting the outcome.

  18. rammer27 - Dec 20, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    Something is wrong with it since Frank White, one of the best second basemen ever, isn’t in the hall

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