Lost in the shuffle of MLB’s Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, NY was a subtle change to their voting regulations for electing players.
As many were busy cheering and applauding the careers of Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa, the Hall of Fame election committee changed the amount of time a player can remain on the ballot from 15 years to 10.
On paper, this may feel like a big shift for Hall of Fame voting. However, it’s important to remember that only six players since 1951 have been inducted into the Hall between their 11th and 15th years of eligibility, names like Ralph Kiner, Duke Snider, Bert Blyleven and Bruce Sutter.
The main reason why this move was done was to help remove the clutter that has become the Hall of Fame ballot from year to year. However, the main problem with that clutter isn’t that there are too many names on the ballot.
It’s that there are deserving names on the ballot the BBWAA isn’t putting into the Hall of Fame.
I’ve ranted on this subject before, and the change to the voting guidelines has brought up the concern within me again. There are concerns with the voting structure for the Hall of Fame (specifically that voters have to limit their ballots to 10 names for…absolutely no reason whatsoever). However, the problem with how the voting is conducted now isn’t with how the votes are calculated or how long you can be on the ballot. The problem is who is doing the voting.
And unfortunately, there isn’t any specific guideline or amendment you can add to the voting system to fix this problem. Some writers have taken it upon themselves to “protect the game” from PED users, or suspected PED users, or guys that just happened to be playing in the area with other PED users. They also feel like they need to protect us, as if we couldn’t formulate our own opinions for ourselves and look to their wisdom and guidance as the be-all, end-all.
I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but you can’t have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include the game’s all-time home run leader, or a seven-time Cy Young award winner, or the greatest hitting catcher the game has ever seen, or one of the most dynamic talents to ever play first base since Lou Gehrig. You can’t have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include one of the five-best lead-off hitters in baseball history, and you can’t let another all-time great lead-off hitter fall off the ballot completely in his first year of eligibility.
What the Hall of Fame should require is all their writers to make their ballots public, and provide their reasoning for who they put check marks next to (or who they don’t). It’s impossible to police who should and shouldn’t have a vote, and there would be plenty of prejudice from both sides if we started cherry-picking who does have the right if they meet the HOF standards. What we can do is hold everyone accountable, and keep the debate going.
If a rule is going to be changed on the HOF ballot procedures, it needed to be the limit of 10. Everything else is just for show.
What everyone who has a Hall of Fame vote needs to realize is that not putting Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens in the Hall of Fame doesn’t mean we’re going to stop talking about them. In fact, all it will probably do is make the Hall of Fame look bad when we do talk about them, because they’re not in.
We can form our own opinions and views of players on our own. We don’t need the BBWAA to tell us how to remember the game.
It’s not their Hall of Fame. It’s all of ours. They need to remember that when they vote.
And they probably won’t.