How To Change The Hall Of Fame Voting Process

I read many columns from my colleagues, and was greatly disappointed in those who would not recognize a player on the first ballot, and even worse, those who returned their ballots blank.

As I wrote yesterday, boycotting first timers is an abuse of power. If you truly believe a player merits induction based on his career, then he should be on your ballot the first year.

You can’t legislate whom a voter marks down on his ballot, and history has shown this practice has gone on since the voting began.

Tom Seaver appeared on the highest percentage of the ballots at 98.84 percent. In the all-time rankings of the Hall of Fame inductees by percentage: Ty Cobb (4), Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner (tied 11), Willie Mays (14), Ted Williams (18), and Stan Musial (19).

Did you know, Frank Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott, Yogi Berra, Bob Gibson and Harmon Killebrew didn’t even receive 90 percent of the vote?

Did you know, before the voting rules changed, that Lou Gehrig received only 22.6 percent of the vote?

How could any of these players not appear on a voter’s ballot?

If you’re a voter and believe a player is worthy, he should not be omitted based on his first year of eligibility. Frankly, that is an abuse of your voting privileges.

Then there is the issue of the blank ballot. You’re allotted ten votes. Send your message against the steroid users all you want, but don’t penalize a worthy candidate with a blank ballot because it changes the percentages. I find it impossible out of all the candidates a voter can’t find at least one player worthy.

A blank vote is a vote of arrogance.

There are voting guidelines, but one should never be to dictate how a member votes. I am disappointed in the first-year and blank ballot voters, but don’t believe they should lose the right to vote based on their God-complex.

What changes would I make in the voting process?

* I would have the Hall of Fame voters identified with their choices. Media members can find out easily enough as to whom the voters chose. I think it should be out front and a condition of the voting.

* Blank ballots should be identified and not count against the percentage of ballots cast. This will eliminate the voter who votes against Barry Bonds and in the fallout penalizes Craig Biggio.

* Identify drug users on their plaques and have their names listed with an asterisk in the record books. Tainted players have tainted records. In my thinking, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris have the career and single-season home run records, not Bonds and McGwire. When I refer to Bonds and McGwire, I’ll say “balls hit over the wall,” and not call them home runs.

Baseball is about numbers and history. Bonds, Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, not to mention Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, all have careers worthy of induction. We just can’t pretend their careers didn’t exist.

To put a scarlet letter on their careers doesn’t condone their actions, but acknowledges their complete roles in the sport.

7 thoughts on “How To Change The Hall Of Fame Voting Process

  1. I can understand not voting a player in the first year. Sometimes it takes time and you get feedback pro and con on a player. This can help your judgment process. However, this is your job you should have conviction so I understand your point.

    A blank ballot as a protest is valid. I do not see anything wrong with it. It is like people not showing up for a game or putting a bag over their head. People will question what happened. Protest is fine if it has a point. As far as not counting them I think that is wrong. They are part of the population and so should be counted. Otherwise it is not fair.

    Identity. Well if you stand up and be counted that is transparency. Anonymity has its place too as you are free to vote your conscience without having to justify yourself and feel pressure to do something you would not want to. For example you can lose your job because a fan base disagrees with you and gets on your boss to fire you.

    If you cheat then you have no standing to be in the hall. If cheating is allowed then allow all cheating. Corked bats, spitballs, razors, sandpaper, etc. Why draw the line at steroids and HFH and other chemical enhancers? You should come to play au natural. You should not come with an aluminum bat, corked bat, artificial limb, stimulant, enhancer. God gave you this body and you mold it through conditioning. Anything else is disallowed. I don’t mind if you beat me because you are better. I mind if you beat me because you cheated. If you are in the hall, asterisk or not, you are there and honored as such. Why should you be honored? Because you cheated and got away with it? You already got paid. You got compensated more than enough. You should pass into history and forgotten.

    • dave: As usual, thanks for your thoughtful response. The only things I totally disagree with you on is the blank ballot and artificial limb. You can make your protest by not voting for a certain player, but why penalize a worthy player? By submitting a blank ballot you are altering the percentages and that hurts those who did not cheat. If you’re going to send in a blank ballot, it is better to not send in one at all.

      As for the artificial limb. If an accident cost you an arm and yet you overcame that and still posted HOF numbers, then what’s wrong with that. If you’re going to go that route, would you then penalize players who wore glasses or contacts to enhance their vision?

      I can see leaving somebody off the ballot on the first year if you’re not sure. My point is if you believe somebody is worthy then vote for him, first year or not.-JD

      • John what I mean by an artificial limb is more along the lines of the $6M man. Some sort of mechanical assist to increase power and such like the super hero mags.

        As for blank ballots. Yes. Penalizing everyone is drastic, but sometimes drastic action is what is necessary to gain attention to what you want.

  2. I wonder about is the size of the electorate. Are there really 520 or so writers who really follow the game, know the history, who is in. Or are a lot of them casual fans. John, you would know the people better than me.
    i keep thinking about the line in Hosea that Arthur “Bomber” Harris of WWII RAF bombing command quoted: “They have sowed the wind and now they will reap the whirlwind”.

  3. Dan: You have to be a member of the Baseball Writers Association for ten straight years, which means covering the sport actively for a decade. Of course, there are those who cover it longer. I was a beat reporter for over 20 straight years. I don’t know how many active members are in the BBWAA, perhaps 800 or so, but not all of them vote because they don’t have the ten years in. Many writers, after getting off the beat, still follow the sport as national writers or columnists or bloggers. There are several writers, who do not vote any longer or have chosen not to vote.-JD