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Hall of Fame voting is better, but still silly: While We’re Waiting…

Cleveland Sports

Last year was a gigantic year for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. For the first time in 60 years (!), four players (Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio) crossed the 75 percent threshold needed for election. Yes, I was still very angry about that whole Paul Hoynes “I forgot to vote” column. But all in all, it was a very successful year for the Hall of Fame.

Entering the 2016 ballot, most expected key percentage increases for a number of intriguing players approaching election. This was because of the much-applauded thinning out of the voting poll that was announced over the summer. Baseball Writers Association of America rules now required voters to be active within the game within the last 10 years. Inactive voters were oft-accused of only voting for a few players.

Only 440 votes were cast this time around, down from 549 one year ago. And as expected, may players in the mid-tier range did receive large increases in their support. However, the drop from 8.42 votes-per-ballot down to 7.95 was still highly discouraging and a key sign of the issues of the existing Hall of Fame process. Not everything has been fixed just yet. The BBWAA should strongly consider implementing at least two new rules during its next meeting.

First, the organization should enable voters to vote for up to 12 players in a given year. Such a rule failed to pass during the December meetings. But we have seen time after time again that voters are forced to “manage” their ballot in order to be more strategic with their votes. This is clearly an issue and it has created a clogging of the ballot for years. If 12 votes were permitted, it is possible that several more players would have been elected this year, and rightfully so. The concept of “waiting” for election is a charade that should end.

Secondly, the BBWAA should lower the years requirement for members looking to receive a vote. Currently, that requirement is 10 years. That means writers such as Jay Jaffe, arguably the preeminent modern Hall of Fame analyst, isn’t eligible to vote until 2021! It’s preposterous. This should be lowered down to only eight years. Heck, while the BBWAA is at it, they should also change that recent rule and maintain that voters should be active within the game within the last eight years. Why is the rule five years for players and 10 for voters? It’s illogical and antiquated.

Don’t get me wrong, there certainly has been some positive momentum for the BBWAA of late. Last month’s decision to enable MLB.com writers and editors to become BBWAA members is definitely noteworthy. Overall, votes-per-ballot are still way higher than previous years. And it certainly looks inevitable that Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines will finally reach induction on the 2017 ballot.

I hope that the continued controversy and negativity swirling around the Hall of Fame and BBWAA doesn’t affect the Hall of Fame election of Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. Both are beloved stars who were a staple of my childhood baseball fandom. They deserve to be in. But so do many other current and future eligible players, and in a much more streamlined process. Reform is not over yet. It has only just started.

Things that I’ve enjoyed reading on the Internet lately:

  • Larry Nance, “Trust Me, Being An NBA Legacy Son Is A Lot Harder Than It Looks,” The Cauldron — I love reading things about Larry Nance, the Akron native and son of the Cavaliers legend. He’s had a very impressive last month or so for the downtrodden Los Angeles Lakers. And his battle with Crohn’s disease is hopefully very inspirational for many, many young people.
  • Chris Haynes, “Before you look down on LeBron James’ response to the Tamir Rice case, look within,” Cleveland.com — I don’t like to get too political. But you should definitely read this very personal essay from the Cavs beat writer. It took a lot of guts to share this publicly.
  • David Zavac, “Checking in with the new year: How are the Cavs doing in five key advanced stats?,” Fear The Sword — Good stuff from David here on five stats that he identified before the season and then updated at the one-third mark. J.R. Smith has been on fire ever since, so nicely done, David.
  • Jessica W. Luther, “Sports Writing and Reporting by Women in 2015,” Power Forward — Kudos to Jessica for all of the work and aggregation in this piece on the top journalism from women in sports in 2015. I know that I personally do not share enough content by women, both in this space and in my sports analytics roundups. This was absolutely fantastic.
  • Eric Maroun, “2015 Faves,” Storify — This is hilarious and the best year-end recap that I read. Well done, Scoops.
  • Bill Barnwell, “The Easiest Way to Lose 125 Pounds Is to Gain 175 Pounds,” Medium — And finally, you all should read this from Bill. It touches on the topic of depression, weight-gaining, and weight loss. Bill is one of the best football writers out there on the Internet. You should also now know his personal story and how he’s battled through some dark times. Kudos to you, Bill. This is wonderful.

  • Steve

    Or three guys knew that Griffey was in the Hall regardless of whether they voted for him, and used their ballot to help out guys who actually needed the help.

  • nj0

    Good point on the OBP. I think my larger point still stands though: McGwire is seen as a guy with a limited skill set when compared to Bonds. Yes, he was very good at some very valuable skills, but I that perception still hurts him amongst some voters.

    Personally, I think advanced stats put McGwire in HOF no man’s land. Based on career WAR, he’s surrounded by both inductees and the snubbed. So while I think there’s a case for him, I don’t think he’s anywhere near the caliber of Bonds or Clemens. I also don’t see it as an injustice if he’s not included.

  • Steve

    Absolutely agree on the perception being the big issue, and being nowhere near Bonds or Clemens.

    Based on career WAR, the 1B above him that aren’t in are Bagwell and Thome – will be in, Palmiero – out for reasons other than his play between the lines, and Pujols and Cabrera – active guys who will almost certainly be in. There’s 11 1B in the Hall with fewer WAR. It seems that the snubbed line pretty much starts with him.

    Obviously there has to be someone who is the best at his position that is not Hall worthy, so I’m not going to call it too much of an injustice, but I’m on the side that puts McGwire with McCovey and Killebrew instead of Hernandez and Olerud.

  • Steve

    The Puckett vote is one of the weirdest things about the Hall and BBWAA. I think we might see the exact same thing with Torii Hunter – a pretty jackassy person who somehow gets a lot of love from the media for being nice to them.

  • nj0

    Well, if you want to get technical, the line starts with Palmiero, but I see your point. I’d also note though that the guys you mention are (or most likely will be) ahead of him by nearly ~10+ wins.

    In my opinion, McGwire should also get “bonus points” for ’98 and the home run chase, but that’s not the case of course.

    The real frustrating part is that most voters are thinking about him in as nuanced a way as we are. It’s clear these votes are a referendum on his PED use.

  • nj0

    I wish Albert Belle could have stayed healthy for a few more seasons just to see the BBWAA screw him over and blatantly expose their own hypocrisy.

  • Steve

    Isn’t Palmiero a slam dunk candidate if there’s never any PED taint? He’s almost an exact carbon copy of Eddie Murray.

    I’m not trying to separate McGwire from the first list of names of guys who aren’t in but will/should be, but the latter list of four.

    I’m not sure it’s appropriate to call what the voters are doing as “thinking” in any way. Even a guy like Gammons, who seems to spend a lot of time contemplating, didn’t vote for Martinez, Trammell, and Walker last year, but found room this year, and mentioned yesterday that he was going to vote for Hoffman next year (he didn’t this year) because he was so close to making it. It seems like even the guys who still are closely involved in the game and not primarily concerned with playing judge, jury, and executioner are still just kind of making it up as they go along.

    And as far as the PED referendum, it’s mind-boggling. The logic seems to primarily be “who do we want to be clean or not”. Rodriguez was supposed to be our clean hero after McGwire’s falling out. Jeter is supposed to have carried that torch, and now there’s stories that he’s linked to a PED-applying trainer. We know that Aaron admitted to, at minimum, trying PEDs, Mays had his “red juice”, and Mantle was getting shot up with meth by Dr. Feelgood. We have no good reason to believe that Griffey never dabbled in those dark arts, especially when there was no testing done at all.

  • mgbode

    yes, luck (or good fortune) whether it be in results or situation is definitively a part of sports and their history and must be included. how much is the debate.

  • nj0

    …the same Dr. Feelgood who would regularly shoot up JFK at the White House. Ah, simpler times.