It is that glorious time of the year again, not the holiday season but rather the annual right of the Baseball Writers Association of America to elect the next class into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. With it brings the annual right to dispute who was left off the ballot, who did not receive a unanimous vote (again), and what is wrong with the process in totality.
The truth will be self-evident again when we find out, soon enough, that Ken Griffey Jr. will be a first ballot Hall of Famer but will not be a unanimous choice. He will fall in line with the greats of America’s Pastime who have not been unanimously entered in the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown.
I could go on and on about players that could not garner unanimous induction but instead let’s just look at it this way, think of any player that has ever played the game from Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner to Willie Mays to Randy Johnson or Greg Maddux, none were unanimous selections.
In fact, the closest any player has ever been to a unanimous selection was Tom Seaver who garnered 98.8 percent of the vote. That means a whopping five people did not believe he was worthy of unanimous status. Nine people did not vote for Henry Aaron. 19 people took a pass on Ted Williams. 22 people did not feel Willie Mays was worth a first ballot vote. The same number passed on Stan Musial. You get the point. Heck, only 29 of the first ballot Hall of Fame inductees have garnered over 90 percent of the vote.
Where is the logic? What reason could voters have for passing on an all-time great on the first ballot? Some will say that since Player X was not unanimous that how can Player Y be? That is akin to a teacher saying “I had a student write a paper 30 years ago that was the best I ever read and I gave it a 99. How can I give this student a 100?” Just a laughable idea but nevertheless exactly how some of these voters feel.
That way of thinking needs to stop but as long as many of the “old hat” continue to take in oxygen on a daily basis, that logic will stay the status quo. If a player belongs then they belong. It should just be that simple. Since we all know that is going to happen I think it is time for the BBWAA to think outside the box, I know I know, and come up with a change. To look at the proposal we need to look to the past.
Twice in the history of the Baseball Hall of Fame the voting body conducted a special election. In both instances the voters elected the member because it was a no brainer. The first was the election of Lou Gehrig in 1939, after retiring from baseball and publically battling ALS, and the second was Roberto Clemente who was elected in 1973 after losing his life in a plane crash while on a humanitarian service mission.
What if we take the idea of a special election and morph it to serve a greater good? As many are aware, a voting member can only cast their ballot for 10 players in any given year. It does not matter if there are 14 Hall of Fame worthy players, they must cast their ballot for 10. To think about that for a second, a ballot that has Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson will surely cost players like Tim Raines a vote. And make no mistake about it, Tim Raines belongs in the Hall of Fame a long time ago, but that is for another article at another time.
I propose a secret special election each year. Let’s just call it the 90 percent club. Prior to releasing the ballot, the voting body can nominate a player for this special election. If 25 percent of the voters suggest a player then an informal vote occurs. If that vote yields over 90 percent yes votes then that player is automatically inducted and bypasses the ballot process.
|PRIVATE VOTE NOMINATION ACTIVITY|
|Method Of Execution|
|Equal Or Greater Than 25 Percent Nominated||Private Vote Occurs|
|LessThan 25 Percent Nominated||Player Moves To Ballot In 5 Years|
|PRIVATE VOTE ACTIVITY|
|Method Of Execution|
|90 perecent or greater yes vote||Automatic Induction|
|Less than 90 percent yes vote||Player Moves To Ballot In 5 Years|
This removes the formality of no brainer players taking up a spot for the sake of a spot. This also opens the door to other player’s voters might cast a ballot for that would have otherwise belonged to the lock. The uber players gets their due and the rest transition to the ballot in which traditional rules apply.
For those that are concerned about the mass numbers of players that would gain entrance through this system or the watering down of the Hall of Fame induction process, let me lower your blood pressure. The number that would meet the criteria is a small percentage. Just look at the last 40 years and check out the names that would have benefitted from this system. Would you say any are not deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame?
|Year||Player||Percentage of Vote|
I would challenge any person with BBWAA membership, any sports writer, or even any fan of the game to tell me why any one of them would not deserve a plaque in Cooperstown. Clearly there is absolutely no defendable stance to keep even one of them out of the Hall of Fame. Of the 67 players inducted by the BBWAA since 1975, 21 would have benefitted from the system defined here. The means that 31 percent of the inducted players from 1975-2015 really did not need a vote and as such, those “meaningless votes” could have been used for players like Tim Raines, as just one example.
With the aforementioned as guidance, then under what reasoning or rationale should such sure fire Hall of Famers actually have to go through the formal process and thus keep other players, who may have received a vote, out of the hall. No big deal right?
Previously, players had 15 years to gain induction before losing their spots on the ballot (assuming they stay above the five percent threshold). However, that number has been slashed to 10 years and now the concern for some of these players will grow with a smaller window to gain induction. What is the point?
The reality is that change within the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process is needed. Some voting members will voice it out loud, some will push the envelope such as Dan Le Batard who used his vote to make a point yet others will quietly protest and not submit a ballot.
Regardless of the method, or whether or not you agree with that method, it shows that a change is needed for the greater good. A beneficial system that is streamlined for the betterment of today’s players as well as players from the games storied past is a requirement.
In society and baseball, let’s move forward. The ideas proposed in this article are a step in the right direction and if you do not take steps forward than you might as well be taking steps backward.