Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ah yes! The Baseball Hall of Fame

The Baseball Hall of Fame debate that comes along every winter has become a very touchy subject. Every winter we argue about who should or shouldn’t be in. We have guys that may or may not have done Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). We argue about that too. We pretty much argue about everything that comes along with the whole she-bang. Merry Christmas!

Evan Grant recently tweeted that he thought the voters had let down the process of voting players into baseball’s greatest shrine. Not really. I think 90% try to do a good job. (1) The remaining 10% have no clue or simply don’t care about what they are doing. (2) Of the 90% how many still watch the games? How many actually cover the sport anymore? You can make a decision based off of what you see on baseball-reference or Fangraphs. You can also make a decision by never looking at the aforementioned websites. So in response to Evan, I’m sure the voters have a small shred of responsibility for where this is now, but the process is really what is broken.

Let me explain. The ballot is log jammed and will get more crowded as time goes on. The voters have a maximum of ten players they can vote for. Usually only one or two get in, in any one year and five or six get added to the ballot and stay there. The response from the Baseball Hall of Fame was to limit the time a player can be on the ballot from 15 to 10 years, if they continue to hit 5% of the voting total. It takes 75% of the votes to get elected, why does it only take 5% to remain on the ballot? More on that later.

There is no clear and concise direction on the PED guys or those suspected of using. I’m not sure how that can be fixed or how a directive can be worded but maybe someone in the Hall or the MLB offices should put their collective minds to work on this. These guys get enough votes to stay on the ballot, and they will continue to stay there based on current support. Half of the voters vote for them, half don’t. Are we going to let Barry Bonds go to a veteran’s committee? Yeah, we are and he won’t get in then either unless the stance softens. It will eventually, but not anytime soon.

The Baseball Hall of Fame is the game’s highest honor. I recently saw a writer compare it to an honorary degree which is simply downgrading it to fit a narrative. The requirements to vote are ten years covering the game and ten years in the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA), which can be congruent. Great. Being able to vote on an exclusive honor should require someone to be a part of an exclusive club. Ten years however, is a very long time to wait. We don’t trust Jonah Keri to make an informed decision? He’s got what? Eight years left until he can vote? This, I’m not sure how to fix. I will say they shouldn’t let any old Joe Schmo in. I should not be a voter, let’s get that out there.

Another problem is the BBWAA. Yes, it’s exclusive, but once you reach the pinnacle of being able to vote, it’s a lifetime honor. Some guy somewhere hasn’t covered the game in 15 years, stepped foot in a stadium or watched more than 20 games in that same time period. While this is a VERY small majority it’s still a problem. How many will it be in another five years? Or five years beyond that.

Accountability. We hold the players accountable for their on-field and off-field actions when it comes to the Hall. The voters never have to reveal their ballot if they don’t want. Some person somewhere can submit a ridiculous ballot and never have to answer for it. Also this isn’t the Heisman with ties to a school or boosters. If Billy Simms voted against an Oklahoma player in favor of a Texas player and it became public, it’d start a war in Norman. This isn’t college football and you don’t have a booster or coach nipping at your heels to make a choice “which best reflects the school.” For me, silent ballots are part of the problem in baseball.

So how do we fix it? I’m not sure, but I have an idea or six:

  • Enact term limits based on the writer’s coverage. My idea is that if a voter stops covering baseball as their primary sport, they have five years of voting privileges left. After those five, they are out. Why five years? Because a player has to wait five years to be on a ballot, and a voter who saw the end of a player’s career will still have the opportunity to vote, when they still covered the game. That way the voter still sees the end of the career to make an informed decision.
  • Public ballots. Make the writer agree to have their ballot revealed or their vote for that year does not count. Hold people accountable. If the ballot is outright stupid, then remove them from the process. We can use the Tango Score to be the judge. Score in negative numbers, you’re out. (This is quite radical, I admit)
  • Change the minimum percentage that a player remains on the ballot from 5% to 20%. It takes such an overwhelming amount of votes to get in, why does it take so little to remain on the ballot? How many players have been elected after receiving less than 20% in their first year? I honestly don’t know, but I’d bet it’s zero. (If someone can find out, that’d be great) This clears the logjam of guys who hang around and never get in.
  • Go to a binary ballot as suggested by Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Is the player a Hall of Fame caliber player? Yes or no? It’s that simple in my mind. Also remove the ten player limit. Let the voters vote for as many as they want. The voters are not going to start arbitrarily voting for everyone just because. They understand the enormity of what they are doing. Plus if the ballot is public, that stops idiotic voting. Voters no longer have to leave off a player they think is worthy based on only having ten bullets in their gun.
  • Allow Ford C. Frick Award winners to vote as long as they are active broadcasters. I trust Eric Nadel to make an informed decision on the matter, as well as Dick Enberg and Jon Miller.
  • I don’t know how to “fix” the PED thing. If you have an idea leave a comment.

This is a lot to take in and a lot of rules. But 15 years and 75% simply don’t get it done anymore. The voter ship has changed and so have the players. My ideas are far from perfect. Take them and run with them.

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