Sunday, January 06, 2013

Stop selfish, grandstanding writers by reforming Baseball Hall of Fame voting rules

The Gnome of Victory and Celebration stands behind Mike Piazza in his bid for Cooperstown

This year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is stacked with worthy candidates, perhaps the most-overqualified class since the first.

And yet, according to the blogs there is a growing concern that not a single player will be elected this year. And that class includes Mike Piazza, destined to be the second player to have the Mets cap on his plaque.

That’s a problem. And it might be time to rework the system that has been used for 80 years.
That system allows members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have covered baseball for at least 10 years can vote for up to 10 players each year.

Players need to appear on at 75 percent of the ballots to be elected, and they can remain on the ballot up to 15 years as long as they appear on at least 5 percent of the ballots.

Usually this process sends one or two or, sometimes, three people into the Hall.  

Occasionally no one gets enough. This happened last in 1996. Six players whom the writers turned up their noses eventually became Hall of Famers. Among those six are two 300-game winners in Don Sutton and Phil Niekro, and Bruce Sutter, Jim Rice and Tony Perez. Ron Santo, spurned by the writers and then assorted versions of the Veterans Committee, was finally elected last year, though it was just after he died. I guess his stats somehow got better or something.

This year is another matter. 

Some writers, including my former Bridgeport Post colleague Mark Faller, say they’re turning in blank ballots as a form of protest. He’s angry that a number of higher-profile players on the ballot are linked to performance-enhancing drugs. So he’s turning in a blank ballot.

"I am choosing to speak loudly by using silence,” Faller wrote. “This is my way of expressing my anger to baseball. Angry that the powers-that-be turned their backs while this was going on. Angry that it took us so long to shine light on it."

So he's protesting because HE AND OTHER SPORTSWRITERS "took so long to shine a light on it?"

This is a grandstanding, “look at me” gesture. And it’s selfish, because it hurts players. 

Keep in mind; this is different than just not voting, not mailing back a ballot. Mark’s blank ballot gets factored in with the others. Election is based on percentage, which means Mark’s move makes it harder for everyone to get to 75 percent.

So Mark’s not just screwing over Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and the other suspected PED users he’s hoping to screw over. He’s also hurting Tim Raines, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Dale Murphy and other players not suspected of using PEDs and nearing the end of their 15 years on the ballot.
And the saddest part is that he’s not alone. 

Crusading sportswriters abusing their voting shouldn’t be allowed to mess up the Hall of Fame. Fans like it when players are elected. The museum likes it when players are elected. And there are many people who believe there a glut of worthy players being kept out of the Hall.

So here’s my solution: Change the system so the top two vote-getters are elected no matter the percentage. It’s not like players getting 30 percent of the vote are going to be atop the tally. That keeps stunts like Mark’s from hurting everyone.

I’m curious how many times a player has finished second and not eventually get into the Hall. I wonder if it has ever happened.

OK, so what happens if there are more than two worthy candidates, especially the over-qualified guys who should be first-ballot guys? Why should they be screwed over because of an arbitrary figure set at two?

That’s fair. You don’t want to keep a mega-stud out just because he’s up during a year two other mega-studs are on the ballot.

So, you could elect the top-two vote-getters and everyone else getting over 75 percent of the vote. That keeps amazingly qualified players from getting shut out, and keeps selfish writers from screwing up the process with protest votes.

Of course, the other option is stripping the ballot away from people who abuse it. To this day, I want to hear the guys who didn’t vote for Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Tom Seaver justify their non-votes.


Paul said...

The sportswriters should stick with covering the news and stop trying to make it. For this reason, they should agree to stop voting for MVP and other post-season awards as well as the Hall of Fame.

It's ridiculous that they are making a big deal out of steroids now when they were willing to turn a blind eye for so long. (And what ever happened to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty?)

Besides, we've got a Hall of Fame filled with at least one admitted cheater (Gaylord Perry) and a multitude of players who demonstrated excellence on the field but weren't really the greatest examples of character off of it. Kind of late to start worrying about that clause now.

My idea: give current living Hall of Famers a vote, and weigh that as 67 percent of the overall total. Give the fans a vote, and weigh that as 33 percent of the overall total.

night owl said...

The problem is more the rules than the writers. The rules allow some writers to grandstand (or whatever you want to call it) or engage in other monkey business -- as any group of people who were asked to vote under these kind of rules would do.

The system is flawed and has been for ages. This is not a new invention. Duke Snider, elected on his 11th try? Fix the rules, and there will be a lot less complaints about voters. etc.

As for allowing fans to vote -- yikes, I can only imagine what that would produce. Most of it isn't good.

RDOwens said...

Baseball writers are presumably journalists. Correct me if I am wrong, Dave, but aren't journalists supposed to deal with facts.

I was a huge fan of Clemens. I never heard a thing about steroids with him until he testified. If you recall back at BBT, I took Will to task for disparaging Clemens without proof.

So it sure looked like Clemens did in fact cheat. I said if he were truly not guilty, he needed to fight the charges and testify. He did. He was found not guilty.

Now, how does one block his HoF ballot? Based on what? That somehow a sports writer knows more than the judicial system of the US?

Bah, humbug!

Hey, I don't like what went on either. Suspicions, however, are not the same thing as proof.

Anonymous said...

A couple things:

1.) Dave, glad you're back.

2.) Bob, you're being a bit disingenuous here. There's a big difference between being found not guilty and being innocent. I think you know that.

But you make an interesting point about where to draw the line in the steroid debate. I would suspect then that based on your argument, you would bar anyone who has been "found guilty" by failing a test, yes? So no to Palmeiro and Melky Cabrera but yes to everyone else, including Ryan Braun?

What about those who admit to it without a test to back it up, such as McGwire and ARod (and Pettitte and Clemens' wife)?

Bob, you also fall under the trap of thinking that journalists reports facts in a vacuum, that they bring none of their institutional experience and, well, their brains to the table. This has led to the nonsense of more stories bending over backwards to present all sides of an argument where none plausibly should exist in an effort to weed out bias. The media were wrong to stick their heads in the sand 15 years ago, so they should be equally wrong by doing it again now? That makes no sense.

I propose a different idea: I'm of the mind that at least one juicer is already in the Hall of Fame. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Alomar.) You won't keep everyone out, so don't. But treat the steroid era as a separate entity. Consider the Hall of Fame credentials of the various candidates ONLY in relation to others of their era. In other words, if a player played most of his career before, say, 1994, he may be considered against the Ruths, McCoveys, and Tommy McCarthys of the Hall. The steroid guys are considered only against their fellow players, period.

In that light, I have no problem with voting for Bonds, Clemens and Piazza (catchers always have a slightly different; i.e., lower standard due to the nature of their positions). Everyone else, including Sosa and Bagwell? They either have to wait to see how their careers continue to shake out in relation to their peers or they didn't do enough. (Raines and Trammell make it in under the comparison to the previous era rules.)


RDOwens said...

Hmm, methinks Anonymous is reading far into my reply than what I stated.

I am actually closer to your opinion that you let them all in. I don't like that, but what are you going to do?

I definitely don't think you can keep Clemens out. Based on what? It's mighty slippery if you go that route. That is what I posted.

There's a case to leave others out, but it is troublesome to pick and choose. I would keep Bonds out for morality (and failed tests), but I am probably alone in that. The man shamed baseball pretty much every time he opened his mouth. I am such a hardliner that I am not sure Sosa is deserving. I have to revisit Palmiero's stats . . . my gut doesn't say, "Hall of Famer" when I think of him.

Nevertheless, there isn't a case to keep Clemens out so a blank ballot makes no sense to me.

Mets Guy in Michigan said...

Paul, that's an interesting idea! Keep the writers out of it. You know there will be a flood of columns ripping all the fan votes...