A Different Take on Hall of Fame Voting

By Blaidd Drwg

To become eligible to vote in the annual Baseball Hall of Fame election, you need to be a member of the Baseball Writers Association. To become a member of the BBWAA, you need to cover baseball and be voted in by a committee (which is why some of the more brilliant baseball writers out there, like Rob Neyer, are not part of the BBWAA). Once you are a member of the BBWAA, you are a member for life, even if you stop covering baseball.

This causes a ton of issues during the Hall of Fame election process since there are a large number of the 575 ballots that are in the hands of “writers” who either no longer cover baseball or no longer follow baseball. Most of the articles that you will read about the Hall of Fame voting process are about why someone is or is not voting for a particular player. Espn.com recently posted an article by T.J. Quinn about the election process. This one was slightly different – Quinn is no longer turning in his ballot for what I think is a very good reason. It is a bit of a long read, but I recommend it.

Quinn questions whether he is qualified to vote, and it isn’t just about steroids:

Even before the issue of performance-enhancing drugs overwhelmed the annual conversation, I questioned my capacity to evaluate a player’s fitness for immortality. My only qualification, like all voters, was 10 years’ service as a BBWAA member. But nothing in my years as a beat writer covering the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and nothing in my years covering doping as an investigative reporter since has prepared me to evaluate the effect PED use should have on a player’s legacy.

He also makes a point that I think few who argue that the steroid players should not be in the hall consider:

The argument hits a serious roadblock, however, when it is applied retroactively. Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and countless others have admitted they used amphetamines during their careers. If they used today and were caught, they would be suspended under baseball’s rules. I don’t know anyone who wants to think about pulling those beloved players out of the Hall, even though one of the few studies ever done on PED use showed that amphetamines clearly enhance athletic performance.

I have asked this question before, where do you draw the line? Do you take out the guys who admitted to cheating if you make the argument that you won’t vote for Barry Bonds because he cheated? Can you prove that Cal Ripken never took anything, despite him claiming he did?

Quinn also sums this up nicely:

I’ve heard other writers say they couldn’t wait for certain players to make the ballot so they could leave their names unchecked. Eddie Murray’s name came up that way more than once. I voted for Albert Belle because I thought he was one of the most dominant players of his era. He didn’t get enough votes to stay on the ballot, in large part because of the way he treated reporters. He cursed me out a handful of times, but he also asked me how my grandmother was years after she had a stroke. I tried hard not to let either element influence the way I evaluated his career; and to me, he belonged. Robin Ventura might have been my favorite player to cover, both with the White Sox and the Mets, but that wasn’t reason enough to vote for him.

But at the end of the day, the game, the Hall and journalism would be better served if voting was limited to a select group of veterans, historians and even journalists — if they’re the right journalists. Columnists and national writers who have devoted their careers to the game, not dabblers. That wouldn’t solve the problem of how to evaluate players in the age of modern chemistry, but at least the right group would be making the call.

I have to agree with him. The process has too much bias in it, which has led to a good number of substandard guys getting elected to the Hall because of poor evaluation of their careers and they were “liked” by the media.

I don’t know if there is a better system, but the one we have isn’t very good. Heck, I would be happy if the BBWAA changed its procedures so that if you have not been covering the game for 5 years, you don’t get to vote for the Hall of Fame. I will be honest, that is about as likely to happen as pigs flying.

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