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.