One of the hottest topics of debate in sports for the last few years, basically since players from the steroid era became eligible, has been the Baseball Hall of Fame. The process has come under fire recently, so the board of directors announced changes to the system.
According to a press release from BaseballHall.org, the changes will include reducing the length of time a player can remain on the ballot from 15 years to 10 years, requiring eligible voters to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. Ballots will also be made public for the first time.
The changes, effective immediately and to be reflected in 2015 Hall of Fame voting, are the first made by the Hall of Fame to the voting process since 1991 and just the second time the Baseball Hall of Fame has amended the rules for election since 1985.
Chairman of the board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum Jane Forbes Clark is quoted in the release as saying that these changes will increase the integrity of the process in the future.
We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame – player’s record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity – to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward.
These changes, while there is some merit to what they will do, are really just a way to get players from the "tainted" era off the ballot quicker, as Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports noted on Twitter:
However, the Hall denied this, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
The thinking behind that is voters would eventually soften on players from that era, possibly voting some of them in by the time their 15-year limit ran out. Now, with just 10 years on a ballot, those odds decrease dramatically.
If you recall, the voting process was openly mocked earlier this year when Dan Le Batard, who is not a baseball reporter yet somehow has a ballot, gave his Hall of Fame vote to Deadspin, which subsequently allowed fans to cast the vote in his place.
The mocking came not from the fact that fans cast their vote but that they actually did a better job than a lot of real voters. The Deadspin ballot had Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio, Edgar Martinez, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds and Curt Schilling.
Maddux, Glavine and Thomas were all elected this year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but no one else reached the necessary 75 percent. The mocking was the result of actual voters checking names like Armando Benitez, Jacque Jones and J.T. Snow.
This is a broken system that needs wholesale changes. While Saturday's announcement is a step in the right direction, there's a lot of work that has to be done. Too many people who don't cover the game still have votes because the privilege doesn't get taken away once you get it.
Even though the steroid-era players aren't likely to benefit from less time on the ballot, it is a good thing that eligibility was reduced from 15 to 10 years. There's no need for a retired player who has been sitting on the couch five years to wait potentially 20 years after playing his last game to make it to the Hall of Fame.
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