Excessive Politics and Subjectivity in Uneven Voting Process
When someone asks me if so-and-so should be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, I have always stuck to my rule of thumb:
If you can't say yes in three seconds, the guy doesn't belong.
It's that simple, yet every year we argue about who belongs and who doesn't.
This year, Andre Dawson got in and Roberto Alomar did not. How could that be? How does Dawson get in and Roger Maris and Dale Murphy not?
No one knows the answer to that question. That is why the Baseball Hall of Fame is becoming more and more irrelevant to me and many others. Great players are not being seriously considered. Instead, longevity and mediocrity are being rewarded.
By irrelevant I don't mean the building or the institution, mind you, but the election process itself.
What many people don't know is how is the voting process works. Let's clear that up before we go any further.
First, who votes for the Hall of Fame?
The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). That excludes quite a bit of knowledgeable people from the process such as broadcasters, former players, managers, scouts, owners, and executives.
Although you have many great baseball minds in the process, you have too many dissenters who hold grudges and some who don't bother to vote at all.
The voting should be spread out to other groups beside writers, many of who allow their personal feelings for a player to prejudice the voting process.
Second, who is eligible?
As per the HOF's official website: Election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame is possible through one of two ways. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) considers the candidacies of players who have played at least 10 major league seasons and been retired five seasons (with the exception of deceased players). The Veterans Committee considers those players whose careers concluded no later than 21 seasons ago, along with managers, umpires, and executives.
Any player that is on MLB's permanent suspension list i.e. Pete Rose, members of the 1919 White Sox, etc. are banned from all participation in MLB enterprises, including election to the Hall of Fame.
Third, what is the election process?
A. BBWAA Screening Committee—A Screening Committee consisting of baseball writers will be appointed by the BBWAA. This Screening Committee shall consist of six members, with two members to be elected at each Annual Meeting for a three-year term. The duty of the Screening Committee shall be to prepare a ballot listing in alphabetical order eligible candidates who (1) received a vote on a minimum of five percent (5%) of the ballots cast in the preceding election or (2) are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the BBWAA Screening Committee.
B. Electors may vote for as few as zero (0) and as many as ten (10) eligible candidates deemed worthy of election. Write-in votes are not permitted.
C. Any candidate receiving votes on seventy-five percent (75%) of the ballots cast shall be elected to membership in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
There you have it. The rest is all subjective.
The problem many have is that players get elected based on statistics accumulated over the course of a long career (emphasis on long), not always on ability or greatness.
As ESPN's Skip Bayless says, "It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of the Very Good Who Never Got Hurt." I agree.
All a player needs is 10 years of service to be eligible, yet we see players with mediocre 15 to 20 year careers go into the Hall and players with great 10 year careers never getting their just desserts.
Bert Blyleven barely missed election again this season. It was his 847th year on the ballot. Was he a good pitcher? Sure. Was he better than Tommy John, Ron Guidry, Vida Blue, David Cone, Orel Hershiser, Bret Saberhagen, or Dwight Gooden? Hmmmmm...
This is problematic to me. Those pitchers I mentioned all were "tip of the tongue" names. Blyleven was never great at any one particular time in his career. He never won the Cy Young award and only won 20 games once over a career that spanned 22 seasons.
I know he has 287 wins. But he also has 250 losses.
Andre Dawson was an excellent ballplayer. When his name was mentioned for the Hall, I never hesitated. Was he great? At times, he was. Jim Rice got in last year. Dawson was a similar player. I have no problem with his election, because in his day he was considered one of the game's best.
Anyone who does not think Dawson belongs probably never saw him play. They are just looking at stats. He should have been in on his first or second shot. Why did it take so long?
I think Dale Murphy belongs. He was a two-time MVP, but what is really amazing is that he became a Gold Glove outfielder after he began his career as a catcher.
Someone who never saw Murphy play will look at his total career stats and dismiss him. I guess that is the by-product of the fantasy mentality of the 21st century fan.
Which brings us to Alomar. How did he not make the Hall in his first year of eligibility? Is he or is he not one of the game's greatest second basemen?
Did people not vote for him because he spit on an umpire or was nasty to them in the clubhouse? What does that have to do with anything, especially when the umpire he spat on endorsed him for the Hall?
The Hall of Fame needs to expand its voting base and define its criteria. Until that happens, there is only going to be a limited view of who belongs and who doesn't.