Reacting to B/R MLB Community's Baseball Hall of Fame Hot Takes

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2021

Reacting to B/R MLB Community's Baseball Hall of Fame Hot Takes

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    Mary DeCicco/Getty Images

    Welcome to this week's Bleacher Report MLB community article.

    On the heels of the latest Baseball Hall of Fame inauguration ceremony which saw Derek Jeter, Larry Walker, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller join the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, we asked B/R app users to give their bigger thoughts on the Hall of Fame.

    From overhauling the voting process to finding a spot for some legends of the game who are on the outside looking in, the readers didn't disappoint.

    Let's take a closer look at some of the best hot takes from this week's community thread.

Add Former Players and Managers to the Voting Pool

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    Handout/Getty Images

    "Should be a mixed panel of ex-players, ex-managers, ex-GMs, living Hall of Fame members and sports writers." (@wco1974)

    "Sounds a lot like the Heisman panel." (@jgill1220)

    I love the idea of adding the living members of the Hall of Fame to the ballot, similar to the Heisman Trophy voting pool.

    However, I'm not sold on additional ex-players or ex-managers being added to the mix.

    Many complaints of the current voting process center around a perceived level of bias on the part of the writers' association, but it's even more likely that a former player or manager is going to bring a pre-existing level of bias to the process.

    What manager isn't going to vote for one of his beloved former players?

    What player isn't going to vote for one of his former teammates that he's still buddies with today?

    I think we're introducing an entirely different level of bias to the process by widening the field to include any significant number of former players and managers.

Induct Someone Every Year

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    Boston Globe/Getty Images

    "The system is fine. My only tweak would be if no one hits 75 percent, take the top vote-getter and induct him." (@ryty4)

    Since 1967, when the BBWAA began voting on recently retired players every year instead of every other year, there had been just four instances in which no player earned the 75 percent needed for Hall of Fame induction prior to the 2021 ballot.

    Here's a look at the top vote-getters in each of those years.

    • 1967: Joe Medwick (72.6%, inducted the following year)
    • 1971: Yogi Berra (67.2%, inducted the following year)
    • 1996: Phil Niekro (68.3%, inducted the following year)
    • 2013: Craig Biggio (68.2%, inducted two years later)

    In all four cases, the leading vote-getter was elected before his time on the ballot was over, so I don't see any value in arbitrarily shifting the 75 percent figure simply to make sure there's at least one person voted in every year.

    Curt Schilling would have been the guy in 2021 with 71.1 percent of the vote. Will he make it over the hump in his final year on the ballot?

Fewer Years of Eligbility and a Lower Voting Threshold

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    Edgar Martinez
    Edgar MartinezStephen Brashear/Getty Images

    "Lower the maximum number of years able to be on the ballot, and also lower the percentage necessary to get in. I feel like it would make the ballot process cleaner by decreasing the amount of people that probably aren't going to make it by lowering the years, but also making it easier for borderline players to get in." (@Jojo473454)

    The number of years a player can remain on the ballot was just amended from 15 years to 10 years in 2014, and already we've seen Larry Walker, Edgar Martinez and Tim Raines benefit from an added sense of urgency to earn induction in their 10th year on the ballot.

    If that were further trimmed to five years, it would have a dramatic impact on the 2022 ballot. Curt Schilling (10th), Barry Bonds (10th), Roger Clemens (10th), Billy Wagner (seventh), Gary Sheffield (eighth), Jeff Kent (ninth), Manny Ramirez (sixth) and Sammy Sosa (10th) would all no longer be part of the conversation.

    Perhaps that opens the door for someone like Scott Rolen or Omar Vizquel to get the bump they need to reach 75 percent.

    However, I think a more effective approach to thinning the ballot would be to raise the percentage needed to remain on the ballot from five percent to 20 percent.

    That would remove Andy Pettitte (13.7 percent), Torii Hunter (9.5 percent), Bobby Abreu (8.7 percent) and Tim Hudson (5.2 percent)four classic Hall of Very Good players who will likely never approach the 75 percent mark, but could hang around on the ballot for a decade.

    As for lowering the percentage needed for induction, I'm all for keeping a level of exclusivity that leaves borderline players on the outside looking in. That's a simple big Hall vs. small Hall debate, though, and I tend to lean small Hall.

Only the Best of the Best from Their Respective Eras

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    Cal Ripken Jr.
    Cal Ripken Jr.Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

    "Stats should only matter in comparison to others at the same position during the time you played. Getting into the Hall of Fame should mean that you're head and shoulders above everyone else at your position during your career. None of these compiler entries like Cal Ripken Jr. or Jeff Bagwell." (@ThisTrollsForYou)

    I think contextualizing a player's Hall of Fame candidacy by placing him alongside his contemporary peers is a great way to start the Hall of Fame conversation, even before digging into the statistics.

    It's why I had a hard time with Harold Baines getting a Hall of Fame nod from the Veterans Committee.

    It's also why I think guys like Don Mattingly and Orel Hershiser deserve far more consideration than they ultimately received as two of the game's true superstars during the 1980s.

    However, you really lost me with that last sentence.

    If you don't think Cal Ripken Jr. was head and shoulders above everyone else at the shortstop position during his playing career, you've immediately lost all credibility.

    I also don't understand calling Jeff Bagwell a compiler.

    He was still going strong late in his career, posting a 128 OPS+ with 39 home runs and 100 RBI two years before he retired. He ranks 40th on the all-time list in OPS+ (149) ahead of guys like Mike Schmidt, Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell, Jim Thome, Harmon Killebrew and active legends Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols.

    The fact that it took him seven years on the ballot before he was inducted is the real head-scratcher.

The Stats That Are Valued Should Reflect a Player's Era

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    Joe Carter
    Joe CarterFocus On Sport/Getty Images

    "Baseball is an ever-evolving sport. For example, WAR wasn't a big deal back in the 80s/90s, so I would say players from two different eras should be held to different standards in regards to certain statistics." (@BxRaven27)

    I agree with the logic here.

    Having a player's case reflect what was valued at the time he played makes a ton of sense if the Hall of Fame is meant to be a snapshot of the sport through history.

    Joe Carter is an interesting example.

    He was a bona fide superstar with the Toronto Blue Jays during the 1990s. He had six 30-homer seasons and 10 100-RBI seasons during his career, and when he played, those are the stats that were valued above all else when it came to middle-of-the-order production.

    In the bubble of 1980s and 1990s baseball, his Hall of Fame resume is one that's worth discussing, but those numbers look a lot different under today's microscope.

    His 396 home runs and 1,445 RBI are nice, but his 105 OPS+ and middling .306 on-base percentage are mediocre at best, and his 19.6 WAR doesn't come close to Cooperstown worthiness.

    It just proves that there is more than one way to look at a player's career.

Second Chance on the Ballot

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    Fred McGriff
    Fred McGriffGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images

    "After a player is off the ballot for 10 years, he gets inserted back on the ballot as a second chance, just in case the way we look at the Hall of Fame changes. Example: A guy who fell off the ballot in 2011 would get a second chance in 2021 if he had X% of votes in 2011." (@dcamp5)

    I absolutely LOVE this idea.

    The best way to do it, rather than looking for a specific percentage of votes, might be to limit the scope to players who hung around on the ballot for their entire window of eligibility, but never cracked 75 percent before running out of years.

    That would make these three players eligible in the coming years:

    • 2023 Ballot: Dale Murphy
    • 2025 Ballot: Don Mattingly
    • 2029 Ballot: Fred McGriff

    The odds seem low that guys would be able to jump back onto the ballot after a 10-year absence and immediately receive 75 percent of the vote, so maybe the second chance players are afforded a five-year run on the ballot their second time around if they are able to garner 25 percent support in their first year back in the mix.

    I think all three of those players are worth a second round of critique from the voting committee and are a great example of why this is a solid idea.

Let the Fans Vote

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    Kosuke Fukudome
    Kosuke FukudomeIcon Sports Wire/Getty Images

    "Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame. Get rid of the voting system, and put it in fans' hands." (@mikedvh)

    Remember when Kansas City Royals fans stuffed the ballot boxes in 2015 and Omar Infante almost started the All-Star Game, despite the fact that he was hitting .236/.247/.308 and in the process of losing his hold on the starting second base job?

    Remember when Chicago Cubs fans led the way for Kosuke Fukudome earning a starting spot in the NL outfield in 2008, over more deserving guys like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Adam Dunn and others?

    That's why the Hall of Fame vote will never be in the fans' hands.

    For every fan who would take the process seriously, there are a dozen who would simply pump up the vote total of their hometown player. Small-market players would suffer, major-market players would continue to have an inflated image, and the Hall of Fame would quickly become a watered-down shell of what it is today.

    There are things that can be done to overhaul the voting process, and perhaps there's a way to get the fans involved by giving them one collective vote, but turning things over solely to the public would be the death of the Hall of Fame.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.