Hall of Fame Vote Shows Why the BBWAA Shouldn't Use Secret Ballots

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 8, 2010

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 26:  2009 inductees Rickey Henderson (L) and Jim Rice pose for a photograph with their plaques at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 26, 2009 in Cooperstown, New York. Henderson is the all-time leader in stolen bases (1,406) and runs (2,295), a ten time All-Star, was the 1990 American League most valuable player and won two World Series titles. Rice played his entire sixteen year career with the Boston Red Sox, was the 1978 American League most valuable player and was a eight time All-Star.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Whenever the Baseball Writers Association of America goofs up a vote, most of the complaints seem to start the same way: “I don’t understand.”

I don’t understand why Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were not elected to the Hall of Fame. I don’t understand why Andre Dawson is 10.9 percent worthier of enshrinement than he was last year. And I definitely don’t understand why anyone voted for David Segui.

I realize that the voting is over, and that my complaints about the results won’t be addressed. But I’d at least like some explanations.

Unfortunately, the BBWAA uses secret ballots, so the world will probably never know why two idiots wasted their votes on Eric Karros.

Therein lies the root of the problems with the voting process, and the key to the solution.

There’s a reason why most democracies use secret ballots in elections: the belief that the citizens shouldn’t be held accountable for their votes (beyond being stuck with the government they elect). However stupid or shortsighted or just plain wrong, everyone has the right to follow whatever ideology they please. That’s the beauty of democracy.

But that principle shouldn’t apply to the BBWAA.

Why? Because giving opinions and commentary about the baseball world is their job.

Not just anyone can vote for the Hall of Fame. Only sportswriters with at least 10 years of experience are allowed to have a say. It’s a privilege to have a vote in the BBWAA, not a right.

If John Q. Analyst wrote a column opining that Kevin Appier should be immortalized in Cooperstown, or that Alomar did not, he’d have to defend his claim to his angry readers. Why should he get immunity for his vote?

Holding voters accountable for their choices would put an end to the ridiculous traditions that plague our current process. Denying deserving players votes because they are in their first year of eligibility or are in danger of being approved unanimously is easy when the ballots are anonymous.

But if the voters can no longer blend in anonymously with the rest of the electorate, they’ll have a tough time explaining these ridiculous ideas to the general public.

I don’t support a mandate requiring BBWAA members to vote for a certain number of players. There’s no guarantee that the talent pool will be as deep every year as it was this winter.

But I want the 139 so-called experts who denied Blyleven to explain why finishing just 13 wins shy of 300 means he doesn’t deserve a spot in Cooperstown.

I want the 142 morons who didn’t support Alomar to tell us why a possibly inflated vote total would be worse than denying immortality to one of the greatest second basemen of all time.

And I want the five imbeciles who sent in blank ballots to explain why none of the legendary players on that list—not just Alomar and Blyleven, but Barry Larkin, Edgar Martinez, and Fred McGriff—deserve to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.

I don’t expect these elections—or any other votes by the BBWAA—to be completely rational. But I want the voters to be held accountable for their mistakes.


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