Road To Cooperstown: Five Solutions To Better The Hall Of Fame Voting Process
Now that we've had time to digest the latest results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting which welcomed two new members, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyeven, we examine the possible solutions to fixing the voting system.
Last week, controversy surrounded the steroid users or suspected users and therefore they got in some cases surprisingly low percentages, like Jeff Bagwell's 40 percent and Rafael Palmeiro's 11 percent.
Now while one hasn't tested positive for performance-ehnaching drugs (Bagwell), the other has and he deservingly so received a result quite less than McGwire who received roughly 23 percent of the vote his time around.
See the difference? McGwire might be getting more because of his impact in the late nineties but one can easily point to discrimination at the hispanic Palmeiro for getting such low numbers his first time on the ballot and he has over 3,000 career hits, an automatic formula for entrance into Cooperstown versus McGwire's .263 career batting average.
The bottomline is the Hall of Fame voting system is flawed and many fans don't know how it really works. For comparison, the voting system is similar to that of the absentee ballot for politicians in that it gets mailed to you for you to vote and send back.
The BBWAA, or Baseball Writers Association of America are currently the only ones who vote for the potential Hall of Famers. However, the current voting system, keeps things too secret without really knowing who voted for who and if they voted at all.
Here are the five solutions to improving the voting system so that it becomes a lot easier to understand and becomes more in tune with the fans who watch the game:
Live Broadcasting Of The Voting and Announcement
Major League Baseball has done its part in making announcements part of television in the 21st century. Look at the MLB Draft which really played fourth fiddle behind the NHL, NBA, and the NFL drafts which were televised.
MLB would be taking the first foot forward if they televised the Hall of Fame voting and had drama leading up to it by showing the percentage increases of those players on a screen with the voters making their votes (not looking at the results while they had voted).
Obviously seeing who voted for who makes it more about the writers than it does the players voted in and can cause tension so its better if it is kept secret but a live broadcast puts the pressure on them to vote the right way.
Solution: A live broadcast would mean the players are in person waiting for their opportunity and it would be akin to a Hall of Fame Draft and would give baseball some TV ratings during the football and basketball season.
Five Star System
Everyone knows when it comes to movies or hotels, there is a rating system and that's how we base how good something is.
If a movie is rated one or two stars out of a possible five stars, we can assume it isn't worth watching. The same thing goes with hotels, they are classified by their luxury and we know that if it is five stars we better pony up a fortune versus one star which is probably $20 a night.
Why not use the same system on the Hall of Fame?
It wouldn't relate exactly to the voting process but rather it would aid in how you classify a certain player. For instance, you could safely classify Babe Ruth, Nolan Ryan, Hank Aaron, and Rickey Henderson as five star Hall of Famers.
If voters have to punish suspected steroid users then demote them to a fourth or third star but lets not take them out altogether if we are sure they used or not. Players such as Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens were bound for Cooperstown without the PEDs and keeping them out because it was part of culture is a little overboard.
Solution: The Five Star system would go something like this:
Five Star Hall of Famer: Gets voted in on the first ballot or gets 90% or more percent of the vote (Players who have gotten at least 90% by the BBWAA are Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Bob Feller, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Carl Yastzemski, Jim Palmer, Rod Carew, Tomy Seaver, Reggie Jackson, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripkin, Rickey Henderson, and recently inducted Roberto Alomar).
Four Star Hall of Famer: Gets voted between second ballot and third ballot (less than 90%)
Three Star Hall of Famer: Gets voted between the fourth and sixth ballot (less than 90%)
Two Star Hall of Famer: Gets voted between the seventh and ninth ballot (less than 90%)
One Star Hall of Famer: Gets voted between the tenth ballot and beyond (less than 80%)^
^: if a player gets more than 80% but gets voted in on the tenth ballot or beyond, he is a two star Hall of Famer.
Shortening The 15 Year Stay On Hall Of Fame Ballot
As we saw with Bert Blyeven and Jim Rice recently, they advanced to Cooperstown because of the generous 15 year stay on the Hall of Fame ballot. Why 15 years you may? Well the reason it's at 15 is to allow voters to examine the era they were in and compare that to today's era so that they can carefully get voted in.
However it's absurd when we have a player get 17% on his first ballot and then get voted in with a little over 75% of the vote in their last years on the ballot. If the player is a Hall of Famer or not we should be able to determine that sooner.
Solution: The 15 year wait on the ballot should be cut down to 10 years so that voters don't slack off or further hold off a player's candidacy. A decade and a half is plenty time to determine the player's era as a opposed to two decades and the sudden increase in a players votes from the first year on (refer to the Five Star system if you're going to classify a player as this or that).
Hall Of Famers Vote Too
Why limit the BBWAA to the voting only? Shouldn't a ticket into Coopertown also allow you the right to vote for other players you see as worthy of Cooperstown material?
In many ways, opening up the field in the voting process allows for less bias from the writers who haven't even played the sport to begin with.
Solution: Now while this may bring up a question whether the players who have other players as friends would show some bias, they're would be a rotation between a group of five living Hall of Famers (Umpires, coaches, Players included) each year.
Allow the Hall of Famers to vote as well, blending their results with those of the BBWAA's and playing a fair game when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Voting By Eras
Throughout its history, baseball has been known for it's eras. We have the 19th Century before baseball had the World Series and really was just beginning to take off as America's past time. The Dead Ball Era between the 1900s and 1920s where home runs were rare and the Live Ball Era between the 1920s and 1940s where Babe Ruth made headlines for his power surge. The Integration Era between the 1940s and 1960s where future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente came up and played. The Expansion Era between the 1960s and mid 70s where we saw an increase in MLB franchises. The Free Agency Era from the mid 70s to up until the strike of 1994.
Since the strike however we have encountered the Steroid Era which you can say hit a speed bump in 2010 when pitchers began to dominate.
Solution: Having a voting system based on eras allows us to classify baseball differently. The way you look at it, baseball is going to be around forever and there are going to be millions of Hall of Famers in the future with plenty of eras. Why not separate things and vote players based on eras?
Players would be taken off the ballot when the era concludes meaning that the 15 year ballot rule would most likely come into effect in this instance. Voters need to have the mentality of separating players by their eras, whose to say that players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Cal Ripkin wouldn't have at least tried using PEDs when they were dominate. The Steroid Era was part of the culture and we've learned that many of our "role models" have used them and some who have yet to come out.
At the end of the day, these users were the best of the era and the question as to who used or who didn't is too broad to answer and therefore the system needs a change.