First of all, congratulations to the Class of 2018 Baseball Hall of Famers: Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, and Chipper Jones. As I’m getting older, I’m seeing more and more guys elected that I actually remember watching growing up, and that’s pretty cool.
However, as I’m becoming more involved in social media, it’s become more apparent than ever that the BBWAA’s voting results raise more questions than answers. While the system on a whole is effective, and usually gives the results we expect as fans, I think there are some changes that can be made to improve the voting system without vastly overhauling it:
1. Eliminate the 10 Vote Maximum Rule
I’ve never liked this rule; why are we arbitrarily limiting the size of the Hall of Fame? That should happen naturally through the selection process. It should be a simple question: is (insert name here) a Hall of Famer? Yes or No? There shouldn’t be a need for “Yes, but….” because of a limited ballot and “strategic voting”:
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) January 24, 2018
“These” refers to the twelve ballots that Chipper Jones was not on. With the limit of ten votes lifted, all voters will have the chance to sit down and really dive into each individual player’s career to determine how worthy he is of the Hall of Fame. Due to limited voting, the argument has become “Who is the BETTER Hall of Famer that I can choose as my tenth,” when, in reality, both of the players being considered are Hall of Famers. It’s time to fix this.
2. Eliminate the 5% Vote Minimum Rule
My first change leads nicely into this second one. Why are we risking knocking off some of the great players — like the Andrew Jones scare this year — simply because they don’t receive 5% of the vote in a recently stacked Hall of Fame class with a voting limitation?
If there is a worry about the size of the ballot, then remove some of the original names — no offense to any of these players, but did anyone really think Carlos Zambrano, Kevin Millwood, Brad Lidge, Aubrey Huff, and others who received 0 votes were Hall of Famers? Why were they on the ballot in the first place? If you must have a rule for removing players, make the minimum 2%, or just require a player to even receive one vote.
The problem with the curent minimum is that in the case that the voters get it wrong, or if the class is stacked, the Veterans’ Committee has to step in and consider the players. It’s unnecessary to treat the Veterans’ Committee as a sort of Electoral College: there to correct mistakes the voters might make the first time. Let the Veterans’ Committee focus on their main objectives, and let’s ensure these ballots are done right the first time.
3. Require Voters to Explain and Publicize Their Picks
I think this is one of the most important changes, as well as one of the easiest to implement. We’ve had some interesting ballots in recent years; some writers have abstained from balloting, others choose to only vote for a few players, while other ballots remain anonymous.
For each player nominated, each writer should have to submit their rationale for choosing this player; it could be as short as something that could be put in a tweet, or as long as one desires. But in doing so, you are allowing both other writers and baseball fans to consider a different point of view to critique, or even agree with. In essence, you inspire conversation, and in some cases, help explain some of the ballots that we just can’t seem to understand:
Most importantly, those who vote anonymously to avoid backlash and criticism should have to own up to their picks; these writers hold one of the highest honors in sports today, and they should be confident enough in the rationale behind their picks to let everyone know who they voted for.
4. Involve Former Players in the Screening Committee
For those of you who don’t know, there is a Screening Committee for Hall of Fame voting, which consists of 6 members of the BBWAA, each of which has 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. — Hall of Fame Website
Let me be clear: I don’t have an issue with the BBWAA’s ability to choose players to be considered for Hall of Fame eligibility. I just believe the process can be modernized and tweaked; change is a positive thing. The change I believe could be made to this process is to add two former major leaguers — either already in the Hall of Fame or not Hall of Fame eligible — to this committee.
Here’s one of the main reasons I believe this would be beneficial: there’s a chance that the former players might nominate someone that a lot of people don’t think of, or someone who might be on the fringes in some people’s minds — like Mike Mussina. If a writer nominates a player, he’s just like every other player on the ballot. However, if the players on the hypothetical committee name a player who many writers might not think much of, it forces the writers to really look into each individual player’s career and how they truly compare to some of the all-time greats.
Obviously, there can be some certain restrictions on who the players can nominate to avoid favoritism, but this interesting change to the current Screening Committee would allow those who actually played the game alongside these eligible players a chance to have a voice.
Even if the the two players on the committee don’t nominate individual players, their input in the ballot selections adds an extra layer of legitmacy to the players on the ballot: not only did the writers recognize them as some of the best, but so did their competitors.
I think a lot of my suggestions can be boiled down simply to this: make the process a lot more transparent than it currently is. Baseball fans want to talk about the sport, critique opinions, and learn something new from the baseball writers who have the privilege to follow the players so closely. At the end of the day, four inductees means that the system is working; the voters aren’t keeping everyone out. However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t positive, modernizing changes that can be made. The game has been changing for several years now, who’s to say the voting process can’t use a few changes?