Mike Mussina is one candidate that would benefit from these obvious Hall of Fame voting fixes. PHOTO: Mandalatv, CC License
There are a lot of thoughtful articles out there on how to fix the baseball Hall of Fame. A quick search for “How to fix the Hall of Fame,” produces a mere 36.7 million articles for you to peruse. So with this addition to that collection, the idea isn’t to break new ground, but rather to establish the most obvious fixes that we should knock out of the way as soon as possible. There may well be more than three fixes that seem obvious to you, but these three ought to be obvious to everyone:
1. Get rid of the ten name ballot limit
This one is so obvious that it will probably happen before the next round of voting. The rule capping the number of names a voter can put on his or her ballot at ten is arbitrary and meaningless. Until this year, it hadn’t mattered, but due to the backlog created by clearly qualified, but suspected or proven PED-users like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Mark McGwire, the ballot is stuffed, as those guys are caught in limbo, while more qualified names pour in. Given the opportunity, I would have voted for at least fourteen players, and many actual voters have written that they would do the same.
2. Shorten the ten year waiting period for BBWAA members to be given a ballot
One can imagine a world where it made sense to withhold a Hall of Fame ballot from a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America until that person had been a member for ten years. In a world before the internet, where the information you got about players from other teams came largely from watching them when they came to town and reading their lines in the box score. Yes, it would take some time for a player’s body of work to sink in.
Today, half an hour of research on, say, Mike Mussina, will tell me 95 percent of what I need to know to evaluate his candidacy. There is no need for analysts like Dave Cameron, Keith Law and Eno Sarris to mull in the BBWAA broth for a decade. They are great analysts right now. For them, there’s really no reason to wait more than a year to give them a ballot. Perhaps for newer writers the period could go up to five years. Anything beyond that is a waste of time.
3. Take away the vote of any writer who hasn’t covered baseball in the last decade
Ten years might be too many here as well, but it’s a starting point. Three Hall of Fame voters quit baseball writing to start Golfers West. From a quick scan of the website, they do seem engaged with baseball, but, well isn’t the point of the BBWAA’s long climb to HOF voting about getting people who are more than engaged with baseball? It’s about that and not preserving the increasingly meaningless power of old white guys, right?
Other voters quit baseball writing years ago, and more power to them, but shouldn’t they be dropped from the rolls for writers like Cameron who are regularly breaking down the game in new ways?
There are plenty of other fixes we can think of, but the Hall of Fame and BBWAA don’t do anything quickly. If we can at least get these obvious fixes in place, that will smooth out some of the bigger wrinkles in the Hall of Fame voting system, and that would be a great start.