The Baseball Bloggers Alliance today released the results of its annual Hall of Fame vote. Take a look. I’ll wait.
Ok, nice to have you back. Now, I see some of you aren’t weeping. Is it possible that you neglected to follow the link and just kept reading past my imposing ellipsis? Fine, I’ll copy and paste the voting results here:
Jeff Bagwell 76%
Craig Biggo 69%
Mike Piazza 69%
Barry Bonds 62%
Tim Raines 62%
Roger Clemens 56%
Edgar Martinez 41%
Alan Trammell 40%
Mark McGwire 35%
Curt Schilling 34%
Dale Murphy 32%
Larry Walker 32%
Jack Morris 32%
Lee Smith 25%
Kenny Lofton 21%
Sammy Sosa 21%
Don Mattingly 18%
Fred McGriff 15%
Rafael Palmeiro 15%
Bernie Williams 4%
David Wells 4%
Sandy Alomar 3%
Julio Franco 1%
Yup. One guy gets in. And 24% of the bloggers who voted wanted to keep Bagwell out too. Last year, 79% of us voted for Bagwell. So in the interim, either a few of us decided the fourth-best first baseman ever was no longer Hall-worthy or the electorate changed and the new writers are anti-Bagwell.
Mike Piazza hit 427 home runs and once hit .362/.431/.638 over a full season as a catcher. 31% of us decided the best-hitting catcher of all time is not a Hall of Famer.
Bonds, perhaps the best hitter ever, missed 38% of ballots, while Clemens, perhaps the best pitcher ever, missed 44%. Those two come with asterisks, of course, but what about Curt Schilling and Larry Walker, two players not only well above the established Hall of Fame baseline, but better by most measures than the average Hall of Famer at their position? Neither garnered close to half the vote.
Craig Biggio had 3,060 hits and reached base 4,475 times. That wasn’t enough to impress 31% of us. To be fair, I thought Biggio was the eleventh-worthiest player on the ballot and wouldn’t have voted for him under the BBWAA’s rules. But the BBA graciously dropped the rather pointless cap and told us we could vote for as many players as we wanted (I know I wasn’t alone in picking 14).
Many writers have written more eloquently than I could about the problems with the restrictions placed on the BBWAA and about the suitability of the writers, many of whom haven’t covered baseball in decades, to elect Hall of Famers. I’ve bemoaned these same sad truths, but having seen the results of this vote, I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to let the BBWAA off the hook.
Add the percentages above and we get 767%, which tells us that the average voter named more than 7 1/2 players on his/her ballot. The problem here isn’t curmudgeonly writers turning in blank ballots in protest that the game isn’t played the way it was when they covered it. It isn’t the ten-player cap keeping worthy players like Biggio and Trammell off ballots because of the unusual depth this year. The problem is that 75% is an unreasonable threshold for consensus.
If 62% of voting Americans think Barack Obama should be President, he’s the President. If 62% of whoever votes on American Idol thinks Phil Phillips should win, he does. So if 62% of bloggers think Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame (and I think he’ll come close to that level of support among the BBWAA as well), why isn’t he a Hall of Famer? Should he really have to convince the voters that care about the game and do their homework and the voters who refuse to vote for anyone whose teammates allegedly used steroids and the voters who only vote for Dale Murphy to make some ridiculous statement about the character clause?
I’m stereotyping groups of BBWAA members because I’ve seen articles making these statements from that group, and because it’s become chic to bash the BBWAA for the backlog of all-time greats they continue to create by ignoring them year after year. But the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is full of people who write about baseball now. These aren’t people who were so sickened by the steroid culture that they stopped paying attention to the great players of subsequent generations. They’re people who love their teams and want them to sign guys like Edgar Martinez and Kenny Lofton. They’re people who use today’s advanced metrics to make their baseball writing come to life in exciting ways. They’re people who love the history that ties Cap Anson’s generation to Lou Gehrig’s to Willie Stargell’s to Fred McGriff’s. And these people can’t agree that Mike Piazza, who earned exactly as many rWAR as Yogi Berra, meets the Hall of Fame standard.
I won’t defend the BBWAA as a whole. I’ve seen several great ballots, including this one by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, with which I agree entirely, and this one by Jayson Stark of ESPN, who has his hits and misses, but at least he put some thought into it. I’ve also seen more than a few bad apples. But maybe it’s time to stop calling for a new electorate and start calling for some rule changes. The first one I’d like to see is a more reasonable threshold for election- maybe 60%. The ten-player cap, of course, should be removed entirely. And there’s no reason for a player to stick around on the ballot for 15 years. I think Alan Trammell should have gone into the Hall on the first ballot, but if he hasn’t convinced the voters he belongs yet, he shouldn’t be clogging up a spot on the ballot, cap or no cap. If two years can’t get a player to 60%, let the Veterans Committee decide someday.
I think there are 14 Hall of Famers on this year’s ballot. You may think there are only seven or eight. You may even think there are 16 or 17. But if you have any sense of the accomplishments of the players currently in the Hall, I don’t see how you could argue that only one player from this group is worthy of enshrinement. Yet a bunch of reasonable people just put their reasonable heads together and came to that unreasonable conclusion.
And this time, it’s not the BBWAA’s fault.