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Two simple steps to fix Hall of Fame voting

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Yes. It really could be this easy.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

No one was elected to the Class of 2021 for baseball’s Hall of Fame in voting results announced Tuesday.

There’s another “no one” involved in that result, and that’s the number of people who are happy about it.

Either people are throwing up their hands and saying “I quit, I just don’t care about the Hall anymore” or are speculating about how votes might move up or down in 2022 and I’m here to tell you that if the Hall of Fame really wanted to end all these controversies and institute a voting procedure that would be a) fair b) equitable and c) get more people involved in the process, they could easily do so.

First, a bit of history. The reason the BBWAA are the arbiters of history and the only Hall of Fame voters is that in the late 1930s, when this system was created, baseball writers were really the only people who saw a large number of major league baseball players actually play. There was no television. The country was in an economic depression; attendance at home games was down. The St. Louis Browns nearly went bankrupt after drawing under 100,000 fans three out of four years from 1933-36, and yes, that’s fewer than one hundred thousand fans for an entire season. The idea of road-tripping to see your team play in another city, something fans have done in huge numbers in recent years and certainly will again once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, simply didn’t exist.

So writers were tabbed simply because they were seen as the folks who knew more about baseball than most, and back then, that was probably correct.

Now? We can see pretty much every game on TV, we have video clips, we have comprehensive statistical analysis of players and we have websites like the very one you are reading that slices and dices baseball in a myriad of ways.

Why shouldn’t some of the people who produce all of that be involved in Hall of Fame voting?

The only reason they aren’t is because the Hall is ... well, I’ll be nice. They’re wedded to tradition and they don’t appear to like change. Like, at all.

So I’m going to make this suggestion with the understanding that the Hall of Fame probably won’t ever do it, even though it would bring many more knowledgeable baseball people into deciding who is and isn’t a Hall of Famer, and further, might generate some fan interest in the Hall — and isn’t that what the Hall wants? Fans to be interested and to come see the museum in Cooperstown?

Here’s who I would have vote for the Hall of Fame, and what percentages I’d allot the vote:

30 percent: The BBWAA, as today. The BBWAA’s current rules require 10 years of membership before your first vote, and you have to have actively covered baseball within the last 10 years to continue to vote. I’d keep those conditions.

30 percent: Team and national TV and radio broadcasters. I’d put the same conditions on those folks — 10 years as a broadcaster before you can vote, and you can vote for up to 10 years after you retire.

30 percent: A panel of baseball statistical experts. This would be composed of people from (for example) Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs and other similar websites and publications. Again, I would apply the 10-year rule to people like this.

10 percent: A national fan vote, one vote per fan for each person on the ballot. There would have to be a mechanism devised so that no one votes more than once.

That would get almost everyone in the baseball community involved in Hall of Fame voting. The Hall needs to get its head out of the 1930s and acknowledge that there are millions of people who know a lot about baseball and who ought to have a say.

The second change I’d make is in the method of voting itself. Yes, you’d still need 75 percent of the total vote to be inducted, but I would eliminate the 10-year ballot and the maximum of 10 people who can receive votes on any one ballot. Now, a player can stay on the ballot for nine years and potentially, after missing out for those nine years, be elected in the 10th. Is that player any less a Hall of Fame player for the first nine years? I’d argue “no.” The most extreme example of this is Jack Morris, who spent the then-maximum 15 years on the ballot, and then had to be elected by a Veterans Committee. I mean... if the guy’s a Hall of Famer, then what did the 15+ years do besides just make him wait? (The argument over whether Morris is or isn’t a HoFer is a different story.)

So I would simply make the ballot a yes-or-no proposition. If the player gets 75 percent of the blended “yes” vote as described above, he’s in. If not, he’s out — perhaps to be revisited by a Veterans Committee somewhere down the road.

This would have the added benefit of possibly electing eight or 10 or 12 players in one year. To which I say, “Great! The more the merrier!” Why not have a bigger party every summer in Cooperstown? The Pro Football Hall of Fame often has very large classes — their 2020 class was composed of 20 men (which included two coaches, an executive and a former Commissioner).

The Hall is very, very unlikely to do this, because as previously noted, they seem locked into a past that they won’t acknowledge vanished decades ago. But they really ought to consider a system like this. It’s cleaner, gets more people in the process, and perhaps results in a better Hall of Fame.

And who could be against that?

Poll

The 30/30/30/10 voting system as described in the article...

This poll is closed

  • 70%
    Great idea! Do it!
    (193 votes)
  • 19%
    Nope. Keep the current system
    (53 votes)
  • 9%
    No, and I have a better idea (leave in comments)
    (27 votes)
273 votes total Vote Now

Poll

The yes-or-no idea for the Hall of Fame ballot...

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Great idea! Do it!
    (89 votes)
  • 38%
    Nope. Keep the current system
    (66 votes)
  • 9%
    No, and I have a better idea (leave in comments)
    (16 votes)
171 votes total Vote Now