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Here’s a modest proposal to fix Hall of Fame voting

... that I think would make it more fair and inclusive.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Yesterday, I wrote here about baseball’s Hall of Fame and what, ultimately, it should become.

The Hall of Fame is now more than 80 years old, having opened on June 12, 1939. Back then, the concept of who a “Hall of Famer” is and why we should even have such a thing was far different than we likely conceive of it now. “Heroes” of that nature were placed on much higher pedestals than we now give sports figures in the social media era. Flaws of our current baseball stars are out there for everyone to see. “Fame” has a different definition for almost everyone who considers what a “Hall of Famer” is in the year 2022.

When the Hall of Fame was created, the Baseball Writers Association of America was given the right to vote for those to be enshrined. Why was that? Because in 1936 (when the first vote was taken, with induction to happen when the museum opened in 1939), apart from MLB players, coaches and owners, who saw more baseball than anyone? That’s right, writers, who often traveled on trains with the players and became familiar with them on and off the field. The typical baseball writer of the time would see nearly all his team’s games (and make no mistake, they were all men then, the idea of a female sportswriter wouldn’t exist until the 1970s).

No one else did that back in the day. There were some radio broadcasts of games, but many road games were “re-creations” done by ticker from a broadcast studio in the team’s home city.

Writers were the only ones who saw enough of the players to make a reasonable judgment about their talents. The statistics we had now didn’t exist — there were no computers nor internet, and the first published baseball encyclopedia, by Hy Turkin and S.C. Thompson, wouldn’t be published until 1951. For those of us who can call up an obscure Cub’s numbers from 70 years ago with a couple of clicks, that is ancient history, yet that’s what the baseball fan had in the 1930s in terms of information.

Clearly, that isn’t the case now. Many fans are as knowledgeable (or more so) as beat writers, there are bloggers (like this one) and other online writers well versed in baseball numbers and the game’s history and for at least the last seven decades, television broadcasters who cover as many (or more) of their team’s games as baseball beat writers do.

Why shouldn’t those groups be involved in the process of choosing which of the game’s best players get plaques in Cooperstown? The Hall of Fame has resisted this — if, indeed, they’ve ever even considered it — but doing so would certainly create a great deal more interest in going to Cooperstown to see baseball’s history. Even though the game was absolutely, positively not created in Cooperstown, it is a nice place to visit and they have created a terrific repository of the game’s history in the museum. Why wouldn’t they want that?

The Hall and the BBWAA tenaciously cling to this voting procedure that’s more than 85 years old. It needs to change with the times.

So here’s my modest proposal to change Hall of Fame voting. This would just be for players — managers, coaches, umpires, executives, etc. would all still be voted on by Hall committees. The 75 percent vote threshold is going to remain, for all voting for the Hall.

First, we’re going to take off the cap on how many players voters can vote for. No more “strategic voting” by leaving someone off so another can get in. If you think 18 guys on the ballot are all Hall of Famers — by all means, vote for them.

Second, we are going to vastly expand the electorate. The BBWAA will still be part of it, but their vote will count for only 35 percent of the total vote. Another 35 percent will be given to team broadcasters, whether radio or television. As with the BBWAA, a broadcaster would have to have 10 years of MLB broadcast experience and have been an active broadcaster within the 10 years preceding each year’s vote.

The next voting group will be players, both active and retired. For this group I’d allow votes for any player with at least one full year of MLB experience. Who’s better qualified to judge a player than one of his peers? I’ll give 20 percent of the aggregate vote to this large group of players.

Lastly, I’d give the remaining 10 percent of the Hall vote to fans. This would give fans some input into the process while giving them a small enough amount so as to not weirdly skew the vote (in other words, a bunch of Giants fans couldn’t stuff the ballot box for Tim Lincecum). Fans would be limited to voting once per MLB.com account. (I’m assuming here that most people don’t have more than one MLB.com account. There might have to be other limits put in, perhaps by IP address.)

All votes would be required to be made public at the time they are made, including fan votes. Anyone who refused would not have their vote counted.

This would increase the Hall electorate from around 400 people to literally millions, if you include fans. If you don’t agree with allowing fans to vote, then even expanding the vote to broadcasters and players would increase the number to several thousand voters.

This would be a way of making Hall voting more inclusive, get more voices involved and create more interest in the Hall of Fame in general. Beyond all this, the stories of many who don’t have Hall plaques are told in the museum, which is by far the largest part of the building you see at the top of this post. I believe every baseball fan should make a pilgrimage to Cooperstown at least once. It’s not easy to get to, but well worth the trip.

Poll

Voting for Hall of Fame induction should be...

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    ... done by the BBWAA, as it is now
    (58 votes)
  • 46%
    ... done as suggested in the article
    (111 votes)
  • 28%
    ... done in some other way (leave in comments)
    (69 votes)
238 votes total Vote Now