Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Baseball Hall of Fame Day

It's that time of the year - the day to announce the newest inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are a lot of men on the ballot, but as always, they need 75% of the vote to pass muster and at least 5% of the vote to even remain on the ballot. Certain first-timers are almost assured of being left off future ballots - guys like Pat Hentgen, Ellis Burks, Ray Lankford, and Robin Ventura, all of whom were good players, but that isn't what the Hall of Fame is for.

Instead of discussing the merits of whether Roberto Alomar, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, or Mark McGwire belong in the Hall, however, I would like to change the direction of the discussion to how players are selected/elected. I have thought about this for a long time, and I know I am not the first to suggest such a thing, but I think it is time for all sports that have Halls of Fame (not just baseball) to move to a straight up or down, one time vote. Yes, there should still be the five year waiting period, but I (and many others) find that the Hall gets watered down as players who probably shouldn't be in the Hall get in, especially as time goes on and the 'sympathy' vote becomes more apparent. If a player is a Hall of Famer, then it should be somewhat obvious.

It would work like this - all of the qualifications still need to be there: 10 years playing and 5 years after termination of playing would a player be considered. If those conditions are met, then a *cause* (yes, the theology/Catholic wonk in me is coming out) would be opened for that player. He and/or his supporters would have three months to make the case that he belongs in the Hall of Fame, and then a straight up or down vote would be done by BBWAA. Same numbers for voting (75%) apply. Either the player is in or he is not. End of story.

Now, there should be some ability to correct obvious injustices. Every 10 years, a veterans-type committee would be able to select up to 3 players who did not make it in the previous ten years. Voting would be even more strict - 85% of the veterans voting would be necessary, since they would have had the time to consider whether or not someone was truly Hall-worthy.

Granted, this will never happen. The electors have too much of a self-importance to let the system change, but know this - a guy who is not a Hall of Famer does not all of a sudden become one just because he is on his last legs, ballot-wise. The system proposed would also end the nonsense of making people 'pay their dues' and putting off electing others until it's 'their time'. A straight up or down vote would also force the electors to tell what they really think about player X - and any writer who lets his little petty feud get in the way of not voting for a player on the basis of the merits will have his ballot immediately stripped.

Could this work? Absolutely. Will it be implemented? Let's just say I am not holding my breath.

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