Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Hall of Fame shutout

Craig Biggio was the leading vote-getter, but
the 3,000-hit second baseman was
kept out of the Hall of Fame.
What was increasingly expected in this year's Hall of Fame election became official Wednesday: The writers, faced with the most loaded ballot of my lifetime, failed to select anyone for induction.

While it is foolish to ascribe one motive to 569 people, it is clear that the consensus of the BBWAA -- the Base Ball Writers Association of America -- is that the doors of the Hall must be barred to steroid users, and that since it is impossible to be sure who used, all players of the Selig Era must be rejected.

This is foolish on multiple levels, beginning with the high probability that there are already PED users with plaques in the hallowed hallway. And ending with this basic reality:

The Hall of Fame, as a practical matter, needs inductions. And the role of the writers in providing the inductees can be, and probably should be, changed.

We don't live in the 1930s -- when the Hall of Fame was created and the BBWAA's role established. Then, it would have been difficult to create a better, more knowledgeable pool of voters than the relative handful of men who covered a relative handful of teams -- and who were spending their working lives on that beat.

Today -- well, that's simply not the case. Such serious baseball historians as Bill James and John Thorn have no vote, as they aren't BBWAA members, while the ignorant likes of Bob Sansevere and Jim Souhan do. It would be easy for the Hall to create a different means of selecting inductees -- easy and probably better for the institution. 

The Hall has fiddled constantly with the process of the veterans committee over the years because it hasn't worked perfectly. The Hall has continued to use the BBWAA because that group has worked; if the BBWAA isn't useful, it can be dropped. And the BBWAA, beyond the travesty of this year's vote, has been doing an increasingly sloppy job.

For now, the Hall is making no noises in that direction. Jeff Idelson, the president of the Hall, says in the top link above:

"The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide.”
Which is (a) what one would expect him to say and (b) not what he's likely to believe if, and when, the writers continue to starve the Hall of new living inductees.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not a big fan of the job the BBWAA has done recently either, but I'm not sure it would be as easy as one might think to come up with a better group to entrust with the vote. Some want it limited to BBWAA members who are currently writing about baseball, but how many of those writers even saw players on the ballot for 14-15 years play? Semi-retired writers are the guys who were more likely to see most, if not all, of the careers of the players on the ballot.

    Do we take the vote from BBWAA altogether? And replace them with who, exactly? Maybe the fans... because after all, we do such a great job with the All-Star Game voting, right?

    The problem may be that the voters have far too much latitude to apply their subjective standards, but if you also choose voters using some kind of subjective standard, I think you risk making the situation worse.

    I really don't think we'll see all that many years where nobody gets elected, but if the HOF wants to make SURE that there's always at least one live inductee, they could simply amend the election criteria to state that, in the event nobody gets 75% of the BBWAA vote, the highest vote getter will be deemed elected, regardless of what percentage he gets. Problem solved.