The 2017 BBWAA ballots for induction into the Baseball Hall of Famer were announced back on January 18th. The results were interesting. Gaining induction were Tim Raines (on his 10th and final ballot), Jeff Bagwell (on his 7th ballot) and Ivan Rodriguez (on his first ballot). Just barely missing the cut were Trevor Hoffman (on his second try) and Vlad Guerrero (on his first ballot). Both got above 70%, so they will get in within two years time (and probably next year). Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez all took strong steps forward, while Curt Schilling went backwards and other players stalled. There’s a lot of good and bad to look at on this year’s results, so let’s start with the good.
THE BBWAA DID A GOOD JOB THIS YEAR:
Raines was long overdue. While he probably isn’t an inner circle Hall of Famer (on the level of Rickey Henderson or Mickey Mantle or Johnny Bench), he definitely is and has always been worthy of being a Hall of Famer. He certainly is more worthy of induction than about half of the players in Cooperstown, already, and he should have been inducted a while ago. Raines may be the best base runner of all-time, and certainly could give Rickey a run for best base stealer ever. Jeff Bagwell is one of the top five offensive first basemen ever, and he was a solid fielder and base runner as well. In only 15 years, Bags hit 449 homers, drove in over 1500 runs and scored a similar amount. Bagwell was incredible to watch hit, with his wide-legged, crouching stance that looked like he was sitting on the toilet. Steroid allegations (no proof, mind you) kept Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame too long. Other than Gehrig, Foxx and Musial, it’s hard to imagine another first baseman with Bagwell’s extensive resume for induction. Ivan Rodriguez was the best defensive catcher. Ever. Bench had the better bat, but Pudge carried his defensive prowess through most of his long career, and had some decent power numbers as well.
As a child of the 90’s, I was very emotional to hear who got inducted. For too long it felt like the BBWAA was ignoring my childhood baseball heroes because of steroid allegations. There’s proof for some, there’s mostly innuendo out there however. I know a lot of my favorite players probably used steroids (and in some cases definitely), but with no proof it’s good to see them no longer pretend that my childhood didn’t happen.
There’s work to do, but there are signs of progress.
THE BBWAA NEEDS TO DO A BETTER JOB:
Not all is well, however. There are things that need to turn around. It’s obvious that the Rule of 10 (limiting voters to only 10 selections) is hurting a lot of players. Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame like the Rule because they’d rather have 3 medium sized classes than one large and two small ones. That’s fair to them, but isn’t to the voters. Some writers have felt like they are not choosing who is worthy of the Hall of Fame, but rather who are the 10 most worthy of the Hall of Fame which is definitely a different beast. Players like Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, Larry Walker and Billy Wagner all get hurt because ballots end up being crowded and it gets tougher to weed through the top players for induction. And, let’s be fair here, maybe we should get beyond having players like Gary DiSarscina and Mike Lowell and Tim Wakefield on the ballot, further cluttering things and giving the writers too many choices (since tossing a throw-away vote hurts other people on the ballot more than helps that one player). What, specifically, should be done?
- Revamp the vetting process. Put only players that are worthy of being in the conversation on the ballot. How can this be done? There are enough statistical and analytic organizations out there that can aid in this process. Work with one or all of them to condense the ballot.
- Remove the Rule of 10. If there are more than 10 viable candidates, the writers should be allowed to vote for more players. At the same time, to compensate, raise the necessary percent to 80% instead of 75%. This should help appease to Cooperstown in order to ease off the Rule of 10. If more votes are being used, then a higher percentage should be used as well.
- Purge more frequently. Currently, writers who have been retired for more than 10 years are no longer allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. However, with the fast-paced change of stats and information, there may be a time when that needs to drop to 5 or 7 years. Or, in conjunction with the new rule about making ballots public…
- Force writers to write an honest apologia for their votes. The NFL Hall of Fame does something like this, only in person at induction time, so it shouldn’t be that foreign of a concept. The public is who pays to visit the Hall of Fame, they should know why some players are getting inducted while some aren’t. If a writer doesn’t want to publish one, purge his vote. For all the crap that Murray Chass gets for his blank ballot, he at least talked about it to some degree. Granted, that came off as more like an old man grumbling about how the times are changing and technology and people picking on him on Twitter, but at least he posted his reasoning.
- Allow writers to vote maybe on a player. Someone like Jim Edmonds or Lou Whitaker were shameful one and dones on the ballot. Edmonds was a victim of a thick ballot, Whitaker a victim of timing (before the sabermetric era). However, maybe if the writers were allowed to say either “Maybe” or “not at the moment, I’d like to think about it”, they could still be in discussion.
These are just quick ideas off the top of my head, and by no means definitive or absolutes. Just an attempt to keep the conversation going.
I’ll finish that list of relievers soon. Promise.