“The Rule of 10: Baseball Hall Voting” by Lee Vowell

People like to complain. People like to complain a lot about politics. People like to complain about their spouses and their jobs and their dogs (never their cats) and their sons’ and daughters’ phone usage and the weather and the price of gas and robots. But people really really like to complain about the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) and the way that group goes about voting for induction into the baseball Hall of Fame. In fact, I think we might actually get closer to 100% agreement on general dislike of the BBWAA than the BBWAA would ever get to actually agreeing 100% that any given player be elected to the Hall on the first ballot.

The focus of the general baseball fan’s (and some baseball writers, it should be noted) anger at the moment appears to be that the ballot limits the number of players that can be chosen for Hall induction on any one ballot. Limiting the number to 10 does seem arbitrary and silly. Say, for instance, why not make the limiting number nine? That would make sense baseball-wise. Unless the current 10th is in honor of the Designated Hitter, but I am pretty sure Edgar Martinez would disagree with that theory. Plus, the rule limiting voters to 10 candidates per ballot was instituted in 1936. There has always been a bit of argument with the rule of 10, but the last few years the outcry has become larger.

There is merit in the argument. As I said, the number being 10 seems silly. But the problem is the voters. The Hall knows this. That is why the Hall has tried to put in more transparency. And maybe that has helped. No matter how we want to argue about limiting the players on a ballot, the fact remains that over the last two years we have seen as many players voted in as had been in any two year period since 1955. And this year, 2015, we have four players going in for the first time since, again, 1955. In 2014, the Hall had three players go in. (Of course, the horrific year of 2013 when no one received the required 75% of total votes for induction was embarrassing for many reasons.) Besides, getting any number of people to agree on 75% is difficult, limited number or not.

And this leads us back to the real problem, the voters. We are still waiting for that magical day when all the voters recognize true greatness and a player receives 100% for induction. We are still waiting for that magical day when we have no voters who think, “You know, he is Hall-worthy, but nobody should get in on the first vote.” That line of thinking is maddening. If a player is Hall-worthy, then he is Hall-worthy. Tom Seaver (granted, a great pitcher, but the best pitcher ever based on him being the highest vote-receiver ever at 98.8%) did not even make the 99% mark. There are so many players worthy of being 100% that to name them all I would literally have to name every player ever to make the Hall because they are in the Hall, so they are, again, Hall-worthy and therefore worth 100%. This year we saw three players make it in on their first ballot. None of those three were Seaver in terms of percentage. In fact, nearly nine percent (nine!!) of voters did not have Pedro Martinez on their ballot. Again, there is a limit of 10 per ballot cast, and maybe some voters knew Pedro was going to be voted in and they left him off their ballot and tried to vote for someone who needed the votes more, but…but why? If one goes in with the knowledge that some players (like Darin Erstad, who received one vote, and Troy Percival, who got two votes) are not ever going to get enough votes to make the Hall then why waste a vote on them? At the very least, voters should vote for the players they are absolutely sure belong in the Hall of Fame. We know at most four players will be voted in, so the limit of 10 becomes less important. The voters are not going anywhere near half that number. We need to stop complaining about the number 10, and start complaining about the arrogant fools – arrogant because they have a right to judge a players worth when  they themselves probably were watching Little League games instead of playing them – who do not put Pedro Martinez on their ballot.

We fans need to form a committee and begin a vetting process. With total transparency from the BBWAA, we could see who voted for whom. We fans could say to voters: Decide to send in any empty ballot (happens every year)? You are gone. Decide Troy Percival was a good guy and you shared stories over drinks and that is why you voted for him? You’re outta there! Decide no one is worth a vote on their first ballot? Well, my question would be, do even like the sport of which you are given the honor of voting players into its Hall of Fame?

Because we fans do. We fans love baseball. And really, we are the reasons that writers that have a vote for the Baseball Hall have a job at all. We read their articles about baseball. Maybe we should vote them out next year? If only we could. I know this, at least, not 100% of those writers would still have a job.

Want to know more about the rules of voting and the changes that have come over the years, click http://baseballhall.org/hall-of-fame/voting-rules-history.

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