HOF Musings

So the votes are in and the new members of the Baseball Hall of Fame have been selected.

As usual, the media are packed with arguments about the worthiness of various players who didn’t make the cut. Sometimes the argument centers around the PED question, sometimes it’s the player’s stats. Those arguments have always been with us, and they’re always going to be with us.

But this year, for the first time I can recall*, there appears to be unanimous agreement that all of the players who were elected were deserving.

* Let’s skip the jokes about the length of my, um… whatchamacallit… Sorry, what were we talking about?

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio.

Nobody seems inclined to claim that Biggio’s 3,060 hits wasn’t enough, or that Smoltz’s sustained excellence over eighteen years as a pitcher–a position not noted for allowing extended careers–didn’t cut it. I’m not even going to try to find arguments for excluding Johnson and Martinez; they’d be even more ridiculous than the theoretical arguments against Biggio and Smoltz.

“But wait,” I hear someone in the back of the room calling. “None of the four were elected unanimously. Doesn’t that mean not everyone believes they’re deserving?”

There’s only one rational answer to that question: “Quiet back there. Whose blog is this, anyway?”

Oh, all right. Based on the percentages, there were 549 ballots cast this year. Have you ever tried to get 549 people to agree to anything? Two people voted for Aaron Boone. Hell, put me on the ballot and the evidence suggests that somebody will vote for me: somebody voted for Darin Erstad. (No offense to Mr. Erstad, who was unquestionably a better ballplayer than I was. He had a long career, but I doubt anybody really thinks it’s HOF-worthy, even Mr. Erstad himself.)

At the upper end of the list, six people didn’t vote for Randy Johnson. Not, in all likelihood because they didn’t think he was deserving, but because no player has ever been elected unanimously. Seriously. I’m a big proponent of tradition, especially in baseball, but that’s beyond my limit. Come off it, people. If you think he should be in the Hall of Fame, vote for him.

Um… Unless you’ve run out of votes. You can vote for a maximum of ten candidates. Clearly, that’s enough for many voters–only 51% of the ballots used all ten–but it’s such an arbitrary number. There’s no limit on the number of players that can go into the Hall, so why limit the number that the voters can propose?

If there has to be a limit, though, why choose an arbitrary number regardless of the size of the eligible pool? I’d suggest that the number of votes should be tied to the size of the pool. This year, there were thirty-four candidates. Allowing voters to vote for half of the pool would allow seventeen votes, almost certainly enough to satisfy the most generous voter. If the Powers What Is think that’s too much, how about one-third? That would have been eleven this year, not too different from the current arbitrary ten. The extra elbow room would be helpful to voters in good years for new candidates, and dropping the number down in slim years would force voters to pay more attention to the consequences of their actions. Aaron Boone, forsooth.