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Change the Hall of Fame voting rules?

Morris for the Hall of FameThe teaser on ESPN‘s site reads, “When there’s no ballot room for players like Jack Morris, it’s time for the HOF to change the rules.” Since I’m not an Insider subscriber, I can’t read the rest of the article, but the inference is that Buster Olney supports Morris’ induction. I don’t argue on that point; Morris was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era, despite his ERA. In fact, two of his Tigers teammates should also have plaques in Cooperstown (Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker), but for whatever reason at least 25.1% of voters disagree on all three counts.

Olney’s insistence that the rules should be changed for players who could not get 75% of the voters to check their name in fifteen years is not new; many have been calling for an updated system for years. However, just because one writer (or 67.7% of the writers) think a guy should be in, that is no reason to change the rules.

Let me repeat: I think Morris should be a Hall of Famer, but I’m not stomping my feet and demanding the Hall of Fame change its rules based on my opinion. There is a reason for the 75% threshold. It is difficult to reach that degree of support, and it should be difficult to gain entrance into the most exclusive Hall in all of sports.

So I clicked on the “read more,” and ESPN delivers another tease before they make you pay for the full article. Olney lists sixteen players he would “definitely vote for” (including steroid poster boys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens) and three others to “consider within the shifting landscape of who is already in the Hall of Fame” (Edgar Martinez, Lee Smith, and Trammell).

Do I agree with some of Olney’s choices? Of course. Holdovers Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Mike Piazza and Morris are on both of our lists. Newcomers that we agree on include Tom Glavine, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, and Frank Thomas. But there are others that I see as poor choices, mostly because of the steroid connection. I’m not completely sold on Curt Schilling yet, but I don’t necessarily think his inclusion would hurt the integrity of the Hall.

Again, I’m not an Insider subscriber, so I don’t know what new rules Olney suggests (if any). But I doubt he believes those new rules should deal with the voters. His new rules probably want to either extend the life of a player on a ballot, or lower the percentage needed to be called one of baseball’s immortals, or—and this is the most likely suggestion—increase the number of players a writer can vote for. Any of those suggestions is misguided.

Extending the life of a player on the ballot really does little for guys like Morris. This is his fifteenth year on the ballot; he is getting more press because of that and will receive more votes than if he had another five years.
Hodges for the Hall of Fame
Lowering the percentage needed for induction does not really lower the integrity of the Hall itself, but it is unnecessary. Guess how many non-Hall of Famers (current nominees excluded) would have been included if the threshold was lowered to 65%: zero. Gil Hodges has the most support at 63.4%, and that came in his last year on the ballot in 1983. Everyone who has received at least 65% of the vote has eventually gotten into the Hall of Fame. In fact, Hodges is the only player to ever receive 60% and still be on the outside. That may change after this vote, but there is still the Veterans Committee to consider in a few years.

Increasing the number of players a writer can vote for is a non-issue most years. There are several newcomers this year that will eventually be inducted, even if they are passed over initially. Most writers do not vote for ten players most years; this year might be an exception, but exceptions to the rule do not necessitate changes to the rule.

The rules are fine, Mr. Olney. Jack Morris is not considered a Hall of Famer by at least 25.1%, as much as you and I would like him to be.

Retired Numbers: #13 & #14

Of these eight players, only two were elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, and only one of them was first-ballot. Two others gained entrance via the Veterans Committee. A reasonable case can be made for three of the remaining four for Cooperstown.

Larry Doby, Cleveland Indians

I was surprised to find that Doby was not inducted into the Hall of Fame until 1998 by the Veterans Committee. The first black player in the American League, Doby slugged 253 home runs and drove in 970 during a career that was shortened not only by racism, but also by war service. Doby started in the Negro Leagues in 1942, but served in the Navy in 1944 and 1945. He came back to the Negro Leagues in 1946 for one final season before signing with the Cleveland Indians to play in the majors.


Dave Concepcion, Cincinnati Reds


Ernie Banks, Chicago Cubs


Gil Hodges, New York Mets


Jim Bunning, Philadelphia Phillies


Jim Rice, Boston Red Sox


Ken Boyer, St. Louis Cardinals


Kent Hrbek, Minnesota Twins

Are Hodges and Tiant Hall of Famers?

The ballot for the Veteran’s Committee has been released, and the results will be announced on December 8. On the post-1943 ballot, the following players are named: Dick Allen, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Al Oliver, Vada Pinson, Ron Santo, Luis Tiant, Joe Torre, and Maury Wills.

Each member of the VC (living Hall of Famers) can select up to four names on the ballot, and a nominee must receive 75% to gain induction. Of those names, only two strike me as possible Hall of Famers: Hodges and Tiant. I have never been able to figure out why Hodges wasn’t inducted by the BBWAA, and why he has still been denied for so long by the VC. Perhaps my standards are just not high enough.

Tiant is a little easier to explain. In 19 seasons, he only hit the 20-win mark four times. He ended up with only 229 wins, far fewer than the “magic” number of 300 (which is becoming more and more rare), and just shy of the slightly less “magic” number of 250. He was named to the All-Star team only three times in his career, and never finished higher than fourth in Cy Young voting.

Who would you vote for out of that list, or would you abstain?

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