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Holding Writers More Accountable for Their HOF Vote

By Mike Silva ~ January 9th, 2012. Filed under: Hall of Fame.

Barry Larkin was elected to the Hall of Fame earlier today with 86% of the vote. Although he had a tremendous career, I believe Larkin is a very good player that falls short of Hall credentials. It’s now time to put the Hall of Fame debate away for another year, but there is one last aspect of the process that should be discussed- writer accountability for their vote.

I find it odd that Larkin was only considered a Hall of Famer on 62% of the vote in 2011, yet collected 86% support this year. How did Larkin’s case change so drastically? For one, Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven dominated last year’s ballot versus this year’s weaker class. Once they were elected it allowed the voters to focus more intently on Larkin’s career. I also think voters tend to be capricious with their votes year to year. Look at how Alomar collected 90% of the vote his second year after falling short with 74% in 2010. Many believe the spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck was the driving force by some to punish him with a “no” vote in his inaugural year on the ballot. Alomar’s situation aside, how can these tallies change so drastically in a short span of time?

There are a few reasons. Many writers lean towards voting for the important names in a given year and ignore filling out a full ballot. Others just vote for their favorite player or hand in a blank ballot. Next, there are internet campaigns that crystalize some of the issues that sway “on the fence” voters. Larkin received much of the publicity that was previously reserved for Blyleven. Finally, and this is the most important, I think there is still a chunk of voters that do not take the responsibility of a Hall of Fame vote seriously. That’s why I am proposing that baseball raise the stakes and make BBWAA votes stand for five years. This, hopefully, would force some writers to put more thought into their selections and fill out a complete ballot.

A writer should be forced to fill out a ballot that is good for five years. The only changes would be for newcomers. For example, if someone didn’t vote for Jeff Bagwell in 2011 the next time they could add him to their ballot is 2016. They could add Mike Piazza or Barry Bonds in 2013, but anyone eligible and voted on in 2011 would be locked. Since players are only eligible for the Hall of Fame for 15 years that means a writer can only vote for them three times. The goal would be to prevent capricious ballots and unwritten rules like the “first year penalty.” Imagine you are given the right to vote in year ten of a player’s eligibility. In that scenario you would be deciding their ultimate Hall of Fame fate.

It also may be time to spread the voters more evenly. Has there ever been a study about the distribution of what part of the country the voters reside? This was posed by former Atlanta outfielder Dale Murphy when he appeared on my radio program this past Sunday. Murphy was told the BBWAA has a heavy Northeast contingency that may not have seen him play as much because he spent the majority of his career in Atlanta.

“There are a lot of writers from the Northeast that don’t see you play as much,” Murphy said. There are probably some regions of the country where I get more support. But there’s a possibility, again I’m saying this not necessarily knowing it’s true, there might be a bulk of those baseball writers that live in the Northeast that aren’t as familiar. Yeah, you could look at numbers, but it’s a different thing when you watch guys play a lot and then are more familiar with their statistics as well. ”

With the age of the internet and the MLB Network this might not be as much of an issue going forward. I am not saying the BBWAA goes to an “electoral college-style vote,” but it should balance out its voting membership in a way that gives the players the best shot of having their talents and statistics recognized. I am from the Northeast and I can attest to the bias’ we have for our stars.  There also should be a minimum amount of internet writers or sabermetricians added to the panel so you have a diverse thought process put into play.

No matter what system is implemented there will never be a perfect vote. One of the fun debates is the Hall of Fame as it’s great for radio, television, and internet page hits. I am not trying to take that away, rather I am trying to provide some ideas on how to update a process that clearly is full of capricious and poor decision making. The year to year swings in votes prove as much.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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7 Responses to Holding Writers More Accountable for Their HOF Vote

  1. Stu B

    I still would like to why, in the age of electronic media, the vote is restricted to BBWAA writers. Why not give votes to other media pros like broadcasters? A bigger voting pool would produce a fairer and better-quality result.

  2. JK

    Good idea Stu B.
    I always wondered why Koufax got voted in, he had 5 dominating years out of 13 in his career. I admit those 5 years were above all pitchers but that’s a bad percentage in my opinion.

  3. Edgy DC

    I don’t get what exactly is so wrong that a vote has to stand for five years. Tallies change because discussions carry on and opinions evolve in an ever-evolving picture of the context and understanding players’ legacies.

    Larkin is one of the top ten Major League Baseball shortstops of all time. He’s an excellent selection. If you want to address shortcomings in the system, ask why we no longer fill the ballot with virtually all players who played 10 full years. It used to be the only 10-year players that didn’t appear on the ballot at least one were some lucky Chuckies who managed a 10-year career while never elevating himself above backup catcher or bullpen backender. But the ballot inexplicably excluded the likes of Jon Olerud this year while including the likes of Tony Womack.

    Also-rans are an important part of the process.

  4. Edgy DC

    Sandy Koufax had four good years: 1955, 1957, 1959, and 1960. Beyond that, he had six SPECTACULAR years, among the best ever.

    That he didn’t tack on a long golden stroll into the sunset of his career is too bad, but he earned enough points during the peak of his career to get healthily across the border. Jack Morris, for instance, had 90 more wins, but the lesser career.

  5. Chris

    Larkin was really good. Maybe not 86% 3rd year of voting good but he really had good timing on this more than anything else. His numbers are also pretty comparable to Alomar who just got in a year earlier. Also you would have to say he was the Middle Infielder of the 90′s in the National league. 7 of 10 Silver sluggers, 8 of 10 All Star appearances, 1 MVP, and 3 GG’s despite the Wiz dominating the defensive hardware around that time.

    Murphy also has a point. If the writers watched Murphy in the 1980′s they would not look at him as a slugger with a .265 career batting avg. They would have saw a guy that played every day for a long stretch. Play CF defensively at an elite level. Had the high respect of his peers. Nolan Ryan said it was his toughest out. Pete Rose said any pitcher that doesn’t let Murphy get one over the fence gets a pat on the backside. Fantasy baseball actually would have helped Murphy a ton. He was 30/30 when no one was 30/30. Murphy’s most interesting attribute was Power/Speed/Defense combination. If you take 398HR/161SB/5GG Murphy was the 4th player in the history of the game hitting that mark. All previous players are HOFers. 3 have done it since (Dawson, Griffey Jr, Bonds) all 3 of them will get into the HOF even with a heavy delay on Bonds. That combination is special and rare. So is power from a high demanding middle of the diamond position. Of the top 50 HR hitters of all-time there is only 9 from the middle 4 positions of C, 2B, SS, and CF. Most are 1B. Some did a corner IF or OF position with some DH ending off the career.

  6. Tom

    Regarding Schilling - he turned in winning records on losing Phillies teams six times in the ’90s, and then went 106-51 for Arizona and Boston. Comparing his winning pct. to those of his teams, and comparing his other stats (ERA, K’s, IP, etc.) to the norms for his era, he was a genuinely great pitcher. We’re talking top 15 all time.

  7. Daler

    I think the Hall will take away the writers voting soon. When July ceremony’s are empty they won’t be happy. It’s a for profit place

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