Changing the Hall of Fame Voting Process

We’ll get the latest Hall of Fame results from the BBWAA this week. We’re all preparing to be disappointed. How disappointed? We’re not sure yet, but the range could be anywhere from mild shock that your borderline PED user HOF candidate like Rafael Palmeiro gets snubbed to, as Jon Heyman speculated in a tweet last week, no one at all getting in.

The voting process has been broken for a long time, but is going to hit a point over the next two or three years where the whole house of cards collapses in on itself. The time is ripe for the first serious reform to the HOF voting process in a very long time.

Adam Darowski at Beyond the Box Score lists three small-ish changes that the BBWAA could make the streamline the process:

There are at least a couple things I’d change immediately about the current process, such as:

  • [Remove] the 10-vote limit (there are at least thirteen players on the current ballot that I would vote for).
  • Voting should be public (something that BtB’s own Lewie Pollis has called for).
  • Removal or clarification of the character clause (Dale Murphy’s son Chad made a great point about how this clause has only been used to hurt people’s cases, not to help them).

I’d like to add one more small change: decrease the number of players that are initially put on the ballot. While players like Aaron Sele or Jeff Cirillo or Rondell White made contributions to major league rosters during their time in the big leagues, under no circumstance are they going to clear the minimum threshold to stay on the ballot. Their existence on the ballot is at best superfluous and at worst clogs up the works in a way that makes more interesting borderline cases like Kenny Lofton or Sammy Sosa fly under the radar. I can’t foresee a circumstance in which subtracting the worst 5-8 players on the ballot cuts off a deserving nominee.

Of course, this is all small potatoes. What we really need is a more dramatic reform to the system. What does that system look like? My chosen change would be to use a 40-person panel made up of statisticians, hall of fame inductees, baseball historians, and active baseball writers. But we’re not going to see the BBWAA give up this power any time soon. A more modest, but still significant, change would be for the BBWAA to find some way to kick out the crusty old generation of writers who find dumb reasons to vote for Jack Morris because they stopped paying close attention to baseball in 1989.

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

9 thoughts on “Changing the Hall of Fame Voting Process

  1. Duh, Innings!

    You really have no clue about what makes a baseball player HOF worthy with your shot at Jack Morris. Since you want to bring up Jack Morris, ok, below is why he should be in the Hall Of Fame and I want you to tell me why he shouldn’t be in. Don’t tell me his ERA and WHIP because you know as well as I do HOF induction isn’t ALL about stats e.g. Bill Mazerowski with his one big hit, Sandy Koufax with his measly four fantastic final years after being decent for his first eight, Carlton Fisk on his one big postseason hit and being a workhorse catcher with power but no defining moment outside of that hit which didn’t win the World Series, Andre Dawson putting up big numbers with loser teams so what pressure did he have to hit? What a friggin’ joke that he’s in the HOF but Fred McGriff isn’t when Fred has a better career slashline in all categories (including 27 points higher than Dawson’s SLG), more HR, only 41 less RBI (with 284 less hits than Dawson) cuz he had a throwaway “rookie season” (5 PA in ’86), and a World Series ring, and he did what he did including come 7 homeruns shy of 500 homeruns cleanly (since Dawson is in entirely on his stats, I will pull the stat card for McGriff’s case.)

    The Case For Jack Morris’ Hall Of Fame Induction:

    – 254 wins.

    – The ace of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers, the #2 of the 1991 WC Minnesota Twins, and the ace of the 1992 WC Toronto Blue Jays. He won a World Series with three different teams and was an integral part of each of them save one year (no Pedro Feliz, Craig Counsell, or Edgar Renteria bandwagoneering.) Dan Petry had a better ERA and WHIP than Morris in ’84 but Morris was the man just like CC was still the man in 2012 despite Kuroda pitching better. Kevin Tapani had a better ERA and WHIP than Morris in ’91 but Morris was the true #2 behind ace Scott Erickson. The guy was not only a winner with literally every team he played for save Cleveland (final season), but he was a top three reason for each World Series winner save one (’93 Blue Jays.)

    – 7-4, 3.80 ERA including 4-2, 2.96 in the postseason (he stunk in the ’92 Series and ’92 postseason in general but was excellent in the ’84 and ’91 WS.)

    – Career 3.90 ERA pitcher because he hung around two years too long as prideful older players sometimes have done. ERAs of 6.19 and 5.60 in his final two seasons at ages 38 and 39 plus an awful ’89 ballooned his career ERA. He was a better pitcher than his career ERA.

    – Top nine in AL Cy Young Award voting seven times.

    – On the AL MVP ballot five times.

    – An absolute workhorse: 514 starts after his cup of coffee ’77 and longer looksee ’78, 175 complete games and 28 shutouts.

    – Pitched for three straight World Champion teams on two teams (1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays and so what he sucked in ’93 when he still made 27 starts and gave the team 152 2/3 IP albeit bad ones. ‘Dude was the #5 that year, it happens when you’re 38 and I’d say Father Time finally caught up to him that year and ’94.)

    – Consistently solid.

    – 1991 World Series MVP he sealed with a GAME SEVEN TEN-INNING COMPLETE GAME SHUTOUT.

    Or, to make it a simpler case:

    Bill Mazerowski was inducted into the Hall Of Fame on one postseason hit (1960 World Series Game 7 walkoff homerun vs. the Yankees) and winning eight Gold Gloves at second base.

    Jack Morris had a much, much, much more impressive World Series Game 7 performance: a Game 7 World Series 10-inning, 126-pitch complete game shutout victory on 126 pitches which took several hours to craft. How long did it take Mazerowski to hit his homerun? Morris had nowhere close to the pitcher’s equivalent of Mazerowski’s career. Morris was an ace or a #2 wherever he played save his ’89, second to last season with Toronto, and his final season with Cleveland.

    If Mazerowski can get into the HOF on one big hit, great defense, and a crap offensive career (.260/.299/.367/.666, just 138 HR and 853 RBI in 17 seasons), Morris can get in on a World Series Game 7 ten-inning complete game shutout victory, 254 wins, a WS ring with three different teams, and an ace-#2 pitcher career.

    In conclusion, what you have to remember about Morris is he pitched in an era where you had to pitch your brains out because you more often than not didn’t have a closer like Mariano Rivera, Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckerseley, Lee Smith, or John Franco to finish the game. The bullpen became more of a prominent facet of the game in the ’80s but it was still a starting pitcher’s game. Morris pitched and played hard and the work ethic paid off four times (’84, ’91-93.)

    • Jack Morris: 3824 IP; 105 ERA+; 97 FIP- ; 1.296 WHIP; 8.4 H/9; 0.9 HR/9; 3.3 BB/9; 5.8 K/9; 1.78 K/BB; 39.3 bWAR (avg. 2.2); 56.9 fWAR (avg. 3.1); two seasons of 5+ fWAR; one season of 5+ bWAR

      Mystery Pitcher: 2840 IP; 105 ERA+; 88 FIP-; 1.249 WHIP; 8.8 H/9; 1.2 HR/9; 2.4 BB/9; 8.0 K/9; 3.32 K/BB; 39.4 bWAR (avg. 3.1); 55.2 fWAR (avg. 3.9); five seasons of 5+ fWAR; four seasons of 5+ bWAR

  2. hawaii dave

    hehehe, very few realize Sandy Koufax only had 4 dominant seasons. He got into the HOF with 165 wins due to what? What could have been? Don Mattingly was the best all around hitter in baseball for 3-4 years but no one will elect him based on what coulda, woulda, shouda. Joe Morgan only had 2 monster years and a bunch of mediocre years. Maz was a .260 hitter. Rizzuto didn’t have overwhelming stats but was a team leader on championship teams. There are several 300 game winners that simply hung around long enough. It goes down to what is the criteria for admittance to the HOF. Who should it be for? Only the cream of the crop? Slightly below the cream? All around play? Stats? Which stats? Old stats? New stats? No one can agree. 300 wins gets you in but not 299? 500 homers but not 493? Pedro Martinez only had 4-5 dominant years and just above average the rest of the time but he gets my vote. There are so many exceptions to the rules that there appears to be no real rules. Get the criteria straight.

  3. Changing the voting requirements would help. I’ll accept the BBWAA member for 10 years thing, but there needs to be an addendum: You need to have covered baseball exclusively for the previous consecutive five years or something like that. It’s ridiculous that guys covering hockey and golf for years have baseball HOF votes.

  4. 42 pitchers in the 1980s, w/at least 1000 IP, had a better ERA than Jack Morris. 66 pitchers in the 1980s, w/at least 1000 IP, had a better FIP than Jack Morris. Never led the league in ERA. Never had an ERA+ over 133.

    Jack Morris was a good pitcher who pitched for a long time and had one shining moment, but was never elite. There’s obviously nothing to be ashamed of in his career, but he shouldn’t be remembered as one of the best pitchers ever.

    • Honestly, if Game 7 hadn’t happened, would we really be remembering Jack Morris’ name right now?

      • I’ve always wondered that if Morris gets in, what exactly is the argument against David Wells? David Cone? Dennis Martinez?

        If playing for a long time, winning titles and having a defining game is enough, is Rick Dempsey a Hall of Famer?

        I also don’t think sticking around too long and having a bad final year or two is somehow unique to Jack Morris. Steve Carlton finished with a few disastrous years. It didn’t give him a 3.90 ERA. Most players stick around too long and their numbers suffer.

  5. I’d take the vote away from those people who turn in the blank ballot every year to send some stupid message. Its one thing to not vote because you don’t like any candidates, and there are a few writers who did that this year. That’s fair.

    But sending in a blank ballot every year for the sake of it just gums up the works for everyone else. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for *anyone* the year Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken make the ballot, you’re far more concerned with making yourself the story than picking the Hall of Fame

  6. Martin

    I agree with Matt D. If a writer turns in a blank ballot his voting privileges should be revoked. Another change that would be helpful is to let the highest vote percentage get in on years that no one achieves the 75% threshhold. People like Craig Biggio should not be kept out of the Hall because some asshole writers want to make a point.

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