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.