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A Baseball Hall of Fame Fix

The process arbitrarily punishes some deserving candidates.

by James Leroy Wilson
January 16, 2013

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A Baseball Hall of Fame Fix

I'm not a baseball writer, but I never had a beef with the selection process of Baseball's Hall of Fame until this year.

Now, however, it seems to me that if you vote for a player once for the Hall, you shouldn't be allowed to change your mind in subsequent years. Once on your ballot, always on your ballot.

Here's why. A voter had five years after a baseball player's retirement to assess his career and decide if he belongs in the Hall.

Isn't that long enough?

What provoked this thought was a column by Wallace Matthews (which I found via Jonah Keri). Matthews writes:

A Hall of Fame vote is a large responsibility, and induction an honor that should be reserved for only the best and brightest the game has to offer. It's not something I take lightly nor give out easily.

This is followed by why he's not voting for players he thinks were on steroids. That's an argument for another day. But what does this person who thinks his vote is a "large responsibility" that can't be taken "lightly" or "easily" say near the end of his piece?

You can argue that I should have voted for Jack Morris (I have in the past but wasn't feeling it this year)

You weren't "feeling it" and yet you claim you don't take your vote lightly?

That doesn't make sense. I don't know if Morris belongs in the Hall. Matthews apparently thought so, and had several years to consider the candidacy.

What could Morris have possibly done in his retirement to make Matthews change his mind?

I suggest a tweak in the voting process: once you vote for a certain player, you can't "un-vote" him the next year. Your vote is locked in until the player's eligibility expires. That is, if you voted for Jack Morris last year, you have to vote for him this year. You can't "change your mind," because there is no reason to change your mind. Morris's accomplishments within the era he played didn't change.

Here's how it would work. Let's say, last year, I became an eligible voter for the Hall of Fame. I had up to ten eligible names to select, and did -- even though I didn't have to vote for any. The next year, if none of these players were elected,  I'd be required to have these votes "locked in" on next year's ballot. But then I'd have additional votes - say up to five, which would also allow me to vote for members of the new class of eligible players.

That means I wouldn't have to drop one great player from my ballot just because an even greater player becomes eligible the following year.

Some might say that this would dampen the Hall's exclusivity.

I doubt it. If anything, it would be a check and balance on the arbitrariness of voters. No player who had gotten a vote last year won't be denied it this year just because the voter wasn't "feeling it." If voters viewed their vote for a player as permanent, the voter would more likely make serious and careful votes on his ballot.

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