Kevin Price commentary: Baseball Hall of Fame process in need of repair

kprice@ledger-enquirer.comJanuary 9, 2013 

It is time for the baseball Hall of Fame and the Baseball Writers' Association of America to admit the process for selecting new members of the hall is broken.

No one was elected Wednesday for the Class of 2013, and this is not about any one player or players not getting in.

And it is not about whether the players who have been linked to steroid use either by testing or rumors -- Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, etc. -- deserve to get it on not.

But the process is flawed, and the hall of fame needs to take a serious look at overhauling it.

The process as it stands now goes like this:

The hall prepares a ballot with the names of any eligible players, i.e., played at least 10 years in the majors and have been retired for at least five years.

Then the BBWAA members who have covered Major League Baseball for 10 years or more, vote. Each voter can vote for up to 10 players in any given year. Voters also can leave their ballot blank as five did this year.

To gain election to the hall, a player must receive 75 percent of the vote. According to the hall, 569 ballots were cast this year, but none of the 37 candidates received enough votes.

Former Houston second baseman Craig Biggio led the way with 388 votes (68.2 percent), 39 short of the 427 he needed to reach the 75 percent mark. Former Tigers and Twins pitcher Jack Morris was second at 67.7 percent.

The hall created the rules -- and made the baseball writers the voters -- in 1936. This is the eighth time no one has been chosen. The last time was 1996, when Phil Niekro was the top vote-getter. He was elected to the hall the following year.

There are several problems with the process, A couple of them are:

• Writers shouldn't be voting on any awards or polls. Writers should report the news and not make it.

• How is a player hall-of-fame worthy one year and not some other random year?

Biggio had 3,060 hits and was a seven-time All-Star. Those numbers aren't going to change.

Biggio will likely get in one day, but why should his candidacy be any stronger next year or 2015 than it is this year? A player is either hall-of-fame worthy or he is not.

• The biggest problem is the vagueness of the criteria. According to the hall of fame's website, "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

What does that mean?

Does than mean that 300 wins is good enough but 299 is not? Does than mean that 500 homers is good enough but 498 is not?

But unless the baseball hall of fame is willing to do like the LPGA Hall of Fame did and set ironclad numbers and did away with voting of any kind, then there always will be issues with the selection process.

The Pro Football Hall of

Fame uses a mix of media and former players to pick the inductees for that hall of fame.

But even that hall of fame has its critics because of the players who have been left out such as wide receiver Cris Carter.

I am not sure what the solution is, but the process that the hall is using now is not working.

But if you listen to Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson, it doesn't sound like the system is going to change anytime soon.

"The standards for earning election to the Hall of Fame have been very high ever since the rules were created in 1936," Idelson said in a press release.

"We realize the challenges voters are faced with in this era. The Hall of Fame has always entrusted the exclusive voting privilege to the Baseball Writers' Association of America. We remain pleased with their role in evaluating candidates based on the criteria we provide."

Major League Baseball seemingly agrees.

"Major League Baseball recognizes that election to the Hall of Fame is our game's most extraordinary individual honor. Achieving enshrinement in Cooperstown is difficult, as it should be, and there have been seven other years when no one was elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. While this year did not produce an electee, there are many worthy candidates who will merit consideration in the future. We respect both the longstanding process that the Hall of Fame has in place and the role of the BBWAA, whose members have voted in the Hall of Fame's elections since 1936."

Of course, MLB and the players association only have themselves to blame for a major part of this mess.

If those two organizations had not decided to turn a blind eye to steroid use in the late 1980s through the early 2000s, then players like Bonds, Clemens and Sosa would be being celebrated today for being elected to the hall of fame.

Kevin Price, 706-320-4493, kprice@ledger-enquirer.com

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