Baseball Writers Suck And How to Better the HOF Vote

How in the heck did Walt Weiss, Greg Jefferies, Doug Jones, Rick Aguilera, John Wetteland, Gary Gaetti, Ozzie Guillen, and Hal Morris get votes? And how does Will Clark not get more than 5% of the votes and therefore is dropped off the ballot? I don't know if there's anything to do for borderline cases like Clark (I love Clark but I can see why people don't want him in; I can go either way, I've seen some eloquent stats put up for why he belongs, I see that after a great start, he was an hobbled star who could not play a full season that often) but how can any voter keep their right to vote by voting for those other guys?

I have also always been stupified by the writer's voting (how does Mays and Aaron not get 100%? And that's just for starters, how does Babe Ruth not get 100%?) and have thought about ways to try to get around this but I've never found anything satisfactory. Any penalty system will change people's votes to be more cautious, voting for borderline candidates when he would have voted against, just to avoid a penalty, for example. But it would certainly avoid atrocities of obviously non-HOF getting a vote. Personally, if I had known a writer who didn't vote for Mays, I would have scorched him in print in a column, that would be so idiotic.

My Proposal: Three Strikes and You're Out

My idea, just to throw it out there, feel free to tear apart, is to have a "three strike and you're out" system. You get a strike if you vote for anyone who gets 1.0% or less of the votes. That was the easy one. We could make it 2% but 1% covers 5 votes and that seems fair to me.

The harder one is the reverse: the gimmees. Obviously, whoever didn't vote for Ruth, Mays or Aaron would get a strike. But Frank Robinson would appear to be an obvious HOF to me but only got 89.2% of the vote, whereas Aaron got 97.8%, Mays got "only" 94.7%, and Ruth got 95.1%. That seems way too low a threshold.

And speaking of Ruth, lets look at the first five inductees. Ty "Georgia Peach" Cobb got 98.2% of the vote, Honus "The Flying Dutchman" Wagner tied Ruth at 95.1%, Christy "Big 6" Mathewson had 90.7% of the vote and Walter "The Big Train" Johnson got only 83.65 of the vote. I would think that they were all obvious inductees today but look at their vote totals. Where do you draw the line?

And how about this factoid: Cy Young, whose name now graces the award for the top pitcher of the year, got only 49.1% of the vote in that first vote. I guess they were having problems with peak vs. longevity from the very first vote. Looking over Young's baseball-reference profile, he rarely led the league in anything but just kept on plugging away and pitched for 22 years, only 2 of which he had an ERA below the league average. He led in a lot of saber-stats, like WHIP and K/W, but in the traditional stats of that era, his only one was, obviously, wins, where he led the league 5 times in his 22 seasons, not too shabby, but I guess not deserving enough when you don't strike out a ton of people, like the Big Train did.

So where to set the tipping point? Given that Mays and Ruth had approximate 95%, that would seem to the minimum to set the bar, but in this case, none of the Mays non-voters would have gotten a strike. Dropping it down to 85% to include Frank Robinson seems a bit extreme. So maybe 90% might be the right balance. It misses Frank Robinson but should honor most of the obvious candidates with a high vote

So that got me thinking about the lower threshold. Maybe 1% is too low. Looking over the votes of the past few years, anywhere from 1% to even 5% (the minimum necessary to keep your name on the ballot) would seem reasonable, it depended, year by year. Lets go with 2.5% as the balance point on that one, that's about 12-13 votes, still a fringe candidate. That doesn't penalize any of the people not voting for Will Clark, but that's baseball, sometimes the ball doesn't go your way.

Lastly, I was just thinking that perhaps losing your vote is too harsh. It's not like they killed a player or anything, at least not literally. Maybe it could be like a suspension of some sort, instead of a permanent loss of voting right for three strikes. So they don't get to vote until they tack on, say, another three years of experience (I think the minimum right now is 10 years experience as a baseball writer in the association/union that they have) as penance.

The Rule

So the rule would then be the writer get a strike if they vote for anyone getting less than or equal to 2.5% of the vote or does not vote for anyone getting 90% or more of the vote and after three strikes, they need to work another three years as a baseball writer to earn back the right. This way, they won't be cautious with their vote until they get to two strikes. And maybe throw in you lose a strike after 3 years of going without a strike, so that the writer is not stuck at two strikes for the rest of his career and this only applies if you have a strike. Anyway, just a thought, something to work on when I'm perturbed by the latest HOF vote. I'll try to remember to revisit this next year.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Yeah, this HOF vote really angered me. I know that one of the many great aspects of baseball is the debate and argument about players. However, the Sutter (yes) and Gossage (no) and Blyleven (no) are such indefensible votes. Then, what's worse is that "all these" moron writers are voting based on their aserted views of a player...often ignoring glaring evidence to the contrary (e.g. Blyleven). It's really too bad.

Clark? I loved the guy as a player and absolutely understand that he's borderline. But he still should have gotten more votes vs. Steve Garvey.

If you haven't, check out Jay Jaffe's debate on Blyleven with a nut voter from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (?). The guy claims that John Candelaria was better than Blyleven and Jaffe comes right back with evidence to the contrary. Why? The voter was going to vote on what he believed his eyes had shown him some 20 years ago. Really too bad.

I'm going to really go through the roof if Selig actually selects teams to contract next year...the owners and their stadium issues don't help either.

(I'm anonymous because I haven't taken the time to "sign up.")

Fri Jan 13, 04:04:00 PM PST  
Blogger obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

Thanks for the comment Kent, no problem about not signing up, thanks for letting me know it's you.

And thanks for the tip on Jaffe, I will have to check it out when I get the chance (I've been on a business trip and slowly been catching up).

I think contraction is only a negotiating point. I don't believe the MLB really wants to contract any team. However, their bargaining position is probably the worse among all the major sports despite their anti-trust status, it's pretty pathetic. So to create a negotiating issue, they throw out this idea of contracting two teams, to be determined, and use that as a leverage point vs. the players. In addition, this also puts some pressure on cities to pony up the dough to update/replace their current stadium.

Push come to shove, the owners will fold like they've always have; let's put it this way: they would all have to pony up about $6-8M each to buy out and contract a team and I don't see them doing that as that would kill their budget for the year or force the owners to pony up that much more money. Not going to happen.

Sun Jan 22, 10:03:00 PM PST  

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