At Long Last, Baseball Hall Of Fame Voting Is Starting To Make Sense – Forbes
On Wednesday the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced the Baseball Hall of Fame’s class of 2017. This year Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez received at least the 332 votes, or 75% of returned ballots, needed for entry; Trevor Hoffman and Vlad Guerrero both narrowly missed. And perhaps an even bigger story is the sudden uptick in support for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who each appeared on more than 50% of ballots.
And thanks to Ryan Thibodeaux’s ballot tracker, it’s much easier to figure out exactly what many of those ballots look like. The vote tracking helps fans get advanced insight into the electorate’s opinions, as well as trends over time, for both specific voters and the group as a whole. One other thing that’s become apparent is that one of the most nonsensical things about Hall of Fame voting appears to be on its way out: Those who vote for one of Bonds or Clemens but not the other.
I’ve previously harped on the incomprehensible number of voters who manage to look at the duo of all-time greats and then select just one of the two. Both were among the very best of all time and both are pretty directly linked to steroid usage, so it’s always struck me as absurd when a voter would choose one but not the other. It’s only logical that a voter could think neither deserve the honor because of steroid allegations or that both belong in the Hall in spite of them, but there’s no sense in picking one over the other.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happened for years. In 2014 at least 18 voters picked one but not the other, and in each of the last two years at least ten voters did the same. This year offers a win for fans who expect basic logic from the Hall’s electorate: A minimum of just seven voters had a split opinion between Bonds and Clemens. That’s the lowest number since Bonds and Clemens first appeared on the ballot in 2013, and perhaps reflects recent changes to the BBWAA electorate that increased voter requirements.
Note: We only know the minimum number of split voters because we’re working from vote totals and an incomplete list of public ballots. Next year’s requirement that all ballots be public will provide much more exactitude.
Among the journalists who came around this year is the Daily Herald‘s Barry Rozner, who previously voted for Bonds but not Clemens. Rozner has argued that the former was a Hall of Famer before he started juicing but it was unclear when Clemens first turned to steroids. This year he’s voted for both largely because the election of Bud Selig, the former MLB commissioner who presided over the much-reviled steroid era, has, for Rozner, nullified any consideration of the Hall’s character clause.
One of the voters still split on the two is FanRag’s Jon Heyman, who voted for Bonds but not Clemens. His long and thoughtful column is worth a read, but his decision essentially comes down to believing that Bonds was a clean Hall of Famer who only turned to steroids to stay in the spotlight, and that Clemens rejuvenated an ailing career with drugs and then later lied under oath about using them (nevermind that Clemens won an MVP and three Cy Youngs before leaving Boston, and that both players were charged with, but never found guilty of, perjury). At least Heyman acknowledges that he’s splitting hairs and leaves the door open to voting for Clemens in the future.