Election gripes with the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame – Biddeford Journal Tribune

The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame election has come and gone. To be elected, a candidate must be named at least 75 percent of the ballots cast. This year, the members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who do the voting, cast 442 votes. Each ballot allows the naming of 10 players. A candidate had to appear on a total of 332 ballots to be elected. 

Jeff Bagwell, who played first base for the Houston Astros for 15 years, won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1994 and hit career 449 home runs, received 381 votes or 86.2 percent of the vote. He had a total of 2,314 hits, a career batting average of .297 and was named to the All Star team four times.

Tim Raines, who played left field for four different teams in his 14 year career, was also named to the Hall, with 380 votes, 86 percent of the total cast. Raines won the 1986 National League Batting title, had a lifetime average of .294 and was named to the All Star team seven times.

Ivan ‘Pudge’ Rodriguez who, in a 21 year career, with six different teams, totaled 2,844 hits and was named to the All Star team 14 times was elected in his first year of eligibility. Rodriguez, a fine defensive catcher who excelled at throwing out runners, was named on 336 or 76 percent of the ballots cast, just four more than the minimum required for election.

Trevor Hoffman, who played for three teams in his 18 year Major League career, missed election by five votes, receiving 327 or 74 percent. Hoffman, who was named to seven All Star teams and had a career 2.87 ERA, had 601 saves in his career, second only to the great Mariano Rivera.

Roger Clemens, winner of seven Cy Young Awards, more than any pitcher in history, 1984 AL Rookie of the Year, 1986 AL Most Valuable Player, who won 354 games and lost 184, was named to 11 All Star Teams, in a 24 year career, was named on just 239 ballots or 54.1 percent, well short of the required 75 percent. It was his fifth year on the ballot and that was the highest total he had received yet. 

It is common knowledge that many members of the Baseball Writers’ Association will not vote for Clemens because they believe he used performance enhancing drugs during his career. They withhold their vote from him, knowing that, while many other players have been proven to use steroids and other illegal drugs, Clemens has never been proven to have done so. 

Even though Clemens’ statistics would have put him far ahead of any other of this year’s candidates, 203 voters left him off their ballots this year. There were a total of 34 players on the ballot this year. Of those, 11 received no votes. 

The only qualifications to appear on the ballot are that a player must have played in at least ten seasons in the last twenty years and must have ceased to be a player at least five calendar years prior to the election. There are no performance standards required to be met for a player to be on the ballot.

As a result, the names of many players, whose careers would obviously not qualify them for the Hall, appear on the ballot. This year, players such as J. D. Drew, Melvin Mora and Mike Cameron were among those on the ballot. Often, a voter will cast a ballot for a player who everyone knows will never be elected for personal reasons, perhaps to honor that player or just because the writer covered that team and is familiar with the player. 

This year, for example, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek, both Red Sox favorites who did much to help their team during their careers but obviously do not have Hall of Fame numbers, received votes. Wakefield got one vote and Varitek two. Edgar Renteria also received two votes and Maglio Ordonez received three. 

Those voters that withhold their vote from Clemens because of their personal convictions do the Hall and the process a disservice. Those voters that vote for a player for any reason other than those intended in the Rules for Election, by the same token, do the process and the Hall a disservice. 

The American Sociologist Robert K. Merton wrote that ‘ Unintended consequences are outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action ‘. This Law of Unintended Consequences comes into play in the Hall of Fame vote.

If just two of those voters who voted for Wakefield, Varitek, Renteria or Ordonez had voted for Trevor Hoffman instead, Hoffman would have been elected to the Hall. Obviously, Hoffman’s qualifications are worthy of serious consideration since 327 other voters named him on their ballots. 

If just five of the voters who withheld their votes from Clemens, voted for Rodriguez because they had room on their ballot caused by leaving Clemens off, Rodriguez may have been elected because of their bias against Clemens.

I don’t believe that any of the voters voted for the lesser candidates for the purpose of excluding Hoffman any more than I believe that any of them withheld their vote from Clemens so that Rodriguez would be elected. That’s why it is called the Law of Unintended Consequences. 

The voters should vote for the candidates based upon their records as players. If there are other factors at play, such as there are with players like Barry Bonds with his admitted steroid use, the Hall of Fame can deal with it after they are elected. After all, they solved the problem of Roger Maris breaking Babe Ruth’s record with an asterisk. 

The Baseball Writers’ Association should stop trying to impose their own personal standards and beliefs on the Hall and follow the intent of the Rules for Election.

Carl Johnson lives in Sanford and writes a weekly baseball column for the Journal Tribune Sunday. Contact him at baseballworldbjt@yahoo.com and check out his blog at baseballworldbjt.com.

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