Time to dispel two big myths about baseball Hall of Fame voting results – CBSSports.com
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez gained induction via the BBWAA vote on Wednesday. As always, the voting results were met with a tide of happiness, anger, smart commentary and a deluge of ignorance.
On the latter point, let’s blow up two of the dumbest things I routinely see bumping around.
1. How can someone’s vote total change?
There are two groups of people here. One is honestly and earnestly just wondering how it happens. For you people, consider this a polite explanation. The second group is uppity, all-knowing to the point of condescension and believing it should never be possible for vote totals to change. To you people, consider this a rant against your ignorance.
Because it’s really not too difficult, especially if you’re as smart as you portray yourselves.
The ballot changes every year, the voting body changes every year and there’s a 10-man limit on each ballot.
As an example, when I filled out what would have been my ballot, I had Vladimir Guerrero as my 11th man, so he would have missed the cut this year. Three guys I would have voted for got into the Hall and I’d only move two newcomers next year — Chipper Jones and Jim Thome — ahead of Vlad. So he’d be my 10th guy next year and get a vote.
No, his stats didn’t change, he didn’t play another game and nor did anyone else, but the options changed and there’s still a 10-vote limit. So he would add a vote.
Let’s hypothetically say that next year Trevor Hoffman, Vlad, Chipper and Thome all get in — which is probably the most likely outcome, if I had to guess. The only sure guys on the next ballot are Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay, so now Larry Walker (my 12th guy in 2017 and 11th in 2018) moves onto the ballot in his final try.
Did I give him a “final year bump” out of sympathy, groupthink or peer pressure, or did I just remain consistent in filling in my 10 spots?
This isn’t complicated. Granted, I’m not a voter yet, but let this serve as a perfectly acceptable example as to how the vote totals can change year to year.
Onto the voting body, one of the reasons Raines vote total spiked in recent years was there was a significant purge of writers. It came on July 28, 2015 (via the official Hall of Fame website, here’s the announcement). There were 571 ballots in 2014, 549 in 2015, 440 last year and 442 this year. The purged voters were those who hadn’t covered the game in more than 10 years. Many of the old guard in voters seem to be the types who would underrate Raines and are more “Small Hall” types, so a spike after the purge made a ton of sense.
The same goes for the increase in totals for the so-called “PED guys.”
Further, a writer becomes a Hall of Fame voter after being in the BBWAA for 10 years straight.
So there are voters dropping off (whether it’s death or becoming a lapsed voter) while there are voters added.
Obviously, when the ballot changes — especially with a 10-vote max — and the voters change, vote totals can change without it being stupid. So let’s stop acting like it’s stupid, Internet Tough Guys. You don’t know everything.
On that point, it matters. I, for one, realize that I need to take fresh looks at every candidate every year. True wisdom is knowing that I know nothing, or something like that, right? So with a fresh look every single year, sometimes people change their minds. S0metimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it happens. Most of the time, the mind changing is due to more homework than less and more open-mindedness than close-mindedness, so I believe it is to be commended instead of ridiculed. Being more educated is always better than being less educated.
I have changed my mind over the course of the past 10 years on players like Raines, Walker and Mussina and I’m very happy to have done so.
Now, about that being more educated part …
2. The Hall of Fame is a joke because it’s just becoming too watered down
Nope. Not even close. It’s the opposite. Now let me bog you down with some of these pesky things we call facts.
From about the mid-’70s until today’s game, the players are unbelievably underrepresented in the Hall of Fame compared to players from before that point. It’s a huge gap. And there are more teams and more players per season since then, too, so that means the percentage of the players in the Hall is even worse by comparison.
Here’s a good chart from a great follow for those who love facts:
In graph form, Hall of Famers used per game is falling off a cliff:
It’s revisionist history to claim that things are getting worse. If anything, all you “Small Hall” people should be throwing a party with how much more difficult it is to get in these days. Sure, the last several votes have been big, but it’s barely chipped away at the inequality when it comes to the different eras.
We don’t get to rewrite history. One of the reasons I’ve changed my mind on players like Raines is that I’ve educated myself on the established standards of the Hall of Fame. It’s not just Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. It’s also Chick Hafey and Heinie Manush and Jim O’Rourke.
I don’t think that we should let in every player who is better than the worst Hall of Famer. That would be lunacy. Mistakes happen in voting and do not justify future mistakes, but every player who meets or exceeds what we believe to be the current “average” Hall of Famer should absolutely get in. When Raines got on base more times than the likes of Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente and Roberto Alomar while ranking fifth in career stolen bases with a better stolen base percentage than Rickey Henderson, he’s pretty great. By many measures, he’s an above average Hall of Famer. So it’s the opposite of a “watering down,” in fact, when it comes to Raines. He actually brings up the average.
We don’t have to agree on every player, but we’ve all got to stop just making stuff up without knowing the reality of the situation. For every Walter Johnson, there’s an Eppa Rixey. Mike Mussina is closer to Johnson than Rixey, so he should be in.
This is not a watering down. It’s realizing that the bar for Hall of Fame clearance has already been established and respecting that line. To act like the bar is all-time inner-circles like Lou Gehrig and Honus Wagner is pure ignorance. It hasn’t been that since the 1930s.