My Hall of Fame Comments

First off, I want to say that I am very happy to see that Bert Blyleven was just elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Roberto Alomar is certainly deserving as well. Now that the voting has completed, we can start winding down the Hall of Fame coverage and return to the baseball offseason. However, I still want to get my two cents in.

First, it’s certainly nice to see Alomar get in, especially with so much support behind him (receiving 90% of the vote). However, he clearly didn’t win over the voters last year, and it appears as though it was for his spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996. Apparently some voters felt that they had to punish Alomar, so a few chose to leave him off their ballots last year, his first year of eligibility. Despite the fact that Hirschbeck and Alomar apologized to each other and even shook hands at home plate prior to a game in 1997, some voters felt it was necessary to punish him. If he had already received a 5 game suspension for this confrontation, then apologized to the other party and even received support for Hall of Fame induction from this other party, then why punish him even more?

It’s clear that the voters want morally strong members in the Hall of Fame. They don’t want steroids users (and now apparently those suspected of using) and players that had incidents but are still HoF worthy need to be “punished” first – I find this ridiculous. I’m not going to accuse some voters of being on a proverbial high horse, but some need to realize that not everyone is perfect and there are already plenty of players, coaches, etc. that are in the Hall of Fame that did some things just as bad as spitting in an umpire’s face.

Second, this hasn’t been mentioned very much but I get the feeling that some people believe sabermetrics took another step in the right direction with the election of Bert Blyleven. I am in complete disagreement here, just like when Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award. Both cases, it felt like peer pressure, rather than an actual hard look at advanced statistics. I’m not only saying this because of Jon Heyman’s so-called “Internet zealots,” but also because of something that was highlighted by Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times (yes, I know I linked to this in my last post).

The players most likely to pick up new voters are the ones with the most votes. I looked at this in depth in a column in September 2008, and the key point is 50 percent. The BBWAA vote works by consensus and once a majority of voters supports a guy, the logs start rolling in his direction.

It seems rather redundant to say that a player will receive even more votes once he has received more votes, but it makes sense. Think of it like this: Player X gets 40% of votes. Then you have some voters saying, “Oh wow, he just got 40% of the votes. If this many people think he’s a Hall of Famer, then I guess I should too.” Those additional votes push the total up to, let’s say 50% the next year. Then the process repeats until the player eventually gets the minimum 75% or some other factors get involved (click the link to Jaffe’s article to see what I mean).

Oh sure, I don’t doubt that some people were swayed because they took a look at Blyleven’s numbers and realized how great they actually were. But I still think that quite a few started voting for a certain player like Blyleven simply because of how many other voters were doing the same.

This brings up another issue I have with the voting. To me, it would make sense to get an idea of who deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and vote for this person every single time. I would not withhold the first ballot election because it’s a special honor, nor would I waffle from year to year on a particular person.

Of course, I’m only one person, and I don’t anticipate that I’ll ever have a Hall of Fame vote. Nor do I believe that I could sway all the voters to change their opinions to fit mine. There’s just too many people, with too many opinions. It would be like entering politics, and I’m never going to do that, either.

To summarize, I guess my main point is that I wish there was a simpler way to distinguish between the Hall of Famers and the merely very good. However, I suppose that would ruin some of the fun as well. Yes, I wish we could avoid having future online arguments such as with Bert Blyleven… but who would want to know if a player was a Hall of Famer immediately after he retired?

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