The HOF process and voting discussion

The Washington Post prohibits their writers from voting on any of baseball’s awards like the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and even on the Hall of Fame ballots. They are allowed to give opinions. Barry Svrluga gives his opinion on the voting process for the various awards and the Hall of Fame.

An alternate voting system for the baseball Hall of Fame?

Blame Barry Svrluga.

I usually write about what I know. This is different: now I’m writing about what I don’t know, just to start a discussion. I highly doubt that anything I say, or any responsive comments, will have any influence on history . . . but it’s a change from speculating about Bryce’s shoulder, MAT’s batting average, Zim’s shoulder AND batting average, or who will be the Nats’ closer this year.

Once I read Barry’s column, I started thinking about who (in lieu of the current crew of sportswriters) might be appropriate to vote on the HoF inductees. Although I don’t necessarily agree with all of his reasons why the current system is not the right one, I do think that a system that disenfranchises some of the most qualified voters due to their employers is less than optimal. (A few newspapers, including the Washington Post, preclude their writers from participation).

I would think we’d want a group of people who, collectively, have had enough exposure to the players that they are voting on to be able to determine who was truly great, and who instead belongs in “The Hall of Pretty Darn Good.”

I start with the premise that no system will be perfect. There will be personal grudges and favoritism, no matter what system is designed. But that’s why it’s 75%, not 100%, for induction.

So who might be the right group of voters?

OK, let’s start by eliminating certain groups.

1. The fans. Exhibit A, the All-Star voting. I don’t think an Exhibit B is needed, but if one is, remember that it’s the Hall of Fame, not the “Hall of people voted in by the most cleverly programmed voting bots.”

2. Any players currently on the ballot, in the 5-year waiting period, or still playing. Way too much opportunity for back-scratching, log-rolling, or whatever you want to call it.

3. A purely statistical cutoff analysis. It’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Outstanding Numerical Achievements in Baseball.

So, who does that leave us with?

1. Existing Hall of Fame members. May need to have an age cut-off, or a cutoff after a number of years out of baseball.

2. Players with a minimum number of years of service who have fallen off the ballot after the 10 or 15 year period. May have to have a cut-off at a certain age as well, or after a number of years after last formal employment in the sport. Would have to determine if sportscasting or sportswriting would qualify as “employment in the sport.”

3. Current and former coaches and managers of major league teams (maybe with a number of years of service as such. Years as a player should probably be counted toward the minimum).

4. Keep the sportswriters, but add other categories of voters?

5. Other suggestions?

Given the way that players, managers, and coaches move around during their careers, they will likely have had as much exposure to the players as the sportswriters have had (if not more). I wonder if anyone has written a paper on who changes teams more often: managers or sportswriters. I’m thinking definitely managers.

And how many voters should there be? A larger class of voters dilutes the power of any one group or clique. But the number needs to be somewhat manageable (in my mind “manageable” could mean hundreds, even low thousands. Every year, we manage to count hundreds of condo ballots, weighted by unit size, in under an hour. And the HoF isn’t on that kind of time constraint).

Anyway, there’s my initial thoughts: let’s see what the TalkNats crew as a whole can design. I’m not expecting to coalesce to one consensus: there are too many diverse opinions here for that!

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