The Lack of Criteria to get into Cooperstown: The Election Results can be Puzzling

Friday August 24th, 2012

MLB Commissioner Bud Selig

Patrick Languzzi (Cooperstown Correspondent, Twitter @PatrickLanguzzi): On August 14th, MLB Reports honored Ron Santo for his recent induction into The National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Did you know Santo was elected on his 20th attempt via the Golden Era committee (Veterans) some 31 years after he first became eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Since 1936, only 207 former major league players have ever been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. That’s about 1.17 percent of more than 17,000 players who have worn a major league uniform.

Of the 207 players elected to date, the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has elected 112 candidates, or 54 percent. Conversely, 95 major leaguers, or 46 percent, have been elected through other means (in all of its forms) such as the Veterans Committee, Old-Timers Committee, Centennial Commission and other special election of committees, to name a few.

For those not familiar, qualified members of the BBWAA vote annually by submitting a maximum of 10 eligible pre-screened players whom they would consider worthy of induction. In order to be elected, a player must be named on 75 percent of the voters’ ballots.

Players may be removed from such future ballots should they receive less than five percent of the voter ballots by the BBWAA, or if a player remains on the ballot 15 times without ever being elected.

Players must have played at least 10 seasons of major league baseball (MLB) and been retired for at least five years to be eligible. The five-year retirement rule of eligibility began in 1954.

For players as recent as Bert Blyleven (2011) and Jim Rice (2009), and now Ron Santo, it has been a long wait. For Blyleven–14 years and Rice–15 years respectively.

There have been at least 15 players who have been voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in their 10th year or later: Don Drysdale, Joe Cronin, Duke Snider, Bob Lemon and Bruce Sutter, just to name a few.

So why did it take so long?

And, just how does the BBWAA make their decisions on inductees? In his first year of eligibility (1998), Blyleven was named on only 17.5 percent of the voter ballots needed for election. The Following year 14.1 percent, an obvious decrease from the previous year.

Yet, Blyleven was finally elected in 2011 in his 14th year by the BBWAA at 79.7 percent. Rice, in his 15th and final year, was named on 76.4 percent of the voter ballots.

So, what exactly changed for the voters? 

Blyleven threw his last major league pitch on October 4th, 1992 and Rice had his last at-bat on August 3, 1989.

The inconsistency in voting by the BBWAA goes back for generations. Consider a few of the following examples of this since its inception in 1936. Please keep in mind that players back then went on the ballot upon retirement, which you would think might have helped to keep players fresh in the minds of qualified writers.

1933 Goudey Baseball Card

Dazzy Vance, a 1928 MVP and Triple Crown award-winning pitcher, who led the league seven consecutive years in strikeouts (1922-1928), was a three-time league leader in ERA and four-time league leader in shutouts, received one voter ballot in his first year of eligibility. He was later inducted in 1955 after 16 ballot attempts by the BBWAA with 81.7 percent of the voter ballots.

Joe DiMaggio, a 13-time All-Star with two batting titles and three MVP awards, was on the ballot for four years before he was inducted. Yes, that Joe Dimaggio. In DiMaggio’s first year on the ballot, he received a whopping 0.4 percent of the ballot votes and was later voted in for induction by the BBWAA in 1955 with 88.8 percent of the voter ballots. 

I’m no Yankee fan, but how was it possible that DiMaggio didn’t get more consideration his first year of eligibility? Is he not a legitimate first ballot Hall of Famer?

Another example is Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx, a three-time MVP, nine-time All-Star and only one of only 13 men in the history of major league baseball to win the coveted Triple Crown award. Foxx received 9.3 percent of the voter ballots his first year of eligibility by the BBWAA. It would later take six more ballot attempts for Foxx to finally be inducted in 1951 with 79.2 percent of the voter ballots.

I’m sure there are certain milestones that the BBWAA and others tend to use (or should use), like 3,000 hits, 500 home runs, 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts, multiple All-Star appearances, awards, etc.

So what about players that fall into that gray areas, those that may have never reached one or any of the milestones typically associated with Hall of Fame credentials by the BBWAA?

There are presently 15 Hall of Fame hitters that have never reached 2,500 hits, 400 home runs and finished with less than or equal to a .277 life-time batting average in their careers. Only four of those players have ever been elected via the BBWAA. Others, including Santo, have been selected by other means, utilizing all available election forms.

With these erratic, often unpredictable nomination trends, what criteria are the members of the BBWAA looking for? The process seems too subjective if you consider all of the above factors and previous voting outcomes.

Those qualified enough to hold that prestigious vote seem to be left relying on their own personal opinion in determining ones fate–deeming a player worthy!

Should a body similar to that of the one-time Veterans Committee, possibly made up of former players, baseball experts—to the likes of Bill James—and/or other living Hall of Fame members be established with rules and regulations for enshrinement? If we are going to fix the process, let’s get the right voters into place and give them a more concrete set of criteria to use in making their election decisions. Has the time finally come to fix the process in Cooperstown?

Sources: Baseball-reference, Baseballhall.org

(Today’s featured article originally appeared in Bleacher Reports written by the Author, Patrick Languzzi and has been rewritten and updated for MLB reports)

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

  ***Today’s feature was prepared by our Cooperstown Correspondent, Patrick Languzzi. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Patrick on Twitter (@PatrickLanguzzi) Also, please feel free to check out Patrick’s grass routes campaign in support of Dwight “Dewey” Evans for the Hall of Fame at: Call to the Hall***

 

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Posted on August 24, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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