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Tigers Den Roundtable: Can the Hall of Fame be fixed?

There are a lot of problems with how Hall of Fame voting is handled.

MLB: SEP 22 White Sox at Tigers Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Tuesday, we will finally know who — if anyone — has received enough votes for 2021 Hall of Fame induction, and with no player looking like a sure thing, it seems like an ideal time to look at the voting itself.

This year we saw everything from blank ballots (you seriously waited 10 years to earn the right to vote only to vote for no one? Come on, man.) To seriously questionable votes that seemed geared not towards selecting the best possible player for the Hall, but rather to irritate any baseball fans who happened to look at the ballot.

We also saw, following the events of January 6th in Washington, a crush of voters asking if they could change their votes to remove Curt Schilling after he vocally supported the insurrection.

There have been a lot of questions raised this year maybe more than any other, about what it means to vote for the Hall of Fame, how much emphasis should be placed on character and integrity (both of which are, indeed, considerations integral to Hall of Fame voting), and whether or not it might be time to change how, or even if, we vote to elect players into the Hall.

In our roundtable this week we discussed how Hall of Fame voting might be fixed.

Peter: HoF is stupid and we need to stop placing so much emphasis on it.

Ashley: Not to state the obvious, but perhaps we shouldn’t give all the power to old, out-of-touch white dudes? It takes an awfully long time to get the right to vote, and with the way our understanding and appreciation of the game changes as well, it’s hard to imagine that a former beat writer, now retired, is the best person to decide who deserves to go into the Hall of Fame.

If not that, then let’s ease the parameters for who can vote, so that more young beat writers get their chance. Maybe a random pool of 200 voters every year.

Trevor: This might be over simplifying it, and frankly I’ve lost interest in recent years, but make the character clause a prerequisite to get on the ballot instead of an open ended factor in the voting. Then a definitive decision can be made about PEDs. Theoretically, that makes it more about the performance of those who exemplify the traits the HoF would want. But, overall, I agree with Peter.

Rob: Other than giving Jay Jaffe final say over who gets into the Hall of Fame, I’m not sure what I would change about the entire process. Expanding the voting pool would likely not make a difference, as the people they would add (former players, broadcasters, etc.) would be riddled with the same biases we currently see from the BBWAA. And if you want to see sabermetrics take on a bigger role in the decision-making process, letting the current writers’ membership naturally age out will result in faster reform than just about anything else that could realistically be done.

Patrick: The fundamental problem with the HoF is that too many people making the selections have no clue how to measure value. We are gradually getting the voters to use the advanced metrics available to them to get a more accurate measure, but there are still too many voters with bricks for brains. Harold Baines is in while Lou Whitaker is passed over yet again by the veterans’ committee. That’s just incompetence. Either educate them or replace them. That’s number one.

There are also a few common sense reforms that need to be implemented.

1. Publish all ballots.
2. Get rid of the “one and done” policy that screwed Whitaker.
3. I don’t subscribe to allowing a voter to list more than ten players. If they were to do that, they’d have a bar too low, IMO.
4. Get off their high horse, speculating which players may or may not have used PED
5. Writers who stop covering baseball should stop voting. They can’t be informed.

Adam: Until Lou Whitaker in in the Hall of Fame, the place means nothing to me.

Peter: Patrick, your #2, 4, & 5 are the big 3 issues why I don’t care about the HoF anymore. Its just a popularity and nostalgia club run by a bunch of old farts with the most nonsensical arbitrary set of rules I’ve seen.

But, I guess I’ll take a swing at a reform idea.

1. Establish a basic baseline set of criteria to qualify for nomination (length of time in the league, games played, meaningful.contribution to the game, whatever)
2. Each team gets to nominate one player ever year to go onto a ballot.
2. A 50/50 combination of former players and writers get to vote on who they want. Top 5 get in.

No one and done, no % of vote.

Les: Stop electing players to the National Hall of Fame - elect events instead.

Ashley: Ohhh

Les: Players go into your team Hall of Fame

Adam: But then how will Yankees fans get their bragging rights?

Les: Look, if the Hall of Fame voters want to enshrine Derek Jeter’s 3000th hit as an event, that’s on them

People expect the Hall of Fame to be about heroes, giants among their peers deserving of celebration through the generations. That’s why we get caught up in exhausting debates about character, when in truth very few people of any sort ever deserve that kind of immortalization

On the other side, there are people who want to stick to the numbers. Player X had this many HRs. Player Y had a higher WAR. there’s literally nothing less heroic about that framing.

If baseball is full of any heroism at all, it’s because of the context that made heroes possible. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Armando Galarraga going out to submit the lineup card the next day. (yeah, I just put those two things together. deal with it.)

Ashley: Moments are moments.

[this discussion briefly descended into madness as we relived George Brett pooping his pants. There’s a YouTube video, you can look it up if you need to.]

Brady: I don’t really have any ideas of how to fix it because it just seems broken beyond repair. I concur completely about how people who no longer cover the game should lose their vote — that should be an obvious prerequisite. Players having a say could be interesting too, but I could see that getting messy fast. Just like George Brett’s situation there.

Clearly the BYB team could not come to a consensus on fixing the Hall except to say it’s all meaningless until Lou is in.

As we wait for the likely underwhelming results of this year’s voting, you can review some of the worst offenders at Ryan Thibodaux’s Twitter account, such as this gem right here.