Change comes slow to Hall of Fame voting

There will be hell to pay for what you've done to JD.

The Baseball Writers Association of America did not undergo any sort of massive sea change in their voter base from last year. The voting process, which reduced the candidacy window from 15 qualified years on the ballot to 10, did not inspire some great urgency in the nation, and thus we got a fairly similar retelling of persistent Hall of Fame voting issues. Uber-dominant titans of the steroid-era strangely ignored (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, and to a lesser degree, Sammy Sosa*), borderline cases with strong career narratives slide in without issue (John Smoltz, Craig Biggio), while equal candidates with vague PED suspicion slog their way through slowly (Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza), and we're just sort of thankful that super-obvious first ballot guys don't get screwed up (Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson). And why the hell can't Curt Schilling get a foothold?

*As Nick has most eloquently argued, Sammy is probably not worthy in the end, but he certainly isn't on the verge of dropping off the ballot if his numbers were free of their current context.

There so much oddness, so much noise in all these results, I wish I could just pin all the telling factoids that have come scrolling across. With a mandated reminder that he once excerpted Nick's writing without attribution, then blatantly misrepresented it for a mean-spirited column about uninformed fans on the internet, here's a telling point from Ben Lindbergh.

That's a lot of entries, more than enough to drown how ever many wackadoodle entries and utter mockeries of the process that the internet can scrounge up from the publicly-released ballots. The 75% barrier and multi-year window is designed to overcome the spurts of goofiness, the scale of which is probably best represented by nine percent of voters leaving off Pedro Martinez.

This is a bit harder to explain. A crowded field widely agreed upon to have more than 10 qualified candidates...apparently is not widely agreed upon to have 10, or more, qualified candidates. 10 ballot spots would seem to limit the field, but the national attention span looks to be even smaller, snuffing out any notion of a conversation about candidates like Larry Walker or Jeff Kent.

Confusingly smooth

Having any kind of strong resistance to Craig Biggio and John Smoltz getting into the Hall of Fame is foolish, but Biggio, a batting average hero with a comfy 3,000-hit benchmark and an undersized grinder identity graded out lower in career production than many of the candidates he leapfrogged. And Smoltz was blatantly outclassed by Schilling. Both of them whizzing by and over 80% is a larger-scale curiosity that cannot be written off as just the noise from a few weird ballots. This isn't hometown local news weirdness, or a failure to understand ballot instructions, this is an exploitation of still very strong media soft spots for saves, wins, batting average, presence on playoff teams, and playoff glory.

Real progress?

Roughly the best offensive catcher in MLB history, Mike Piazza, received 69.9% of the vote in his third year, which puts him on an almost certain path for admission, despite worries about steroids scuttlebutt dragging down. Jeff Bagwell--or "NL Frank Thomas" for all intents and purposes--is in a more tenuous position, having hovered in the 50's the last few years with no obvious trend of progress and a non-attributed PED cloud hanging around him.

Naturally, I have no information, but there's an interesting point here from Bomani Jones, or at least an interesting possibility.

Journalists accept off-the-record information all the time. It rarely takes the form of "Here's a bombshell revelation that will never be confirmed," but is more often information that informs future reporting decisions, or provides a heads up for something that's coming and can be reported when it's announced. 19 times out of 20, it's prudent to accept info off the record and trust it will bear fruit in the future, and 20 times out of 20 it's horrifically unethical to just air it out because you think it will be a good story. There are also ways to express disapproval of something morally and ethically wrong that you're not allowed to print. The Notre Dame football beat wasn't allowed to report the name of Prince Shembo as the player accused of assaulting Lizzy Seeberg due to student privacy rules, but take note which writers managed to go years without writing a single feature on a four-year starter.

If a reporter had unprintable PED information on a player, is it unethical to still have it affect his voting? I would say no. It still opens up the debate of whether that should even matter (it's something to consider, but not a 'zero tolerance' violation for a history museum, in my opinion) and this game of condemning players but not saying draws a really uneven line in the sand, but it's important to consider something other than abject stupidity or hypocrisy possibly being at work.

Alright, what about the actual White Sox players we care about?

Tim Raines moved up to 55% in this year's vote, a personal high for him. With just two years left and a few candidates on top of him, it doesn't look good for our favorite borderline candidate. Four names being cleared off the list helps, as would an expansion to 12 available slots, but half the electorate isn't filling up their ballot already and much of the audience sympathetic to Raines is devoted to far superior talents currently kept out by PED drama.

Raines would assuredly go in wearing an Expos cap, as his Hall of Fame numbers were compiled in Montreal, but he was one of the 1500 people named in Frank Thomas' HoF speech, so he belongs to us now.

Most egregious of all transgressions, Jermaine Dye was completely shut out of any voting, ushering him off the ballot, and allowing him to drive off to cooler parties in his 2005 World Series MVP car, which probably would be barely running at this point if he even bothered to keep it.

A sitcom where Paul Konerko, Aaron Rowand, Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle sit around and fix up the MVP car. Every episode ends with Buerhle's dogs chewing up some of the wiring underneath. Sure, you would watch, but will you contribute funding for the pilot to be shot?


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