09 January 2013

Reacting to the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame vote

Well, we got what we feared in regards to the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame vote in that no player was elected to Cooperstown this year as nobody got to the 75 percent required of the 569 ballots cast this year by the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. The two closest to induction were Craig Biggio, who fell 39 votes shy on his first year on the ballot, and Jack Morris, who was 43 votes show on his fourteenth and second-to-last year on the ballot. This is the first year since 1996 that there will not be any inducted into the Hall.

So what does this all mean for the Hall going forward? Here are my reactions to today's vote.

Voting results

Honestly, I am not totally surprised that nobody got in this year. As we all knew, it was a pretty controversial and crowded ballot with a lot of the faces of the steroid era getting on the ballot for the first time and given that there is such a differing opinion on what to do in regards to those guys considering that there are guys we know that did use performance enhancing drugs, some that we have a clear suspicion about due to various sources and some guys who have had their name tainted by some whispers that he used, despite very little evidence. Plus, you have some voters who view that being elected on the first year on the ballot is a real honor and privilege that has only happened to a handful on enshrinees and some voters, like Ken Rosenthal for example, are hesitating to vote for guys from the steroid era on their first time and I think both are legitimate points, even if I don't necessarily agree with them.

And you know what, I don't think that it is necessarily a bad thing if in certain years, nobody gets elected in. Obviously, it is a case by case basis, even though not electing anybody does look bad and it makes the induction ceremony much less special (and less of a tourist destination, which is critical for the local Cooperstown economy), but I honestly do not think that we should be elected players for the Hall just for the sake of having somebody go in. That said, I do not believe that is the case with this year's ballot as I see a bunch of guys that were on this year's ballot in which I felt that they were deserving of election to the Hall. Of course, as we know, for much of these players it is not a one-and-done situation but let's be frank, if a guy is deserving to be in the Hall of Fame, he shouldn't have to wait.

Maybe should it be considered that the ballot should be expanded to allow more guys to be voted for by a specific writer? I think it is an interesting idea and something that I see the merits too but I would see more of a case if most if not all of the writers were filling out full ballots but the average still is, and has historically been, in the five-six range per voter and so I think expanding the maximum players on a writer's ballot, while it is an interesting idea in concept, would not help the situation.

I do think that we need change in terms of the people that vote for the Hall as part of the BBWAA. There are many great baseball writers that I have a ton of respect for but being able to vote should not be a lifetime thing in that. There is a problem with the writers in that we have a crop of voters that have not been consistently following the sport, if they still continue to follow the sport. So many voters still look at the sport in a 1970's and 1980's prism and disdain any mention of advanced analytics to be used. We need a system where only writers who are currently following the sport, not ones that have gone on to work for GolfersWest.com and are long gone from covering baseball. We have a problem with writers who are looking to only become part of the story by submitting empty ballots (which five did) which honestly at that point, why even bother? If you are only voting for Dale Murphy or Jack Morris, you shouldn't deserve a vote because you are turning it into a joke. And maybe we should expand beyond writers? Why not possibly include broadcasters or potentially the currently inducted members? It is clear that something has to change because there are not enough guys like T.J. Quinn, who willingly give up their votes for the right reasons.

Now, let's dive into the results. Starting off with the guys who did not receive enough votes to remain on the ballot, to which they have to receive five percent or more, generally there are not guys who really should deserve to be in conversation and for the majority of those who did not get to five percent, it is rightfully so. Yes, David Wells has similar numbers to Jack Morris and a higher WAR over his career, but he clearly isn't a Hall of Famer. Sandy Alomar was a good catcher in his prime but no way was he a Hall of Famer. Whoever voted for Aaron Sele should lose their vote, period. I know some folks who felt that Bernie Williams actually did deserve to get in, personally I have no idea what they are talking about and I am not surprised that he fell off the ballot this year. But for Kenny Lofton to fall off the ballot in his first year of eligibility  That is insane because when you look at his profile and his numbers, especially his advanced stats, he not only should be in the conversation, he actually has a case to get in! How he fell off the ballot in one year is completely ridiculous, let alone finish one vote behind Williams.

Let's take a look at guys who will probably never get in, and let's first talk about the guy who ran out of years on the ballot. A number of folks felt that Dale Murphy should have gotten in since he was great in his peak and overall has a sterling reputation as a good guy, clean from steroids (as far as we can tell). But honestly, his peak was too short for me to consider for the Hall and unfortunately for him, this year was his last shot. Rafael Palmeiro fell to 8.8% in his third year on the ballot as the only one to have failed a steroid test and he will never get inducted. Sammy Sosa debuted low as expected with 12.5% and he will fall off the ballot within a few years. Don Mattingly has been barely hanging on but at 13% in his 13th year on the ballot, he has no shot.

In regards to the steroids guys like the aforementioned Palmeiro and Sosa and with Mark McGwire (16.5% in his seventh year), Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (with 36.2% and 37.6% respectively on their first years on the ballot), since we cannot say definitively (for the most part) who used and for how long (we have inklings but not enough to say without doubt), it is going to be fascinating to see with these guys how they are decided on with the writers, particularly with the latter two. Bonds and Clemens never tested positive, supposedly used when there was no testing and were Hall of Famers before it was reported that they used PEDs. Should they never get in due to the suspicions, should they be counted for the time before it was reported they used? Since they debuted with around a third of the vote, I would not be surprised if both get into the Hall down the line, more like later rather than sooner. But something to consider that it is not is as if the Hall of Fame is full of squeaky clean guys, we have inducted sign-stealers, spitballers (Gaylord Perry anyone?), racists and actual Klan members. I am not as likely as others to completely throw out these cheaters when we have had inducted cheaters before, especially when you consider the time period and the complete institutional failure to identify the steroid problem.

But speaking of steroids and those identified, we have seen two guys that are slam-dunk Hall of Famers in Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza that have been driven down by whispers that they may have been users but there is no actual evidence that either were indeed users. It is a true shame because it has been a hatchet job of guilty by association even though neither were in the Mitchell Report and never tested positive for anything. Both deserve to be in the Hall and should be in, I urge the voters to cut the crap in regards to those guys. And they will get in but neither should have to wait.

Some more names in the middle of the voting to note include guys like Lee Smith (47.8% in his eleventh year), Edgar Martinez (35.9% in his fourth), Alan Trammell (33.6% in his twelfth), Larry Walker (21.6% in his third) and Fred McGriff (20.7% in his fourth). Of those guys, I would put Martinez and Trammell in but I think the one of the group that have the best chance to get in is Smith, who has four years left and could find enough even with a more crowded ballot next year. I think Martinez will be unfairly held back by being a DH, Trammell does not have enough years, Walker is hurt by his injuries and playing in Colorado and McGriff will be continued to be overshadowed (and rightfully so in my opinion).

Biggio is probably going to get in next year, I have no doubt about it. He was pretty close this year and probably got hurt by guys who did not have him on the first ballot due to the reason that I listed before. Tim Raines (52.2% in his sixth year) will end up getting in, I believe, because there has been a strong push due to advanced statistics to get him into the Hall because quite frankly he deserves it. Curt Schilling debuted lower than expected at 38.8% and while he was never a very popular guy, when you look at his numbers, particularly his postseason numbers, he will get in one day. I feel confidant in that.

The one remaining case is that of Morris, and his has been one that has been highly debated as traditionalists want to put him in due to his reputation as a clutch pitcher and particularly his brilliant performance in game seven of the 1991 World Series while advanced statisticians and sabermetrics guys do not think he should go in due to his numbers, which are frankly not that impressive. Traditional thinkers believe that the new wave baseball thinkers have been slamming Morris unfairly and keeping him out of the Hall but the truth is, in a game of numbers, Morris does not have the numbers to get in. And the argument that the numbers should not count with Morris is a cop out and everyone who makes that case knows it is a flimsy argument that fails because his numbers are not deserving, as is the argument that he pitched to the score. Frankly, his numbers are similar to that to those of the aforementioned David Wells, who got five votes. There is no way in hell that he should go in before Schilling not just because Schilling's overall numbers are significantly better, his postseason numbers are also much better. Morris never was a contender for the Cy Young Award, which shows that he was never an elite pitcher. It is clear that his candidacy is one being driven by emotion and by traditionalists who fear the growing influence of those who study closely sabermetrics.

But with next year being Morris's last year on the ballot, there is going to be a very strong push by traditionalists to get him in and in a normal year with a normal ballot, I would think that he would get in. But since nobody got in this year, and next year sees an even more crowded ballot with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas among others joining the list, as well as Biggio, who will get in next year, it is going to be very, very close next year. And that point alone shows the folly of the writers this year by jamming up the ballots for the next few years.

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