The Hall

Every year, baseball writers around North America vote on which retired ball players, coaches, and managers will be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The voters have rules to follow, since you only want the best of the best in the Hall. But not all of the rules make sense, and there are some unwritten rules which are just ridiculous.

There seem to be some voters for whom precedent is extremely important. For example, no player has ever been inducted with more than 98% of the vote. When Cal Ripken became eligible, there was no doubt that he belonged in the Hall – every baseball fan (and writer) knew this. But some writers purposely did not vote for Ripken because they felt that if they did vote for him, the vote might have been more than 98%. The baffling logic is that if Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, and George Brett didn’t get 99%, then Cal Ripken shouldn’t either.

One of the rules that has always confused me is that only a certain number of people can be inducted in a single year. Why? What is the point of limiting the number of inductees? Maybe there’s a good reason for such a rule, but I don’t see it. But that rule is responsible for this one: there have been people voted in after several years of eligibility because they didn’t get enough votes in their first couple of years. This means that some voters did not vote for player X one year, but did the next. What changed? The player in question has been retired for years anyway, his numbers didn’t change, the “intangibles” and “leadership” (and all those other weasel words that they use on players whose stats may not stack up as well as others) didn’t change, so why was he not worthy last year but he is now? The voters’ reasoning on this is a direct result of the rule limiting the number of inductees: player X does deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but maybe he deserves it slightly less than some other potential inductees. So we’ll vote for those other players (unless of course we think they might get more than 98% of the vote) this year, and then vote for player X next year.

I don’t get it. The Hall of Fame is not an ordered list of players. If someone deserves to be there, vote for him. If he gets 100% of the vote, well good for him, but it doesn’t mean that he’s better than Ruth or Cobb. If there’s no limit on how many can get inducted in one year, then whether someone gets in on the first ballot or the third is irrelevant, so just vote for who deserves to be there and be done with it. Who knows – maybe in another ten or twenty years when the dinosaur writers of the “old boys club” have all retired, some younger writers with less of an agenda might clean up the voting process a little bit and get rid of these insane unwritten rules.


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