Today, the Baseball Writers Association of America formally announced the apotheosis of four players: Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. All four are worthy players, deserving of the honor. This is only the fourth time that four or more players have been elected at one time – and one of those was the inaugural class, so that one probably doesn’t count. It is the first time that this many players were selected under the current voting rules, and the first time that seven players (six of them on their first appearance on the ballot) were selected in two consecutive years.
As always, there are a number of writers and a great many commenters who take issue with the voting. Very little has changed since I wrote about the election process last year, so I won’t belabor those points.
There have been a few changes, though….
Firstly, and most importantly, the Hall announced that instead of up to fifteen years on the ballot, players will only stay on for ten years.Those few players who are past the ten year limit are being “grandfathered” in. I’m not sure what the reason for this change is; perhaps it’s to encourage the voters to select more candidates on each ballot.
Speaking of which, this year the average number of votes per ballot was 8.42 – up a bit from last year’s 8.39. And that was the first time since 1986 that the average was even as high a 7.0. Over half the ballots had the maximum of ten votes. And there are a number of members of the BBWAA who are pushing for increasing the maximum number of votes from 10 to 12. If the time on the ballot is being shortened, then it seems like this is a good move to balance things out. It’s a good sign that writers want to be able to vote for more players. Perhaps they are hearing what the commenters and each other are saying.
I also note that Bill James has looked at all the members of the Hall of Fame, and noted that almost all of the “questionable” members were chosen not by the writers, but by the various committees. So before you take out a contract on the BBWAA, keep in mind that they’ve really done a decent job, and most of them are serious about it.
Look, let’s be honest. No matter who does the selecting, there are going to be players who just miss the cut. You could try an “objective” criterion like Bill James’ “Hall of Fame Monitor” or Jay Jafee’s “JAWS” system. But the HoF Watch places a bit too much emphasis on awards and post-season appearances, and Jafee admits his own system isn’t without its flaws.
While it’s clear that players like Rich Aurilia and Jermaine Dye, while fine players, aren’t HoF caliber, and Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are “no-brainers”, there are going to be many, many players who fall into the middle. Is Jeff Kent a Hall of Famer? Gary Sheffield? I don’t know, and I’m glad it’s not my decision.
But I do know that everyone who does get deified by the BBWAA deserves the honor. So instead of complaining, let’s just celebrate their entry into the Pantheon.
* Randy Johnson once killed a bird with a pitch in Spring Training.
* Pedro Martinez was perfect through nine innings, but lost it to the Padres in the 10th when the Expos couldn’t score for him until the top of that inning.
* Craig Biggio collected a single for his 3000th hit, and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
* John Smoltz has three stolen bases in post-season play.