Solution for Hall of Fame Voting Controversy

With the Hall of Fame ballots due in less than a week, baseball writers around the country are looking at players from the past and thinking, “Did he juice? If he did, did it help? Does it matter? Is it cheating, or not?”

Such is the conundrum of players on the ballot from the PEDs Era. How do we solve it? Easy.

To me, the Baseball Hall of Fame is a museum. It’s a physical place that people can visit and learn about the history of the game. There are curators who acquire, organize, and manage historical items to put on display. Let’s leave it at that, and stop voting players into it. End the ballot. Done.

Going forward, the curators decide what players to honor, how to honor them, and when to honor them — just like any other museum. Was “Sue” the Tyrannosaurus Rex voted into Chicago’s Field Museum by a bunch of dinosaur writers? Did space writers vote moon rocks into the American Museum of Natural History? Was the Mona Lisa a first-ballot entry into the Louvre? Of course not. The idea of voting people into a museum is ludicrous, when you think about it. So let’s end it.

Without having the pressure of a vote every year, the great feats — and terrible choices — of Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Denny McLain, and Mark McGwire can be detailed and chronicled as part of baseball history. The remarkable run of Dodgers infielders Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey can be properly honored. The brief yet incredibly dominant runs of Dale Murphy and Don Mattingly can be celebrated without the nonsense of requiring 75% of a group of baseball writers to agree that it should be celebrated.

I understand why there was a vote in the past to establish “Hall of Famers.” Further, I understand how important it was — in the past — for individuals to be officially honored as “Hall of Famers.” Mainly, it was a financial thing. Back in the day, players didn’t make the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars that they do now, and their pensions aren’t nearly as lucrative as the ones doled out to more recent MLBPA members. So the credibility of “Hall of Famer” attached to a player was somewhat similar to adding the letters “Dr.” or “M.B.A.” to one’s name — it meant one could make more money. Who gets a bigger payday at a baseball card show? Jim Rice or “Hall of Famer Jim Rice”? For many players, that earning potential was important to enjoying their retirement.

However, the players coming on to the ballot now don’t need the meager dollars attached to “Hall of Famer” status. Rafael Palmeiro, for example, earned well over a hundred million dollars in his steroid-enhanced career — I doubt he, his children, or his children’s children, will ever need to rely on autographed baseballs to pay their doctor bills. So why is it so damn important that multimillionaires such as Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, etc., be voted in to The Hall? They don’t need the status for anything other than ego. If there was something about their careers that curators believe was so important to the history of baseball that future generations should learn about it, it can be chronicled in some way, shape, or form in the museum. Maybe it’s a photo, or an old glove, or a laser show. Plaques are boring, anyway. With or without voted-in “Hall of Famers,” we’ll still have arguments about who are/were the best players in baseball — and it will remain a fun exercise.

The problem, of course, is that if there is no longer a vote for Hall of Famers, there’s no induction and no gala event to promote and celebrate The Hall every summer. Well here’s an idea: instead of voting in “Hall of Famers,” the BBWAA can vote in a panel of curators every year. The curators can be players, writers, broadcasters, owners, coaches, scouts, MLBPA labor leaders, and maybe even fans. Those curators handed the custodial responsibility of choosing artifacts and events to honor in the Hall, for a period of one year. To some people, the opportunity to shape how baseball history will be displayed may be more of an honor than having their face put on a plaque.

That’s my idea — just throwing it out there. Not saying it’s the greatest idea, but it’s something to start the conversation. In my opinion, the concept of voting players into the Hall of Fame has run its course, and it’s time for something different.

What’s your thought? Is it time to end the voting? If not, why do you feel it is important to continue? Or, maybe you think the voting process needs to be changed. Air it out in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Izzy January 4, 2013 at 9:00 am
    Man, can’t disagree more. Artifacts? The Hall is filled with artifacts today. It doesn’t need me or you to pick artifacts. But take your kids or grand kids to the Hall. They see the plaques, you tell them stories, you tell them what you saw them do. you tell them about how the great Black players were banned and tell them the stories of how Josh Gibson was the only guy to hit it out of Yankee stadium but he was banned. You tell them what the Mick did with his bum legs. You argue with old friends about the merits of a guy getting in. I still argue with a Pirate fan friend of 40 years about Maz getting in. Artifacts don’t do anything for anybody like a name a stat and a story. I don’t like the writers voting based on the criteria they individually make up every day. I’d rather members of the Hall get together and vote new guys in. At least they’ve been there done that and can. But to take away the names, the plaques etc. No way. I can go to a flea market and see an old worn out glove or a bat.
    • DaveSchneck January 4, 2013 at 9:49 pm
      Izzy,
      I agree 100%, not that Joe’s thought is a bad one, just that it already exists to an extent. I think the HOF membership is part of the allure of baseball. Both in what Izzy describes, the connection from generation to generation of fans, and also in the intrigue of the select membership itself. Izzy is right on when saying that the writers should not be the ones to determine, I prefer baseball people be some mix of players, managers, GMs, etc. The only rule should be some type of limit to the inductees, to avoid voting in a bunch of buddies…something that would maintain the current small percentage of players that make it, whatever that is. Baseball is a sport that transcends the actionof the game – the stats, the characters, the differences from park to park and generatin to generation, and the HOF membership is part of that special intrigue. I know that it is political and especially now with the steriods, but I think the intrigue will outlast the current pitfalls.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:20 pm
      I never suggested that the Hall of Fame stop honoring players – my suggestion is merely to remove the “Hall of Famer” status. Why does someone have to be voted in? If you want to keep adding plaques to the Hall, that’s fine, but instead of going in as voted-in “Hall of Famers,” they’ll have a curator add their picture(s), wax statue, bust, plaque, video(s), baseball card(s), uniform, whatever. The curator will choose the player(s) based on the fact that the player significantly contributed to the history of baseball in some way. There are still plenty of stories to tell.

      This way, no one has to worry about whether or not Sosa, Bonds, McGwire, etc., are “worthy” of being voted in as “Hall of Famers” — a curator puts them into a special room somewhere in the building and their homerun stats are highlighted, and that’s that. Visitors to the Hall can check out the players, read / look at whatever materials are displayed, and draw their own conclusions, argue with each other about who was better, etc.

  2. norme January 4, 2013 at 9:30 am
    I really like your idea, Joe J.

    I’ve been to Cooperstown four times. Love the HOF as a museum. They can honor baseball people with special exhibits and, as many museums do, send out travel exhibits to other museums around the country.

    The more I think about it, I realize that your idea is so good that it will never happen. Too many entrenched interests with their petty minds. Too bad!

  3. LongTimeFan January 4, 2013 at 10:25 am
    Bad idea, Joe.

    The problem isn’t in voting for Hall of the Fame inductees,. the problem is the choice of people charged with doing so. It’s time to take it away from so-called journalists and sportswriters, and give it to current Hall of Famers and perhaps retired umpires.

    • azulnaranja January 4, 2013 at 4:14 pm
      The problem with giving the vote to current HOF’ers or former players is that they vote for their cronies. I am pretty sure that this has been tried before and that’s how you get the George Kelly’s and the Freddie Lindstrom’s and the Lloyd Waner’s into the Hall. The NFL process has a lot of flaws, but I think there is some merit to having a smaller, mixed group of voters who would take the job really seriously.

      And I think Joe’s suggestion has a lot of merit, BTW.

      • Chris January 4, 2013 at 5:05 pm
        Current HOF members, many of whom are former players, vote now anyway in a separate election. They induct players they think were overlooked or otherwise deserve the special honor.

        No matter who votes, they are going to have some biases. Whether it is a journalist or ex-player. Maybe if each voter’s choices were put up to more scrutiny from their fellow voters, he couldn’t get away with irrational choices.

      • Chris January 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm
        It’s called the Veterans Committee. You can look it up.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm
      There are a few problems with trying to take the vote away from the journalists. The main one is that the writers have been voting players in from the very beginning — they basically created the concept of “Hall of Famers.” Further, if it weren’t for the writers, few people would have known about the HoF – or baseball, for that matter. It’s much different today, of course, but the bottom line is that baseball writers have played a huge role in the sport’s popularity and history — to entirely remove them from the voting process after they cultivated the Hall of Fame’s success doesn’t make sense to me.

      Secondly, beat writers are among the few people whose job it is to watch, and objectively report, every single baseball game of every season. In my mind, that’s a strong qualification for any voter.

      At the same time, I agree that many writers have no business voting on HoF inductees, for various reasons. Some aren’t objective. Some don’t watch every single game. Many haven’t ever seen play — in person — the players they’re judging.

      Further, I agree there should be more of a mix of voters. I like the idea of some broadcasters getting a vote. I like the idea of umpires, managers, coaches, former players, and HoFers getting votes. Not all, but those who have certain credentials to be decided upon. Which is how I hatched the harebrained idea of voting for a group of curators. Now, who votes for the curators? Hmm … maybe curators from previous years?

  4. Dan B January 4, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    One of baseball’s charm is, for whatever reason, it is easier and more enjoyable to argue and discuss baseball then any other sport. I don’t read basketball blogs though I played it more and watch it too. I love football, but when the season is over, it is over. But I live for arguing over HOF candidates in the middle of January. I love reading in the offseason Izzy trying to decide if he likes Alderson (i think he is warming up to him). Baseball is about arguing all star selections and trade proposals. Don’t make it easier Joe, because I like the arguments.
  5. Matt January 4, 2013 at 4:26 pm
    Bad idea…the hall doesn’t have a problem w/ voting…the museum part of the Hall has things used by Rose, Shoeless Joe and others banned…but to get into the actual ‘Hall’, w/ your plaque on the wall you need to earn that by getting voted in by the writers…
    Also, your portion about memorabilia and players getting more for signing, having a ‘dr.’ before their name is wrong…scott broscious charges 129 per autograph, jim rice (Hall of Fame Jim Rice) 59…and who made more during their careers.
    • pgtips January 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm
      “scott broscious charges 129 per autograph”

      hilarious.. funniest thing i read all day

    • friend January 5, 2013 at 12:48 am
      This is exactly right. The Cooperstown facility comprises two distinct entities, the National Baseball Museum and the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The former showcases anything that is of historical interest, while the latter features only those who are deemed worthy.
      • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm
        Well that settles it. Let’s keep building the National Baseball Museum and end the practice of voting people into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Why should anyone in this world be deemed more worthy than anyone else?
  6. Chris January 4, 2013 at 4:50 pm
    Bad idea. Truly great players deserve the special honor of being in a select group in the HOF.

    I wrote this on Rubin’s blog, but I’ll repeat it here — I think they should use a select group of carefully chosen journalists and current HOF members. Maybe that committee is 30 or 40 people. Half journalists and half HOF members. They get together every year — maybe one weekend a year — and have a debate among themselves. Then they hold an open vote and any player getting over 75% gets in. All their discussion and votes are not open to the public, but how each committee member voted in the end can be made public.

    To get on the committee, a writer and HOF member would need 75% of the vote of the current members too. And any committee member who is not voting with any consistency or integrity can be voted off the committee by a 75% vote as well. When an opening comes up, any current member can nominate someone for the vacancy. If multiple people are nominated, then the one who gets the highest number of votes gets to be on the committee.

    I just hate the current system where over 500 journalists are sent ballots and then each one votes in a vacuum in sometimes illogical ways. And some of them don’t even cover baseball anymore. It’s a broken system as is and should be changed.

    • Chris January 4, 2013 at 4:52 pm
      FYI, I have no idea how that picture got into my post, lol. But that is not me. I have no idea who that is.
    • Chris January 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm
      Joe Janish, your website is broken! It’s putting a picture in my posts but that is NOT me, lol.
      • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm
        My website is not broken. You must have entered an email address that isn’t yours. The email address you entered on the comment form is picking up the photo associated with Gravatar.com. I’m guessing that your email address is NOT chris@gmail.com, or someone who used to have that email address before you registered it at Gravatar.com with that picture.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm
      ” Truly great players deserve the special honor of being in a select group in the HOF.”

      WHY????????????

      Isn’t being paid tens or hundreds of millions of dollars enough? Why do players deserve more than that? For what reason? These guys aren’t curing cancers or saving lives, they’re playing a game, and being paid handsomely.

      Furthermore, the concept of honoring individuals is in complete opposition to the most fundamental aspect of team sports. Teams win championships, not individual players.

      That said, maybe entire teams should be voted into the HoF.

  7. Joe January 4, 2013 at 6:55 pm
    This is stupid. They barely had baseball cards when the Hall of Fame was started and so there were no ‘card shows.’ The autograph craze came later and to me it’s gotten out of hand. If you check online, you’ll see you can buy autographed photos of guys like Howie Nunn (who failed to make the ’62 Mets) in a Mets uniform. He claims to be an original Met even though he didn’t make it to opening day. Then again, if he can make a few bucks that way, why not.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm
      “This is stupid.”

      I have no idea how best to respond to such a comment. But that’s your opinion, so thanks for sharing.

      Baseball card shows are ONE example of a player making money via HoF status. I suppose I could have detailed the several hundred ways that a former player can financially leverage HoF status but a.) that would have made the post far too long; and b.) I took for granted that one example would be enough for most people to get the idea.

      So I guess it was stupid of me to make that assumption, and to not make clear that a card show was merely one example of the myriad ways someone can financially gain from being a Hall of Famer.

  8. argonbunnies January 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm
    I think this idea is logical and fair, but not much fun. Debating who deserves to get into the Hall, wondering who the voters will pick, then finding out, then explaining and critiquing it, is quality entertainment for January. But that all disappears if you take away the notion of elite status and official inclusion of a player (not just his feats) and that this is a Big Deal.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 8:57 pm
      I think it’s just as much fun to argue over who deserves to be the Mets’ fourth outfielder in 2013 — even though there still isn’t a starting three.
  9. Bob January 5, 2013 at 12:42 am
    This article makes no sense. If a player cheated, their contribution to baseball history is irrelevant. That’s like honoring Bernie Madoff for being one of the richest men alive when he stole all the money. Steroids have been outlawed by baseball since 1991. Testing began in 2003. . If you cheat, your out. People’s actions have consequences in the adult world. You need to stop looking at this issue like a 12 year old fan boy.
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm
      Bob, I’m trying to figure out if you’re on my side or not. A “12-year-old fan boy”? What’s that supposed to mean?

      I’m in 1000000% agreement with you in regard to the steroids issue. This is why I think the Hall of Fame voting should come to an end — maybe forever. There’s no way to know who cheated and who didn’t. All we know for sure is that steroids didn’t exist in baseball until some point in the late 70s / early 80s. So in my mind, anyone who played after that is under suspicion for cheating.

      At the same time, we can’t pretend that baseball wasn’t played for the past 30 years. The baseball museum in Cooperstown is going to exist for the near if not distant future, and its purpose is to chronicle baseball history. What was happening in the 1990s through 2000s is part of that history whether we like it or not. So, let’s make sure that that time is properly chronicled — with full explanation of what was happening with PEDs and offensive numbers skyrocketing. At the same time, stop short of honoring any individuals with “Hall of Famer” status, because we’ll never know who was on the up-and-up and who wasn’t. Stalin and the Nazis burned books and attempted to erase history — we don’t want to be like them, do we?

  10. Paul January 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    What an incredibly stupid idea. Why is it that we are always looking to mess with tradition. Sometimes I wonder if spewing out crazy ideas like this is just a way for someone to grab attention. HOF controversy? What HOF controversy? Part of the magic that is baseball is what the HOF represents. We don’t need to change the voting, select a panel of these guys or those guys or artifacts or anything else silly like that. What we need to do is sit back and respect the “Hall” for what it is — a baseball institution that just needs to left alone. Messing with it now will only dilute the accomplishments of the all those who worked their butts off to enter its doors!
    • Joe Janish January 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm
      Since we’re going to use words like “stupid” to describe people’s ideas …

      “What HOF controversy?” is a STUPID question. Everyone following baseball right now will agree that there is more controversy over this year’s HOF vote than ever before, due to the Steroid Era.

      “What we need to do is sit back and respect the “Hall” for what it is — a baseball institution that just needs to left alone. Messing with it now will only dilute the accomplishments of the all those who worked their butts off to enter its doors!”

      That’s a STUPID explanation for disagreeing with my idea. First of all, any player who “worked their butt off” to get into the HoF shouldn’t be in the HoF, because baseball is a team sport and players should be working their butt off to help their team win. Second, the Steroid / PEDs era starting in the late 1980s and going through 2005 VASTLY “diluted” the accomplishments of all current HoFers. With players pumped up on steroids, hitting 30, 40, 50, and 60+ homers was no longer a special accomplishment. Hitting 500 or 600+ HR over a career was no longer a big deal. Hanging around for 15-20 years and compiling 3000+ hits was no longer as tremendous an accomplishment as it was before.

      But hey, maybe you think it’s great that Sammy Sosa hit 609 HR, and have no argument with him being a HoFer as a result. Good for you, bad for me, because I think the moment Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, and any other ‘roided-up player gets in, the HoF is irrelevant.

  11. Chris from Freehold January 6, 2013 at 7:08 pm
    Since were kicking around ideas, how ’bout this one: If a player such as Bonds, Clemons, etc., doesn’t get the required votes for induction, after say….10 years, they have the right to be re-considered, for induction into the PED Era Wing (i.e., PEW!) of the HOF. Their choice. They get another 5 years of consideration. Otherwise, they’re done.
    • Joe Janish January 6, 2013 at 7:11 pm
      I like it!