Saturday, December 11, 2004

Beyond Democratic

I've been thinking about the Baseball Hall of Fame voting for the past week, and I have to say, I like it. First of all, the rules are pretty simple. If you are a voter, you can vote for whoever is on the ballot for whatever reason. (Kind of like the MVP award.) But, the only way to get to the Hall of Fame is to get 75% of the votes. Not the majority - 75%. The only way to stay on the ballot is to get at least 5% of the votes. You have 15 years to get 75% while maintaining 5% otherwise it goes to the veteran's committee. Simple stuff.

The most important factor though is the 75% rule. Imagine what anything would be like without a rule for simple majorities. I would think that if a presidential candidate had to get 75% of the vote, he would have to be a hell of a candidate who would appeal to both democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives and it might be next to impossible with years of interim presidents. However, with the HOF, it just ensures that only the best reach the top, which is how it should be.

Yes, we can make arguments for lots of players, probably because they were a favorite of ours, or excelled in an area that we consider overlooked, like defense at a key position, or heck, even a position that you feel is underrepresented. The fact that you have to make an argument for them signifies that they aren't without a doubt, which is proved in the voting if they don't receive three-quarters of the vote. Check out the voting results for 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Even within this short time frame, there are only a couple that just squeak into the hall with between 75 and 80% of the vote. Of course, there are only a few that even make it into the hall, so that couple is significant when speaking of small numbers.

That is the beauty of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is exclusive. Here is the complete list of players in the Hall of Fame due to election by the BBWAA. I've seen many columns on the worthiness of the players within the hall and using the least player in the Hall as a bench mark for election at that position, so there are obviously some that may not be Gehrig like in stature. You can use that as your voting criteria, if you are a voter. "If the person up for election has a higher slugging average than George Kell, I believe they should be in the HOF." Do what you want. Then you have to get 75% of the people to agree with you. Therein lies the rub.

You can harp on people that deserve it or people that don't. Somehow if they were elected, 75% said yes. If they weren't, at least 26% said no for 15 years. That's pretty powerful stuff for keeping it exclusive. Will they be right 100% of the time? I hope not - that will take out the fun of discussions - but we will always have the Veterans Committee to liven up things. (Here's an index of more Veteran's Committee links.)

Here is the current ballot of eligible candidates with their lifetime statistics. The cool thing is that I remember most all of them playing and I had more than a few of them on Strat-o-matic teams of the past. Some of them even have Strat nicknames that barely reside out of my memory. Each one brings out a memory, whether it is Willie McGee stepping up to the plate, batting lefty in that inimitable style of his or the big bearded grin of Blyleven. Do they all belong in the HOF? Unfortunately, no. But, their feats will live forever in the tales we tell of baseball that we saw and remember. For those special few, we will visit them in Cooperstown once every few years or once in a lifetime, and see those same memories through a museum's eyes, and it will be special.


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