Who Really Deserves Entrance Into Cooperstown?


With Christmas fast approaching and the holidays being filled with family time, it’s always nice to be able to take a moment, slow down, and do some thinking. Prior to getting ready for all of the events later tonight and tomorrow, I had the opportunity to slow down and do just that. As members of the Baseball Writers Association of America fill out and unveil their Hall of Fame ballots, it once again has me wondering about the process. Who really deserves entrance into Cooperstown?

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Currently, the process mandates that writers can select up to, but not more than, 10 inductees into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Writers check off boxes on their ballot indicating who exactly they are voting for. A player must get more than 75% of the vote to be inducted. If a player fails to get more than 5% of the vote in any year, they are dropped from the ballot. Other governing rules mandate how the BBWAA members should go about their selection, but most of them are discretionary at best.

This morning on Twitter, I stumbled across a great article by Trent Rosecrans explaining the ballot he submitted to Cooperstown. While the content did a good job explaining his process and reasoning behind his inductions, it posed two very important questions.

  • Why is the process consistently criticized by the voting members who enable it to continue?
  • Should votes be cast upon merit in relation to a players peers, or in relation to their own standing?

Now, to answer the first question, we must understand some background history. The rules stating only 10 players can be selected buy any given voting member was established in 1936, when Major League Baseball has 14 teams and no players of color. The game is much different today, and not only have the teams expanded, but the game has become one that the world participates.

To address the question at hand however, a simpler answer could be argued. Each year we see voting members release their ballots, and then defend their selections and beat down on the process. In all reality, this is little more than a deflection of who was left off and who shouldn’t have been. Many members in the BBWAA could be argued as less than a qualifying party to be making such decisions, or at least to be ruling on the way Major League Baseball has decided to handle its players. On top of that, the continued glaring misses seem to mount against the organization as a whole (last year, Jacque Jones received Hall of Fame votes costing Craig Biggio a 1st ballot trip). Obviously upset with the process, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson offers some off the cuff feelings as to how things could change:

If, on a yearly basis, we are going to witness the voting members revealing their ballot as to say, “I’m not the one who voted for that guy,” only to then defend their position and bash the process, maybe something needs to be revisited. What or whom exactly needs to be eliminated isn’t something I’m in a position to decide on, but it appears changes should be imminent.

Secondly, the question of merit is posed. As Rosecrans discusses in his piece, the argument that more than 10 players should be allowed to be voted in is based on (for him), the idea that merit should be in regards to the player and not to his peers. While I do agree that the balloting could allow for more than 10 players to be voted in (after all they still must reach a 75% vote), I disagree with the stance.

Cooperstown should be the ultimate goal for any player when they step foot on a baseball diamond. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame means you have transcended those around you and set yourself in the highest regard. If your stance is that a player should be voted in on their numbers alone, rather than in comparison to the other greats that have come before, and played alongside them, it becomes a watered down inclusion. Of course the game changes as years go by, but knowing that you have reached the ultimate goal, and that a very large percentage of your former peers will not, is what makes the experience that much more special. I can get behind the idea that it’s a two-step process. If a player puts up Hall of Fame numbers, let’s take a look at entrance. When considering however, those numbers should be put to the test against the greater contingent of players and the question of separation posed.

No matter how the Hall of Fame voting process continues to develop, Cooperstown will always be a place that should be revered upon entrance. Whether steroid users, dead ball, live ball, methamphetamine users, cheaters, or liars find themselves inducted, there is always an on the field reason that they separated themselves from the rest. Baseball is the greatest game on earth, and we cannot continue to let poor processes dictate how we reflect upon it.

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