July 24, 2015

Hall of Fame Voting: Non Unanimous Votes Are Ridiculous

Hall of Fame Week continues with the one kvetching post we’ll make for quite a while: It’s insane that Randy Johnson didn’t get 100% of the vote. And not just Randy Johnson, the fact that no one gets elected unanimously is ridiculous.

Yes, I know that there is a tradition that no one should be unanimously elected. The thought being that because Babe Ruth didn’t get 100% of the vote, or Honus Wagner didn’t, or Ty Cobb didn’t, then no one should.

1936 Hall of Fame InducteesThey’re all better than you and they know it. Especially Christy Matthewson, that handsome devil

There are BBWAA voters out there who pride themselves on not voting for a player in his first year of eligibility – as if being one of the few people to say “NO” imparts some special “Upholder of the Traditions” medal they can pin on their Hawaiian shirt with one too many buttons undone at the neck (and yes, that is how I envision every one of them…they all have the same mustard stain and potato chip crumbs on it as well).

Nolan Ryan in Atlanta close-upThe highest percentage ever garnered was by Tom Seaver in 1992 – he got 98.84% of the vote. Nolan Ryan is number two at 98.79%. There were six professional sports writers (saying “baseball” writers isn’t necessarily accurate for the BBWAA, though that’s a rant for a later day) – six – who looked at Nolan Ryan’s name, thought about his 300+ wins, his seven no hitters, his one million strikeouts (I’m rounding up) and then – in an act of human free will – left his name off of their ballot.

That’s just stupid.

The 97.27% Magnitude Unit

Last year fifteen voters did not vote yes on Randy Johnson’s candidacy for the Hall – fifteen (The year before, 16 didn’t include Greg Maddux). “Tradition” was evidently such a strong influence on these voters that they looked at the following player and said “Not this year.”

That’s the player that fifteen voters didn’t put on their ballot. And because Johnson was inducted, those fifteen voters will never get a chance to vote for him. For the rest of their lives, they will be able to say “I did not vote for Randy Johnson to make the Hall of Fame.” For those who think the “no unanimous votes” tradition is worth preserving, I’m sure they’d wear it as a point of pride (right next to the “Upholder of the Traditions” medal and the mustard stain).

Randy Johnson 04Now, every one of those 15 voters knew Johnson would make it in – he did tally the 8th highest percentage ever, it’s not as if he was going to miss it. They knew that they could play the role of “defender of tradition” or “the great dissenter” (though I’d highly doubt many of them are explicitly thinking of themselves as the baseball version of John Marshall Harlan). But that’s why this tradition is so ridiculous.

Why this is one of the Reasons Hall of Fame Voting is a bit Broken

Leaving a player’s name off the first ballot has no effect on their candidacy – voters only do it for players who they’re positive will make it in. It’s also not much “protection” to the legacy of previous enshrinees (if that’s the motivation): four players have tallied higher percentages than Cobb, eleven have tallied higher than Ruth and Wagner (not counting Cobb). If the vote percentage matters quite that much, we’re already saying Johnny Bench was more deserving of the Hall than Babe Ruth, so why the hang up about 100% vs. 98.84%?

One of two scenarios exists: Either those voters didn’t think Randy Johnson belongs in the Hall of Fame (unlikely) or those voters think Randy Johnson belongs in the Hall of Fame but didn’t vote for him. If it’s the former, their votes should be immediately be confiscated (because not thinking Johnson belongs is a way more offensive to baseball than Dan Le Batard turning his vote over to Deadspin readers).

If it’s the latter (which of course it is), it plainly reveals one of the issues with how Hall of Fame voting is conducted. A BBWAA member gets his ballot, sees a player he believes should be in the Hall of Fame (and not only that, is positive he’s a first-ballot guy), and then doesn’t vote for him. Let me say that again: He thinks he belongs, then doesn’t vote for him.

That’s just stupid.

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