Beaufort News

Storin: Baseball Hall of Fame voting process needs major change

It is time to change the way baseball players are elected (or not elected) to the Hall of Fame.

Last week it was revealed that 573 baseball writers cast ballots this year and not a single eligible player got the 75 percent support needed for a ticket to Cooperstown.

This is a direct result of the Steroid Era that flourished in the 1990s and carried through much of the early years of the 21st century. Even last season, an All-Star player -- Melky Cabrera -- was caught cheating and suspended.

Without performance-enhancing drug accusations hanging over them, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens would have been elected in their first year on the ballot. Bonds (career record 762 home runs) and Clemens (seven Cy Young awards) certainly had the statistics.

The fact they were shunned is understandable and correct. But unfortunately, for mysterious reasons, the writers penalized other worthy candidates.

Tops on my list would be Houston's Craig Biggio, who with 3,060 hits is in the discussion when it comes to the best second baseman in baseball history. Biggio got 68.2 percent of the vote and now has the dubious distinction of being the only retired player with 3,000 or more hits (other than Pete Rose) not in the Hall of Fame.

Maybe it is time to take the Hall of Fame voting away from the baseball writers. Many are extremely biased; some not qualified.

It is an unenviable task anyway. It shouldn't be the job of baseball writers to decide who did or did not use PEDs. For the most part, they don't know any more than you and me. And certainly not as much as members of baseball hierarchy.

Associated Press columnist Tim Dahlberg pointed this out last week and went on to write: "Bud Selig and his minions failed time and time again to control the epidemic that swept through the game. They sat back and watched the cash registers heat up, knowing all along that much of it was built on a giant fraud.

"And they certainly didn't follow criteria that is spelled out for Hall of Fame voters, who are pledged to look at not only a player's numbers but the 'integrity, sportsmanship and character.' "

The key word here is "character." Many writers choose to ignore it when they vote for a Bonds or a Clemens. And fail to support a squeaky clean Fred McGriff, whose combined statistics for getting on base and hitting with power rank among the best in the history of the game.

Speaking of history, I find it curious how the number of Hall of Fame voters has grown through the years.

In 1948 there were only 121 voters. As recently as 1964 there were 201. In 1966 the ballot number surpassed 300 for the first time and jumped to 432 in 1979. Since 2004 it has exceeded 500 every year.

I'm guessing when I say that the title of "baseball writer" has been expanded to include TV and radio people, who don't fit my definition of journalists.

Whatever. The bottom line is there is a flaw in the system that needs to be fixed.

A number of possibilities have been raised since this year's "No Winners" verdict came in. One would expand the number of retired players a writer could vote for from 10 to 15. Another would decrease the percentage needed to gain entrance to the HOF from 75 to 65.

I think the best idea is to turn the vote over to the 64 living Hall of Famers. I can't think of any group more qualified.

Cheaters need not apply.