Everything is all wrong, it’s not supposed to be like this! This is the mindset of almost every single baseball fan regarding the recent Baseball Hall of Fame voting.
The Golden Era Election Committee chose not elect any of the Old Timers to the Hall of Fame Monday, leaving storied players like Gil Hodges, Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, Minnie Minoso, and Jim Kaat out. These players were the most prominent of the ten candidates up for the Hall who were denied entry, each failing to reach the 75% or 12 votes required.
The election committee consists of 16 voting members that include eight Hall of Fame players like Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith and Reds second baseman Joe Morgan, four former baseball executives such as Bob Watson, GM of the Yankees from 1995 to 1997, and four baseball media members such as Phil Pepe, who covered New York sports for five decades.
The most egregious player left out is former Philadelphia Phillies and Chicago White Sox first baseman/outfielder Dick Allen, falling one vote short. Allen, winner of the 1972 American League MVP, American League home run leader in 1972 and 1974, is 40th all-time in slugging percentage, and 53rd highest OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) with .912, a mark higher than former Phillies teammate third baseman Mike Schmidt, former San Francisco Giants outfielder Willie McCovey, Pittsburgh Pirates great Willie Stargell, Minnesota Twins legend Harmon Killebrew, each currently in the Hall of Fame, and higher than Seattle Mariners great, outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who is considered an absolute lock to get in the Hall when first eligible next year.
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Former Minnesota Twins right fielder Tony Oliva was also left out, also one vote short. Oliva won three batting titles and finished within the top three in the American League batting race in seven of eight consecutive years.
In his era as a starter from 1951 to 1963, former Chicago White Sox third baseman Minnie Minoso was fifth in batting average, fifth in hits in the majors, fifth in runs scored, fourth in slugging percentage, fourth in stolen bases, second in doubles, and collected three gold gloves, playing against the likes of Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ralph Kiner and Duke Snider.
Former Brooklyn Dodger outfielder Gil Hodges was third in all-time home runs for right-handed batters when he retired in 1963. Hodges then went on to manage the 1969 “Miracle Mets” and then died young at the age of 47 in 1972. Hodges received three votes or fewer.
The problem is many voters have been voting on these same players for decades now. It is highly unlikely that a voter that chose not to elect Dick Allen, Tony Oliva or Gil Hodges on the regular or veterans’ ballot, will finally put them in on the veterans’ ballot. This needs to change. I think the veterans need to be put on the regular ballot, and voted straight up yes or no, with a two-thirds majority (67%) required to gain entry. Others have proposed that the veterans’ committee must elect one veteran each year.
For the regular ballot, writers are given the difficult task of choosing up to ten players from the hundreds of candidates up for consideration. With the backload of deserving recent candidates like Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Fred McGriff and the new addition of first year candidates like Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Gary Sheffield, it is impossible to choose just 10. The voting system is broken and has been for years. It is in need of a massive overhaul in order to fix the errors of the past.
ESPN.com lead baseball writer and TV analyst Buster Olney has come out publicly and declared he will not vote on this year’s regular ballot to protest the voting process. Instead of being limited to just 10 possible candidates, Olney proposes writers should elect as many candidates as seen fit by simply voting yes or no for a player’s entry, even if it means 10, 20, or even 30 candidates are inducted.
PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS
The main reason why there is such a big logjam of candidates is because of the Steroid Era. Many voters refuse to induct anyone who is believed to have cheated the game of baseball by using PEDs. Others have said they will vote users in because steroids and other performance enhancing drugs were “legal”, meaning while most (but not all) of the drugs were illegal to acquire, according to the FDA, like anabolic steroids, there were no rules banning them by Major League Baseball. In fact, substances like Human Growth Hormone were available with a doctor’s prescription, and were not banned by MLB until just a decade ago. The main issue voters have is it is simply impossible to tell who did or did not take performance-enhancing drugs. Almost all players from this era are suspect.
Regardless of personal belief about steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, it is impossible to believe the amount of worthy candidates who have yet to be inducted because of suspected steroid use. The holder of both the single season and all-time record for home runs in Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader for catchers in Mike Piazza, the holder of the most Cy Young awards ever in Roger Clemens, and the men who brought baseball out of the post 1994 strike depths in Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are not in the Hall. The importance of these players must not be ignored by voters.
In recent years there have been controversial ballots sent in by voters. Last year a writer refused to vote for anyone unless Detroit Tigers pitcher Jack Morris got in, in his final year of eligibility (he did not). People were outraged.
Another controversy erupted when ESPN TV host and Miami Herald columnist Dan LeBatard crowd-sourced his ballot to the sports website Deadspin last year. After LeBatard revealed he gave Deadspin his ballot, he was suspended from the BBWAA for one year, and permanently stripped of his vote. Many people, including myself, believe the Deadpsin ballot was one of the better ones, voting for Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas, among others.
Ironically the person who went on to become president of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, later admitted he often crowd-sourced his vote with fans at a local margarita bar and had for years. I have no issues with crowd-sourcing as long as the crowd is serious about the mission.
In summary, deserving players like Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, Minnie Minosa, Gil Hodges, & Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens are being overlooked and have been for years. The Hall of Fame needs to change its voting system, immediately, or else it will continue to be a mockery of its former self.