Baseball Hall of Fame heading for ruin unless voting rules change

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Last Tuesday pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and second baseman Craig Biggio were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz each were selected on their first try while Biggio was elected after three years of eligibility. This is the largest class elected to the Hall of Fame since 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Ted Lyons, Danny Vance and Gabby Hartnett were elected to Cooperstown.

Johnson and Martinez each received more than 90% of the vote, with Johnson receiving 97.3% of the vote, good for eighth all-time. After falling just two votes short last year, Craig Biggio received 82.70%.

Five years after a player retires, he becomes eligible to be inducted to the Hall. A player must receive at least 75% of the vote from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), the voting body for the Hall of Fame, in order to get elected to Cooperstown.

Randy Johnson won four of his five Cy Young awards consecutively from 1999 to 2002 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, after winning his first in 1995 with the Seattle Mariners. Johnson led the league in strikeouts nine times, finishing second all-time with 4,875, the most by any lefty pitcher. Johnson was also named the MVP of the 2001 World Series. Johnson also notably pitched for the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, and San Francisco Giants, along with the Diamondbacks.

Former Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez is second all-time in ERA+ (a stat that adjusts a pitcher’s ERA to ballpark and era), behind only the recently retired Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera. Martinez also won three Cy Young awards, finished in the top 5 of Cy Young voting seven times, lead the league in strikeouts three times, and finished within the top 5 of MVP voting twice.

Martinez was a member of the 2004 Red Sox that broke the 86-year championship drought for the franchise. Martinez also had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies.

John Smoltz is the only pitcher in baseball history with 150 or more wins and 150 or more saves, winning 213 games and tallying 154 saves. Smoltz was also a part of one of the greatest pitching rotations in Atlanta with teammates Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, both whom were elected to the Hall of Fame last year. Smoltz pitched his last year with both the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

Craig Biggio was a seven-time all-star with the Houston Astros, three-time gold glove winner, and tallied over 3,000 hits over his 20-year career.

Once again there were plenty of deserving candidates left out in the cold, most noticeably Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, and Edgar Martinez. This current generation contains many greats that may never get in because of admitted or suspected steroid usage. There is no way for certain to know who and who did not use. There are some who believe there already are a few players in the Hall who used steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. There is no definitive way to know absolutely who did and who did not use, so these players must be elected.

Bonds holds the records for both the single season and all-time records for home runs, is the all-time leader in walks, and won seven National League MVPs, the highest amount in MLB history, and is arguably one of the greatest players ever. Bonds received less than 40% of the votes, appearing on 36.8% of all ballots.

Clemens is ninth all-time in career wins with 354, has the third highest strikeouts ever with 4,672, won seven Cy Young Awards (most all-time), and won the 1986 AL MVP award. Clemens was on 37.5% of total ballots.

Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell has the highest career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) out of all first baseman in baseball history with 79.6, and received just 55.5% of the vote.

Edgar Martinez is considered by many to be the greatest designated hitter to ever play the position, but that also causes him to lose votes due to lack of defense. Martinez received just 27% of the vote.

Piazza is arguably one of the greatest catchers to ever play. Piazza is the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher and is in the top 10 of every offensive category by a catcher. Piazza was the only player this year to gain positive traction, out of the players not elected. For the third straight season Piazza has seen his voting percentage inch closer to the 75% mark getting 69.9% of votes, going up from 57.8% back in 2013 and 62.2% last year.

Controversy about the selection of Hall of Famers has plagued Cooperstown from almost the beginning and the election process needs to be corrected. It took Joe DiMaggio four tries to be inducted, Yogi Berra, easily one of the greatest catchers ever, took multiple tries to get in. Ralph Kiner, arguably one of the greatest hitters to ever play, took until his 13th and final year of eligibility to be elected. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the Hall of Fame injustices.

The BBWAA has left out many greats. Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, and Minnie Minoso were not elected in the veterans’ committee ballot this past December. Oliva won three batting titles and finished within the top three in the American League batting race in seven of eight consecutive years. 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. 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 Snyder.

The voting process is in desperate need of fixing. There are many writers who submit empty ballots, some for the attention, others out of protest for a certain player’s cause. Many believe that if a voter submits a blank ballot, he or she should have their ballot stripped. That is a bit harsh, since there have been writers to come out and say they would not vote until the voting is fixed. ESPN’s Keith Olberman has an even more drastic idea, shut down the Hall and start from square one - that radical idea will never happen.

A better idea would be to lower the required voting percentage to 67%. That would allow more players to get in, and would clear some of the logjam created by voters. Another idea that has been suggested is to eliminate the maximum on the amount of candidates a voter can put on his or her ballot. As of right now, a single voter can only check off a maximum of 10 candidates. There are far more deserving candidates this year than that number allows. If that rule were stricken from the books, it would instantly clear the logjam. Candidates like a Bonds, McGwire, Clemens and Sosa, would perhaps earn more votes than they received.

This year was a positive year for the Hall; four worthy candidates were inducted. But there is far more work to be done if the museum wants it to improve its relevancy and credibility.

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