Friday, April 13, 2007

Another Zero Election

The recent 2007 HOF election for Veterans again disappointed because no one gained induction. No candidate has been elected in any of the three elections under the new procedures. What good is a process which produces no inductions? Will it ever?

Two points require initial discussion. I agree with observers who note that most of these candidates were eligible for 15 years without being inducted by the Writers or receiving substantial support from them. As a general principle, there is no compulsion to elect any Veterans – unless they are highly qualified. I don’t want anyone elected just for the sake of proving that the committee serves a useful purpose.

My own review indicates that several candidates are or may be “highly qualified.” Some of my opinions seem to enjoy support and some are consistent with the voting results. Because of our long look back, we now can identify credentials which may not have been as apparent when these candidates were first eligible. Also, if we arrive at more consensus regarding HOF standards, leading candidates deserve review in light of such standards.

Second, before we criticize the voters, we should note that a majority – in Santo’s case, a high majority – favored induction of some of these candidates. Four received more than 50%, headed by Santo at almost 70%. This discussion ensues largely because the procedures permit a relatively small minority to block the decision-making of the majority. Is that appropriate and, if so, to what extent?

I believe there are weaknesses in the process and they involve three factors. First, most problems would be eliminated if there was more institutional consensus regarding HOF standards. Second, the 75% rule gives too much power to the minority of voters. A small but determined group can virtually shut down the process. Finally, I don’t believe the committee is well constituted. The Hall should belong to the baseball community. All power should not be vested in its living members.

Changes are being considered. Perhaps the following suggestions will be useful.
-The 75% voting requirement can be retained with modifications. If no Veteran receives 75%, one candidate with at least two-thirds support should be inducted. Under this scenario, Santo would have been inducted in 2007. If two-thirds works out to be too high a threshold, the level could be reduced in stages to as low as 51%.

-Two years between elections is too long if there are no inductions. The Hall should conduct special elections in off-years limited to the voting leaders in the most recent election. Special elections would be held only if no new members gained induction in the regular election.

-If a committee consisting mostly of former players cannot produce enough votes for Marvin Miller, a giant in the cause of players, how can managers, executives, umpires and other non-players expect favorable consideration? Players, even HOF players, have no special expertise regarding such non-player candidates. That category should be assigned to another committee.

-These controversies have harmful side effects. HOF players are heroes of the game. I am concerned about subjecting them to criticisms, which could tarnish them as heroes and damage the institution. I believe it is time to expand the voting population to include broader representation from the baseball community.

These suggestions are in line with views expressed in my book regarding first stage voting by the Writers. One difference is that I believe the Writers always should induct at least one candidate every year. Historically, all the voting leaders eventually gained induction anyway. I don’t believe it is appropriate to induct a Veteran if the voting leader receives only moderate support, but highly supported Veterans have much more substantial entitlements. These modifications would have the effect implementing the decisions of strong majorities. It would not make sense to lower the voting requirements for Veterans without also reducing them for first stage candidates.

As I point out regarding the Writers, all knowledge is not limited to the print media. The Hall would be stronger as an institution if voting populations were expanded at all stages. Of course, we always should respect conscientious decisions by individual voters, whether they support or oppose certain candidates. Often enough, voters in a minority may reach better reasoned conclusions than those in the majority. The real challenge is to accord such respect without having the institution dominated by the minority. I believe my suggestions accomplish that.