The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) has announced that Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio have been elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame.
Mike Piazza just missed, coming up 28 votes shy of the 412 needed to get elected.
However, that would have likely been different if the BBWAA didn’t have one arbitrary rule that unnecessarily limits the number of votes some players receive.
With a pool of candidates that was the deepest in recent memory and a Hall of Fame class that will be the largest in 60 years, there is good evidence that voters being limited to just ten votes forced a lot of writers to leave players they deemed worthy off their ballot.
According to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, 51% of the writers voted for ten players and the average ballot included 8.4 votes. Two years ago, just 22% of the ballots had ten names.
A simple bell curve would suggest that if ~280 voters thought there were ten worthy candidates, a large chunk of those voters actually believe there are more than ten worthy candidates and would have voted for more. This suggests that a lot of players who deserved votes didn’t get them because of an arbitrary rule set forth by the BBWAA.
At least one writer has already come forward and confirmed this. Hall of Fame voter Steve Popper says he wanted to vote for Tim Raines but did not because of the 10-vote limit. Raines was named on 55.0% of the votes.
On the Hall of Fame questions – the 10-play limit is why there are some no votes for players we’d all like to vote for (Raines for me)…
— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) January 7, 2015
Another consequence of the arbitrary 10-vote limit is that many fans feel outraged when some players like Randy Johnson (named on 97.3% of ballots) or Pedro Martinez (91.1%) are not named on every ballot despite careers that would appear to be Hall of Fame locks.
One reason for this is the feeling by some voters that only the so-called “immortals” should be elected in their first year of eligibility.
However, there is also the feeling that some voters leave sure-things off their ballot so that they have more votes for other players who may be borderline candidates. This is once again a result of the 10-vote limit which keeps voters from naming every player they feel is Hall worthy.
So, the solution is to eliminate the maximum number of votes and just let the voters decide how many players are worthy of induction. If that would have happened this year, Piazza would probably be on his way to Cooperstown.
We’ve reached out to the BBWAA for comment.
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