Hall of Fame Voting

I happened to be looking at voting percentages for players in the Baseball Hall of Fame. I find it amazing that even those at the top of the list were not voted in with 100% of the vote. Is there any particular reason why such top players would not get all the votes in a particular year?

Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Johnny Bench, Babe Ruth . . . why would sports writers not vote for those who are clearly top players?

There’s two different reasons, actually.

In terms of what’s happened since about the late 60s, the reason all-time greats like Henry Aaron or Willie Mays didn’t get 100% is that there’s always a few self-important assholes who decide not to vote for the superstar so they can draw attention to themselves. Why they aren’t thrown out of the BBWAA I don’t know.

For earlier picks like Ruth or DiMaggio, the reason is largely that the voting system struggled to get all the deserving players in, and for a time there was some confusion as to who they were supposed to be voting for. Bear in mind that the Hall of Fame wasn’t created until big league baseball had been a going concern for half a century, so there was a backlog of deserving inductees. Some voters were going for the greatest players, some were trying to do it more or less in chronological order. Imnagine if we started the Hall of Fame NOW; lots of truly great players couldn’t possible get 100% of the vote.

Another way of looking at it (apart from “self-important assholes”) is that there were failures, as RickJay explains, of great players to get 100% of the votes in the early balloting, and subsequent voters have felt that these players ought not be deemed inferior to later candidates (who are arguably less great than Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cy Young, et al.) so on that principle they declined to vote for Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, knowing that such obvious candidates would surely be elected by 98% or 99% of the other voters anyway.

Of course that justification doesn’t make sense today since there no longer is a backlog of great players and a limited number of HOF slots. That still doesn’t prevent some odler HOF voters from using this obsolete rationale.

Since the ballots are secret, they don’t necessarily draw attention to themselves. Another motive, although also self-important and assholish, can be mere spite over some silly old thing.

You seem to think that self-important assholes are the exception among writers.

Why is it obsolete? Ruth et al. continue to have been elected wtih less than 100% of the vote, and current candidates are still reasonably considered by some voters to be inferior to Ruth et al. and so vote “No” so that no candidates ever will get 100% of the vote and be considered by some to be superior to Ruth et al.

Not saying I agree, but the logic of it will always continue to hold.

By whom? What addlebrained buffoon would make some sort of argument that, say, Mike Schmidt was better than Babe Ruth because he got a higher hall of fame vote percentage? And who would listen to them if they did?

Stupid as it is, there is no question some people vote this way. I hope it’s becoming less prevalent, but I can’t say for sure. This is the top 10 list in terms of percentage, and I think we can agree that few people think the list of the top 10 players ever looks anything like this:

Tom Seaver (1992) 98.84% P
Nolan Ryan (1999) 98.79% P
Cal Ripken, Jr. (2007) 98.53% SS
Ty Cobb (1936) 98.23% CF
George Brett (1999) 98.19% 3B
Hank Aaron (1982) 97.83% RF
Tony Gwynn (2007) 97.61% RF
Mike Schmidt (1995) 96.52% 3B
Johnny Bench (1989) 96.42% C
Steve Carlton (1994) 95.82% P

That list is funny, I might be inclined to vote against Tony Gwynn if I had the vote. He has a gaudy hit total and batting average, but that’s basically all he has going for him. His career WAR total (68.4) is in a “gray area” where some guys get in and others don’t.

Jeff Bagwell had 79.9 career WAR and yet he didn’t get all that close to making it in his first try. It goes to show the fetishism voters have for certain stats, and the disdain they have for others.

True, but with Bagwell there’s also the matter of steroid suspicions. Nobody has ever definitively connected him to anything, but since he was a big power hitter and player at the time he played, it’s almost surely hurt his candidacy. (Conversely Fred McGriff’s consistent numbers appear to mean less because of his era even though nobody has tied him to steroids, which doesn’t make any sense.) All that said, I think Bagwell is going to get in in a few years. And I do think there’s something of a Hall of Fame backlog, or there will be soon, as candidates from the latest MLB expansion and the extended careers of other steroid era run up against the limit of 10 votes per ballot. It’s nothing like the backlog from the old days, though.

But why is it even remotely justified to call Bagwell guilty by association? There’s not a single speck of evidence connecting him to PEDs. Using your logic, anyone who was able to hit home runs and played from the years 1990-2010 can be suspected of using PEDs; still, I’m sure that won’t stop some voters from using a double standard when it comes to HOF voting.

Never mind the fact that Bagwell wasn’t even that prolific a home run hitter! He never went over 50 in a year and went over 40 only 3 times. His total of 449 is pretty pedestrian by our recent standards.

The accusations against him make me sick, and I’m not an Astros or Bagwell fan in any way.

I don’t think it’s justified and I didn’t say it was justified. I think he should get in, and eventually, I think he will. I said the steroid thing is an issue that affects how he did in the HoF voting. The fact that he didn’t make it doesn’t only speak to how the hall values his stats.

Bagwell was certainly a profilic home-run hitter. He was hurt significantly by having his home games in the astrodome in his prime. His prime was also a bit before the offensive numbers hit their peak of craziness. His low career total was mostly due to injuries shortening his career. That isn’t to say that keeping him out of the hall is anything except disgraceful.

I did notice that his career was a little shorter than most HOF candidates. If this was the rationale used by most voters, I could probably accept it, but it seems that the most frequent justification for keeping him out was nebulous “PED” claims.

I didn’t mean to imply that you felt that way. I’m just wondering if any voters have rationalized their “no” vote for Bagwell if they kept him out due to PED concerns.

Danny Knobler of CBS Sports said “suspected cheaters” don’t belong in the Hall, and he made sure you knew he was talking about Bagwell, but he didn’t mention him by name either for reasons of “conscience” or fear of being sued. I don’t know anyone else who has come out and said they didn’t vote for Bagwell because they think he might have cheated.

Steroid accusations are going to twist the vote for the next generation. Would you vote for Bonds? His numbers are incredible.

100% yes.

He should have gotten in if he had retired after the 1998 season (by all accounts, his last “clean” season).

If you acknowledge that and still don’t think he belongs in, you are being punitive for the sake of being punitive, and for something that was not expressly against the rules of MLB at the time.

This is probably a debate for another thread, but I wouldn’t vote for him and I would dispute your characterization of the MLB’s rules.

By the way, here’s a chart of the percentages each hall of famer received the year he was voted in. Go figure that Cy Young is almost at the bottom of the list.

This is fair. It was technically against the rules to use steroids prior to testing, but nobody was ever caught using, possessing or distributing steroids in that period. So whether it would be technically possible for a player to run afoul of the “rule” without being grossly careless is another question entirely. (Was the league even interested in enforcing the rule? Did they look the other way?)

Perhaps I should clarify and say that it would be unfair to penalize a player for a transgression that the MLB itself has not acted upon. Pete Rose, Joe Jackson et al. were suspended by MLB itself so holding that against them for HOF voting is appropriate.

Clearly they weren’t, no. They didn’t take an interest until they were worried it would hit them in the pocketbook.

I don’t think that’s unfair. Baseball screwed up big time on steroids and performance enhancing drugs. I don’t think the Hall (which is a separate organization) is obliged to make the same mistakes just for the sake of consistency.