Over the years, I have developed a love/hate relationship with the Hall of Fame. I have several pieces that I am currently researching that I think will demonstrate why the current process of voting is and has always been flawed. Luckily, the Hall usually gets it right eventually but the writers do a sloppy and inconsistent job in their voting. This is why such a large percentage of the Hall’s members rely on the Veteran’s Committee for enshrinement. It is also why far too many deserving Hall of Famers are dead by the time they are enshrined rather than having the opportunity to revel in what they have achieved in the game.
For this piece, I want to focus exclusively on the rule that states that if a player fails to receive 5% of the vote, he falls off the ballot never to return again. This is the rule that can severely shortchange the voters’ chance to properly study a player’s place in history. This is why Harold Baines won’t be on next year’s ballot despite the fact that he has over 2800 hits and more than 1600 RBI. Both numbers represent the highest amount of any player eligible for the Hall who is not enshrined. Perhaps he doesn’t deserve to be in but to fall off for not having 5% is insane.
This rule is why Joe Carter only had one shot at the ballot despite that fact that he drove in over 100 runs ten times in his career, more times than 80% of the hitters enshrined in the Hall and more than any eligible player who is not.
This rule is why Al Oliver had only one chance at enshrinement despite the fact that he had 2743 hits with a lifetime .303 batting average plus over 1300 runs driven in. He is the only player with over 2700 hits and a better than .300 batting average who is not in the Hall among eligible players.
In fact, having less than 5% of the vote didn’t always bar you from future consideration. If this had always been the rule, recently elected Ron Santo would have fallen off of the writer’s ballot after his first year having failed to get 5%. This is utterly ridiculous.
Still not convinced? Let’s have some fun. Here are the lifetime stats of four catchers. Three were enshrined in the Hall early in their eligibility and one did not even get 5% in his first year to remain on the ballot.
Player Hits Runs HR RBI Avg
A 2472 1074 248 1389 .285
B 2356 1276 376 1330 .269
C 2092 1025 324 1225 .262
D 2048 1091 389 1376 .267
Player A led all four catches in hits, RBI, and average. Player B led in runs. Player C had the fewest hits, runs, RBI and the lowest average. Player D led only in homers. Before the big reveal, let me be clear that I fully believe that all four of these catchers deserve to be in the Hall. Player D is first ballot Hall of Famer, Johnny Bench. Player C is Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Player B is Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. And, Player A couldn’t get 5% of the vote in his only shot on the ballot. Poor old Ted Simmons.
That was a ton of fun, so lets do it one more time. Below you will find the stats of four second basemen, three in the Hall, one that couldn’t get the 5% in his first year.
Player Hits Runs HR RBI SB Avg
A 2016 769 138 853 27 .260
B 2663 1279 35 790 76 .288
C 2369 1386 244 1084 143 .276
D 2386 1318 282 1061 344 .285
Here, Player A had pretty low offensive numbers across the board but was very strong defensively. Player B had the most hits and highest average in the group but trailed everyone in homers and RBI. Player C led in both runs and RBI. Player D led in homers and steals. Well, A is Bill Mazeroski who is in the Hall. B is Nellie Fox, also in the Hall. Player D is Ryne Sandberg, an obvious Hall of Famer. But Player C is the totally overlooked and out of luck, Sweet Lou Whitaker. Lou Whitaker I might add was a Rookie of the Year, a five time all star, a three time Gold Glover, and a four time Silver Slugger.
I could go on but I think my point is made. The solution? I believe that certain statistical benchmarks should automatically keep you on the ballot for the full fifteen years of eligibility. It would be an easy and effective solution. Either that or the writers can continue to rely on the Veteran’s Committee to fix their mistakes and we can all get used to hearing speeches from surviving family members rather than our heroes.