One of the major gripes with Hall of Fame voting is that it is the Baseball Writers’ Association of America that does the voting. Even some of the writers themselves gripe about it, and many organizations actually forbid their writers from taking part in it, as it is in, a way, a case of newsman actively taking part in making the news.
And, of course, there is the the fact that, unlike, say, MVP voting or Cy Young voting, not every writer necessarily has seen the players on the ballot play, or even been a contemporary of them. While this can, in some cases, be a good thing- it allows for more neutral analysis statistically, for example, it is problematic. In addition, once a person gets a HoF vote, they have it for life, even if they then move on to cover a different topic or retire.
So the question some have is why the BBWAA has this power in the first place. Well, the fact is, when the HoF first opened, the BBWAA was basically the only organization that was around that could have done the job. Remember, it was the 1930s: television didn’t exist commercially, mass travel was not what it is now, and even radio, perhaps the top mass-media of the day, would rarely have covered national games outside of the playoffs. So, in essence, the only people who would have been able to see all of those players were, in essence, the writers and the players themselves. And so, the job was given to the BBWAA.
Now, however, we live in a different world, which is why I have suggestions on how to modernize the HoF vote… after the jump.
Let some broadcasters and analysts vote
Now, this can be dangerous, since some broadcasters are unabashed homers and fans of the teams they cover. Those broadcasters shouldn’t be allowed to vote. But some, such as Vin Scully, Bob Costas and Jon Miller, should be able to, if they want, have access to the ballot.
Let some of the baseball researchers and historians vote
Bill James. John Thorn. People like them, whether by looking at it statistically or doing lots of hard research, have provided new insights into baseball both past and present. So why, exactly, can’t they help decide the HoF fates of the people who have played the sport they have spent their lives researching or analyzing?
Have eligibility and ineligibility for reporters as well as the players:
As it stands now, it’s entirely possible that a reporter who never covered Jack Morris, who started up after he retired- could decide his fate next year. Similarly, it’s entirely possible that an old, long-retired writer could decide the fate of somebody like Mike Mussina next year, even if he retired from active baseball reporting in the early 80s.
So, what should be done for this? Well, quite simply, the eligibility for BBWAA members to vote should be roughly contiguous with the players they were contemporaries of. They can become eligible to vote (assuming they have have already gained the seniority needed to get the vote to begin with) as soon as a player they could have conceivably covered regularly becomes eligible (in theory, this wouldn’t change much), and they would stop voting as soon as the last player they could have conceivably covered drops off the ballot. The only exception to this rule would be either if A) the journalist has won a well-respected award, such as the J.G. Taylor Spink Award (essentially the Hall of Fame for baseball writers), B) continues to be active in baseball in a different capacity (such as a studio analyst) or C) is so well respected by his peers that they vote him continued privileges.
Grandfather the current voters in
It’d only be fair, after all.