Monday, January 6, 2014

Responsible, accountable Baseball Hall of Fame voters do exist

I’m not going to rant and rave about the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting, but with the election results just around the corner, it is worthy of at least a short discussion.


Even before the Steroids Era created a new wrinkle in the voting process, there were heavy debates about a candidate’s worthiness for enshrinement into baseball's Hall of Fame. Certain members of the Baseball Writers Association of America are entrusted with the task to name up to 10 players on their ballot each year. It is an honor which should be handled responsibly.

Each writer has their own formula for their choices. Some use a strict eye test. Others go by the numbers on the back of a baseball card or what they see on Baseball-Reference.com or Fangraphs.com. Several try to formulate a combination of those two methods. For many, major awards received such as MVP or Cy Young awards matter. For others, if a player “dominated” in their era it carries some weight. A player's performance in the playoffs is another sticking point for some voters. And there are many other items a voter may look to when checking off his or her ballot. The point is there are numerous methods used by most of the writers. And herein lies the problem, I said most of the writers, and it is a simple few who create unguided animosity toward the entire collection of voters.

We don’t have to all agree with a writer’s votes. And we likely won’t. But, they’ve worked hard at their craft to earn the right to vote. Who are we to say they are not worthy to have received the honor because he or she voted for Barry Bonds and/or Roger Clemens? That said, there is a true issue with some writers who have no rhyme or reason to how they make their selections.

I believe it is important to have some sort of framework for analysis one way or the other. If a writer feels only four players are qualified to be a Hall of Famer in a given year, what can we say since they do not have to vote for 10? If a voter feels no one even remotely linked to steroids deserves to be a member of baseball's Hall of Fame well then that is their choice. Further, if a writer’s votes are going to change year to year, again, there is no rule against it. The only thing we can ask each of these hypothetical individuals is to have an explanation ready and be accountable when asked. And, by the way Murray Chass, being spiteful is not one of them.

There are several well-respected writers out there who handle the responsibility with the utmost care. I was listening to New York Post baseball columnist Ken Davidoff explain his methodology Monday morning on the MLB Network, and I immediately understood how he derived his ballot.
I’ve enjoyed Davidoff’s work for a long time, but I came away from his interview with a grand respect for the obvious value he places on his votes. I do not agree with each of his choices, but I also cannot fault him one bit for them. He has a plan and he follows his own guidelines for each vote. I could hear in his voice he feels honored to be a part of the process and understands the importance of his selections.

I believe there are many writers who exhibit this same respect for their vote that Davidoff does. In the end, I think fans and wannabe professional baseball writers want to know the voters take their responsibility seriously, understanding history relies on it.

So, when the ballots are revealed Wednesday, please do debate the choices, but don’t jump on a writer because he or she does not have the same methodology as you. Simply be happy they have a framework for analysis in place. Of course, if a voter throws darts each year, then feel free to rally for their right to vote to be revoked.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo. Besides his work here, Chris is a New York Yankees contributor for Yahoo Sports. Connect with Chris on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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