The flawed Hall of Fame ballot

Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are going in to the Hall of Fame. Both clearly belong, and Griffey was almost unanimous.

Almost.

Now, predictably, there are some demanding explanations from the three voters who left Griffey off. MLB.com’s Phil Rogers believes they owe fans an explanation:

What were you possibly thinking when you left Ken Griffey Jr. off your Hall of Fame ballot? How can you possibly justify turning a cold shoulder on a center fielder who won 10 straight Gold Glove Awards, hit 630 home runs and was the face of his generation?

First off, this isn’t how democracy works. Votes are kept secret at the discretion of the voter for a reason: to allow for unpopular opinions.

Second, let’s not pretend like this is an election for something really important. Baseball is entertainment. It’s interesting. It’s fun to follow and talk about. But we aren’t discussing what to do about ISIS here.

Third, this process really isn’t how democracy works. The voters (who, incidentally, are baseball reporters and not players, managers, or front office members) get ten votes, which they can use on anyone within the pool of eligible players. It isn’t a straight up-and-down vote on each career, but a selection of the ten most worthy from an arbitrary pool.

Rogers and others acknowledge the concept of a “strategic vote” – the idea that, with Griffey a likely lock to get 75% of the vote, a few writers could hedge their bets and vote for someone else if they felt strongly for them. One year ago, I made a case for doing just that. At ESPN, Jayson Stark wrote about leaving Mike Mussina off the ballot because he only had 10 spots to work with. Stark felt Mussina was deserving, but couldn’t vote for him. Kevin Davidoff of the New York said Tim Raines was his eleventh choice.  Raines fell 23 votes short, which makes you wonder how many eleventh votes he would have gotten.

The point is not that the three voters who skipped Griffey have a compelling case for keeping him out of the Hall of Fame, but that the voting system doesn’t do what it was intended to do – which is provide a referendum on each player’s career.

 

 

 

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