Baseball Hall of Fame: Busting four big myths when it comes to voting someone into Cooperstown
Here are four common things said about the Hall of Fame that just aren't true
The Baseball Hall of Fame has added Derek Jeter and Larry Walker via the BBWAA vote and the veterans committee last month added long-time catcher Ted Simmons and MLBPA legend Marvin Miller, giving us a four-man 2020 class. Since the empty BBWAA class of 2013, the Hall has added 22 players via the BBWAA vote and five more via veterans committees. Adding lots of names to the Hall of Fame seems to make some people angry. In glancing around social media regarding the Hall of Fame, there are a large number of people saying some misguided things. Let's blow those up with our fourth annual Hall of Fame version of mythbusters.
We have four items on our agenda today, folks.
[NOTE: This has been freshened and updated from a previous version]
1. 'How can a player's vote total change?'
This question gets asked by two groups of people. The first is full of casual fans who are genuinely curious and just don't know. That's OK, too, as I'm here to explain. The second group is condescendingly trying to look down at the voting body for changing vote totals when the players aren't actually playing games. It's full of people who love to complain about "the media" as if every member is the same and it's not simply a profession made up of individuals with different opinions like every other job on the planet. I've heard Curt Schilling himself (whom I would vote for) mockingly say stuff like "I haven't won another game, I haven't thrown another pitch ... "
To Curt and everyone on that side, you're either being misled or are willfully ignorant.
The ballot changes every year and there is a 10-vote maximum.
Knowing this, it should be pretty easy to grapple with the fact that vote totals are going to change on a yearly basis.
Let's walk throughas an illustration.
I had down the maximum of 10 names: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Gary Sheffield, Larry Walker, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton and Andruw Jones. I said that if I had unlimited spots, I'd also vote for Jeff Kent and Billy Wagner while considering the cases of Omar Vizquel and Bobby Abreu. In last year's hypothetical ballot, I did not include Walker, Rolen, Helton or Jones. I had five spots open up from last year's ballot and added Jeter (a first-timer) along with those four holdovers.
Let's say things go the other way at some point and a large group of worthy players joins the ballot. The opposite happens, which means someone might then lose a vote.
That's mainly how vote totals fluctuate, but there's also the simple and honest changing of minds. At first glance of Larry Walker, for example, I didn't think he was a Hall of Famer. After years of researching on my own and also reading the thoughts of people whose opinions I greatly respect, I have changed my mind. He's not toward the top of my list, but I firmly believe he has rightfully been enshrined.
That's allowed! It's also surely part of why the players get 10 -- and used to get 15 -- years on the ballot. Some don't enjoy the process, but I quite enjoy debating the merits of possible Hall of Famers each winter. Respectful debate can be good and it definitely is when it comes to worthy players like Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez and Bert Blyleven getting into the Hall of Fame.
2. 'The Hall of Fame is becoming too watered down'
With 27 players being added to the Hall in the last seven voting cycles, I can see this argument following. So let's dive in. Is the Hall "becoming too watered down?"
In short: nope. I'm going to assume the people saying this don't really know enough about how many players are actually in the Hall of Fame. The people saying this seem to believe it's only the inner-circle all-time greats like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson et al.
Given that thought process, it's easy to see why these people would fret about the votes since the empty one in 2013. In 2014, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas got in. In 2015, it was a four-man class with Craig Biggio, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson. The 2016 class featured Ken Griffey and Mike Piazza, with 2017 putting in Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez. The following year it was another four-man class with Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman getting in. During this time, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Harold Baines and Lee Smith were added via veterans committees. Last year, we added four more in Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez. Now Ted Simmons and Derek Jeter and Larry Walker join the fray. As previously mentioned, that's 27 players in seven classes and Small Hall people can't be thrilled.
Aside from the dubious selection of Baines and questionable selection of Morris -- and a case could be made against Smith -- everyone else on here belongs in the Hall based upon the established standard. The BBWAA has had a big turnaround after the 2013 vote and should be collectively commended.
In fact, it's been a historic turn. Since the original class of five inductees in 1936 (Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, for those curious), the only four-man classes were 1947 and 1955 until this recent run. The BBWAA put through four-man classes in 2015, 2018 and 2019. Heck, there were only seven three-man classes until 2014 and 2017 were added to the list.
With the floodgates seemingly open, the "becoming too watered down" argument thrives among the uninformed. To illustrate how this opinion is uninformed, let's take a look at the Hall of Famers by the decade in which they debuted (with a hat-tip to YES researcher James Smyth). This is the percentage of MLB players with at least 5,000 plate appearances or 2,000 innings pitched that are in the Hall of Fame, sorted by the decade in which they first appeared in the majors.
pre-1900: 23.5 percent
Becoming watered down? "Why don't they just let everyone in?" C'mon. The degree of difficulty to make the Hall of Fame has never been higher. Sure, the 1990s are going to catch up here a little bit in the next several years, but it's been more than three times as hard for a player who debuted in the 1970s than those who debuted in the 1920s to make the Hall. For those who first tasted the bigs in the '80s it's even worse.
Again, I think a large number of the people peddling this incorrect argument just don't know how many people are in the Hall of Fame.
It isn't just Walter Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Tom Seaver. It's also Eppa Rixey, Jack Chesbro, Waite Hoyt, Addie Joss and Herb Pennock.
It isn't just Aaron, Ruth, Mays and Mantle. It's also Chick Hafey, Hugh Duffy, Max Carey and Sam Thompson.
Now, a large number of people might argue that it should only be the former list of players and not the latter, but that's not how it works. We don't get to decide now what we want it to be. There's an established standard.
It should go without saying, but let's be clear here: This stance doesn't mean we should put in every player who is better than the worst Hall of Famer. That would be ridiculous. The task now is to bring up the standard. Only induct players who are better than the average Hall of Famer (this is where JAWS/WAR sorting comes in handy). Every BBWAA entry listed above brings up the standard.
One final note: Being in or out of the Hall of Fame doesn't need to determine how we remember who were the best players of all-time. Anyone who follows baseball and studies its history knows how much better Mike Schmidt was than Scott Rolen. That doesn't automatically disqualify Rolen just as Rolen making the Hall wouldn't somehow cheapen Schmidt's accomplishments.
3. 'If you can't tell the story of baseball without him, he should be in'
This is the argument I see peddled in favor of guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and even Manny Ramirez. And, in future votes, it could be applied to those who support the candidacy of Alex Rodriguez.
This argument surely comes from someone who has never been to the Hall of Fame (and that's OK!). There are several areas that tell the story of baseball and have exhibits for records, such as those held by Barry Bonds (here's an online exhibit) and Pete Rose ( ). If someone doesn't believe Bonds deserves to experience the enshrinement and getting his own bust for whatever reason, the above quote isn't a proper response. There's still mention of Bonds in the museum.
4. 'Pete Rose should be in'
The false equivalency here needs to end. The logic goes like this:
- Some players who possibly used or definitely used PEDs are getting into the Hall of Fame or will get in. They "cheated the game" and are still getting in.
- Rose only bet on his own team because he's just super-competitive and oh cool he slid head first! HIT KING!
OK, so here's the deal. Circle up to the previous point and note that there's an exhibit featuring Pete Rose getting his record-setting hit. The Hall is not incomplete just because Rose doesn't have an individual bust. It's plenty complete when it comes to the hit record.
Also, Pete Rose stained the game by doing something you cannot ever do. Betting on baseball leads to throwing games which leads to fans not believing they are watching a real product. That could ruin the league.
Further, the rule was in place stating that gambling on baseball carried a permanent ban from baseball. Rose gambled anyway. Over and over. For years. And he lied about it. He knew the rule and broke it anyway. He took decades to even come clean. He has made his bed and, frankly, he doesn't deserve the honor.
I will never understand why people continue defending this guy,. He got the most hits in history and was a great player for a long time. He's not a Hall of Famer because he knowingly broke a rule that carried a permanent ban as punishment. It's not complicated in the least.
Nor is any of this, so long as we keep spreading the word against false narratives. I know you agree because you are reading this and that makes you smart. Let's use these points to better educate the masses.
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