[Note: This has been updated from it's original form, which came after the 2017 Hall of Fame voting results were revealed]
The Baseball Hall of Fame announced that Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman. This in addition to Jack Morris and Alan Trammell getting in on the Veterans Committee vote, giving us a whopping six-man class for this coming summer. Hold onto the size of this class for point No. 2 below.
As always, the voting results were met with a tide of happiness, anger, smart commentary and a deluge of ignorance.
On the latter point, let's blow up two of the dumbest things I routinely see bumping around.
1. How can someone's vote total change?
There are two groups of people here. One is honestly and earnestly just wondering how it happens. For you people, consider this a polite explanation. The second group is self-important, all-knowing to the point of condescension and believing it should never be possible for vote totals to change. To you people, consider this a rant against your ignorance.
Because it's really not too difficult, especially if you're as smart as you portray yourselves.
The ballot changes every year, the voting body changes every year and there's a 10-man limit on each ballot.
As an example, when I filled out, I had Larry Walker as my 11th man, so he would have missed the cut this year. Three guys I had ahead of him have been inducted to the Hall and there are only two automatics coming on the ballot for next year in Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay. So Walker would be my 10th guy next year and get a vote.
If I were a voter, Walker just added a vote to his total that wasn't there for his previous eight ballots. No, his stats didn't change, he didn't play another game and nor did anyone else, but the options changed and there's still a 10-vote limit. Without the limit, there would be more weight to the "how do vote totals change" argument, but the voting body still changes year to year.
Thanks to an uncrowding of the ballot in the next few years, perhaps others like Scott Rolen would get added to my top 10 after previously being outside my top 12. Maybe he finally ends up at my No. 10 in his final year on the ballot (by that point, I will have an actual vote).
Did I give him a "final year bump" out of sympathy, groupthink or peer pressure, or did I just remain consistent in filling in my 10 spots?
This isn't complicated. Let this serve as a perfectly acceptable example as to how the vote totals can change year to year.
When it comes to the voting body, one of the reasons, say, Mike Mussina's vote total has spiked in recent years was because there was a significant purge of writers. It came on July 28, 2015 (via the official Hall of Fame website, here's the announcement). There were 571 ballots in 2014, 549 in 2015 and then 440 in 2016. The purged voters were those who hadn't covered the game in more than 10 years. Many of the old guard in voters seem to be the types who would underrate Mussina and are more "Small Hall" types, so a spike after the purge made a ton of sense.
The same goes for the increase in totals for the so-called "PED guys."
Further, a writer becomes a Hall of Fame voter after being in the BBWAA for 10 years straight.
There are, generally, older voters dropping off (whether it's death or becoming a lapsed voter) while there are, generally, younger voters added.
Obviously, when the ballot changes -- especially with a 10-vote max -- and the voters change, vote totals can change without it being stupid. So let's stop acting like it's stupid, Internet Tough Guys. You don't know everything.
The latter point matters, too. I, for one, realize that I need to take fresh looks at every candidate every year. True wisdom is knowing that I know nothing, or something like that, right? So with a fresh look every single year, sometimes people change their minds. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but it happens. Most of the time, the mind changing is due to more homework than less and more open-mindedness than close-mindedness, so I believe it is to be commended instead of ridiculed. Being more educated is always better than being less educated.
I have changed my mind over the course of the past 10 years on players like Walker, Mussina and I'm open to taking longer looks at Rolen moving forward. It's part of the job, in my view.
Now, about that being more educated part ...
2. The Hall of Fame is a joke because it's just becoming too watered down
Nope. Not even close. It's the opposite. Now let me bog you down with some of these pesky things we call facts.
From about the mid-'70s until today's game, the players are unbelievably underrepresented in the Hall of Fame compared to players from before that point. It's a huge gap. And there are more teams and more players per season since then, too, so that means the percentage of the players in the Hall is even worse by comparison.
Here's a good chart from a great follow for those who love facts:
It's from last year, but it still applies. Morris moves the pitchers born in the '50s all the way up to three. Trammell becomes the 16th position player born in the '60s. Hoffman makes it five pitchers born in the '60s. Chipper, Thome and Vlad were born in the '70s and that's an incomplete list for the time being, obviously.
In graph form, Hall of Famers used per game is falling off a cliff:
Again, that's from last year, but we have a ways to go in order to make a dent in the representation in the Hall of Fame when it comes to more recent players.
It's revisionist history to claim that things are getting worse. If anything, all you "Small Hall" people should be throwing a party with how much more difficult it is to get in these days. Sure, the last several votes have been big, but it's barely chipped away at the inequality when it comes to the different eras. It's been progress and it looks like next year's class will continue that progress with Rivera, Halladay, Edgar Martinez and maybe even Mussina.
That's good. This era should start to get more players in. There's a big imbalance in the museum.
We don't get to rewrite history. One of the reasons I've changed my mind on players like Walker is that I've educated myself on the established standards of the Hall of Fame. It's not just Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. It's also Chick Hafey and Heinie Manush and Jim O'Rourke.
I don't think that we should let in every player who is better than the worst Hall of Famer. That would be lunacy. Mistakes happen in voting and do not justify future mistakes, but every player who meets or exceeds what we believe to be the current "average" Hall of Famer should absolutely get in. Going back to last year's vote, Tim Raines got on base more times than the likes of Tony Gwynn, Lou Brock, Roberto Clemente and Roberto Alomar while ranking fifth in career stolen bases with a better stolen base percentage than Rickey Henderson. By many measure, he's an above average Hall of Famer. So it was the opposite of a "watering down." He actually brings up the average.
On this year's vote, we've got four worthy entrants.
We don't have to agree on every player, but we've all got to stop just making stuff up without knowing the reality of the situation. For every Walter Johnson, there's an Eppa Rixey. Mike Mussina is closer to Johnson than Rixey, so he should be in.
This is not a watering down. It's realizing that the bar for Hall of Fame clearance has already been established and respecting that line. To act like the bar is all-time inner-circles like Lou Gehrig and Honus Wagner is pure ignorance. It hasn't been that since the 1930s.