Tomorrow is the big day for the Hall of Fame class of 2015, as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will announce its election results at 11 a.m. on MLB Network.
A candidate must be named on 75 percent of ballots to gain induction, as usual. Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines are the most prominent names in the spotlight this year. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is on the ballot for the final time as a player. Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire, remarkably, might be on the ballot for the final time as well if he isn’t named on 5 percent of the ballots.
The website BaseballThinkFactory.com is tabulating the results of BBWAA votes as they are made public on the internet. Not all votes will be made public on the internet.
I did not receive a BBWAA ballot, since I don’t have the necessary 10 years’ experience required to vote in the Hall of Fame election.
I did, however, cast a ballot in the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America Hall of Fame election. Those results will also be announced tomorrow. The IBWAA, founded in 2009, has several members (like myself) who belong to the BBWAA as well. A few even cast ballots in both Hall of Fame elections.
If nothing else, the IBWAA election is a good petri dish for experimentation. Its ballot this year allowed voters to choose up to 15 players. What would happen if BBWAA voters were given 15 slots instead of 10? Would McGwire be in jeopardy of dropping off the ballot? The IBWAA also doesn’t have a physical Hall of Fame, which for me removes some of the issues to consider about known and suspected performance enhancing drug users.
I put 10 questions to IBWAA founder Howard Cole about these topics, plus a few more:
1. How come I was allowed to vote for 15 players this year, not 10? The IBWAA website refers to a “group decision,” but I’m hoping you can elaborate on that.
We put as many things to a vote as we possibly can, and this seemed like something worth deciding as a group. There was the usual criticism about the Cooperstown ballot being too limiting. And just generally I think there’s more than a reasonable amount of BBWAA bashing this time of year, every year. Someone suggested 15 as a good number, so we took an up or down vote. Yes, we go for a 15-player limit starting with the next election, or no, we don’t. The ayes had it overwhelmingly.
2. How many Hall of Fame ballots did you receive?
227. Last year 113. There are 338 members, but there has been some attrition, with people who joined no longer participating. So 227 is a solid showing.
3. How many ballots used all 15 slots?
52, and 136 members voted for more than 10 players. The average vote per member was 11.084.
4. The IBWAA seems to embrace a spirit of inclusion — more writers are eligible for membership, the membership fee is lower, fewer guidelines exist for Hall of Fame voting, there are more ballot slots. Why, then, do you think some obvious numbers-worthy Hall candidates (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, even Barry Larkin — whom the BBWAA did induct) have not been inducted yet?
Well, the 15-man limit just started, so we’ll see on Tuesday. Without giving too much away, I’m guessing that the PED-linked guys will get around double the percentage of the vote from the IBWAA, as compared to the BBWAA. There’s no question our electorate is much more open to considering those players.
Larkin is just one of those things. His name being on our ballot confuses voters, especially from new members, and I answer a lot of email about it. We actually took a vote on whether to leave him on the ballot or not, so there he is.
5. Rafael Palmeiro is a guy who, going straight off his batting statistics, is a shoo-in Hall of Famer. He got six votes last year. He was off the ballot this year. Does that make you uncomfortable at all?
Not really, but with the exception of the candidates we elect and are therefore off subsequent ballots, and Larkin, we match the BBWAA ballot identically.
6. One thing I appreciate about the IBWAA process is that there’s no physical Hall, no bronze plaques, no need for asterisks or teachable moments about cheating when you visit Cooperstown. So I look at the numbers; I think about that player’s impact during his career and since; I vote. Was that your intention?
I can’t say I was thinking about that at the time, and obviously we’re not building a museum any time soon. Or ever. But it is a digital organization, and that’s appropriate in today’s world, don’t you think? We can form a consensus via email in 24 hours, and members chime in within seconds of a question being put to them. We don’t need to get hundreds of people in a room at the Winter Meetings to take up an issue. No envelopes, no stamps and no fax machines required to cast a ballot here.
But look, I would’ve given a body part to be in the BBWAA, and maybe even an important one. I would’ve loved a vote. But there was just no way for a blogger like me as far as the BBWAA was concerned, especially in 2009. I knew other bloggers who felt dissed – with all the jokes about pajamas and our parents’ basements #Costas – so I thought why not organize. And advocate.
It’s still difficult for an Internet writer to get in, and political, but credit them for the progress.
We did consider Golden Era-like candidates one year. 2013, when Mike Piazza was the only winner. Candidates included Marvin Miller, Vada Pinson, Gil Hodges, Buzzie Bavasi and Danny Murtaugh. Maury wasn’t nominated. Miller came the closest with 48%.
8. Personal opinion. Is Mattingly a Hall of Famer?
No. But maybe he’ll make it as a manager.
9. Is the IBWAA Hall of Fame currently limited to players? I’m thinking specifically about Vin Scully and wondering if broadcasters, maybe even scum-of-the-earth baseball writers, might someday have a spot in the IBWAA Hall of Fame.
There wasn’t a lot of interest the one time we tried it with Hodges, etc., so I don’t know if we’ll go down that road again. And getting 75% of people to agree on something is such a challenge. Even more so with a big group, as opposed to the 16, with Golden Era Committee. Plus, I like that we’re mirroring the BBWAA in whatever we can, while separating ourselves at the same time.
10. How do you feel about the two changes the Baseball Hall of Fame instituted last year — limiting players to 10 years on the ballot and requiring voters to sign a code of conduct?
I’m OK with it. It’s the Hall of Fame’s thing. They’ve earned the right to do what they want. Dan Le Batard’s a boob. And so is anyone who turns in anyone who turns in a blank ballot.