Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Improving the Hall of Fame Vote

Richard Justice is one of the best baseball writers in the country. Maybe the best. He is smart, witty, and he almost always gets the story right. And when he doesn’t, he admits it, which I like.

In an entry to his blog, Justice proposed an idea that I have had for a while. (NOTE: Isn’t that what makes other people smart; the fact that they agree with you?) Justice suggests that the Baseball Hall of Fame have someone other than sportswriters vote for the Hall.

Justice writes:

“I did cast my first vote four or five years ago and have done so every year since. I'm uncomfortable doing this and don't know if I'll fill out another. I'm just not sure this is the kind of thing newspaper reporters should be involved in. Our job should be to cover the news, not make it.”

That last line is the one that really caught my attention. Justice is completely right. Newspaper reporters should be reporting the story. They shouldn’t be in the middle of it. And the vote for the HOF isn’t just another story. Who does or doesn’t get into the HOF is a decision that has repercussions for years and years. Baseball writers, with the grudges and agendas they have developed over the years for and against certain ball players, should not be put in the position of making this important decision.

The HOF should establish a blue ribbon panel made up of baseball historians, academics, former players, members of the HOF, fans, and baseball writers. This panel should be by invitation only and should not be determined by how long a certain writer has covered the game. If the sportswriters want more control, they could appoint the baseball writers who sit on the panel.

Obviously, this proposal is not without its flaws, but it has merits that having only baseball writers vote does not. For instance, during the recent HOF vote, two baseball writers submitted blank ballots. One of them said it was because he didn’t have enough information on which to vote. To me, it sounds like the writer was shirking his responsibility and was just looking for his own 15 minutes of fame. If he doesn’t want to vote, then he should have refused the ballot. Members of the blue ribbon panel will be determined by invitation only. If they accept the invitation, then they accept the responsibility to actually vote.

If you don’t like my blue ribbon panel idea, then I’m sure there is another idea out there that would work and would be better than the current system. I’d be in favor of almost anything that gets the baseball writers out of the business of making news and back to the business of reporting it.


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