The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has voted on Hall of Fame candidates since 1936, and elections have become more controversial in recent years as stars tainted by accusations of steroids use have fallen well short of the 75 percent needed for entry to Cooperstown.
Writers are limited to a maximum 10 votes, and some say there’s a logjam as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire remain on the ballot at a time new players are added.
The Hall electorate includes anyone who has been a BBWAA member for 10 consecutive years at any point. Some say the voting group should be expanded beyond writers.
“We’re happy,” Hall chairman Jane Forbes Clark said Thursday after a news conference to introduce 2014 electees Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas. “We’re in an age where everyone does want to be heard, but we really see this as an issue that needs to be dealt with by the BBWAA.”
Dan Le Batard was kicked out of the BBWAA for one year and barred from future Hall votes on Thursday after he turned over his 2014 ballot to the website Deadspin, which allowed readers to choose the selections. Le Batard, an ESPN host and longtime Miami Herald columnist, said Wednesday he gave his ballot to the website because he detests the “hypocrisy” in the voting process and it “needs remodeling in a new media world.”
“The BBWAA regards Hall of Fame voting as the ultimate privilege, and any abuse of that privilege is unacceptable,” the organization said in a statement.
BBWAA Secretary-Treasurer Jack O’Connell said ballots averaged 8.4 players this year and just over half of the 571 voters used all 10 picks.
“I don’t think that in any situation one needs to react to a one-off and change an entire process,” Clark said.
The BBWAA decided last month to form a committee to study whether the 10-man limit should be altered. The committee, chaired by BBWAA immediate past president Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, is expected to report back to membership in July.
While the BBWAA long was limited to reporters for newspapers and news agencies, a small number of website writers have been allowed to join in recent years. Broadcasters and MLB.com reporters are excluded.
The Hall of Fame electorate includes anyone who has been a BBWAA member for 10 consecutive years at any point.
ESPN broadcaster Keith Olbermann advocates eliminating the 10-players restriction and increasing the voting pool.
“The idea of exclusively the baseball writers voting for the Hall of Famers is a vestige of state-of-the-art media of the ’30s and ’40s,” he said. “It was a very, very good and inclusive idea then. Shortly after it was instituted, it began to become less inclusive, to the point now where maybe baseball writers, the beat writers, are not a large enough group or may not be the most-informed group. Certainly they’re not the exclusively informed group.”
He suggests voters include baseball experts such as broadcasters Vin Scully and Bob Costas, historian John Thorn and author Bill James.
“It would be I think appropriate if the fans had a small voice in this,” Olbermann said. “Maybe it literally is 1 percent of the vote is a fan poll. Why not?”
During the news conference, Maddux, Glavine and Thomas posed together as Hall of Famers for the first time. They will be inducted July 27 along with retired managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa.
Maddux, Glavine and Cox will make it a special day for the Braves. Another former Atlanta pitcher, John Smoltz, will be on the ballot for the first time in December.
“I’ve given him grief,” Glavine said. “I told him he didn’t have to go play another year — he would be up here with us.”
“It would have been cool if John was with us,” Maddux said, “but his day will be coming soon.”
The Hall plans to announce next week the caps to be used for the players’ plaques, which also will contain brief descriptions of their careers. Asked what words they would like to see, Maddux said “overachieve,” Glavine “competitor, stubborn” or “dependable or durable” and Thomas “consistent and driven.”
“I wasn’t that blue-collar guy coming out,” Thomas said. “I guess I don’t want to call myself a diamond, but it was many years of polishing my career and getting it to where I was. Very driven should be the word.”
Maddux, too, said it took time to evolve.
“The secret of pitching is to learn yourself, to learn the hitters, to get away from the brain-dead heaver philosophy,” he said.
The trio has many accomplishments: 355 wins for Maddux, 308 victories for Glavine and 521 homers for Thomas. Yet they saved relatively little memorabilia from their careers.
Glavine does have some souvenirs of a special game.
“Pretty much everything I have or used in my 300th win that the Hall of Fame didn’t take from me is at my house,” he said.