Hall of Fame Processes Have Serious Issues

Frank Thomas discusses his election into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There was a time when discussing the Hall of Fame for any professional sport was a special thing to talk about with family, friends or co-workers. Now when the topic of Hall of Fame selections comes up, the conversation turns negative. It focuses less on the accomplishments of those elected to their respective Hall of Fames and instead spends more time on those who were ‘snubbed’ or how messed up the process is.

This past week, the Baseball Writers of America elected Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. Each is deserving in my opinion and there were very few who disagreed. Perhaps this is why the focus was more on the faulty process, snubbed players and the steroid issue.

As you probably know by know, Houston’s Craig Biggio missed Hall entry by two votes. A player must receive 75% or greater on the ballots of BBWA. Because he was so close, it’s anticipated Biggio will get in next year.

Barry Bonds saw his vote totals slip and that wasn't unexpected.

The writers clearly demonstrated their on-going disgust for those linked to the ”Steroid Era” of baseball. Rafael Palmerio will no longer be on the ballot because he received so few votes. This is a guy who had over 500 home runs and over 3,000 hits. Those are typically numbers that guarantee entry into the Hall of Fame. Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens saw their vote totals decline.

I’m torn on the whole issue of alleged steroid users getting into the Hall and I always will be. I can see arguments for both sides but what troubles me are the baseball writers’ actions. They have taken it upon themselves to make sure the Bonds and Clemens of baseball never get elected. The problem I have is that many of these writers are the same ones who sat idly by throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s while offensive numbers skyrocketed as did the size of biceps and heads across the league.

The steroid issue aside, does Major League Baseball need to change the process of how players are elected? Currently, writers cast a ballot and are allowed to vote for no more than 10 players. ESPN’s Baseball Analyst Tim Kurkjian said, “I could have voted for as many as 21 players but I’m not allowed to.” While 21 may be a bit much in my opinion, Kurkjian’s point is well-taken.

The National Football League this week announced their 15 finalists for induction into their Hall of Fame. The inductees will be announced prior to the Super Bowl and while there is less consternation over football’s process, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Pro Football allows a maximum of seven inductees per year and that means there can sometimes be overkill when compared to baseball that can actually see years in which no one is elected.

While numbers are often the deciding factor of who gets in and who doesn’t, there’s also something to be said for a player’s attitude and disposition throughout their career. Hall of Famer Jim Rice is a perfect example of this. The former Red Sox outfielder was elected on his 15th and final opportunity to get inducted. Talk to any baseball person and they’ll tell you the reason it took him so long is because he rarely spoke to the media and when he did it wasn’t always ‘friendly.’

The same is currently being said about Barry Bonds whose personality isn’t exactly out-going. The steroid issue with him is the easy excuse, but Bonds probably would have deserved Hall entry prior to his late career surge in stats.

There is no perfect way to select inductees into professional Halls of Fame, but I believe they can do better.