When Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader gets passed on to the Era Committee, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s board of directors will claim it isn’t their fault. The truth is, however, they just made a move to ensure that Barry Bonds and others from his era won’t be enshrined in Cooperstown anytime soon.
Other than inducting five new members on Sunday, the Hall was in the news for another reason this past weekend. On Saturday the Hall announced that it would be shortening the length of time a player can stay on the ballot from 15 to 10 years and that starting next year, the names of the voters would be made public.
Under the new rule, Bonds and Roger Clemens will pass to the Era Committee after the 2022 vote if they haven’t received the required 76% of the vote by that time. We know how often the Era Committee gives players the nod; Ron Santo died before he was inducted by them.
This year Bonds got 34.7 percent of the vote, Clemens 35.4 percent. Both those figures were actually down from 2013, their first year on the ballot. By shortening the time that those two - and other players from their era- can stay on the ballot, the Hall has increased the likelihood that the dipping trend continues.
Furthermore, by now releasing the names of all the voters, the Hall has a list of names on which to pass the blame of a six-time Cy Young winner not being chosen for enshrinement on to.
There is a simple solution for this quandry. The reduction in years really isn’t the issue. The fact that all the other voting rules remain unchanged despite that one is the real problem. Voters can only put up to 10 names on their ballot. A reduction in the number of eligibility years should be accompanied with an enlargement, if not complete removal, of the voting cap.
An increase in or eradication of the number of players that voters can vote for would give the writers the full freedom to hold court on each player. In this way, the reduction in years would be a very positive change. It would move the question posed to the voters further toward what it should be: is this player a Hall-of-Famer or not?
The Hall’s board has shown that they aren’t interested in making changes that would make the vote more true to its nature, however. They are interested in making it easier for the current crop of writers to penalize players for when they played and exposing the business’ ugly side while simultaneously pointing the finger at those writers.
I hope the writers have the good sense to elect those who deserve to be in the Hall despite the reduced time. If they don’t, the Hall’s board has already prepared to throw them under the bus for it.