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Hall of Fame needs new voting system

Commentary

January 14, 2013
By John Mehno (johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com) , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - Should be quite a festive time in Cooperstown on July 28 when three dead men are inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame.

It's the Year of the Hopelessly Obscure as player Deacon White, owner Jacob Ruppert and umpire Hank O'Day are all posthumously honored. O'Day died in 1935, four years before White and Ruppert did. (Remember to order your commemorative Hank O'Day T-shirt before the larger sizes sell out).

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but when the Baseball Writers Association of America rejected this year's entire ballot, induction weekend became a ghost story.

All is not lost, though. Maybe this is the first step in getting a better system for elections. The balloting is currently in the hands of anyone and everyone who has been a 10-year member of the BBWAA, a do-nothing organization of waning influence.

The BBWAA voting goes back to the days when New York had nine daily newspapers. Times are different. There used to be about eight papers covering Pirates home games on a daily basis. Today there are two; one has used four different beat writers over the last five seasons.

For one thing, writers shouldn't vote on awards or Halls of Fame. Many papers (the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is one) won't allow employees to serve as official scorers for MLB games, believing it's a conflict of interest to have them decide hits and errors.

The philosophy has been that reporters are there to report the news rather than make it. Fine. But if something that trivial is a conflict of interest, why isn't voting for the Hall of Fame?

In the fallout of the no-induction vote, there were more quotes from writers explaining their ballots than there were from the players who were kept out of the Hall.

Beyond the obvious conflict of interest, the BBWAA voting body includes people who haven't been active in covering baseball in a long time. Some of them never covered games, but got membership because their papers signed up everyone on staff.

People who never covered baseball have a say in who gets into the Hall of Fame. Vin Scully and Bob Costas don't. That's ridiculous.

As newspapers evolve, fewer people are covering baseball. Fewer reporters are staying on the beat for 10 years. The BBWAA is fading.

It's time for baseball to get ahead of the issue and put together a new voting body. Baseball should use a hand-picked panel similar to the one employed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Football Hall of Fame knows that everyone voting is lucid and knowledgeable about the game. Nobody is there because they were automatically signed on for membership in a group 50 years ago.

If it leads to reform in the voting process, some indirect good will have come from baseball's steroids era.

Lonely at the top

By the way, the winner of the Hall's Ford Frick award for broadcasting excellence is Toronto's Tom Cheek, who died in 2005. The only honoree present for the two-day Hall ceremonies will be Philadelphia writer Paul Hagen, winner of the Spink award.

Hope he has a good speech.

One and done

Chris Rainey should have known better: The Steelers don't give many second chances to players who run afoul of the law while occupying a low position on the team depth chart.

Smooth moves

Ray Lewis should call that dance the Person of Interest Shuffle.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

 
 

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