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Baseball Hall of Fame changes its voting process

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Why were these changes made, and what impact will they have?

Jim McIsaac

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Board of Directors has announced a major change to the voting process for player induction in nearly a quarter of a century:

Whereas until now players who received at least 5% of the vote were eligible to remain on the ballot for 15 years, the maximum stay is now reduced to 10 years. The change goes into effect immediately.

BBWAA members who've been granted a Hall of Fame vote will also no have to fill out a registration form and sign some sort of code of conduct. This change is certainly in response to writer Dan Le Batard having "sold" his ballot to Deadspin last year, but it seems unlikely to have much of an actual impact on the voting. The change in length of eligibility, on the other hand, is significant.

This change certainly has something to do with the major backlog of statistically deserving candidates caused by many (perhaps most) voters being unwilling to vote for players they believe used certain performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire will now have only two more years on the ballot, instead of seven. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others will also be moved off the ballot five years sooner.

My initial reaction was that this was an attempt to move the conversation away from those players, to try and brush them under the rug. Upon further reflection though, I think I like this move, and while I still it's been made almost entirely with that group of players in mind, I also think it will help those guys, not hurt them.

Players who fall of the ballot, or run out of eligibility aren't finished as candidates, some sort of Veterans Committee has been in place for decades, for the purpose of electing players the BBWAA has passed on. This change means Bonds, Clemens, and others (including Kenny Lofton!) will now move into that process five years sooner, and I think they stand a much better chance there than they do on the BBWAA ballot, because while that organization is changing, the process is very slow.

I believe the Hall of Fame (which is a separate entity from the BBWAA) wants those players in the Hall of Fame, because living inductees with fans who will travel to Cooperstown are what keep the HOF going. I believe they've made this change with an eye towards seeing more players enshrined.