The Baseball Hall of Fame’s New Ballot Eligibility Rule

The Baseball Hall of Fame announced today that candidates for election will only be allowed to stay on the ballot for ten years rather than fifteen. Three players who have already been on the ballot for more than ten years (Here they are, along with my opinion on whether or not they should be elected: Don Mattingly-no, Alan Trammell-yes [it seems that in a number of cases of fringe Hall of Famers from the 1980s (Keith Hernandez and Lou Whitaker come immediately to mind) voters have ignored defensive excellence when considering players’ candidacies, and Trammell has certainly suffered from this trend], Lee Smith-yes, though he almost certainly will not be elected because voters have thus far generally been prejudiced against one-inning closers [i.e., Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, and Goose Gossage fall into a different category]. I understand that saves are a fairly meaningless stat and that the way closers are used makes no logical sense because a manager should use his best reliever when the game is on the line, which is not always the ninth inning, but it is not closers’ fault that they are used this way. They are now an integral part of the sport and voters should treat them as such, but, like kickers in football, their odd role results in prejudice from voters.) will be allowed to finish out their fifteen years if necessary.

This is a good change. While the reason for making it is questionable (its goal is clearly to get controversial figures from the steroids era such as Barry Bonds [who should be in] and Roger Clemens [who shouldn’t] off of the ballot as soon as possible), the move itself is logical because if a player is such a borderline candidate that they have not been elected during a decade of eligibility, they probably do not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. One player whom the change really hurts, though, is Tim Raines, who should be in but is a controversial case because his statistics look much better from a sabermetric view than a traditional one, and voters haven’t yet quite caught up to sabermetrics’ obvious superiority. Raines loses five years of eligibility during a time when many more recent excellent cases will continue to come on the ballot, so it will be a tight squeeze for him as he now only has three appearances on the ballot left. But this one example is not enough to make the change a bad decision.

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