January 7, 2016

No player will ever reach the MLB Hall unanimously

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

It’s time to face a sad, sad fact about the MLB hall of fame: Nobody will ever get 100% of the vote.

After Ken Griffey Jr. was voted in with the highest percentage of votes ever at 99.3%, topping Tom Seaver’s 98.8%, that fact is very apparent.

Griffey was seen as one of the last few hopes to ever reach the hallowed mark, to be the first unanimous selection.

But the problem involves several things about the way voting is handled and how the election process works.

Firstly, we should point out that Griffey set the record for most votes received and fewest ballots omitted on as well, with just three voters saying “nah.”

Well, there’s a couple of reasons why those three may have not voted for Griffey. The first and most unlikely is that they thought he wasn’t good enough. If anybody that follows baseball or ever saw Griffey play, which we’re assuming is a prerequisite for voters, they should lose their vote if this is their reason for excluding Junior.

Second, while Griffey’s name has never been even sort of associated with any PEDs, he did play during an era in which a lot of players did. Foolishly, some voters in the past have declined to vote for anyone who played in the steroid era, which is incredibly short-sighted.

Third, it’s no secret that some baseball writers are curmudgeons that are sticklers for tradition. It wouldn’t be out of line to think that someone could actually exclude Griffey from their ballot to simply deny him the chance at reaching 100%. After all, if Babe Ruth didn’t have 100%, how could anybody, ever?!

Finally – and this is the most likely and plausible scenario – some writers tried to game the system. Knowing that Griffey was a rock-solid lock to make it in, a writer could have passed on him and used one of his 10 votes on a player they also thought was deserving, but may have been light on support. Perhaps a writer wanted to show their support for David Eckstein (two votes) or Garrett Anderson (one vote) and the only way to do that was by stiffing Griffey.

This is why the MLB hall needs to change it’s voting system in a very simple way: Show us the ballots. Let’s see who voted or didn’t vote for someone and if there’s an egregious example like this one, we can hear an explanation.

ESPN ran the story this week of the five ballots that Seaver was left off and the reasons why. Three ballots were scratched out of protest that Pete Rose wasn’t eligible, one was due to a writer filling his out after going in for heart surgery and forgot about Seaver while the final one was an older writer that simply didn’t vote for first-ballot players. Ouch.

With the likes of Griffey, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson all in the hall at less than 100% in recent years, it’s hard to imagine anybody making the mark.

That is for a few more years. Remember, in 2019 a certain Yankee Derek Jeter will be on the ballot. That could be the first player to finally reach 100%.

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