When is the BBWAA going to get it right?

By Brandon Cline, Staff Writer

As 2015 begins, a new class enters the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. With the most candidates inducted in one year since 1955, the careers of the four inducted this year should be celebrated, but the bigger story continues to be the flawed voting system that is coming under greater and harsher scrutiny each year.

With a great vote comes great responsibility, yet the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BWAA) doesn’t require members to publicly disclose their ballot and explain why they made their choices. By not doing so, the voters aren’t held accountable for their actions. This allows voters to send in outrageous ballots without getting feedback from their peers and the public.

When the annual voting for the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year takes place, however, the BBWAA fully discloses voting results on their website.

Of the 549 ballots the BBWAA received back from its members, only 141 voters, 25.7 percent voluntarily revealed their ballot publicly.

The most hotly debated topic of the last decade regarding the voting system is whether voters should vote for known or suspected steroid users. The BBWAA has never made it clear to its members where they stand on the issue.

On its website, the BBWAA said, “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

The BBWAA leaves it entirely up to each individual voter’s judgment as to whether they assume a candidate who used steroids fits under the description provided, rather than coming out and directly pointing the voters in one direction or another. The results of recent elections have shown that writers don’t know what direction to go in.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famers, if not for their connection to steroids, have each received roughly 35 percent of votes for each year they’ve been on the ballot. Thirty-five percent is well short of the 75 percent required to be elected into the Hall of Fame but large enough to keep them on the list of the top ten most voted for candidates each year. A hard stance from the BBWAA on steroids would help clear up much of the confusion that many voters have.

One of the most scrutinized rules of the voting process is the 10-limit rule, which has been in place since 1936, the first year Hall of Fame candidates were voted on.

The rule requires voters to vote for no more than 10 candidates on any ballot, regardless if there are more than 10 players a voter feels are worthy of being voted for.

With the rule, voters are forced to choose players based on how they compare to the rest of the field, rather than choosing a player because they have the necessary qualifications in the mind of the voter to be elected. The rule also forces voters to make sacrifices on their ballot.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press didn’t vote for Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez – both first-ballot Hall of Famers – because he felt other players needed his vote more.

Berardino explained his reasoning on Twitter. “Yes, I left Randy, Pedro off my ballot. Counting on fellow BBWAA voters to elect. [Alan] Trammell, [Larry] Walker needed me more.”

The 10-limit rule played directly into Berardino’s decision, denying him to vote for everybody he felt was worthy of entering the Hall of Fame.

Shouldn’t voting be based on merit, rather than the 10 best players on a list? The BBWAA needs to wake up.