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Former New York Times writer and current blogger Murray Chass recently wrote about why he turned in a blank Hall of Fame ballot. In the piece, he shares an e-mail he sent to ballot-tracker Ryan Thibodaux:

As for my HOF voting, in my first year as a voter, I voted for 10 players. [That was and is the maximum, which some voters want the Hall to raise; why I don’t understand.] By the time of my second vote, I realized that by voting for 10, I was saying I wanted to see 10 elected. What a horrible thought, to make people sit through 10 speeches in the hot July Cooperstown sun. I also realized that by having 10 players inducted on the same day lessened the honor for each. From then on I voted for only the players I considered the best of the elite.

Ignore the finer points and there is—maybe—a lick of truth to Chass’ grievance.

Let’s say the 10-player voting restriction is abolished, a solution that’s been championed by saber-friendly writers for years. If every Hall of Fame voter could check off 12 or 13 (or more) boxes, and seven or eight players got in one year, it would create some potential issues. The actual problem of speech-induced coma would probably be solved quite easily, by expanding the ceremony to two days (and/or carting in some additional high-powered air conditioners). But the bigger problem of oversaturation, of—let’s say—eight players getting inducted in a single year would remain.

If, by the middle of February, it’s difficult to recall the names of every Hall of Famer from the upcoming class, that might be a problem. And as much as we want to see deserving players get their trip to Cooperstown—their figurative and literal day in the hot July sun—there’s a fair argument that having to celebrate too many of them at once would cheapen the whole shindig. There’s an unlimited amount of virtual ink out there, but our attention still tends to sway toward the most outstanding or most famous or most controversial.

Here’s a (relatively) simple compromise: Remove the 10-player voting restriction but limit the number of player’s eligible to be formally inducted in a single year to five. Allow me to explain.

If eight players are indeed elected one year, then the three receiving the lowest percentage of the vote total would be put on a waiting list. They’d be Hall of Famers, but their actual, official, 98-degree enshrinement would be postponed by a year or two, and in a broader sense we’d hold off on celebrating them in full. If, in the following year, only one or two players are elected, then the three holdovers would join them in Cooperstown. If, say, four get the nod, then the process would repeat. In this case, the two players out of the group with the lowest percentage of their respective vote tally would have to wait it out another year. More nuanced rules could emerge; one, for instance, might put a limit on the number of years a player could be wait-listed after hitting the 75 percent mark (call it the “Don’t Let Them Die in Limbo” clause.)

This change would help mostly on the fringes, getting obvious Hall of Famers elected a year or two earlier than otherwise, working to plunge a ballot that’s been clogged by “Steroid Era” sanctimony and downright mis-evaluation (where’s the Mike Mussina love, people?). This year, based on Thibodaux’s tracking, it’s possible that Ivan Rodriguez, Trevor Hoffman, and Vladimir Guerrero all get snubbed by just a few votes, subsequently jamming the ballot further next year. Of the 119 10-player ballots made public this year as of this writing, 12 of them didn’t include Pudge, 25 didn’t include Vlad, and a whopping 31 didn’t include Hoffman. So, in theory, Hoffman’s missing 31 potential votes thanks to the 10-player rule. Even though all those voters certainly wouldn’t have included Hoffman on their ballot if given the chance, if even a third of them did Hoffman’s percentage would jump from 73.6 to 78.2.

Perhaps of equal importance, our new rule would help save players from prematurely falling off the ballot altogether due to the five-percent threshold. Notable names like Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton have missed that number recently, disappearing into a Hall of Fame purgatory where they await a future date with the Today’s Game Committee (or whatever it will be called then). Edmonds and Lofton will never be mistaken for inner-circle candidates, but both rate well by WAR-based models and common sense alike, and it’s a shame we won’t be able to debate their cases over the coming years. This year Billy Wagner—he of the second-best ERA+ ever (min. 800 innings)—and bat-waggling Gary Sheffield are polling at around 10 percent, and Jorge Posada is in even greater danger of falling by the wayside.

Further, it’d reduce or eliminate the sort of game theory involved with the current election process, where voters are sometimes forced down certain paths that leave deserving Hall of Famers off their ballot. As Dan Szymborski of ESPN notes:

The scenario that gets Larry Walker into the Hall of Fame involves voting for Trevor Hoffman instead of Larry Walker. Because Hoffman can actually be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year and Walker can't (given their poll numbers), voting for Walker over Hoffman actually reduces the chances that Walker gets into the Hall because some of the votes that would go to Walker next year will instead be repeated for Hoffman.

On the other end of the spectrum, Chass’ worries would be quelled. No nightmares of endless speeches; no need to constantly monitor mid-summer heat waves in upstate New York; plenty of extra time to visit the Farmers’ Museum before Hall of Fame weekend ends. In a more serious sense, given that I’ve bought into Chass’ argument to a degree, writers could vote for as many players as they’d like without having to worry about the ramifications of inducting eight or nine players in a single year. There’d be a sort of built-in safe-guard protecting the sheen of exclusivity that surrounds the Hall, but also a reasonable route to break down the ballot logjam. And we, as baseball fans and analysts, would only need to worry about celebrating careers in five-player chunks, at most.

Like Chass, most of us want to see the “best of the elite” elected to the Hall of Fame, and no more; only Chass apparently draws his line at Ken Griffey Jr. (or, oddly, Jack Morris), where a more realistic voter might stop at Jeff Kent or Fred McGriff or Lee Smith. Either way, we shouldn’t limit any writer from voting for every player deemed worthy, particularly when Chass and his ilk are complicating matters by voting for nobody.

Chass may have stumbled into a good point about crowded inductions, though, and the few small tweaks outlined here could swing the voting process in a positive direction for all interested parties.

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tearecrules
1/18
"Remove the 10-player voting restriction but limit the number of player’s eligible to be formally inducted in a single year to five" This will create a logjam very similar to the NFL where a bunch of deserving candidates are left by the wayside because the filtering process has limits to the number who can advance. Heck, it might even be worse because the idea of a "Shadow HOFer" where some number of electees are just waiting for a down year to actually be inducted is just... not good.
dutt22
1/18
Yeah, but all the players who get over 75 percent are in, essentially, they just might have to wait a year or two for the formality of the induction. So it'd work to clear the ballot for future years and help to fast-track borderline HoFers, while still avoiding an overcrowded induction class.
tearecrules
1/18
I'm a Big Hall guy and would be happy seeing more folks make it in. I know you're trying to give the issues Chass raised some merit, but if you're going to take the limit off the votes that can be cast you shouldn't then shift the limit to how many get in. Were I addressing Chass' concerns I would go with your suggestion of splitting the event. Like spending two days at Cooperstown is a bad deal for a baseball fan.
jfranco77
1/18
I don't think 8 players getting in will be a constant problem. Removing the restriction of 10 would really only help to clear out the logjam of deserving (or not, depending on your POV) players that we have RIGHT now. I don't think 20 years from now, you're going to see someone voting for Matt Carpenter (sorry, Matt) just because they have an unlimited number of votes.
tearecrules
1/18
If given no limit to the number of votes they can cast some voter will decide to mark down everyone on the ballot. Remember, the HOF voters are writers for their day job. Filling out a loaded ballot gives them something to write about, it gives their friends something to write about, it gives the people who cover their friends something to write about. For example, Murray Chass' empty ballot had fueled multiple stories for himself and other outlets. I bet it would take one iteration of a limitless ballot before a voter fills it all in to write about how it demonstrates the HOF is now cheapened as an honor.
dutt22
1/18
jfranco77, I agree. But why not work to reduce the logjam now and prevent a future one that could crop up for whatever reason? There are a good four or five solid Hall candidates entering the ballot for the first time next year, so even if three or four players get in this year, we aren't really out of the woods yet. tearecrules, sure, a small number of voters might do this, but those gimmick ballots would quickly be negated by all the voters who take the process somewhat seriously.
tearecrules
1/19
Mr. Palmateer, I was just remarking on the "won't see someone voting for INSERT RANDOM 10 YEAR VET HERE". I don't believe that such votes would be gimmicks; it's what they're voting for and for whatever reason. And, honestly, if it gives some guy an extra chance so be it. As an example 5 years ago Brad Ausmus might have had a career WARP of, what, 10 (seriously, read some of the comments on him from the annuals)? PitchFX and framing are developed and suddenly he has nearly 40. He was never going to be a HOFer, but maybe he survives to a second ballot.
dutt22
1/19
Yeah, it'd definitely improve the chances of the real borderline guys sticking around on the ballot. Like, this year, Jorge Posada fell off. I'm not sure he's a HoFer (for the opposite reasons you mention with Ausmus, mostly), but without a 10-player limit, he almost surely remains on the ballot for a few more years, and I can't see how that's a bad thing.
theduke11
1/20
If you only want 5 a year then limit the vote to 5 not 10. This is a temporary issue that will go away in a couple years when some of the PED guys fall off ballot. I think the real issue is that people keep voting for bonds/Clemens/Sosa when none of them will ever get 75%. They should be voting for the cuspy guys like Hoffman, Martinez, schilling and Mussina
dutt22
1/20
I basically want five players to get inducted in each year until the ballot clears out, instead of 3, 3, 4, 2, 3 ... or however it will shake out with the current rules. The best way to get to that point, I propose, is to eliminate the 10-player limit but also to throw in a safe-guard so that a maximum of five players can actually get inducted in a single year. This prevents a possible scenario where seven or eight players get inducted in a single year, but it also cleans up the ballot more quickly. To your second point, it looks like Bonds and Clemens are eventually (probably) going to get in. They are both over 50 percent and still have five years on the ballot. You're right about Sosa, but only like one in 10 are voting for him.