It’s one of the most star-packed Hall of Fame induction weekends ever. Tomorrow, three of the greatest players of this era as well as its three finest managers will be inducted. Record crowds, maybe 100,000 people, are expected in Cooperstown. It’s the kind of magical weekend that seemed so far away just a year ago when barely 10,000 people attended Hall of Fame weekend after the Baseball Writers Association of America refused to induct anyone off its ballot.
It seemed after last year’s vote that the process was broken, that the Hall of Fame ballot would remain forever glutted with players from the Steroid Era and that even top stars might not be able to secure first ballot induction. Personally, I’ve wanted drastic changes to the voting process, such as the establishment of a committee to handle Steroid Era candidates and an end to the rule that allows voters to select a maximum of 10 players even in years where more worthy candidates might be on the ballot. Those changes may still occur, but it won’t be anytime soon. Today, the Hall of Fame announced its first changes to voting since 1991: shortening a recently-retired player’s eligibility with the BBWAA from 15 years to 10 and having BBWAA members sign a registration form and code of conduct.
Disaster may be the greatest catalyst for change in life, and in a sense, I wanted that with Hall of Fame voting this year. I wanted the voting results to be such a quagmire that the BBWAA or Cooperstown would be forced to take immediate substantial action. But then, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were all voted in first ballot, and it became clear that top Hall of Fame candidates could make it through quickly, even with the current voting system. Several more of these inductees will follow in the next few years including Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Ken Griffey Jr.
Baseball has one of if not the most talked about Halls of Fames in sports. The reason for this is its exclusivity, with roughly 300 members and only 72 living ones after tomorrow. This weekend, the Hall of Fame is looking to preserving this. The announced changes in voting will make it harder for the likes of Tim Raines, Mike Mussina, Edgar Martinez, and other arguably lesser greats to win induction, at least through the BBWAA, since six honorees have needed 11-15 years on the ballot to reach the needed 75 percent of votes. Tomorrow, a few irreproachable candidates will receive their plaques in front of a record crowd. We can expect more of the same in the immediate years to come.
For anyone who likes the Hall of Fame small, reserved for only the best of the best, this weekend is sweet vindication. For people like myself who would like to see Raines, Mussina, and Martinez receive their due now rather than 20 or 30 years on, today offers more of the same frustration of the past few years.