Baseball’s Hall of Fame changes its election procedures (again)

Some observations on the revised election procedures for the Veterans Committee…

In case you were wondering why the procedures were revised, it’s fairly simple — the Hall wants more players elected.  It needs more people traveling to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame weekend.  Darren Rovell wrote about this, and that was prior to this weekend’s paltry attendance at the induction ceremony.

Since the BBWAA is struggling to elect more than one player per year (although I think both Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar will be elected this winter), the Hall needs the Veterans Committee to elect some players to excite fans of a certain age.  It hasn’t been easy.

The previous iteration of the VC (which Chris Jaffe refers to as the “Joe Morgan SuperFriends Committee” ) managed to elect no post-1960 players in three years of trying.  Now the VC has morphed into the following:

There will now be one composite ballot consisting of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players divided into three eras, rather than four categories with separate electorates.

The “categories with separate electorates” voting resulted in the election by the VC of no “modern” players (courtesy of the SuperFriends, as noted above).  The only modern-day players elected were those few selected by the BBWAA.  The only player actually enshrined courtesy of any VC committee was Joe Gordon.  Gordon is one of two players elected by the VC in the last decade (Bill Mazeroski was elected in 2001).

The VC setup did produce several other Hall of Famers — two managers (Billy Southworth and Dick Williams), two owners (Barney Dreyfuss and Walter O’Malley) and former commissioner Bowie Kuhn.  Thus, the past three years of voting by the VC resulted in six new Hall of Famers, only one of whom (Williams) was still alive to accept the honor.

So what are the new divisions/categories?

The new divisions are as follows: Pre-Integration (1871-1946), Golden (1947-1972) and Expansion (1973-1989 for players; 1973-present for managers, umpires and executives)…

…One election will be held each year at the annual Winter Meetings, but the eras rotate, resulting in one era per year. The Expansion era will be first, followed by the Golden Era election in 2011 and the Pre-Integration Era election in 2012.

The new rules take effect immediately and will be put into practice at the first election at this year’s Winter Meetings, to be held on December 5, 2010, in Orlando, Fla., with the Expansion Era up first.

Oy.

First, who thought it would be a good idea to call one of the divisions the “Golden” era?  What a way to sell your current on-field product, guys.  It’s a sop to some of the baby boomers, and certain syrupy writers, I guess.

Then there is the actual dividing line between the categories.  Why does the “Expansion” era start in 1973, rather than in real expansion years like 1961 or 1968?  What is so special about 1973?  It was the first year of the DH.  Maybe that’s what it is.  Or maybe…

Maybe it’s because George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973.

I have to say that I’m not completely sure I’m going to buy the Big Stein Line of Demarcation theory, if only because I’m not sure Steinbrenner’s election would automatically result in overflow crowds venturing to Cooperstown next July.  However, let’s take a look at a potential ballot.  Remember, the “Expansion” era is up first, so The Boss is up for election immediately.  There will be 12 names on the expansion era ballot, made up of players, managers, umpires, and executives.

I figure that around eight of them will be players.  If I were to pick the top eight eligibles among this group of players, the list might look like this:

Tommy John
Bobby Grich
Darrell Evans
Ted Simmons
Buddy Bell
Bobby Bonds
Sal Bando
Jose Cruz, Sr.

I think it will be hard for any of these players to get 75% of the vote from a committee of 16 people.  John would have the best shot, and Grich likely would get serious consideration (at least, he should).

Then we have the non-players who would be on the ballot.  Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella would not be eligible for consideration this year.  Who would?  Steinbrenner, of course.  Charlie Finley.  Ewing Kauffman.  Marvin Miller.  John Schuerholz.  Davey Johnson.  Allan H. Selig…

That’s right.  Bud is a potential candidate.  I don’t think he’ll be on the ballot this time, but just wait three years.  Just wait.

If I had to guess at four non-players on the ballot, the spots would be taken by Steinbrenner, Miller, Kauffman…and Billy Martin.  Imagine the press if Steinbrenner and Martin are enshrined at the same time.

So will the VC elect anyone this winter?  Probably.  There is one potential hitch, though.  As Tom Tango observes, past iterations of the VC mandated that each voter could only vote for up to four candidates, making it very hard, if not impossible, for an individual to get 75% of the vote.  That will be particularly true for a 12-man ballot (as opposed to the 10-man ballot for the Golden and Pre-Integration eras).

If instead each candidate gets an “up or down” vote, with no further restrictions for those on the committee, then I think there could be three or four candidates elected.  If not?

Then it’s Steinbrenner, and nobody else.  Somewhere, Frank Constanza weeps.

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