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SportRyan Spaeder's quest to give players a voice in Baseball Hall of Fame voting

19:01  20 march  2019
19:01  20 march  2019 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Ryan Spaeder's quest to give players a voice in Baseball Hall of Fame voting © Provided by Perform Media Channels Limited

Hall of Fame voting is a point of contention for the baseball community every year.

As is the case with so many sports topics, the controversial voting process always leads to several debates, making it impossible to satisfy everyone when the annual time for enshrinement comes. This leads to several questions: Should Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and other alleged steroid users be elected? Should voters be allotted more than 10 votes? Should the BBWAA become more stingy with who it allows to vote?

Ryan Spaeder, a baseball statistician, analyst, writer and author, decided to take a different approach to the voting in an attempt to offer a new perspective and get answers to some of these questions: Spaeder surveyed 41 former MLB players to get their thoughts on who should be inducted into the Hall of Fame's class of 2019.

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Elections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame for 2018 proceeded according to rules most recently amended in 2016. As in the past, the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from a ballot of recently retired players .

Spaeder got the idea during a conversation with former Red Sox corner infielder Kevin Youkilis.

“Him and I were talking the Hall of Fame and the voting process and I told him, ‘Players with a certain amount of tenure should have a vote,’” said Spaeder, a former contributor to Sporting News. “He agreed and said, ‘I think we should set up an alumni voting system to see the difference between writers and players.’ I really liked the idea, so I said I would give it a shot in the future.”

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It’s no secret that there are many who consider the Hall of Fame voting process to be flawed, and Spaeder is one of them. Two flaws that Spaeder singled out are the 10-vote limit on ballots and the 75 percent threshold needed for induction.

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Those Hall of Fame eligible voters are required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. See all Hall of Fame voting history at Baseball -Reference.com. A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning

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Other players share his sentiment, including catcher John Baker, who told Spaeder on his ballot: “This ten vote thing is dumb, stop attempting to limit the recognition of greatness.”

Former player and current MLB Network analyst Eric Byrnes’ ballot was the smallest of anyone surveyed and featured just two names: Bonds and Clemens.

“I cannot admit anybody else until those two dudes are in,” Byrnes told Spaeder.

Spaeder made sure to separate his project from the BBWAA rules by making some of his own regulations, including the option to include a secondary ballot of players on top of their 10, as well as the choice of anonymity and whether to give an extra vote to Pete Rose and/or “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. The results turned out to have some stark differences from the BBWAA voting, which elected Mariano Rivera, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez and Mike Mussina to Cooperstown in 2019.

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They were all terrific players at one time or another, but these 10 men all disappeared from Hall of Fame ballots without a single defender when their time came. The most trusted voice in sports delivered straight to your inbox.

When Spaeder limited it to 10 votes per player, only Rivera and Martinez were elected by the players, but when the votes were extended to an unlimited amount, Halladay and Curt Schilling joined the two. Bonds, Clemens, Mussina, Fred McGriff and Larry Walker all fell less than 5 percent short.

“Given the feedback I’ve got doing this, fans for the most part would like to see players have a say,” Spaeder said. “I think especially in the Twitter day and age when fans are able to interact with writers and maybe some writers that they don’t necessarily get along with. I think now we are seeing a lot more fans wanting players to have some sort of involvement, or maybe even themselves, that fans want some involvement.”

The voting concept that Spaeder put into place has drawn praise from the participating players, including former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, who first heard of Spaeder after Scott Van Pelt gave him a shoutout on his show. Spilborghs was honored that he was asked to vote and would participate again, but the current Rockies broadcaster is more pessimistic on the Hall of Fame ever moving toward a system that includes player voting.

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“I think the baseball writers that are there, that is their right, that is their niche," Spilborghs told SN. "I do see this though: The players, their opinion, and their voice can have some influence on the sportswriters. I have talked to many sportswriters that have pulled me aside and said, ‘Spilly, what do you got on this guy, what do you think of this, what do you think of that?’ and ultimately it becomes their decision.

“I’m hopeful that more players voice their opinions because those opinions are being heard, whether it is through fans or through media that actually have votes.”

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Spilborghs cited the Today’s Game Era Committee — formerly called the Veterans Committee — as a group that corrects any of the BBWAA’s mistakes.

“That process is there for a reason, to pick up where sportswriters might have missed,” he said. “It is just a numbers game; it is unfortunate.”

Jon Shestakofsky, the vice president of communications and education for the Hall of Fame, said the Hall is comfortable with the current voting electorate.

"The BBWAA has been tasked with evaluating and voting on recently retired players since the Hall of Fame’s first class was announced in 1936, and we feel strongly that this body has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame: a player’s record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity," Shestakofsky told SN.

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Notes: Each voting cycle, qualified members of the BBWAA name no more than 10 eligible players whom they consider worthy of Hall of Fame honors. To be enshrined, a player must be named on at least 75% of the voters ' ballots. Currently, players are removed from the ballot if they are named on

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Outside of the potential of bias when a player casts his vote, one concern that came up in Spaeder's balloting was whether all the players who voted thought they are qualified to do so.

"I don’t think there is anybody who goes and plays Major League Baseball and washes their hands entirely of the game," Spaeder said. "I would be willing to bet that there are some who don’t follow the game close enough to really have their opinion heard, and that is why I think there has to be a criteria going forward. I would create some sort of criteria versus just having anybody who is a former Major League Baseball player have a vote because I think it really takes a deep knowledge of the game."

Qualificiations and bias aren't as much an issue with BBWAA, which is why they feel they are best equipped to vote on the Hall of Fame each year.

"Baseball writers who are dedicated to the daily coverage of the major league game have the smallest axe to grind," BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell said. "We also have a strong track record dating to our taking over the Most Valuable Player Award in 1931 of honoring deserving players by close examination of their careers without prejudice."

Recent inductees Martinez and Tim Raines made it into the Hall on their 10th and final ballot. Spaeder and Spilborghs both agree that they are a little bewildered at how a player can get elected on his last ballot but not his first or second, something an unlimited amount of votes has the potential to prevent.

“To me there is no first-ballot Hall of Famer. The numbers didn’t change. If anything, they got worse, relative to other players' numbers,” Spaeder said. “There wasn’t a Mike Trout 10 years ago. We saw two years ago when Raines was inducted. Trout becomes somebody who you can compare to Raines as an outfielder. I don’t think anybody is going to tell you that Raines is better than Trout is right now. The idea that Raines is a (Hall of Famer) on his final ballot but not his first, it just doesn’t seem right to me.

“The only thing I guess you can really chalk it up to, if you’re being fair, is the limit of 10 votes and then it becomes more important to vote for one guy than another on his final ballot. I have always been against the first-ballot Hall of Famer and the last-ballot Hall of Famer thing. You’re either a Hall of Famer or you’re not.”

While Spaeder hopes for a higher total of voters in the future, he is set on growing the player Hall of Fame ballots in the coming years, and loves it as an avenue to keep ex-players involved in the game.

“I don’t know what the proper solution is, 50 percent players and 50 writers or what the proper solution is in terms of voting," he said, "but I would like to make some waves and just go to show to the powers that be that ballplayers want a say as to who goes in the Hall of Fame."

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