2015 Hall of Fame Ballot Review and Analysis

Reviewing the ballots has become an annual thing for me.  I don't necessarily enjoy doing it but I feel like it's a public service, of sorts.  Someone needs to be the watchdog.  Someone needs to evaluate and monitor the constituents who are entrusted with the responsibility of selecting Hall of Fame entrants and I'm not sure anyone else is going to do it.

Last year's analysis was enlightening (and frightening) to me.  It was the first time I had gone through the exercise of reviewing the published Hall of Fame ballots, comparing them to prior year ballots for consistency and overall prudence.  The point of this exercise is NOT to sway the voters towards the players that I feel are worthy of enshrinement.  If someone feels that Craig Biggio is not a Hall of Famer, that's their prerogative.  The point is to ascertain whether the voters are actually putting some thought into their vote while voting in a consistent manner. 

This year's official "ballot reveal" post on the Baseball Hall website was more difficult to find than it has been in the past... perhaps, the baseballhall.org is trying to protect their voters (from watchdogs like me) by not making a big deal out of the publicized ballots.  Regardless, I was able to find it by changing the "14" to a "15" on the web address of last year's reveal

Once I had this information, I created a spreadsheet... because I'm an excel nerd... to sort and filter through the data and compare it side by side with last year's results.  There were a lot of new publicized ballots (which I wasn't able to do a comparison for) and a handful of voters who chose not to publicize this year (ones who did last year). 

When all was said and done, I was able to compare and analyze the ballots of 123 voters and I was able to come up with a few conclusions from the data... good, bad and ugly.

The Good...

- There were 72 more ballots (231) publicized and made available for scrutiny this year than there were in 2014 (when there were 159). 
- Of the 123 ballots analyzed, 72 ballots (58.5%) were "consistent" while an additional 33 ballots (26.8%) were only different by one or two names.

A consistent ballot was one that did not omit names from last year's ballot.  If the ballot was a "max ballot" with ten names and an omission(s) was necessary to include more first-time eligible players than prior year drop offs (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas, who made it in and Jack Morris, who dropped off after 15 years), I considered it a "consistent" ballot (more concisely, if a voter was forced to drop someone solely to add a first time eligible player). 

The fact that there were so many consistent ballots tells me that most voters have found a hill they're comfortable dying on.  They've settled on names that they like, they have a basis for voting the way they are voting and their ballot choices reflect that.  There were probably a lot of explainable changes within the one name swings (ie. didn't vote for Mike Mussina because it was his first ballot); overall, it seemed like there were more consistent ballots this year, which made me very happy.

I was also very encouraged by the fact that there was such a sharp increase (about a 45% increase) in the number of publicized ballots.  It's still much lower than I feel that it should be... there are 569 total ballots and 231 are publicized so less than 50% of all ballots are made available for scrutiny. 

The Bad...

There were some questionable ballots... including the ballot cast by one of my favorite baseball journalists, Jayson Stark.  Now, I am not going to lay into Jayson because at least he explained his ballot but I will point out that the one thing he really can't explain is why he chose to include Mike Mussina last year but not this year while adding Curt Schilling this year (who didn't grace his ballot last year).  The last time I checked, neither player added to their HOF resume over the past twelve months.

I won't be so nice to these folks...

Dave Krieger (honorary)

2014 - Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Edgar Martinez, Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, Frank Thomas

2015 - Jeff Bagwell, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, John Smoltz, Allan Trammell, Larry Walker

Changed his stance on Biggio and Edgar... added Mussina, Trammell and Walker.  Not a very consistent ballot and I can't help but point out that I seemed to have more problems with honorary voters than voters linked to publications.

Bob Kuenster (Baseball Digest)

2014 - Bagwell, Biggio, Glavine, Kent, Maddux, Fred McGriff, Morris, Mussina, Piazza, Thomas

2015 - Bagwell, Biggio, Johnson, Kent, Edgar Martinez, Pedro Martinez, McGriff, Raines, Smoltz, Trammell

Changed his stance on Mussina and Piazza... added Edgar, Trammell and Raines.  I'm not sure why he would have dropped Mussina and Piazza on their second go-round in favor of guys that have been on the ballot for many years.  Deserves an explanation, I think.

Alan Robinson (honorary)

2014 - Glavine, Maddux, McGriff, Thomas

2015 - Barry Bonds, Johnson, P. Martinez, McGriff, Raines, Smoltz

One of the biggest bugaboos I have right now is voters putting arbitrary limits on their ballots... and seemingly, that's the only explanation you can come up with for this one.  In 2014, Robinson had only four names.  In 2015, he loosened things up a bit, voting for six names but when all is said and done, I'm not 100% sure what he's standing for.  He votes for Bonds but not Roger Clemens or anyone else, for that matter... adds Tim Raines... I just don't get it.

Lawrence Rocca (honorary)

2014 - Morris, Hideo Nomo, Raines, Trammell

2015 - Raines, Trammell

Technically, this is a consistent ballot (and I counted it as such) but that doesn't make it any less of a head scratcher.  Forget the fact that he DID NOT vote for Greg Maddux in 2014 or Randy Johnson this year... Forget the fact that he DID vote for Hideo Nomo... okay, don't forget those facts, strip this man of his vote.

Tom Haudricourt (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

2014 - Bagwell, Biggio, Bonds, Clemens, Glavine, Maddux, Morris, Piazza, Raines, Thomas

2015 - Bagwell, Biggio, Johnson, E. Martinez, P. Martinez, Mussina, Piazza, Raines, Schilling, Smoltz

Changed his stance on the *steroids guys (Bonds, Clemens).  Adds Edgar, Mussina and Schilling.  There were a few ballots where this occurred (decided against Bonds and Clemens).  In some cases, it could have been due to the 10-name ballot max rule.  Others, it was a change of heart.  Speaking of the ballot max rule...

The Ugly

Well, the biggest gripe I have at this point is that there was a mild increase in the number of max ballots.  It's actually about the same as it was last year, in terms of percentage but 40% of the ballots being "maxed out" is too many for me to swallow.  There are too many names to vote for, at this point.  The arbitrary limit is going to continue to really hurt players like Carlos Delgado

The fact that Del-Got-It didn't get a second year on the ballot is really a shame, to me.  Not saying he's a Hall of Famer but the prolific slugger deserved a second go-round... for what it's worth, his Baseball Reference Hall of Fame Monitor score actually suggests he's worthy of enshrinement.  I would have conceded heading into this that Cooperstown was undoubtedly a tremendous stretch for Delgado (who was never a media darling) but you can't tell me he's not good enough to earn the mandatory 5% required to earn a second year on the ballot.  I think there are plenty of voters who would have voted for Delgado if the ballot max was expanded to 15 (or removed altogether).  The ballot limit causes voters to do crazy things - like not voting for players that they know will get in (not wasting their vote) in favor of lesser supported names in hopes of vaulting support of lesser-qualified players.  It makes voters think about maximizing their vote instead of voting for worthy players and I think it's time to change that rule.


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