With induction season for the Major League Baseball class of 2015 right around the corner, many people are excited to see their favorite players get enshrined. This year’s class includes Randy Johnson, Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Smoltz, Martinez and Johnson all made it in on their first ballot, while Biggio made it on his third. While this is meant to be a joyous occasion, this got me thinking about the induction process. With baseball so statistically driven, why isn’t there more of an emphasis on reaching statistical plateaus and winning championships rather than leaving it up to a popularity contest within the sportswriters? Sure, surpassing 500 home runs, 3,000 hits, 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts almost guarantees a spot in the Hall, but there are some intangibles that sportswriters often overlook.
For those who don’t know, a player needs to have 10 seasons of MLB experience and be 5 years removed from the game to be on the ballot. Now don’t get me wrong, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America normally do a great job of inducting the right people. I just believe that there is an easier way to get some deserving players a shot to be inducted. I believe there should be milestones that a player would have to hit in order to be eligible, and not just throw anyone on there. For example, set the eligibility milestones at 350 home runs, 1200 RBI, 400 stolen bases, 200 wins, 2,000 strikeouts, a minimum of 1 World Series title for every player, .290 batting average or higher, 3.75 ERA or lower, etc. There would be a mark for every stat, and a player would have to hit a certain number of any of these stats to be on the ballot. Those who hit the required amount of milestones would be eligible; those who don’t are not eligible for Cooperstown.
There have been some well deserving players who have not been inducted over the years because they have been overlooked despite having great career numbers. Fred McGriff, Edgar Martinez, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Alan Trammel, Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Rafael Palmerio, Roger Clemens, and Pete Rose just to name a few. All of these guys have Hall of Fame numbers and are over looked by sportswriters for whatever reason. They have had solid careers and have even keys to championship winning teams, but for some reason that is disregarded by sportswriters.
Now here come the skeptics about the steroid and PED users, so let me get this straight. I think that steroids are terrible and any user should be kicked out of baseball immediately. But unfortunately I have no say. So given the circumstances, if a player is suspended and serves his time for using steroids, then all is good. But for steroid users, because they wanted to cheat and put up monstrous numbers, the milestones for the Hall of Fame should be higher and harder to attain than non-steroid users. By making the milestones higher and nearly impossible to achieve, it could help limit steroid use throughout baseball.
There are many questionable Hall of Famers currently enshrined in Cooperstown that would not be there if this system was in place. For example, Cal Ripken Jr was inducted in his first ballot with 98.5%. Ripken was beloved by sportswriters across the nation. In my opinion, I don’t know if he is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Sure he had over 3,000 hits and had that consecutive game streak, but to hit .276 as a leadoff man? That’s just unacceptable. His average is the lowest of all 3,000 hit club members, and the only reason he was able to reach that hit mark was because of his leadoff man status and all the at bats that came with that. Also on the ballot in ’07 who were never inducted were Lee Smith, Jack Morris, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker and Dale Murphy. All deserving players, but were never elected. This just goes to show how flawed the current system is.
The goal of major league baseball players is to bring home a championship in October. With this being a requirement to be Hall of Fame eligible, we might see the game get more and more competitive. With players trying to make the Hall of Fame, and not just playing the game for the money, players would go all out in every game in order to check that box off to see their name on the ballot. If this system is implemented, many deserving players would have a shot at being enshrined instead of being left in purgatory and eventually falling off the ballot.