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Are Baseball Hall of Fame’s standards too high? Why voters should be more forgiving | Opinion

  • January 25, 2023

Scott Rolen became the newest Hall of Famer on Tuesday, squeaking past the 75% percentage by only five votes at 76.3%, completing the biggest climb in Hall of Fame history. 

Rolen received just 10% of the vote in his first year on the ballot and 17% his second year, but had a dramatic turnaround the last four years, eclipsing Duke Snider’s record of reaching the Hall of Fame with just 17% his first season. 

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Rolen becomes only the ninth third baseman to be elected into Cooperstown by the writers and just the second in the past 40 years, joining Chipper Jones. 

But still, this is the second consecutive year in which the BBWAA elected only one player with slugger David Ortiz going into Cooperstown last summer. Rolen will join Fred McGriff on stage July 23, who was a unanimous vote by the 16-member Contemporary Era Committee in December. 

Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton fell excruciatingly short by 11 votes (76.3%). Closer Billy Wagner (68.1) was the only other candidate who achieved at least 60%, with outfielders Andruw Jones (58.1) and Gary Sheffield (55) also eclipsing 50%. 

So, are we being too tough? Maybe even unreasonable?

We were dangerously close to our second shutout in three years, and the third time since 2013. 

Carlos Beltran is one of the best switch-hitters of all time, but he was on that 2017 Houston Astros team embroiled in the cheating scandal, so was penalized too. 

Jeff Kent, the greatest power-hitting second baseman in history with 377 home runs and a .509 slugging percentage, but finished in the top 10 in homers just once.

Andruw Jones was a 10-time Gold Glove winner and five-time All-Star in his 11 years with Atlanta, but had an alarming drop-off in his last five years of his career. 

The way these players are trending in their vote total, everyone with the exception of Kent – whose 10-year window has closed – will be in the Hall of Fame, aside from Sheffield.

Just not the summer of 2023. 

It could be a rather crowded stage next summer with Helton and Wagner joining potentially joining newcomer Adrian Beltre. 

Seattle Mariners great Ichiro Suzuki, who should be unanimous, along with pitcher CC Sabathia, will be first-ballot Hall of Famers in 2025. 

So, let’s stop the noise that the Hall of Fame voting system is broken, or severely defective. The voting results of the past three years reveals just how high the writers’ standards are for Hall of Fame admittance. 

The doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame are easily the most difficult to enter among the four major sports.  It represents only the greatest of the great who have ever stepped onto the field in baseball history. 

Should it turn into the Hall of the Very Good? 

Are the BBWAA standards too high? 

The average ballot this year contained 5.86 names, a drop-off from 7.11 a year ago. There were 13.9% of the voters who voted for the maximum 10 players, a dramatic decline from the 33.8% of a year ago. 

This is a sacred place for baseball, but does it make sense to walk through the museum and not see the all-time home run king (Bonds), or one of the most dominant pitchers (Clemens) in history, baseball’s all-time hits king (Pete Rose), much less perennial All-Stars and Gold Glove winners? 

The Baseball Hall of Fame would certainly love to see more inductees. The more Hall of Famers, the better for business. You don’t think the folks in Cooperstown are salivating over the 2025 class when Ichiro’s induction should bring in a record crowd, easily eclipsing 100,000 fans to the induction ceremony? 

This doesn’t mean that every eligible baseball writer should start checking off the maximum 10 names, or that the voters who send in blank ballots should make sure they include at least one nominee. But perhaps we should recognize that not every third baseman has to have numbers like Mike Schmidt or George Brett, not every first baseman has to produce like Lou Gehrig, not every center field has to be Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle. 

The Hall of Fame is an institution, and the induction ceremony is the most fabulous weekends – but the next time we vote , maybe can overlook a few flaws. 

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale 

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