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Baseball Hall Of Fame Changes Induction Rules At a Convenient Time

On the heels of an unmemorable Hall of Fame weekend in Cooperstown, and in advance of an expected dry voting period, as Steroid Era players line up for eligibility, The Baseball Hall of Fame sent out a press release announcing changes to its voting procedures.

The changes are to veterans committee elections, which vote in managers, umpires, executives and players whose initial 15-year eligibility has expired.

“The voting process will now focus on three eras, as opposed to four categories, with three separate electorates to consider a single composite ballot of managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players,” the release read.

The three eras: Pre-Integration (1871-1946), Golden (1947-1972) and Expansion (1973-1989).

First Era up for election this year? Expansion. Which, as Keith Olbermann points out, “began” precisely the year George Steinbrenner took over ownership of the New York Yankees. An “obvious ploy” to capitalize on Steinbrenner’s death.

More broadly, the rule change forces the highly-secretive veterans committee, which has a history of adjusting its standards to fit their agenda – be it nepotism, financial, or plain spite – to focus voting to within the context of the era in which candidates performed.

Hopefully that means 93-year old Marvin Miller, the labor man who negotiated for the league’s first millionaire players in the 70s and 80s, might now live to see his induction. Previously, he was snubbed in 2007 and 2003.

Put together, the change is a small step forward for a process that needs to move a mile. The procedure for inducting players, overseen by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), is flawed for a couple of reasons. Mainly, voters have no guidelines except for Rule 5, known as the Character Clause, which states players should be elected based on things like “integrity,” “sportsmanship” and “character.”

This rule has somehow rationalized the induction of card-carrying KKK members, cheaters, womanizers and drug addicts. And yet, the same clause will likely rationalize exclusion of alleged cheats from the Steroid Era, which was so systematic in the game that they named an era after it.

So in the spirit of Cooperstown’s embrace of change, here are three more more proposals:

1. Rescind the Character Clause, and make it purely about players performance on the field.

2. Open up the electorate beyond newspapermen who once covered the sport for a daily. Include more online writers, SABRmetricians, TV and Radio broadcasters, former players, etc.

3. MLB or The Hall of Fame needs to make a declarative statement on how to handle voting for Steroid Era players. Either all of them should get considered, or none of  them should.

[Image = Getty]

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