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Friday, January 8, 2010
Hall voters call for change

Honestly, I can't remember seeing the baseball writers as worked up about anything as they are about Roberto Alomar. Here's Ken Rosenthal with a fairly representative opinion:

Rosenthal isn't the only prominent BBWAA member calling for change. Shoot, Buster Olney believes the writers shouldn't be involved at all (Jeff Pearlman agrees, snarkily).

Rather than editorialize -- Rosenthal and Olney have beaten me to the punch, with style -- I'll simply offer a bit of knowledge and a humble prediction.

First, Rosenthal is absolutely right about the voting population. I've written about this at some length, and if the die-hard baseball fans knew who's being sent Hall of Fame ballots every year, it would be a major scandal.

Or a minor kerfuffle, at least.

But my prediction is that little will come of this. Sure, it would be a neat story if the snubbing of Alomar wound up as the tipping point for real reform. But the BBWAA is a big ship that takes a great deal of time and effort to change directions. I suspect that if a candidate like Alomar was repeatedly snubbed, something might actually change after a few years. But it takes time, and any real movement toward change will likely be forgotten a year from now, when Alomar is elected. The next controversy will come in a few years if Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds aren't elected. That will result in a great deal of hand-wringing and self-reflection, and might eventually lead to something.

I take it back. I will editorialize. I agree with Rosenthal the system is flawed. I don't necessarily agree that the writers shouldn't be involved, but I believe they (we) should be somewhat less involved. But be careful what you wish for. If the BBWAA culls all the current voters who don't really pay any attention to baseball -- and there are many dozens of them -- we'll have more candidates elected. How many more, I don't know. But more, for sure.

More isn't necessarily bad. But more wouldn't mean Tim Raines and Alan Trammell. It would mean Jack Morris and Lee Smith. The standards for election would inevitably be lowered. Not maintained. Lowered.

The system that's in place, however flawed, usually arrives at a good result, eventually. It took too long, but eventually Ryne Sandberg and Gary Carter were elected. It's taking too long, but eventually Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar will be elected. Raines and Trammell? Sure, they've been terribly jobbed. But the Hall of Fame would never endorse any reform that would get either of them elected.

Be careful what you wish for.