Pollis: Are secret ballots ruining Cooperstown?

From SABR member Lewie Pollis at Baseball Prospectus on January 7, 2015:

There are a lot of things wrong with the Hall of Fame vote. There’s the fact that the recent bar for enshrinement is set far higher than it’s been in the past (especially for pitchers). There’s the 10-vote-per-ballot limit, even in a year when there are probably 18 candidates I’d vote for if I could. There’s the belated moral panic about PEDs that holds back anyone who is remotely suspected of having used them (no matter how baseless or arbitrary the rumors) even though there are plenty of both dopers and cheaters already in Cooperstown. And then there’s the fact that Kenny Lofton fell off on his first ballot.

But at the top of my list is the BBWAA’s secret balloting system. As you probably know, voters are free to share their selections, and every year a significant number of them do. But the default is secrecy, and voters are not required to explain or even reveal their individual ballots. And that’s a problem.

You probably also know that the right to vote for the Hall of Fame is granted exclusively to journalists who have had some involvement in covering baseball for at least 10 years. In other words, anyone who has a say in awarding the game’s highest honor has both a deep-seated knowledge of baseball and the communication skills to offer facts, analysis, and opinions in clear and interesting ways. Obligation or not, explaining one’s ballot is something that every voter is more than qualified to do.

That’s why, when the thought first crossed my mind four years ago, I was disturbed to find that voters who kept their ballots secret didn’t just vote significantly differently than those who shared their picks—their selections were worse. I thought perhaps that was a fluke until the same thing happened in 2012. And 2013. And the trend continued last year, when anonymity probably cost Craig Biggio an earlier place in Cooperstown.

Unfortunately, the voters weren’t content to let the streak of anonymity impacting the selection process end after (at least) four years in a row: When the 2015 Hall of Fame voting results were released Tuesday, it turned out it had happened again.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=25306

Originally published: January 8, 2015. Last Updated: January 8, 2015.