Hall of Fame president confident in voting process despite no living ‘13 inductees

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America didn’t elect any players to Cooperstown on Wednesday, but despite the shutout and the controversy surrounding the vote, Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said he sees no need to change the voting process.

“We remain confident and comfortable with the voting electorate as well as the procedures we give the electorate,” Idelson said in a conference call after the announcement that no player received the 75 percent needed to be inducted. “It’s worked well. As I walk through the Hall of Fame, there’s not one plaque where I say, ‘This person doesn’t belong.’”

The BBWAA has been voting for the Hall of Fame since the first election in 1936. But the process has been under fire this year after critics said the voting procedure should be changed, and some baseball writers say they don’t feel comfortable policing baseball’s problems with performance-enhancing drugs during what is referred to as the Steroids Era.

This was the eighth time the BBWAA has not elected a player, the last coming in 1996 when Phil Niekro, Tony Perez and Don Sutton split the vote. However, all three eventually made it in.

The induction ceremony will be on July 28 when three deceased new members will be honored: Former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, umpire Hank O’Day and catcher Deacon White.

Craig Biggio, who had 3,060 career hits during his career, topped the list with 68.2 percent of the vote. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two players linked to performance-enhancing drugs, received 37.6 percent and 36.2 percent of the vote, respectively, their first time on the ballot.

Idelson said that nobody in Cooperstown was rooting for a shutout.

“It’s a tough period for evaluation. That’s what this chalks up to,” he said. “Any group you put this up to will have the same issues.”

Jack O’Connell, the secretary-treasurer of the BBWAA, says writers are doing a good job, and that criticism leveled at the BBWAA is based on the fact that the writers don’t elect a great number of players.

He said one way to do it would be to get rid of the 75 percent rule, but changing the rules to elect more players shouldn’t be the purpose.

O’Connell said that in November, Democrats were happy that President Barack Obama won re-election with 53 percent of the vote.

“With 53 percent, you can get to the White House, but you can’t get to Cooperstown. It’s the 75 percent rule that makes it difficult,” O’Connell said. “Guidelines are there. It’s up to each individual voter how they interpret that.”

Voters are asked on the top of the ballot to consider a player’s integrity, character and contributions to his team or teams.

O’Connell said that if a member of the BBWAA doesn’t want to vote, he doesn’t have to.

“Nobody is twisting arms here,” he said.

O’Connell said that five blank ballots were turned in this time, four fewer than last year’s nine, an all-time high.

A voter can vote for up to 10 players, and a reporter asked if the Hall would consider allowing voters to vote for more than 10. O’Connell said the issue has never come up, and Idelson said that the Hall would consider it if the BBWAA thought it was a good idea.

This year, 22 percent of voters selected 10 players.

Next year, former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Jeff Kent will be first-timers on the BBWAA ballot.