BBWAA must speed up its voting requirements

January, 14, 2009
Today on XM Radio, Hal Bodley had some interesting (and surprising) things to say about the BBWAA:

    Hal Bodley from with Charley Steiner says he can't vote for post season BBWAA awards since he's no longer with a newspaper. Notes many newspapers are laying off writers if not going bankrupt, and it's time for the BBWAA to recognize more internet writers (not just the few they recently have). This being unlikely, Hal has an idea. He suggests the Hall of Fame vote be the first arm of the BBWAA to make the move to include a large number of internet writers.

Just a few minutes ago I mailed, for the first time ever, my BBWAA dues. So I feel a bit more qualified than before to discuss this subject …

The BBWAA has made a couple of small steps toward expanding its membership base. If you ask someone in the organization about what's next, he'll likely remind you that the BBWAA was (and is) not intended as an organization for baseball writers; it's intended for working baseball writers who spend a significant percentage of their working lives at the ballpark, in the press box and the locker rooms.

That's a fair point.

Unfortunately, events are overtaking the BBWAA. Newspapers are shutting down, and the newspapers that aren't shutting down are laying off reporters and consolidating coverage. In some cities, even some big cities, there aren't enough BBWAA members to vote on all the seasonal awards. And at the same time the Web is killing the newspapers, all those Web-readers are wondering why an association of baseball writers refuses to include their favorite baseball writers, outstanding writers like Joe Sheehan, Derek Zumsteg, Aaron Gleeman, and all the rest.

Many BBWAA members are still wedded to its original intent, and you can't really blame them. Change ain't easy. But change is inevitable, and so the BBWAA's membership now has a few years to figure out whether they want to get out in front of this thing, or be dragged kicking and screaming.

Including "a large number of internet writers" in the Hall of Fame process would be an excellent first step, and would have the added benefit of actually improving the process. There were 539 ballots cast this year. We know that some of those 539 ballots were cast by voting members who haven't actually covered baseball in many years, and may not have paid much attention to baseball at all. Getting rid of those voters probably isn't going to happen, but they could be more than balanced with all those talented and popular internet writers. Oh, but there's one more thing … Frankly, 10 years is too long to wait. I've been writing about baseball for 20 years, and now I have to wait another 10 before I'm qualified for a Hall of Fame ballot?

Leaving me aside -- my single ballot is, of course, meaningless -- the 10-year rule simply makes it impossible to improve the process anytime soon. A process that couldn't even begin to improve until 2019 really isn't much of an improvement, especially when you consider what's going to happen to newspapers between now and then. The BBWAA is moving, and that's a good thing. But they -- I mean we -- have to start moving a lot faster. The alternative is irrelevance.


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