HOF says it's not 'the right time' to increase player limit

The Baseball Hall of Fame's board of directors has decided to retain the 10-player limit imposed on voters, also known as the Rule of 10, despite a proposal from the Baseball Writers' Association of America to raise that maximum to 12.

The 2016 Hall of Fame ballots were mailed to 475 eligible members of the BBWAA this week, with instructions that voters could vote for no more than 10 players. The BBWAA had lobbied earlier this year to increase that number, following an examination by a study committee that found that for the first time, more than half of all voters were using all 10 spots on their ballots.

Brad Horn, the Hall's vice president of communications and education, told ESPN.com Tuesday that the board "didn't feel this was the right time to make a change."

Instead, the board made several other alterations to the balloting, including a change in eligibility that limited voters to BBWAA members who have actively covered baseball within the past 10 years. That reduced the number of ballots distributed from just fewer than 600 last year to 475 this year. The Hall also tightened the number of years a player can spend on the ballot from 15 to 10.

The Rule of 10 has been in effect since the late 1950s, approximately two decades after writers began voting on Hall nominees. The limit had never been an issue until a recent backlog of unelected candidates, largely from the PED era, caused the average number of votes per ballot to rise to record levels (8.39 in 2014 and 8.42 in 2015). The number of voters using all 10 slots on their ballots also swelled from around 20 percent to 50 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2015.

After voters began complaining that the Rule of 10 was preventing them from casting votes for candidates they felt deserving, the BBWAA voted to propose a modest increase from 10 to 12, even though many voters preferred no limit at all. That proposal was presented to the board of directors in the spring.

The board voted not to change the limit at its meeting in late July, Horn said. However, the Hall never formally responded to the proposal, so most BBWAA members didn't know whether there had been a change until this week's ballot instructions were revealed.

Horn said it would not be accurate to call this a "rejection" of the proposal because "this was something that was considered, and there will continue to be active dialog with the BBWAA." For now, however, the Hall will retain the 10-player limit, he said.

"At some point, there has to be a line drawn," he said. "To retain the exclusivity of the Baseball Hall of Fame, entering the Hall of Fame should be difficult. ... And 10 is where the board was comfortable with keeping that line."

The Hall's board of directors is chaired by Jane Forbes Clark and includes commissioner Rob Manfred. Other members include four Hall of Fame players -- Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and Phil Niekro -- along with nine executives from inside and outside MLB.