James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A plausible explanation why there's never been a unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame inductee

I intend this to be the last to say on this year's Baseball Hall of Fame controversy.

I said my piece about the Bonds and Clemens controversy here.

Aaron Fitzpatrick has a summary of Dan Le Batard's "giving his ballot away" here. (Read it especially if you don't know the controversy.)

I do have a disagreement with one of Le Batard's objections to the voting system. He thinks it's absurd that Greg Maddux didn't get 100% of the vote this year.

I have one explanation why it might happen, and why no one's received unanimous induction. And it has nothing to do with the logic of, "If Babe Ruth didn't get 100%, Maddux doesn't." That's immature and irrational.

I do, however, see a situation of leaving Maddux off the ballot as an outgrowth of strategic thinking in an overcrowded ballot. The strategy is imagining how other voters will behave.

For example: let's say I believe there are 11 worthy candidates, yet only ten spaces on the ballot. (To simplify, let's leave Bonds and Clemens out of this example; pretend they never existed.) Maddux is the class of the candidates. I know that most other voters are far more selective than I am in considering who's deserving, and they will all vote for Maddux. Confident that he'll be elected in any case, I'd be tempted to leave him off my ballot and vote for my 11th-favorite candidate, whom I also believe is worthy of induction.

I believe this is a fair and rational action in a flawed system. And it means no disrespect to Maddux, or to any other of the elites of the elites of any other year. It just reflects rational action of a flawed system: "This candidate doesn't need my vote, but this other candidate does." 

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