By Dan Epstein
Every baseball player’s goal is to win the World Series each year. Winning is the point of the game. Yet when the weather turns cold, we, the baseball commentariat, have some of our most fraught, hand-wringing arguments over players who can no longer win any games or championships because they retired at least five years ago.
Nothing encapsulates baseball fandom like Hall of Fame voting. It’s nerdy and pedantic in all the wonderful ways we love. Try to explain the pros and cons of, say, Joe Mauer’s candidacy to someone who doesn’t follow the sport.
“Well, he and Josh Gibson are the only catchers to earn three batting titles and he won the 2009 MVP, but had limited production after 30, although his JAWS score ranks seventh all time among catchers, even though his dWAR may have underappreciated his defensive value based on what we know about pitch framing in hindsight…” You could go on and on, but you’ve already lost them.
This doesn’t diminish its importance. Rather, it becomes all the more special because of how much we care about it. The love and detail we invest into the minutiae of baseball’s history and heroes breathe magic into the Hall.
The IBWAA does Hall of Fame voting its own way. Our process is similar to the BBWAA’s, but with a few key differences:
- Every IBWAA member can vote. There’s no 10-year waiting period or vetting process. Everyone is welcome to join the IBWAA and become eligible to submit a Hall of Fame ballot immediately.
- We allow voters to select up to 12 names, whereas the BBWAA caps it at 10.
- We are (mostly) different people! There are some overlapping members of both the IBWAA and BBWAA, but by and large we’re a different group with our own opinions.
Most of the time, the result is the same. We elected Scott Rolen last year, just as the BBWAA did. For better or worse, the IBWAA inducted Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in 2018, and of course the BBWAA has not.
The beauty of the Hall of Fame is its process. Hundreds of baseball writers, experts, stakeholders, and fans who all witnessed and evaluated the same players come to vastly differing opinions of greatness. You are unlikely to find many other ballots that match yours exactly. Each individual ballot is a spark on flint. All of them collectively keep the flame lit. The perfect ballot is your own, precisely because it isn’t anyone else’s. It’s perfect because I disagree.
This is the perfect ballot. Because it’s mine.
- Bobby Abreu
- Carlos Beltrán
- Adrián Beltré
- Todd Helton
- Andruw Jones
- Joe Mauer
- Andy Pettitte
- Manny Ramirez
- Álex Rodríguez
- Gary Sheffield
- Chase Utley
- Billy Wagner
Daniel R. Epstein serves as co-director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America. His writing is typically found at Baseball Prospectus, Forbes SportsMoney, and Off the Bench Baseball.