Journalists

Baseball HOF voters share how they go about completing their ballots; ’20 class released next Tuesday

NY Post's Mike Vaccaro, PB Post's Tom D'Angelo, NJ.Com's Sam Politi, KC Star's Sam Mellinger, and NY Daily News' Filip Bondy share thoughts

Five Baseball Hall of Fame Voters weigh in on their voting process

On Jan. 21 calls will be made to the select men who the Baseball Writers Association of America deem worthy of being enshrined at Cooperstown. Over 400 veteran baseball writers are tasked with deciding who forever belongs within the walls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Each voter has his or her own method of putting together a ballot.

As is the case every year, there are virtual locks (Derek Jeter), polarizing picks (Barry Bonds) and players in their tenth year of eligibility, hoping to finally make the cut (Larry Walker). And, like any year, as ballots become public, voters’ decisions stir controversy within the baseball community.

Baseball suffered terribly this week when the details of an an orchestrated sign-stealing scandal were made public by the commissioner’s office. It cost two of the most respected managers their jobs, Alex Cora of the Red Sox and A. J. Hinch of the Astros. 

As such, the HOF announcement next Tuesday couldn’t come at a better time. It will serve as a short diversion of sorts by stimulating healthy debate among fans about who got in, who shouldn’t have and who didn’t. As such, the announcement of the selectees couldn’t come at a better time.

Five voters, with a combined 15 decades in sports journalism , weighed in on their approach to voting and the process in general:

What does it mean to you to have a vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“It’s one of the real privileges of what I do. Being entrusted with a vote is something I never, ever take lightly because I have such respect for the game and the men who made it what it is.”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“I think of it as both a privilege and responsibility. There is part of me conflicted about the process, and I understand those who don’t vote, who see a journalist’s role as reporting news and not making it.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“It is an honor. I understand it is an exclusive list of writers and I take it very seriously.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“It means I’ve been doing this for a while, for starters. I actually never thought I would vote but, once I got the ballot, I have to admit feeling a bit empowered.”

Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

“I take the responsibility seriously, but I also realize there is no right or wrong approach.”

What is your approach to choosing your ballot?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“When the ballot arrive[s], I circle in pencil the no-braine[r] names (ie Jeter). Then I target another 10-12 and ask myself hard questions about their careers.”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“It starts with numbers, and from there goes to conversations, both with other writers and scouts/players/coaches/execs I’ve gotten to know over the years.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“[If] I believe a player is worthy of the Hall of Fame in Year one, I vote for him. I believe making a player wait a year of two is an outdated notion. I vote for the players whom I voted for the previous year and any newcomers I believe are worthy.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“I usually go with a “big” ballot – this is the first year I didn’t check the maximum 10 boxes – because I understand how hard it is to reach the 75-percent threshold and want players I believe are worthy to stay in the discussion.”

Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

“I just try to stay consistent. In my case, that means voting for the steroid guys. I am not the moral guardian of the Hall. And it is impossible for me to know, in many cases, whether somebody did steroids or not.”

How has your approach to voting/researching who to vote for changed over your years as a voter?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“When I first started voting, if I thought only four people deserved a vote, I didn’t think twice about it. Lately I find that I go the max — 10 names — every year.”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“I used to think it was so ridiculous how a writer wouldn’t check a guy’s box for years and then decide he’s worthy, or vice versa. I can now see how the process is sort of a living thing.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“Having been a voter for just eight years it really hasn’t.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“This is my fourth year, so it really hasn’t.”

What, if any, changes to the ballot/voting system would you like to see in the future?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“I actually think the ballot is perfect exactly as it is, as is the voting process.”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“I think there are probably some voters who haven’t been to a game in years, that kind of thing. I often wonder if football has a better system, but obviously I haven’t seen that one from the inside.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“No changes.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“I can’t think of anything off the top of my head.”

Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

“I was just a little disturbed last year when the veterans committee (Today’s Game Era) elected Harold Baines. If they are going to continue to induct players like that, then maybe the committee should cease to exist.”

Do campaigns by other media members, fans, or family members for specific players to be inducted have any effect on your ballot?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“The only way those campaigns affect me is if they happen to provide helpful information that I hadn’t considered previously. I am never swayed by ‘pressure groups.’”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“I like the fan or media campaigns. Obviously they come with a certain bias, but if you can’t filter that out by now you’ve chosen the wrong line of work.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“I am not one who believes I know more about every candidate than anyone else. Everyone should keep an open mind and learn as much about the candidates as possible.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“A little bit, I’ll be honest. The Edgar Martinez people were very direct and influential….If you want to call me an idiot on Twitter for not voting for Scott Rolen, whatever. I’m a big boy.”

Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

“Campaigns by fans and media members do have an effect, even if other voters dismiss that notion. Their campaigns tend to make us look a little closer at the stats than we would have otherwise.”

Is there a particular player currently not in the Hall of Fame you think deserves to be in?

Mike Vaccaro, New York Post

“Pete Rose. I just wish we’d have been given a chance to vote on him.”

Sam Mellinger, The Kansas City Star

“I’ve thought Larry Walker is the most under-voted player for years. I think he gets dismissed because of Coors Field, but if you look at his numbers, he hit everywhere.”

Tom D’Angelo, The Palm Beach Post

“The two who come to mind for me are Bonds and Clemens, who I changed my mind about three years ago and wrote a column about the reasons why.”

Steve Politi, NJ.com

“Pete Rose. Just because it would be a week’s worth of columns!”

Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

“I think Pete Rose belongs in the Hall, without a doubt. Again, I’m not a believer in the moral guardian factor.”

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Mitchell Bannon
Mitchell Bannon

Mitchell Bannon was born and raised in Toronto, lived in Montreal, and is now completing his master’s in Magazine, Newspaper and Online journalism at Syracuse University. Drawn to almost every sport his entire life, Bannon is hoping to combine his love of the storytelling, personalities and numbers as a sportswriter.

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