January 10, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Gage

Only truly elite get into baseball's Hall of Fame, and current system ensures that

From left, former players Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas and Tom Glavine were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. All three made it in their first year of eligibility. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

What is so appallingly wrong with the voting process for the Baseball Hall of Fame?

All that ever gets talked about anymore when it gets to this time of year is how flawed it is, how unfair it is, how wrong it is.

But guess what? The writers get it right.

Only the unblemished elite make it through, as only the elite should.

As a voter, Iím proud to be part of a process that makes the Hall of Fame the summit it is.

I have no problem with the fact it takes 75 percent of the vote to get in.

I have no problem with the fact there are only 10 spots on the ballot.

I also have no problem that I vote for Craig Biggio but hardly ever saw him play. From the information available to me ó including the opinions of people I respect ó I can decide if heís a worthy candidate.

I do have a problem, though, with giving away your vote.

Look, I donít know Dan Le Batard. Some people say heís an arrogant blowhard. Others say heís very intelligent.

But what he did by giving his Hall of Fame ballot to Deadspin reeks of being a stunt.

I canít say it was for sure, but something that smells like a stunt and quacks like a stunt is usually a stunt.

If you canít take the time as a member of the Baseball Writers Association to decide whom to vote into the Hall of Fame, then you shouldnít be a member of the Baseball Writers Association.

Itís just that simple. Resign.

And if you donít like ďall the moralizing about the PED suspects,Ē as Le Batard claims he doesnít, you also canít like turning in a hypocritical fan-assisted ballot that includes some of the suspects but leaves others off, as if moralizing doesnít matter if you keep your hands clean.

Itís a voterís way of saying: ďI canít decide; itís so hard. You do it.Ē

Yes, itís tough. But make the needed decisions or admit you canít.

Time works wonders

All this wailing about how the writers do it, though, overlooks one thing. Candidates have 15 years to get in.

Fifteen.

Iíve always considered that incredibly generous.

If you get at least five percent of the vote, youíre afforded every opportunity for your total to climb.

And except for those who are automatic first-ballot inductees, such as the three this year, itís a drawn-out, agonizing process for everyone else.

But it works.

Those who should get in eventually do. That doesnít mean everyone I believe is a Hall of Famer gets in, or everyone you believe is a Hall of Famer, but after all the sifting, what remains in the pan is gold.

Sifting takes time, though.

Bert Blyleven once got 14.1 percent of the vote but eventually was voted in by the writers.

Jim Rice was under 30 percent after five years on the ballot but eventually was voted in.

Some people say they would have gotten in faster if there were more than 10 spots on the ballot. But I donít think thatís necessarily true.

They say that this year, for instance, because Biggio fell two votes short of being elected, getting the fourth-highest number of votes.

But itís the exception to be that close in fourth place.

Since 2000, the average percentage of the player in fourth place is 57.8, not exactly the threshold of being elected.

If you believe the ballot should be expanded, hereís another stat: The average percentage of the player in 10th place since 2000 is 24, making those near 10th and lower beyond the reach of being substantially helped by an expanded ballot.

Morris proves standard

Arguments about the Hall of Fame usually are between the so-called sticks in the mud, as I might be perceived to be, and those who want to open the door to more than those who usually get in.

Since 2000, 24 players have been voted in. The number most frequently inducted has been two.

The only recent player with a sizable amount of the vote to get rejected in the full 15-year process is Jack Morris, whose candidacy topped out at 67.7 percent.

There will be ways for Morris to get in later, which he probably will, as most close calls do.

The only previous player ever to get more than 60 percent of the vote, and still not be in, is the late Gil Hodges. His 15-year eligibility window ran from 1969-83, during which time he received at least 60 percent of the vote three times.

An eight-time All-Star with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Hodges was a mainstay for the Dodgers from 1949-59, averaging more than 100 RBIs per season during that time.

Itís unfortunate, of course, Morris didnít make it in. But the process that judged him ran its course.

He said last week heíd be at a peace with the outcome no matter how it turned out, and so must we who annually voted for him.

It doesnít mean the system is broken, though. It means it works because if Morris canít get in, it must be one heck of a Hall of Fame.

And thatís the point, isnít it?

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
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