#Hot Corner

The Hall of Fame's big surprise!

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Flo. -- It wasn't at all surprising that Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, and Bobby Cox have just been elected to the Hall of Fame. It would have been fairly surprising if they weren't, considering their ridiculous credentials.

There was one surprise when the results were announced here, though: Marvin Miller didn't come close. Three years ago, Miller got 11 votes ... just one vote short of election. This time around, he got six votes. Well, maybe six votes. The Hall didn't provide full results, merely announcing that all nine candidates who weren't elected received six or fewer votes.

So the question is obvious: How on earth could Marvin Miller lose five or more votes in the same body, over the course of three years, during one of which he wasn't even alive?

The voting bodies in the two elections weren't all the same people. But they seemed much the same sort of people.

Here's this year's electorate:

Hall of Fame members Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Morgan, Paul Molitor, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; major league executives Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Andy MacPhail, Dave Montgomery (Phillies) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and historians Steve Hirdt (Elias Sports Bureau), Bruce Jenkins (San Francisco Chronicle), Jack O'Connell (BBWAA) and Jim Reeves (retired, Fort Worth Star-Telegram).

and here's the electorate of three years ago:

The 16-member electorate charged with the review of the Expansion Era ballot features: Hall of Fame members Johnny Bench, Whitey Herzog, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Tony Perez, Frank Robinson, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith; major league executives Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and Jerry Reinsdorf (White Sox); and veteran media members Bob Elliott (Toronto Sun), Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Ross Newhan (retired, Los Angeles Times) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).

So only four common voters: Whitey Herzog, Frank Robinson, Andy MacPhail, and Jerry Reinsdorf.

There's one factor, then: Maybe Miller's candidacy just wasn't as lucky this time. Maybe a bunch of the voters who supported him last time just weren't replaced by like-minded voters this time, even though the voters are drawn from the same fundamental pool.

There are other factors, though. Each voter was allowed to vote for as many as five candidates. With 16 voters, there were a maximum of 80 "points" available to the candidates. But all three electees were unanimous choices, which means they sucked up 48 of the 80 available points, leaving only 32 points for the remaining nine candidates ... all of whom, we might guess, had at least a tiny bit of support. It's quite possible that some voters believed that Miller was deserving, but that five other candidates were more deserving. It's possible that some voters had a self-imposed limit of three candidates, or four. Which left Miller off their ballot, just barely.

In another piece, I suggested that some voters might simply be acceding to Miller's wishes ...

"I find myself unwilling to contemplate one more rigged Veterans Committee, whose members are handpicked to reach a particular outcome while offering a pretense of a democratic vote,'' he said. "It is an insult to baseball fans, historians, sportswriters, and especially to those baseball players who sacrificed and brought the game into the 21st century. At the age of 91, I can do without farce."

... which would be a fine theory, except he said those words well before the election in which he received 11 votes. So here's another theory (which was suggested by C. Trent Rosencrans): It's possible that a number of voters wanted to avoid a repeat of two years ago, when Ron Santo was finally elected shortly after his death. It looked bad then, and it might look bad now. It might look mean-spirited to reserve an honor until exactly the moment after someone's still around around to enjoy it.

Which seems like a shame. But please don't tell me the process was rigged. There were seven players on the committee who certainly benefited from Miller's efforts, and at least one of them didn't vote for him. Probably three or four. If the process was rigged, he wouldn't have gotten 11 votes three years ago. It could have happened then, but didn't. It could have happened now, but didn't. Don't blame the process, however flawed. For at least one day, blame the voters.

Tomorrow, you can blame the process. That's pretty messed up, too.

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