The late Dick Allen missed election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by a single vote the last two times he was on the ballot. But the Hall adopted three new committees on Friday, and for those still pining for Allen, a seven-time All-Star, American League MVP and National League Rookie of the Year, to reach the Hall, the restructuring is a godsend.
The new three-headed system will consist of committees for the Contemporary Era (1980 to present)—which will be subdivided into a players category and another that includes managers, executives and umpires—and a committee for the Classic Era (pre-1980). The system replaces the now-defunct old committees—Today’s Game, Modern Baseball, Golden Days and Early Baseball.
“It’s a revolving process that regularly gets looked at every few years to make sure the best players are going to be enshrined,” Josh Rawitch, the most recent Hall of Fame president, said Saturday in a phone interview from Cooperstown, N.Y. “We hadn’t looked at it for six or seven years, and ultimately the board decided there was a better way of doing it.”
Give the powers that be at the Hall a little bit of credit on this one. After recent controversies surrounding the candidacies of Allen, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, they decided it was time for new rules.
Each of the three committees will have 16 members and one will meet each year on a rotating basis—Contemporary players, Contemporary non-players, and finally Classic players and non-players. The number of candidates on any ballot will drop from 10 to eight, and each member of a committee is allowed to vote for three. It still takes 12 votes (75%) for election, so with 48 votes available, a maximum of four inductees a year can get in, although anyone can stay on the ballot in perpetuity.
One other change: A player must have been retired for 16 years, which means there’s now a one-year wait after falling off the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot, although Bonds, Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa were grandfathered in and will be eligible this year.
Thus, there has been a necessary streamlining of the process.
Under the old system, Allen’s candidacy wouldn’t have come around again for five years from this past December’s vote when Gil Hodges, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Jim Kaat were all elected.
Under the new system, Allen should get another chance in December 2024.
Considering Allen’s recent near misses, his name will almost certainly be included on the new eight-person ballot.
“It should be,” Mark Carfagno, a former member of the grounds crew during Allen’s second tour with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1975-76 and an ardent Allen supporter, said in a text message. Carfagno has campaigned for his dear friend for years.
“At least we don’t have to wait until 2026, which is a good thing,” he added.
Had the old system stayed in place, this year’s ballot would have been packed. Start with the players who didn’t reach 75% in the most recent BBWAA vote and fell off that ballot: Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Schilling. Add Fred McGriff, a favorite who moved off the BBWAA ballot in 2019 after his 10th year with a final tally of 52.4%.
Among managers, Bruce Bochy and Lou Piniella have great cases. Bochy won three championships with the San Francisco Giants and retired in 2019. Piniella received 11 votes in 2018, the last time his committee met, when he was passed over for Harold Baines and Lee Smith, both controversial picks.
Let’s not forget umpire Joe West, who just retired having worked 5,460 games, the most in MLB history.
Now, the players will have the next Contemporary Baseball ballot to themselves, and Bochy, Piniella and West, among others, will just have to wait until their own ballot in 2023. Unlike former Major League Baseball players, managers, executives and umpires are only elected to the Hall through the committee system.
“This is what this really is all about,” Rawitch said. “Making sure that nobody slips between the cracks and that everyone gets a real chance to get in.”
And that should be music to the ears of the Dick Allen or bust crowd in a little more than two years.