The Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) has made a significant change to the Hall of Fame voting process, according to FanGraphs senior writer Jay Jaffe. The BBWAA has voted to make all Hall of Fame ballots an opt-out disclosure instead of an opt-in.
Previously, only about half of all writers would publicly disclose their votes on their own. However, the BBWAA’s decision in 2016 to make all votes public did not take effect until 2018. This new change means that writers will now have to actively choose to keep their votes private.
The previous opt-in system led to over 80 percent of ballots being disclosed each year. This vote disclosure has been a major point of contention in the baseball community, as the BBWAA’s fascination with voting percentages has created a mystique around “perfect ballots.” The MLB Hall of Fame’s insistence on announcing voting results has led to players who were obvious shoo-ins, such as Cal Ripken Jr., Nolan Ryan, and Ken Griffey Jr., losing votes from anonymous writers who wanted to maintain the prestige of a perfect ballot.
Even after Mariano Rivera became the first unanimous Hall of Famer in 2019, the problem persisted. In 2020, Derek Jeter received 396 of 397 votes, with the identity of the lone holdout still unknown.
With the implementation of an opt-out system, it is hoped that this unnecessary pageantry surrounding perfect ballots will come to an end. Writers who choose to keep their votes private will have to consciously check the opt-out box, potentially facing scrutiny for their decision. This change will bring more transparency and accountability to the voting process, as writers will have to stand behind their decisions or face public criticism for hiding their votes.
Overall, this change by the BBWAA is a positive step towards a more open and transparent Hall of Fame voting process. It will bring an end to the secrecy and mystique surrounding voting percentages, allowing for a more honest and accountable evaluation of players’ Hall of Fame credentials.