Baseball Hall of Fame President: No Inductees Hurts, But Speaks to Difficulty of Getting In

January 10, 2013 – 7:30 am by Eric Schmoldt

For the second time in four decades, no candidates were elected into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. For many talking heads, it seemed to magnify yearly arguments about the voting process. In Cooperstown, the Hall takes a hit in terms of not having an elected inductee at Hall of Fame weekend, which president Jeff Idelson laments, but he also touts the fact that it speaks to the difficulty in gaining entry into such a prestigious club.

Baseball Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson joined ESPN New York with The Michael Kay Show to discuss his reaction to no inductees being voted into the Hall of Fame Wednesday, what that means in terms of Cooperstown revenue, if voting rules need to change, if more voters should be added outside of just writers and if the voting is too stringent.

Is this a rough day for the city of Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame?:

“I will not mask the fact that I openly root for someone to be elected every year, but by the same token, we have great faith in the process. And it speaks to the difficulty in earning election to the Hall of Fame.”

As far as dollars and revenue, how much does not having a player voted in hurt?:

“Well, it certainly hurts. There’s no secret that Hall of Fame weekend is the biggest [event] of the year for Cooperstown, but I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we’ll probably have a huge number of Hall of Famers who will come back to enjoy the weekend. A lot of fans come just to see the largest reunion of the games’ living legends. And we’ll look at ways to enhance the induction ceremony that will hopefully affect crowds as well.”

Does something have to be done to change the voting in terms of specifying the steroid guys?:

“It’s an interesting question. We think that the rules are quite self-explanatory and it gives the writer the leeway to vote their conscience. I think the only reason we’re having this conversation is that nobody got in this year and it’s uncomfortable to think about nobody getting in the Hall of Fame. But when you look at a Hall of Fame ballot, where in most things in life it’s a snapshot period, it’s not one year with a Hall of Fame ballot, it’s 15. So I’m not ready to jump to conclusions.”

Do you think the process needs to open up beyond writers to other great baseball minds?:

“It’s something that could certainly be considered. Right now, when you walk through the Hall of Fame plaque gallery … you have to marvel at the job that the writers did, because you don’t walk through the plaque gallery and see the plaque of anybody who doesn’t belong there. You can make the case for all of them. At the end of the day, there are a lot more people who are connected to the game than when voting began, but the writers have done a really good job of electing, they’ve maintained the high standards that you like to see with a Hall of Fame election and it should be difficult to get in.”

Do you think they’re almost too stringent with their vote right now?:

“We believe the character clause does matter, and you have to apply it to the eras in which you lived. … What’s also lost in the picture is that we’re three entities under one roof. We’re a museum, we’re a Hall of Fame and we’re an education center. The museum tells the unabashed history of the game. There’s artifacts of players who used steroids, players who were under suspicion of having used steroids, because that’s all part of the game. … When it comes to the Hall of Fame, though, that’s the celebratory part of what we do.”

Would you vote in steroid guys?:

“I don’t have a vote, and it’s irrelevant what I think, because I’m not part of the process. We look through the prism of history and at the end of the day, after 15 years, if a guy doesn’t earn election then we live with that. And if he does, then we’re prepared to honor that.”

Listen to Jeff Idelson on ESPN Radio New York here

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