Maximum stay on Hall of Fame ballot changed from 15 to 10 years


Big news coming out of Cooperstown this morning, as the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced their first changes to the voting process since 1991. The most significant change is that recently-retired players will only be able to stay on the ballot for 10 years as opposed to the current 15.

Three candidates in years 10-15 will be grandfathered into this system and remain eligible for the full 15 years. That group includes Don Mattingly (his 15th and final year on the ballot will be in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015), and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015).

This change is clearly aimed at breaking up the current log jam on the ballot, but it indirectly gives players from the steroid era a much tougher time of making it into the Hall of Fame. Or at least kicks the can down the road for the veteran’s committee to figure out. One alternative to breaking up the log jam would be to allow more than 10 players to be named on a ballot, but that doesn’t appear to be a consideration at this time.

Other changes of note:

– Hall of Fame eligible voters will now be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct. Consider this a response to Dan Le Batard, who turned his ballot over to Deadspin readers this year.

– The names of BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) voters will be made public with the election results, but individual ballot results will not be released by the Hall of Fame. Here’s hoping the BBWAA takes the next step.

Here’s part of a press release from the National Baseball Hall of Fame:

“The Board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant,” said Jane Forbes Clark, Chairman of the Board of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. “We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame – player’s record, contributions to the teams on which the player played, character, sportsmanship and integrity – to determine individuals who belong in the Hall of Fame by the highest threshold, a 75 percent majority. The Board believes these changes are necessary to ensure the integrity of the voting process moving forward.”

Before you start blaming the BBWAA for today’s changes, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that the BBWAA did not have any input in the process:

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.