Hall of Fame changes voting process

Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, right, Former San Francisco Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, right, hits his 761st career home run off Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano in the fourth inning of a game in San Francisco. Photo Credit: AP, 2007

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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - The Hall of Fame Saturday announced changes to the oft-criticized voting process for induction into baseball's most exclusive club.

Starting with the Class of 2015, recently retired players on the ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America will be eligible only for 10 years instead of the current 15.

Also, writers who cast ballots will be required to fill out a registration form and sign a code of conduct. For the first time, the names of those who voted will be revealed by the Hall, but writers still will have the option of keeping their ballots secret.

The need for a code of conduct -- the details of which were not released -- was apparently spurred by the case of writer and radio host Dan Le Batard.

The Miami-based voter allowed fans to cast his ballot for him last year in what he said was an attempt to bring attention to "our flawed voting process."

Le Batard was banned for life from voting for the Hall and suspended for a year from membership in the BBWAA.

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The 10-year rule for players could have a profound effect on chances for forgiveness -- and an eventual spot in Cooperstown -- for those who are believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs.

The writers have shown little regard for players such as Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa, with none of them getting close to the 75 percent needed for induction.

Now, those players will be off the ballot after their 10th year if they don't make it. Players who fall off the ballot will then be transferred to the dominion of the Veterans Committee.

Three players will be grandfathered in and stay on the ballot: Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year) and Lee Smith (13th year).

Some fans have called for radical changes to the voting process, such as allowing non-BBWAA members (broadcasters, historians, regular people) a vote. But the Hall -- which decides the voting structure -- has shown no inclination to seriously alter a process that has undergone changes only twice since 1985, including the ones announced Saturday.

"The board is committed to keeping the policies and voting procedures of the Hall of Fame relevant," said Jane Forbes Clark, the Hall chairperson. "We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job of honoring the criteria advanced by the Hall of Fame -- players' records, 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."

Pete Rose, who (as he always does on induction weekend) has spent this weekend selling his autograph down the street from the Hall, will not be affected by the changes. Rose is permanently ineligible for consideration by the writers because of his association with gambling.

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