I have a message for some of my fellow voters in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame’s players’ division, and I’d like you not to take it the wrong way: Get your heads out of your asses.
I wish I knew what was up with some Hall of Fame voters because if it was simply a matter of looking at 30 former players and choosing the seven you think are most qualified, we wouldn’t get the dog’s breakfast we saw from the 2021 players ballot.
To be fair, it was a packed ballot, with a lot of solid candidates, but for the first time since 1987, none of the new Hall of Famers were former pro players. The Hall said it was the first time since 1998 that no former players were elected, but the Hall doesn’t count former players elected by the special committee, which inducted 209-game winner Hiroshi Nakao that year.
2021 Hall of Fame ballot posts
- Strong Hall of Fame candidates announced
- Deck the Hall time — my ballot and eligible position players
- Another look at pitchers — sorting through eligible pitchers
With a slew of solid candidates on this year’s ballots it’s easy to see how big candidates can split the ballot. Shingo Takatsu led the players’ division vote with 72.3 percent, coming just 10 votes shy of induction. I didn’t vote for him this time, but he’s an OK choice.
But if quality of the player matters, then perhaps voters should ask themselves these questions, lifted from Bill James’ old abstracts:
- Was this player ever considered the best at his position in his league for any length of time?
- Would you expect a team to be a pennant winner if he was its best player?
Shingo Takatsu? He was one of the better relievers for an extended period, but if he was your best player you wouldn’t win a pennant.
No. 2 on this year’s players’ ballot was lefty Masahiro Yamamoto, who I did vote for. He was considered one of the CL’s better starters for a long, long time. He won a Sawamura Award. So obviously, his best was pretty darn good. The same could be said for No. 3, Alex Ramirez. He won two MVPs and four Best Nines.
After that we get into a shit show. I don’t mean to disrespect the substantial quality of all the guys on the ballot. Fifty-eight percent of the voters named Masahiro Kawai on their ballots. He was a terrific player, but if he’s the best you’ve got, you’re not going to win a pennant.
Two hundred and eight voters named him on their ballot. These are people who have been covering pro baseball for established outlets for over 15 years.
I love Kawai. He was a really good player who I thought was underrated during his career, but if you voted for him, I would appreciate it if you take your vote more seriously. If in your carefully considered opinion, you really think Kawai belongs in the hall, then your considered opinion needs a hell of a lot of explaining.
Norihiro Nakamura, a player who deserves serious consideration, got none. He received four votes, and will not be eligible to be reconsidered for another 14 or so years when he can get onto the experts’ division.
Hirokazu Ibata, a much better player than Kawai, got 1.8 percent of the vote. Kenshin Kawakami, perhaps a good candidate, got 1.4 and he’s gone, too.
It’s like there was a rebellion and voters decided that after voting in Kazuyoshi Tatsunami a year ago, and putting strong support behind Yamamoto this year, that no other former Dragons deserved support, since Kazuhiro Wada barely survived the first cut.
There are so many players on this ballot who are comparable to guys already in the Hall, but many of them may not get there because votes are being wasted by people who have no respect for their vote.
If that’s you, I’ll be happy to publish your reasoning. The more we discuss our choices and rationale, the better they should get.