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Baseball Hall of Fame: Results from community ballot ‘elects’ one player, not Larry Walker

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The Purple Row community couldn’t give Walker the votes for even a fake vote

Well, that was unexpected.

Over the past couple of years Purple Row has published a community Hall of Fame ballot. The same rules applied to this ballot as to the regular voters. An individual can vote for up to 10 players, and a player must appear on 75% of ballots in order to be “elected” to our fake Hall of Fame. To the extent that anything having to do with baseball has a purpose, the purpose of this exercise was two-fold. First, it’s fun to think through the Hall of Fame and just as fun to vote on stuff. Second, this is another opportunity to vote in Larry Walker, giving us the opportunity to talk even more about how deserving Walker is for the Hall of Fame.

While we may have achieved the first goal, we didn’t accomplish the second one. The Purple Row community failed to vote Larry Walker into our fake Hall of Fame. Those results reinforce just how hard of a time Walker has had gaining traction with real Hall of Fame voters, and they may also give a hint as to the real reasons behind the lack of support for Walker’s case.

First, let’s look at the results. We had a lot more votes this year than last year (thanks, by the way). There were 122 votes the last Hall of Fame season and 273 this year. I excluded obvious double-votes from this year’s ballot, which brings it down to 265 ballots total. Walker gained 82% of the vote last year, but this year he got just 66%, nine percentage points short of the 75% threshold.

Graph by Eric Garcia McKinley, via Tableau

I probably didn’t catch all of the duplicate votes, but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. There were some ballots that can fairly and accurately be described as terrible. One ballot had just Edgar Martinez, Trevor Hoffman, and Livan Hernandez. A few ballots had just Edgar Martinez, but there were other ballots that had just Larry Walker. One person voted for just Andruw Jones. And one ballot had two names only: Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel. Some of these may have been troll votes, but some of these don’t look that different from real ballots. Real life voters also cast a vote for Johnny Damon. We can count a troll vote in a fake vote the same as an awful vote in the real one. Again, it probably doesn’t move the needle, and Walker would still be on the outside looking in.

There was a clear top 10 on the ballot, as just 10 players appeared on more than 25% of the ballot, and the lowest percentage among them was Curt Schilling’s 46.4%. It’s small solace, but this view at least puts Walker in the upper thresholds of the vote. He’s not likely to get anywhere close to 66% of the real life vote, which will be revealed tonight.

Graph by Eric Garcia McKinley, via Tableau

Every year we do this, I’m reminded that however stingy I perceive BBWAA voters to be, an open vote actually yields fewer players getting 75% of the vote. Last year it was just Jeff Bagwell and Larry Walker who broke the threshold, and this year it’s just Chipper Jones. Based on public ballots, it looks like the BBWAA is going to vote in three, and maybe four, players this round.

I sort of assumed that a Purple Row community ballot would get Walker in, but that turned out to be a wrong assumption. And that makes me re-think the reasons why actual voters aren’t giving giving Walker a vote. It’s not a combination of altitude and missed playing time. Instead, it’s that people just don’t see Walker as a Hall of Famer. If Rockies fans—or at least people fan enough to visit a website whose content is roughly 100% about the Rockies—don’t see Walker as deserving of Hall of Fame enshrinement, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters from Cleveland who don’t really care to think hard about their vote will support him.

Walker’s case for the Hall of Fame suffers from a perception problem. He hasn’t been the only one afflicted by this, and he’s not even the only one now. Lou Whitaker and Kenny Lofton didn’t even survive one ballot, probably because enough people just didn’t perceive them to be Hall of Fame worthy, despite careers on par or better than positional peers in the Hall of Fame. Andruw Jones looks like he’ll join them this year. Walker and players like Scott Rolen and Jeff Kent have had a better fate, but only if purgatory sounds better than being expunged from the ballot after one try.

To me, Walker is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. The voters disagree. And, it turns out, so do a lot of Rockies fans.