Baseball Hall of Fame: The BBWAA ballot, rules & regulations

Jim McIsaac

A detailed look at the requirements to the process for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Winter is difficult for a baseball fan, what with the lack of baseball and all that. Normally, free agency is there to sustain us through these hard times, but this year we gorged in November and early December and didn't ration well. With the feasts behind us, we've survived on the hardy, but ultimately unsatisfying Hall of Fame news. Since that is all we have until Masahiro Tanaka smiles down upon us and graces us with Pocky and sushi, we here at SB Nation MLB thought it best if we actually knew just what the heck we were getting in each other's faces about when it comes to the Hall of Fame. So here are the ground rules:

Who's doing the voting and what makes them eligible?

Active and honorary members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) are the electorate for the Hall of Fame. A BBWAA member receives a Hall of Fame vote when they have been an active baseball writer and a member of the BBWAA member for at least 10 years.

What makes a candidate eligible for election?

1) A player must have been active in the major leagues during a period beginning 20 years before and ending five years prior to election.

2) Player must have played in part of 10 major league championship seasons.

3) Five years must have elapsed since the player last played in the major leagues.

4) If an active or retired player (but retired fewer than five years) dies, and they are otherwise eligible, they will be eligible in the next regular election held at least six months after the date of death or after the end of the standard five-year period, whichever occurs first.

5) Anyone on baseball's ineligible list is not eligible (duh).

In the case of a player who was already on the ballot, they must have received five percent of the vote from the previous election to remain on the ballot.

What is the criteria that an elector uses to vote?

From the BBWAA's website:

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

The word "character" has come to the fore in recent years, allowing many electors to demonstrate their ability to create impressive logic pretzels. Delicious.

Is there an inane limit to the number of players one can list on a ballot?

Astute question, dear reader! Each elector is limited to voting for 10 eligible candidates.

This might seem like a reasonable limit to set. I mean, how often are more than 10 players both eligible and worthy of Hall of Fame consideration at the same time? Well, it turns out that when some of the greatest players in a generation history get excluded from a high percentage of ballots due to PED use (admitted, assumed, or leaked illegally, it really doesn't matter), a ballot can get crowded quite quickly. This is where we're at now, and it's not getting better next year with at least four or five worthy names becoming eligible.

What is the bare minimum percentage a player can receive and still get elected?

75 percent

Can the rules change? If so, who gets to decide?

Let's say the rule limiting the ballot to 10 names was a stupid, arbitrary number and needed to be amended going forward. If that were the case, the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. has the right to revoke, alter or amend the rules at any time.

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