January 27, 2021

How the Baseball Hall of Fame can solve its character clause issue
There won't be any new plaques in Cooperstown this year after no player met the 75 percent voting threshold required for election to the baseball Hall of Fame. There are several players on the ballot whose resumes would normally make them shoe-ins, but in many cases — like those of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Manny Ramirez — allegations or proof of performance enhancing drug use have stymied their path to baseball immortality. And then there's Curt Schilling, who came closer than anyone to getting in Tuesday. Schilling isn't tied to steroids, but his controversial public persona and political stances have complicated his case (he's asking to be removed from the ballot next year, though it's unclear if the request can or will be granted.) Those may certainly be valid reasons not to vote for someone, but the voters, who are members of Baseball Writers' Association of America, still face criticism for their choices, and the current focus on the Hall of Fame's "character clause" seems to have sapped the joy from the process, to the point that 14 voters simply submitted blank ballots. So, ESPN's Buster Olney has an idea — instead of making writers the gatekeepers, forcing them alone to make complex, weighty, and personal judgments on ethics, the Hall of Fame itself could apply the character clause and declare which players warrant a place in its halls regardless of their on-field accomplishments.

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