Q&A with Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson

The 2013 BBWAA ballot has been released, with 37 candidates in the running, all of whom hope to earn votes on 75% of ballots cast. The reward for those who do: Earning the new first name of “Hall of Famer” for life when the results are announced on Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET. 

In anticipation of this year’s ballot, Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson gives his take on the election process and the candidates who comprise this year’s ballot. 

What role does the Hall of Fame play in the election?

Since the origins of the Hall of Fame in 1936, the voting privilege has been entrusted to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to consider recently retired players for election to the Hall of Fame. The BBWAA has done an excellent job reviewing candidates. The Hall of Fame has honored and will continue to honor all of those whom the writers elect. 

Who is the voting body for Hall of Fame election?

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) consists of more than 600 individuals who have covered major league baseball and its teams for 10 or more years for daily news gathering organizations, thus earning the right to cast a Hall of Fame ballot. Each will receive a ballot in December listing the 37 candidates for consideration. All candidates who receive votes on at least 75% of ballots cast will earn election to Cooperstown and be formally inducted Sunday, July 28, 2013. 

What about the rules for election?

Rules for election instruct voters to consider a player’s career on the field. In addition to playing record and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played, voters are instructed to consider character, integrity and sportsmanship as criteria for election. These are guidelines. The voters are asked to cast their ballots individually, voting for zero to 10 candidates they believe are worthy of Hall of Fame election. 

Are you comfortable with the rules for election? 

We're very comfortable with the rules.  We consistently review them to be sure they are relevant.  We feel the rules today are fair and relevant.  We maintain an open dialogue with the BBWAA to ensure that the rules are acceptable to the voters. Earning election to the Hall of Fame is a tremendous honor.  The standards for election have remained consistent over time and will continue to do so.  From Day One in 1936, the 75% threshold, along with character, have been a part of the requirements. We believe the BBWAA has done an excellent job, historically, in evaluating candidates. 

What is the Hall of Fame's position on steroids and other Performance Enhancing Substances?

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum represents three entities under one roof. We are a Hall of Fame that honors the games greatest players, managers, umpires and executives. We are a Museum and Library that documents and shares the story of the game’s history and its role in American culture.  And we are an Education Center that teaches the lessons of culture and society through the lens of baseball. 

The Hall of Fame has always been the celebratory part of the institution, honoring the excellence of the game at the highest level. 

Within the Museum, the Library and the Education Center, visitors will find references to the role performance-enhancing substances have played in recent eras. Our new education program, “Be A Superior Example,” (BASE), promotes the core four values of healthy living, including a choice to pledge to live and play free of performance-enhancing substances. 

In all cases, as an educational institution and history museum, our job is to supply the facts and put stories into context, letting visitors and students make their own value judgments about how they feel about all topics related to baseball. 

If someone is elected who used steroids, will it be denoted on the plaque?

As is the case with the Museum experience, the Hall of Fame does not pass value judgments. Plaques highlight the Hall of Fame achievements of a player’s career, with the text measuring approximately 90 words. 

If an electee is later found to have used steroids, will you remove the plaque?

There’s no precedent for removing a plaque.