Hall of Fame announces first changes to voting process since 1991

FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2013, file photo, retired managers, from left, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox gather for a photo after it was announced that they were unanimously elected to the baseball Hall of Fame during MLB winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. La Russa will not have any logo on his cap in his Hall of Fame plaque, the Hall said Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014. Torre's will have a Yankees logo, while Cox's whill have a Braves logo. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

The National Baseball Hall of Fame kicked off its big weekend by officially announcing the first changes to the Hall of Fame voting process since 1991. It wasn't a complete overhaul of the system, but the changes are all noteworthy. The most notable of them being that eligible players who are named on at least five percent of BBWAA ballots in a given year will now remain on the ballot for a maximum of 10 years, which is down from 15 years.

According to the Hall of Fame's press release, three currently eligible players — Don Mattingly (15th year in 2015), Alan Trammell (14th year in 2015) and Lee Smith (13th year in 2015) — will be grandfathered in and remain eligible for the full 15 years. The change is effective immediately for all other eligible or soon-to-be eligible players.

This is not an insignificant change by any stretch, because we've seen many occurrences where eligible players gained momentum and votes in those critical last five years.

It also means players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire will have less time to remain eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. That will force voters to decide sooner on their fate and the fate of other alleged PED users, and it could create a logjam at some point since the Hall of Fame will not be expanding on its 10-player limit.

The player from that group most affected will be Mark McGwire. He was first added to the ballot in 2006 and eligible for induction in 2007, giving him just two years remaining on the ballot. His percentages have been trending downward since peaking at 25.6 in 2008. He came in at 11-percent this year. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa were added to the ballot in 2012, giving them another eight years. 

If 2014 inductee Tony LaRussa had his say, he'd make it easy and let all of the alleged PED users in right now, but he'd also be sure to put an asterisk by each name to ensure they're viewed in a different light.

From the New York Daily News: 

“It's my two cents, but I think you should let them in, but with an asterisk. You can't place these guys ahead of Hank (Aaron) and (Babe) Ruth. It was a bad period. But if a player has Hall of Fame credentials, I think they should be allowed in — a lot of them had Hall of Fame credentials before all this stuff came out.”

The addition of asterisks are not a part of the new voting procedures implemented by the Hall of Fame, and we're thankful to avoid all of the silliness that would ensue if they were. But here are a couple more real changes that are definitely worth mentioning.

• Hall of Fame eligible voters will now be required to complete a registration form and sign a code of conduct.

• The names of those BBWAA members casting Hall of Fame ballots will now be made public with the election results; an individual’s ballot, however, will not be revealed by the Hall of Fame.

Both of those changes are obvious responses to Dan Le Batard's decision to turn over his 2014 ballot to Deadspin readers. That was probably a one-time deal anyway, but not surprisingly the Hall of Fame wants to guarantee that. 

Also, so it's clear to everybody, all changes were decided upon and announced by the Hall of Fame since they control the voting. The BBWAA only provides the voters and has no say in how the system works. If you're angry about the changes, now you know where to direct it. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!