By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Roy Halladay will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as soon as he appears on the ballot, and that’s not because of morbid “sympathy votes” in the wake of his untimely death. It will be because he was an extraordinary pitcher, probably the greatest of his generation.
You’ve seen all the insane numbers by now. He won two Cy Youngs. He dominated in both leagues. He threw a perfect game and is one of only two pitchers in history to throw a no-hitter in the postseason. He was the kind of rare talent that terrified you when you saw his name across from your team’s starting pitcher, and he was known as one of the game’s best teammates and hardest workers to boot.
Halladay was set to first become eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame in 2019, after five full seasons will have passed since his retirement in 2013. So it’s a no-brainer that Cooperstown should invoke the “Roberto Clemente rule” and waive that waiting period to get him on the 2018 ballot instead, right?
Unfortunately, the timing of Halladay’s death may prevent that from happening. Under the current rules, Halladay will be eligible to appear on the next available ballot – but at least six months need to pass. Voting for the 2018 class takes place in late November. So barring a sweeping last-minute rule change, Halladay still won’t land on the ballot until next year.
In 1973, voters waived the required waiting period to induct former Pirates outfielder Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while helping deliver aid to earthquake-ravaged Nicaragua. He was still active at the time, hence the since-added “death of an active player” clause in the voting rules.
The new six-month wait for deceased players would normally apply to Halladay, who was already a clear Hall of Famer. It will be interesting to see if this unfortunate situation leads voters to amend the wait time or waive it altogether in order to get him on the 2018 ballot. It would be unprecedented, but it would a hell of a statement – and one that a player as dominant as Halladay should be worthy of receiving.
A new video from TMZ shows that Halladay appeared to be operating his plane recklessly prior to crashing, which would be a stark difference from the circumstances surrounding Clemente’s fatal accident. But that should not change your opinion on the kind of player Halladay was, nor should it affect his chances of getting into Cooperstown. He’s getting in, either way.
The five-year waiting period for players on the Hall of Fame ballot is outdated by now, anyway. It was first instituted in 1954 to prevent voters from choosing active players. Joe DiMaggio received a vote in 1945, for instance, even though he didn’t retire until 1951. The criteria for major-league service time to gain eligibility has changed many times since the Hall of Fame was founded in 1936; the current rule is that at players need to be in the majors for at least 10 full seasons.
It still makes sense to prevent active players from receiving votes, but perhaps there’s no need to make them wait until five years after they retire. There was a one-year wait time for many years, so why not go back to that? Halladay would already be in, as would other recently retired surefire Hall of Famers like Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones. If certain guys are going to grind their way to the required vote percentage for induction after over a decade on the ballot anyway (‘Sup, Tim Raines?), then there’s little sense in keeping the wait the way it is.
Regardless of how you feel about the reasons behind Halladay’s passing, there should be a consensus on whether he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. And he was special enough that his death could lead to consideration about changing the way that ballots are cast.
Matt Dolloff is a writer/producer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, CBS, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.