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Hall-of-Fame Incentives

In his very good baseball Q&A the other day, Buster Olney didn’t address the questions some of you asked about how sportswriters vote for the Hall of Fame.
For what it’s worth, however, Zev Chafets, author of the recent book Cooperstown Confidential: Heroes, Rogues, and the Baseball Hall of Fame, recently wrote an interesting piece for the Wall Street Journal about how much players benefit financially once they are elected to the Hall, especially if they are only marginally famous. Chafets includes a note on how players are elected to the Hall — although he’s talking about the former players who get to vote, not the sportswriters:

In recent years the money pot has grown as the Hall of Fame, which produces and markets its own line of merchandise, has been forced to give 30 percent of the profits to its inductees. According to Marvin Miller, very likely the world’s greatest expert on baseball economics, this helps explain why the Veterans Committee, composed of Hall of Famers, consistently refuses to exercise its mandate to elect previously overlooked old-timers. “Nobody wants to dilute the value of his stock,” Mr. Miller told me.

I’m sure that Chafets, a longtime journalist who is not known for shying away from an argument, has made some veteran players unhappy by this accusation. But with the incentives as strong as they are, it is not at all hard to believe he is right.