Some Final Thoughts on the Hall of Fame Process

Now that we know who is going to be celebrated in upstate New York this summer, the Hall of Fame conversation has now shifted to voting reform. And a lot of people have a lot of thoughts on the matter.

Ken Rosenthal:

Believe it or not, we’re all adults in the BBWAA. We don’t need the Hall of Fame to give us more specific guidelines on how to vote. As long as candidates can remain on the ballot 15 years — and then receive another hearing from the Veterans Committee — they’re going to get a fair shake.

That said, the ballot is so crowded — and will remain so crowded — that the restriction on voting for only 10 candidates needs to be changed. And while the BBWAA currently plans to focus solely on that issue, we should not stop there.

Let’s clean up the voting body and remove those who are not actively covering the game. Let’s reduce the 10-year membership requirement to five to allow newer writers to vote sooner. Let’s require every ballot to be made public, stop being static, and make every reform necessary to ensure the best possible vote.

Jeff Passan:

Because, hell yes, it’s shameful that writers who demand openness from those they write about can hide behind some self-administered cloak of anonymity and cast votes with no merit. And you’re damn right that if 50 percent of the 10-man ballots were stuffed and voters copped to wanting to vote for Biggio except he was No. 11, the process deserves – demands – to undergo a thorough vetting and reconsideration. There are problems in the voting, no question, and in his explanation at Deadspin, Le Batard did a poignant job at pointing them out and forcing the BBWAA to ask itself how to remedy them.

Is it right, for example, that he has a vote? Le Batard admitted he’s not qualified to vote. Hundreds of others fall into the same category – and that’s not an exaggeration. These are questions worth asking. Any organization that wants to legitimize its relevancy – and, sorry, but as long as the BBWAA not only handles the Hall of Fame votes but owns the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards, it will be exceedingly relevant – will ask itself whether it is handling something of great import in the proper fashion.

Jayson Stark:

What kind of Hall of Fame is this?

Is this the Hall of Fame we want to see shining in the Cooperstown sun 100 years from now?

Is this what we want — a Hall that attempts to pretend that players who just happen to hold some of the greatest records in the entire record book are now invisible to the naked eye?

If we do — if that’s what we really want — OK, fine. But I, personally, am really uncomfortable with that. I know I’m not alone.

And I hope the people who run this sport and the people who run the Hall understand that one of these years, they’re going to have to explain what happened in the PED era somehow. No matter which trail through the wilderness they blaze.

At this point, it seems like some kind of reform is inevitable. It might be something as small as removing the 10 player limit, or as large as changing the criteria for eligible voters, but the demand for change is getting louder each year. When the status quo produces this much angst even while electing three candidates and essentially confirming a fourth, it says something about the level of dissatisfaction even among those who are part of the process.

And the level of dissatisfaction from non-voters appears to be even higher, as the BBWAA is publicly perceived as a stodgy, old-guard organization that is slow to embrace any kind of progress. When those in power create nearly insurmountable barriers that serve to keep themselves in power, it begins to resemble tyranny, even if those rules might have been well intentioned.

But beyond just the rules governing who gets to vote, for how long, who they can vote for, and how they vote — I know it doesn’t matter, but why on earth are writers still asked to fax in their ballots in 2014? — it seems to me that there is another, more significant divide that is driving a lot of the ill will that begins to surface every December: a significant difference in opinion over what the ballot actually is.

While this is an oversimplification, it seems to me that there are two distinct schools of thought on the issue:

A. The ballot is a survey of opinions and preferences, and as such, all opinions are equally valid, since it is a question of personal taste.

B. The ballot is a test, a puzzle to be solved, with empirically correct conclusions to be found for those who seek them.

The various reactions to Ken Gurnick’s ballot, which contained a single vote for Jack Morris only, highlight these different beliefs, and I think are well summed up in this Twitter “conversation” between Rosenthal and Passan:

While I have a lot of respect for Rosenthal, I’m with Passan on this one, and do not believe in the concept of “my logic” and “your logic”. Logic is not personal, and we should not obfuscate that fact by referring to our own whims and preferences as if they were logical. It is entirely acceptable to have illogical whims and preferences — I have a strong distaste for mint flavor, for instance, even though everyone else seems to love it — but there is a large contingent of the baseball community that believes the Hall of Fame ballot is not supposed to be a voter’s opportunity to express those whims and preferences.

Instead, we see the Hall of Fame ballot in a similar manner to how we viewed college exams. There’s studying to be done, facts to be learned, and answers to be defended based on the merits of the argument. And yes, there are right and wrong answers. This is not to say that a logical process will lead everyone to the same conclusion, or that the goal is uniformity of thought, because logic can dictate different decisions for different people. But that doesn’t mean that every decision was made logically, or that the process behind each decision was sound. And at the end of the day, what those of us in Group B really want is a process that empowers people who will use sound logic to reach their conclusions.

Group A seems mostly content with any outcome, because by definition, the results of a survey cannot be correct or incorrect; they just measure the preferences of those people participating in the survey. They enjoy the ambiguity of the process, and often are the ones celebrating the annual discord over the definition of Most Valuable Player, because the gray area creates a playing field where all opinions are equally valid.

And this attitude frustrates the hell out of Group B, because many of us don’t see these questions as opinion-based. I like chocolate ice cream is an opinion. 2 + 2 = 5 is not an opinion, it’s ignorance. There is a difference, and not every question is asking for the personal preference of the responder.

For those who see the ballot as more of a right-or-wrong test than a i-like-this-more-than-that straw poll, it can aggravating to see others treat it as a platform to express their illogical feelings. It isn’t saying that they aren’t allowed to have those feelings; it’s just that perhaps the Hall of Fame voting process isn’t the right place to be expressing those feelings.

Unfortunately, no matter how many changes are made to the Hall of Fame voting process, I don’t see a solution to this divide, which means we’re likely in for continuing annual displays of animosity between two groups who simply see the question being posed as fundamentally different. As long as the electorate contains people from both schools of thought, there is always going to be some level of distrust between the two factions.

I think, unfortunately, this is just going to remain part of the process. We can change the rules and even change who gets to vote, but as long as some people view it as a survey while others view it as a test, we’re always going to have frustration from each side towards the other. We can’t legislate that reality away.

So maybe the best bet is to just put the focus back where it belongs, on the players getting elected. And the best way to do that is to ensure that players actually do get elected. If we spend the next decade making up for lost time and putting Hall of Famers into the Hall of Fame, perhaps we can turn the conversation back towards a celebration of the great baseball players of all time, rather than the infighting between the baseball writers version of the Hatfields and McCoys.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


204 Responses to “Some Final Thoughts on the Hall of Fame Process”

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  1. robby says:

    about as good a summary as I could envision. nicely done.

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    • I disagree in part with this.

      There IS opinion involved, even though Cameron doesn’t mention it.

      It’s the old “big Hall” vs. “small Hall” issue. The roiding issue has, to the degree it’s created a “backlog,” affected big Hall voters a lot more than small Hall voters.

      Consistent small Hall voters, or consistent small Hall fans like me, don’t think any major overhaul is needed.

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      • Also, I don’t fully agree with Stark.

        Voters who don’t vote for some, or all, players they thing were PEDing, aren’t they, too, talking, and even “explaining” right now?

        And, given that he’s a “big Haller,” that’s what’s behind this, too, in part.

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      • cthabeerman says:

        “Consistent small Hall voters, or consistent small Hall fans like me, don’t think any major overhaul is needed.”

        This may or may not be as accurate as you think, even when dealing with your opinion alone.

        What I think you mean is that, in your opinion as a Small Hall fan, there will likely never be any need for more than 10 votes. And that’s a perfectly fine position to take.

        However, if you were presented a ballot that had 11 players that you truly believed deserved induction, does it logically make sense that you are restricted to 10 votes? Small/Big Hall preference makes no difference in this circumstance. There’s 11 players you truly believe deserve the honor.

        I think, logically, you would have to come to the same conclusion as anyone, regardless of Small/Big Hall preference: A restriction upon number of votes allowed is not the best possible practice for this election process.

        -C

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        • Actually, no I logically wouldn’t, and I’m not alone. Rosenthal, in his column that Cameron references, says he’s in favor of expanding to 12, leans away from expanding to 15, and totally opposes unlimited voting.

          As for the hypothetical, I’d do like some Big Hall voters did this year who don’t buy Rosenthal (and Costas) on the “authenticity” issue but who knew Bonds and Clemens weren’t getting in this year anyway: I’d vote strategically.

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        • To put it more concretely, here on my blog is how I voted on Deadspin’s ballot, with some background explainer by me. Without Bonds and Clemens, with “just” 10 votes, I got Tramm, Raines and Biggio, among others, on there. And, there and elsewhere, I note why I don’t have some people on there for reasons aside from any roiding suspicion.

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        • Phil says:

          The 10 vote limit needs to be changed, but only because of past problems with voting, not because of a small or large hall debate. No one can seriously believe 10 worthy hit the ballot every (or indeed any) year, so over time the number of inductees should average the number of worthy players hitting the ballot – ie far less than 10.

          If all the players on this year’s ballot had been treated fairly in the past, 10 votes would not be a problem

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    • DrBGiantsfan says:

      I hate Ken Rosenthal. Twerp.

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  2. Eric Garcia says:

    Well put. Myself, I hope to be able to do the fan ballot again next year. With all of the griping about Le Batard giving away his vote nobody is mentioning that those who voted turned in a quality ballot.

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    • Jason B says:

      This! His voters on the whole submitted a more defensible ballot than many (if not most?) that were submitted.

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    • cass says:

      That’s not true, though. Famed sportswriter Joe Posnanski has said that “The Deadspin ballot is a fantastic one.”

      http://joeposnanski.com/joeblogs/hall-of-fame-recap/

      So at least one very prominent writer is saying exactly that.

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      • BB says:

        I stand corrected, although Posnanski is the only writer I’ve seen do that and I still contend most of the BBWAA is haughty as hell.

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      • tolerate says:

        Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike actually said he hated Le Batard’s move, but changed his mind when he saw what a good ballot it produced.

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    • Jonny's Bananas says:

      It is still amazing to me that LeBatard is the one getting destroyed by the entire BBWAA while just a few writers have chimed in on the Gurnick ballot. LeBatard submitted a valid and reasonable ballot that was crowdsourced, something that has been done before and will continue to be done in the future. But OH NO HE DISRESPECTED THE PROCESS WHAT A SANCTIMONIOUS ME-FIRST MOCKERY OF A JOURNALIST!!!!!!!

      The BBWAA can’t go away soon enough.

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      • Preston says:

        As Dave pointed out in the chat Bill Conlin was pushed out of his job because of accusations he molested children in his family (he wasn’t charged because the statute of limitations had run before the now adult relatives came forward). He lost his vote today too, because he died. Otherwise he was a voter in good standing. Dan Le Batard takes what amounts to a fan poll to inform his ballot and he loses his vote.

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    • Nathan says:

      Absolutely. I voted on Deadspin, and I’m sure a lot of other folks in this comments section did (and authors on this website did), as well. The public actually picked a wonderful ballot, overall.

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    • I participated too. Dunno if I will next year. It was better than some “official voters,” but, per Rosenthal, Costas and others, I can’t pull the trigger on the likes of Bonds and Clemens. And, with Sheff, that issue’s just going to get worse next year too.

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      • Daneeka says:

        I hope I’m confusing your words, but are you saying that because the ballot was different than the vote you turned in for it, you wouldn’t vote in a similar system again? That sounds like refusing to vote for President because your guy didn’t win the year before. Again, I could be misinterpreting, but to me that sounds like the worst reaction you could have.

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        • Well, that is kind of what I was saying, and per other comments by other people below, HOF voting isn’t the same as presidential voting.

          And, the Deadspin vote, for a tiny slice of a contribution to a single HOF vote, isn’t the same as having an actual HOF vote.

          If I had an actual HOF vote, and other voters didn’t agree, of course I’d be back next year, Daneeka. But, one out of 10,000 voters on Deadspin? Different story. I might still vote, but it will be with eyes wide open, knowing that the majority of participants have radically different views than me on the steroids issue.

          That said, several players on DS’s top 10 didn’t crack 75 percent.

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        • Wally says:

          If you think about it, the presidential elections is almost identical to that deadspin ballot. Think of the deadspin poll as your actual vote, then the BBWAA votes as the electoral collage.

          So, basically, you’re saying you wouldn’t vote for the president if your vote didn’t go along with the electoral college vote ended up being in your state (assuming you don’t live in a state that actually divides its electoral college vote based on the popular vote).

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        I find it really hard to pull the trigger on two of the 10 best players ever too. As long as we get to put in the 7th or so best pitcher of the 90s in.

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        • Bill says:

          I don’t like people voting against guys who weren’t shown to be cheating, but come on, Bonds and Clemens clearly used steroids to improve themselves giving themselves an unfair advantage. Both should be in based on there pre-steroid numbers, but I can certainly understand the reluctance of people to vote for them. Personally, I think all the qualified users should be let in, but their steroid use should be noted on their placard.

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  3. JimNYC says:

    I can’t agree with this at all. The Hall of Fame isn’t about “logic” — it’s about celebrating baseball. There may, as you say, be “a large contingent of the baseball community that believes the Hall of Fame ballot is not supposed to be a voter’s opportunity to express those whims and preferences,” but that doesn’t make that contingent inherently correct.

    It’s comparable to the voting system for anything else — for president, for example. I may not agree with another person’s methodology for voting for president. I may think their methodology is completely stupid — I know people who vote based on which candidate “seems more Presidential,” which in my opinion is just about the dumbest possible criteria you could have. But we live in a society where we’ve decided that everybody gets to vote their own conscience, for their own reasons, even if we don’t agree with those reasons. We grant certain people voting rights, and deny voting rights to others (non-citizens, felons, children, etc.). But we don’t deny them voting rights because we disagree with their reasoning.

    The Baseball Hall of Fame has also created its own voting system, and has set out guidelines for how voting should be conducted. How those guidelines are interpreted is entirely up to the voters. If the Hall of Fame wants to change its system for selecting voters, or wants to make the voting process a sterile, purely objective process with no personal input from the voters whatsoever… well, that’s their right. But they haven’t done that, and until they do do it, a vote sheet that includes only Jack Morris’ name is just as valid as voter who votes for a Senatorial candidate because they like his haircut.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      Picking who you want to govern you is absolutely a matter of personal preference. Understanding who was better at baseball, Greg Maddux or Jack Morris, is not. These are different questions. Not every vote is asking the same thing.

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      • JimNYC says:

        Two points on that: One, if the Hall of Fame decides that they want to limit the way people vote, or the reasons that people vote, or who they feel should have a vote, they and the BBWAA can certainly do that. As of yet, they haven’t. Voters are advised that “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” There is no further instruction given. If a voter chooses to interpret that instruction as a requirement that a player must show his “integrity” by, for example, never having been ejected from a game, that’s the voter’s prerogative unless the Hall and the BBWAA say otherwise, no matter whether your or I think that that’s foolish.

        Second, you seem to take it as axiomatic — based on your comment here — that one player being “better” than another player is the question which Hall voting is required to answer. I can assure you that it is not axiomatic. That might be your interpretation of things, but it’s certainly not shared by everyone (including me). It’s impossible to make an argument, objectively, that Dizzy Dean was a better pitcher than Kevin Appier. And yet — in my view and most other people’s views — it’s also inherently obvious that Dizzy Dean is far more deserving of being in the Hall of Fame than Kevin Appier. Dean was arguably the most famous pitcher of all time, and his story is a story that future generations of baseball fans should absolutely learn and appreciate and enjoy, while Appier’s is… not.

        You may disagree with that interpretation of what makes a Hall of Famer. And that’s fine. I don’t take it as a given that my interpretation is correct. But you really can’t take it as a given that yours is either.

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        • ralph says:

          I think this is the key point here: “Second, you seem to take it as axiomatic — based on your comment here — that one player being “better” than another player is the question which Hall voting is required to answer. I can assure you that it is not axiomatic.”

          It’s amazing how many people rely on a debatable premise as part of their “airtight” logic. It happens a lot in baseball analysis (see also MVP voting), from both the stat-savvy and those not so swayed by modern valuation methods.

          I’d also add that even if you accept Dave’s premise, “better” is such a broad term to be almost meaningless anyway, at least once you get into players who have a legitimate case for the HOF. Peak vs. career is hardly a settled argument. And of course for some people, winning = better.

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        • ralph says:

          Oh, and when I say legitimate case for the HOF, I am talking about those for whom there isn’t general agreement one way or the other. So yeah, Maddux is pretty obviously better than Morris by almost any measure.

          That said, Dave built up a bit of a strawman there, as I’m pretty sure even those who voted yes on Morris but no on Maddux would agree that based purely on results on the field, Maddux was better than Morris.

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        • Totally agree with you and Ralph. Per Hanns Johst (not Göhring), “When I hear ‘logic’ in a voting process, I reach for my revolver.”

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      • tz says:

        Although “Group A” may argue that the composition of the Baseball Hall of Fame is also a matter of personal preference.

        Which brings us squarely to the current situation.

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      • B N says:

        I disagree with the former part of this statement (picking a leader is preference). You can pick objective criteria for presidential candidates, assign them subjective weights, and have a much better process than most people use to vote. This also impacts the whole premise of Dave’s argument (Objective Criteria vs. Subjective Opinion). Simply because something is subjective does not mean that it has to be ad-hoc. There are tons of methods around for making consistent decisions based on subjective traits.

        For example, see AHP (Analytical Hierarchy Process): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_hierarchy_process

        You take a bunch of traits (e.g., Peak Performance, WAR, Dingers, etc.) and figure out how important you value each of them compared to each other. Then you take a bunch of options and decide how they weigh out on each trait. At the end of the process, you get a number. That number says how good each option was (based on your own traits). It’s purely subjective: you could have picked ANY traits and weighed them ANY way you wanted. If “Non-Steroids Era Player” was a trait, and you weighed that as more important than anything else combined? Jack Morris ballot.

        So, it doesn’t stop every ballot we might think of as “bad.” However, what it DOES stop is ballots that are downright inconsistent. When you’re voting Bagwell “No” and Biggio “Yes” based on steroid suspicions? Good luck being able to ever represent that in a consistent system (the guys were literally on the same team, during the same time period). It also probably forces people to throw some votes to guys like Tim Raines, simply because almost anyone’s quantifiable standards would mysteriously put him ahead of some guys they want to vote for by gut-instinct.

        So it doesn’t have to be either-or. People who actually have to make complex or high-stakes decisions for a living have processes to make decisions, even if the inputs of those processes are subjective. It’s not rocket science, though it did emerge around the same era.

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      • Phil says:

        While I agree with your general point, the example if unfair and refutes an argument that has not been made. I have never seen anyone, not even Gurnick, argue that Jack Morris is a better pitcher than Greg Maddux. HOF voting does still have an opinion based element to it, it isn’t entirely logic (or at least the data isn’t perfect enough to prove it by logic. Of course Maddux is better than Morris, but I do think people are allowed an opinion on whether Bonds and Clemons should be in the hall (even if I don’t agree with them) and you can’t ‘prove’ Alan Trammell does or does not deserve to be in the hall

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    • BB says:

      I thought the Baseball Hall of Fame was about honoring the best players.

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      • Dan LeBatard says:

        Apparently we’re now supposed to believe that Craig Biggio is better than Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Roger Clemens and Mike Piazza.

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        • walt526 says:

          A reasonable argument could be made that on-the-field Biggio is, in fact, better than Pete Rose.

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        • Iron says:

          No, Biggio was not remotely better than Rose.

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        • walt526 says:

          I’m not convinced that Biggio was more valuable than Rose, but it’s a lot closer than you might initially think.

          First, Rose was a slightly better hitter than Biggio (121 wRC+ vs 115), but you need to make an appropriate position adjustment as well as consider baserunning. Using Fangraphs’ positional adjustments and prorating Rose’s game starts, he gets a career average positional adjustment of -5.04 compared to Biggio’s +3.59. Those are per 162 games, so Rose loses -107 runs just in positional adjustment while Biggio gains +60. On baserunning, Fangraphs’ BsR docks Rose -14 and Biggio +32.

          In total, that’s over 300 runs just from the positional adjustment and baserunning. Defensively, both were around league-average for most of their careers and worsened with age, so there’s not much of a relative adjustment needed.

          Rose has 15,861 PA to Biggio’s 12,503 (i.e., 27% more PA), so he accumulated more career offensive value. Of course he also made ~10,062 outs to Biggio’s ~8,088 (i.e., 24% more outs).

          If you weight career value heavily, then Rose (obviously) accumulated more value at the plate. But in terms of holistic peak value, it’s not so clearcut when you consider positional adjustment and baserunning.

          Perhaps a simpler way of looking at it is that Biggio averaged 3.13 WAR per 600 PA compared to Rose’s 3.03 WAR/600PA. Biggio also lost ~300 PA to the 1994-95 strike during his peak, whereas Rose lost ~250 PA in the 1981 strike in his age 40 season.

          Absent the gambling, obviously Rose is a HOFer, but he spent nearly two-thirds of career as a 1B/LF/RF with only a .106 ISO. He was a really fun player to watch, but for the better part of the 1980s he was a pretty mediocre hitter while playing a below-average first base. To put his 1980-86 in perspective, Rose accumulated only 1.3 WAR over 3,685 PA (compared to the 3,358 career PA he has over Biggio).

          Now if you exclude 1980-86 from his career number, then his career wRC+ is 125 rather than 121. But then if you exclude several of the final years of Biggio’s career, his wRC+ will of course improve as well. Of course, excluding those years means 884 fewer hits and so he’d be between Yaz and Molitor in terms of career hits rather than first.

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        • B N says:

          He DID have a much better personality than most of them. If they inducted Bonds and Clemens at the same time, they’d have to build two new wings in Cooperstown for their egos. Besides, Piazza’s vote totals mean that he’ll be in over the next 5 years or so.

          Of the remaining three? I’m fine with people leaving them off the ballot. Rose is invalid. I’m fine with that. If the MLB wants to keep him out until the day he dies, I’m okay with that. However, I do think that it would be nice if they’d lift the ban after he dies so he might have a chance posthumously.

          As for Clemens and Bonds? Let them stew until they hit the veteran’s committee. They’ll get in, no doubt. First-ballot veteran’s committee inductees. The Hall is old. It can wait another decade. I haven’t forgotten what it looked like when Bonds hit a HR so quickly that he needs a plaque ASAP. In 15 years, I’ll still be young enough to have kids that I could bring down to the Hall to say, “Look at the size of that guy’s head! He was also maybe the best hitter of all time.” Same thing with Clemens. What’s the rush?

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        • Drew says:

          His hat size never changed.

          Plus, who hits a baseball with their head?

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        • Drew says:

          Besides Jose Canseco lol

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        • I. P. Freely says:

          Bobby Grich >Biggio

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        • KCDaveInLA says:

          If Biggio played for a Northeastern team, the baseball world would be calling him one of the Greatest Players To Put On A Uniform. He is the greatest Catcher/2B/CF ever, and that’s pretty cool – maybe not HOF-worthy, but still pretty cool.

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      • JimNYC says:

        That might be your interpretation of the Hall of Fame’s purpose. It’s not mine. The Hall of Fame’s motto is “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.” It’s not “These Are The Best Players Of All Time.”

        Joe Jackson is one of the 20 or so best position players of all time; he’s not in the Hall. Rightfully, in my view. Mark Belanger was probably a better player than Rabbit Maranville, but Maranville is easily a better model for “preserving history and connecting generations,” and so, in my view, Maranville deserves to be in the Hall of Fame while Belanger does not. If you’re insisting that there’s a “right” answer to any of these questions, I’d have to ask what you’re basing that assertion on — because there isn’t any set, standard law or rule that says “this interpretation is right; that one’s wrong.”

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        • Mike says:

          The difficulty I have is that when an institution preserves certain parts of history and obscures other parts of history, it is not preserving history in any meaningful sense…

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        • William Hargis says:

          Of course we don’t all think the same. Most of the individuals who visit this site, however, are most concerned with determining who has the best ability and want to qauntify it. Your arguments will not sit well with this crowd because you want to use a subjective argument based on feelings of the individual voter. The BBWAA is feeling backlash for the very views that you espouse, the high and mighty argument that the Hall is for their type of player and not that of the community.

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        • JimNYC says:

          @William Hargis: There would appear to be some internal inconsistency in your last line there. You can’t say that the BBWAA is acting “high and mighty” by voting in the types of players they wish to, while at the same time saying that, first, there’s a single “community” of baseball fans, and, second, that all of that “community” agrees on the criteria for Hall induction and who fits within it.

          The short answer is that in Hall voting, as in life, if you want to say that you have the absolute correct answer for something, you need to, as it were, prove your case. And if one of your points of proof rests upon an assumption that reasonable people can disagree with, then you can’t actually say that you’re definitively right and they’re definitively wrong.

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        • Roger says:

          That motto nicely sums up why Gurnick’s rationale was so terrible and why it offended me so much. He would entirely exclude a generation, the generation I grew up watching. That is the antithesis of the Hall of Fame’s motto.

          It is a museum. It is ultimately about what we believe should be remembered for posterity, but the best players are a huge part of what we have historically said deserves enshrinement. There is some wriggle room, and this article acknowledges such, but there is also a point where the agendas and the lack of sound reasoning being brought to the process are doing a disservice to the museum. It has always been visible to a degree in positions such as “I won’t vote for anyone on the first ballot” or “I want to give player X a token vote because he played for the team I covered”. The crowded ballot, the steroid controversy, and the generational divide among current voters have brought it to the point where the service to the museum is in serious question.

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        • Some good points. And, as Rosenthal notes, memorable plays, like Bonds’ 71st HR, are already in the Hall. Barry Bonds, though, is not.

          That said, @Jim, I’d disagree with your specific example of the Rabbit. Rather, here’s mine: Bruce Sutter.

          I don’t cotton to too many relievers in the Hall in general. But, Sutter was a pioneer of sorts. Where would baseball be today without the splitter?

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        • BB says:

          I’d say “honoring excellence” involves picking the best players. That’s part of the definition of “excellent.”

          I would not disagree that the Hall of Fame’s mission is greater than just the best players, but picking the best players is part of that.

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        • oaktownsteve says:

          Well said, Jim. Well said indeed.

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        • William says:

          The Hall of Fame should be for the entire baseball community. Have fun at Jim’s Hall of Fame which does not include some of the best baseball players because it doesn’t fancy Jim. You could replace the name Jim with most writers because thats exactly how they vote.

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        • crapshoot says:

          “Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations.”

          Oddly enough, they are failing at all three facets of their motto right now.

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      • DrEasy says:

        I think there’s an ambiguity in the term “Hall of Fame” itself. It’s not called “Hall of Best”, and some may feel that the absence of certain players of a certain era in that Hall is an accurate reflection of the perception of the voters of that era that certain players contributed more to baseball’s Infamy than Greatness.

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      • Pumpsie Green says:

        WAR already tells us the best players, and the list updates with every pitch. I don’t need to wait until January for someone to tell me who was the best. As Dave has said many times, the HOF in Cooperstown is a museum. The exhibit pieces are chosen based on the specific tastes of a small club of people who present themselves as experts. If it seems like those in the club chose while sitting at an orange-crate table in their tree fort, so be it. I know my favorite players and – thanks to WAR – I also know the best players. Subjectivity and objectivity co-exists. Has WAR made the HOF irrelevant? Not for me, because I still like the story it tells. But we need to view the HOF for what it is, and for what it is not.

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      • chuckb says:

        Surely you didn’t really think that.

        That’s supposed to be what its mission is, but that quite clearly is not what the Hall of Fame is. It’s terribly unfortunate what the BBWAA have done to the Hall of Fame. It’s becoming a joke.

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    • scatterbrian says:

      Holy apples and oranges!

      Presidential elections grant the winner leadership of an entire country. Players elected to the HOF get a plaque.

      Despite the fact that it is limited by age and can be revoked, voting for political candidates is a right . HOF voting is earned.

      Not to mention the fact that you cannot vote for up to 10 presidents in a given election.

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    • Ron says:

      600 writers who have been writing is not a representative sample. A representative sample would have broadcasters, front office people, and players. A better representative sample would have at least some fans.

      Thisis where the analogy to representative democracy fails. The system is flawed until you have a large base of people representing everybody. I would say we really didn’t have this in this country until very recently with the Voting Rights Act and even know there are issues with out system.

      The Hall of Fame voting is given to a select few. Because many people don’t actually have a say in the voting those who have the vote should be forced to defend it. We don’t have to like their reasons but they should be well thought out and defensible. In our political system the vote is a right that is only earned through being a citizen and living to 18. People who want to vote are mostly not excluded, because it is not an exclusive club for the vote the standards for the vote are lower. Every election some people vote for Mickey Mouse for some position. We expect this as part of the results of giving everyone the vote.

      The Baseball Hall of Fame vote is limited. It is limited because at some time it was decided that this criteria would result in “correct” results. Using clearly faulty logic to support a vote that only an exclusive club can make invites criticism of both the person and the system that selects the voters.

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      • BB says:

        This is good. I don’t so much have a problem with the BBWAA having votes, I have a problem that they are the *only* voters when so many people have devoted their lives to baseball and have a great knowledge of its players and history.

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  4. Alec says:

    Expand the voting pool, expand the ballot seems like it would be the best way to bridge the gap. As baseball writers, even the most stodgy old timers should at least have a basic awareness of the value of an increased sample size.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Eh. The downside is that it’s already incredibly difficult to get a 75 percent consensus among a group of 600. The more the voting pool expands, the harder it’s likely to be.

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      • BB says:

        I’d say Deadspin’s experiment proves this to be incorrect.

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        • RickyB says:

          While the Deadspin ballot voted for 10 players, most of those players did not get 75 percent of the fan vote. Check marks went next to players with at least 50 percent (except for the ones barely above 50 percent because more than 10 got to that threshold.

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        • Ian R. says:

          As RickyB said, not all 10 players on the Deadspin ballot cleared the 75 percent threshold. More did on than on the BBWAA ballot, yes, but did the DS voting enforce the ten-player limit? (Legitimate question – I didn’t participate.) It’s also quite possible that Deadspin readers are a more homogeneous group than the BBWAA.

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        • BB says:

          Even if only four players exceeded 75%, thousands voted.

          The idea that if we have thousands of voters that there won’t be enough consensus to elect anyone is a bit much. I don’t believe that people’s opinions on the best players of all time vary *that* much.

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        • Ian R. says:

          I don’t think an expanded electorate would fail to induct ANYONE, but just look at the Deadspin results. Clearing 75 percent, we have the three guys inducted by the BBWAA, a fourth guy (Biggio) who came within two votes and a fifth (Piazza) who will very likely go in in a year or two. That doesn’t look like a huge difference.

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      • Tim F. says:

        If the vote was unanimous, then YES. However, we are only looking for a percentage, so if you increase the percentage of “better” voters in the population, you will end up with “better” results.

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      • TKDC says:

        Is this really true? 600 is a fairly representative sample. If you ask 600 people if they like chocolate ice cream, and 80% say yes, that means there is a very, very strong likelihood that if you ask another 600 people the same question, around 80% would also say yes. This is how polling works.

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        • walt526 says:

          You’re confusing “representative” with the law of large numbers (LLN).

          LLN is the theorem that states that sample means will converge toward the population parameter as either sample size increases or the experiment is repeated multiple times.

          On the other hand, a representative sample is one where the sample is acquired randomly from some underlining population.

          You’re correct that a sample size of 600 is sufficiently large to yield a consistent estimate of a population’s judgment of whether a player is HOF worthy or not since the threshold is 75% (if the threshold were closer to 50%, we’d need a larger sample size).

          But having a representative sample is an antecedent of the LLN, not a consequence. The present HOF voting pool is (likely) not representative of the population of people who have a well-informed opinion about HOF-worthiness. That’s the whole point of expanding the pool, to get a different mix of opinions. Increasing the HOF voting pool from the current ~600 to ~1200 would change the outcomes if the new 600 voters have opinions that deviate from the existing 600 voters.

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        • TKDC says:

          I was assuming the HOF voters were representative of the plausible pool of HOF voters. Perhaps that is a bad assumption. In any case, you would think that if the voters were expanded, it would be done in a way that would make the total pool better, not worse, and that more worthy candidates would be elected (along with fewer unworthy candidates).

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      • Jay29 says:

        Not if you expand to include people who know what they’re doing — reduce the limit to 5 years in the BBWAA and suddenly you introduce more people under 40 to the vote, people who pay attention to the advancement of analytics, people who are willing to think flexibly and not stubbornly stick to old ideas when new evidence is presented. People like those that work for FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball Reference, Baseball Think Factory, etc.

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        • Ian R. says:

          Sure, but even if you did that, the old-timers would still represent a large enough bloc to stop certain candidates from getting in. Remember that a fair number of younger voters are hesitant to induct Bonds, Clemens, etc. as well.

          I’m not opposed to expanding the electorate. I’m just saying there’s a decent chance it would make the current backlog worse, not better.

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  5. Kevin says:

    There is a lot of bickering for a system that gets it right every year. Deserving guys get in and fringe guys are on the fringe. Nobody has a good idea on how to handle the steroid guys, so this as good of a process as any. Deadspin poll basically had the same results. The activists need to take a break and watch some college baseketball or something.

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  6. KCDaveInLA says:

    LeBatard isn’t qualified to vote due to his proximity to the Marlins franchise.

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  7. Dan LeBatard says:

    I feel more confident by the hour that I did the right thing.

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  8. Xeifrank says:

    I really hope that these are indeed the “final thoughts” on the Hall Of Fame process.

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    • cass says:

      Have you seen how many more comments the HoF articles get than any other articles this time of year? It’s gotta be driving a lot of traffic. People love talking about (and arguing about) the Hall of Fame. And nothing else is going on right now, unless you want an in-depth analysis of the Nationals signing Jamey Caroll or yet still more speculation on Tanaka while nothing has actually happened yet.

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  9. kevinthecomic says:

    “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

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  10. Deadspin Readers says:

    Baseball HOF voting process > Tebow

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  11. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Excellent piece, Dave.

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  12. TKDC says:

    Maybe the vote would be better if the writers had to keep them confidential? At least it would prevent disgusting grandstanding like Gurnick.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Yeah, make it as opaque a process as possible!

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      • TKDC says:

        Who, besides self important jerks, would vote differently if they could not publicize their votes?

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        • Joe P. says:

          The exact opposite of what you suggest is what ought to be mandated. Public ballots lead to more coherent, “better” ballots. As best I’m aware, the only person not to vote for Greg Maddux whose vote is also public is Ken Gurnick, while the rest all voted the way they did in secret. And I actually don’t think Gurnick was grandstanding so much as he is an intellectually lazy nitwit. He seems not to have approached his ballot with any intellectual rigor, and it seems his public shaming for doing so led to him giving up his vote, which is a good thing.

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        • Joe P. says:

          (Link to my source for the assertion about better ballots on the word “ballots” in the previous post. Didn’t realize that the link would show up as indistinguishable.)

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        • TheGrandslamwich says:

          Pollis wrote a similar article for this year’s voting on BP.

          http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22531

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    • Ian R. says:

      I imagine it should be the other way around. Make the voting public, and make those other 15 guys explain why they left Maddux off their ballots.

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      • TKDC says:

        Maddux was elected. I don’t understand the brouhaha over unanimous election, though I think it is dumb as hell to not vote for Maddux. Would the Gurlick’s of the world fill in effed up ballots if they couldn’t publicize them along with a grandiose screed of their supposed piety? At the very least we wouldn’t be subjected to such drivel.

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  13. Ira says:

    I’d just like to point out the amazing irony that BBWAA writers are demanding that LeBatard be stripped of his vote, despite not breaking any rules, when the BBWAA voters themselves have sought, through this voting process, to discount or discredit the performance of players who broke no MLB rules for PEDs when they were active.

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    • Ian R. says:

      I’m not sure how that constitutes irony – in both cases they’re attempting to punish people who didn’t break rules – but that’s a good point.

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  14. Old School Voters says:

    Pitcher wins are the 2nd most important stat. Right behind saves!

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    • Youppi! says:

      exactly, hence Glavine with 92% and Mussina with 20%. I bet those extra 850 IP helped get 35 more wins and 18.2 less WAR.

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      • Harry says:

        just as wins do not necessarily signify who was the better pitcher, neither does WAR. Glavine had more RA9 WAR than Mussina over his career.

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        • Stringer Bell says:

          He also pitched in the NL East his entire career, as opposed to Mussina, who pitched in the incredibly difficult AL East.

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        • TKDC says:

          Look at Mussina’s actual splits by opponent (17 more starts against teams with a losing record than a winning record; Glavine on the other hand pitched 42 more the other way). Remember that the AL East was for a long time a two-team division and he played for one of them. This is a trope that needs to die.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Excellent! I look forward to Lee Smith’s induction speech.

      Oh wait…

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    • KCDaveInLA says:

      Then what about Lee Smith? Jeff Reardon? Quisenberry??

      Joking aside, I think the Trevor Hoffman voting will be intriguing when it comes up. (Not a Hall-of-Famer, IMHO)

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  15. smity says:

    At least the BBWAA doesn’t lack diversity or suffer from groupthink.

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  16. Jacob says:

    A new way to game the system:
    next year there is no reason to vote for Randy Johnson or John Smoltz. They are guaranteed to get in. Vote for players #3-12 on your ballot.

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    • AK7007 says:

      I think this is already happening. Schulman was swayed into voting for Kent even though he wasn’t in his top 10 by a reader who pointed out that Kent would fall off the ballot if everybody just chose the top 10.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Not sure Smoltz is quite so automatic. He has the 3,000 strikeouts, but so does Schilling, and he’s had a heck of a time so far. Right now I’m having a hard time seeing any pitcher who didn’t win 300 games as a slam dunk with the writers.

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  17. joe says:

    If you expand the limit then you have a possibility of more guys getting voted in at once. I’d rather it not be like an awards ceremony where the band starts playing 1 minute into the speech. I for one would rather there be a limit of players inducted each year. Or maybe do multiple inductions – one a the beginning of the season one in the middle – I’m sure Cooperstown would like that.

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    • AK7007 says:

      Murray Chass, is that you? What are you doing commenting on a blog – I thought you hated those: http://www.murraychass.com/?p=4206

      “Ceremony is too long” might be the absolute shittiest reason in the history of shitty reasons not to vote people into the HOF.

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      • Bhaakon says:

        Be that as it may, I’m sure the HOF would much prefer two inductees a year for five years over ten in one year and zero for the next four. Metering inductions to prevent dead years is in their best interest. When no one gets elected, induction weekend crowds suffer.

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  18. AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

    Dave says there is a large contingent of the baseball community that believes the Hall of Fame ballot is not supposed to be a voter’s opportunity to express those whims and preferences. This could also be said about the Awards MVP, Cy Young and so forth. I would change that to a large vocal contingent that takes every opportunity to call for change. If and when they become a majority the rules will change. Until then like minds are arguing among themselves.

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    • AK7007 says:

      The rules are not up for discussion though. Even if there is a majority that desires change, they have no power besides leaving.

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  19. scatterbrian says:

    Has the character clause ever pushed someone over the top to get them elected? A player who was borderline, but his contributions to charities/the community/etc. helped get him in.

    Or does the character clause only exist to keep guys out?

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    • AK7007 says:

      Yes and no. I don’t know that I’ve heard of people talk about off the field things pushing people over the top, but I know that people have been railing for ages about Jack Morris’ “heart and desire” as things that make him a no doubter – who cares about his stats?

      Recently, it’s about keeping people out.

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    • ReuschelCakes says:

      Kirby Puckett. See how that worked out?

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    • JamesDaBear says:

      Clemente was given an express lane because of his character (though they would have voted him in anyway).

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  20. The Humber Games says:

    I say open up hall voting to anyone who can pass a very difficult test involving baseball history and statistics – thus demonstrating a relevant proficiency. Must retest every ten years to remain eligible. Can be revoked by the HOF for blatant improper use of a vote (ex:submitting a blank ballot, giving your ballot to someone else). Never going to happen, but I fail to see why the BBWAA should be the anointed ones who have the only say in voting.

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  21. G Man says:

    If the poll for Le Batard’s ballot had determined election to the HoF rather than Le Batard’s ballot, it would have been the same electees + Piazza and Biggio, who will get in eventually, and a higher share for some other worthies.

    The public is as divided as BBWAA on Clemens and Bonds…

    Anyway, my suggestion is to let the public vote, then the BBWAA can act like an electoral college.

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    • Troy says:

      “The public is as divided as BBWAA on Clemens and Bonds”
      Not totally true…
      clemens – 66.6% on deadspin, 35.4% bbwaa.
      bonds – 64.9% on deadspin, 34.7% bbwaa.

      essentially double the support for both, and not far off from 75% for the deadspin voters.

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  22. Anon says:

    I don’t agree with how group A is framed as voting on a whim. Some of the people might vote in that way, but many of the people in group A probably analyze performance the same as group B. Group A and B both have a focus of on-field performance, but group A also has other concerns that factor into voting. I think the present voting process supports group A. The voting instructions don’t say to vote for the best on-field performance and ignore other considerations. Lots of ways exist to look at the HoF debate, not all of which are contradictory. (big vs small hall, traditional vs new stats, fame vs merit, integrity vs performance, etc.)

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  23. Grandy Johndux says:

    someone may have said this above, I don’t know.

    Let’s say, in 10, or 20, or 50 years, someone develops the perfect WAR (pWAR). I’m not talking about what we have now, which is squishy, has giant error bars, and doesn’t even consider whole areas of enormous value like pitch framing.

    I’m talking about the Perfect Measurement of Player Value. It takes into account every skill players can influence, and it weights all of those skills perfectly before spitting out an exact, precise, measurement of how much each player contributed to his team’s success. In addition, we know that it’s perfect; there’s no more, or very few and small, unknowns left in sabermetric analysis. Given two players of sufficiently unequal pWAR, we know that the player with more pWAR is “better” (at playing baseball, at least). (sounds like a sad world, now that I think about it)

    Cameron’s argument is tantamount to saying that in this future of perfect WAR, all we need to do is set a benchmark (let’s say 60 pWAR), and then if players exceed that benchmark of pWAR, they should automatically be voted in.

    Others have mentioned this above, but that’s not — I repeat, not — what the HoF is about. In the induction guidelines, it says: “Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played. ” There is specific mention given to things other than which players are better at baseball than others. So to me, Cameron is willfully misinterpreting or ignoring the guidelines, in a way that is not a lot better than what Gurnick did (which was fully idiotic).

    If you’re going to vote, it seems like you sign up to vote based on those guidelines, not your own rubric. If you want to change the rules so that it’s just “Player A was better than Player B, hence deserves enshrinement”, that’s fine, but you should go ahead and actually change the guidelines–don’t just advocate that everyone ignores the guidelines as written.

    Last but not least, a pWAR-based Hall (or one where it’s solely determined by player “goodness”) is not a very interesting one. That’s otherwise called a Leaderboard, and leaderboards are cool and all, but sometimes it’s really neat to elaborate on them and develop narratives and highlight people who, for whatever reasons, weren’t able to achieve the necessary pWAR but were still awesome and worth celebrating. You know; folks like Ichiro Suzuki, who probably will never get up to the pWAR threshold, but for reasons entirely beyond his control. He’s awesome, and even though he’s not necessarily better than Barry Bonds, I feel a lot better celebrating his greatness than I do Bonds’ records.

    … I eagerly await all of the downvotes.

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    • DNA+ says:

      I think you are obviously correct, and your most important point is how boring that really would make the HOF.

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    • Bip says:

      As WAR gets more developed and accurate, and as more people start to accept it, I could see something like a WAR threshold that guarantees induction, like 80 or something. There would still be a voting process for all other players, but I’m not sure it would be a bad idea to have a guarantee that the absolute best – the kind the smallest of small hallers couldn’t deny – will get in, and that their meaningful numbers won’t be ignored because of narrative, or because writers think the player doesn’t seem like a hall of famer.

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      • Grandy Johndux says:

        Right, but, imagine a player who was at like 82 WAR when they retired. Just prior to their first year of eligibility, it comes out that this player probably murdered someone. Is it so wrong to say, “No, I don’t think they should be in the Hall of Fame.”?

        Obviously Bonds and Clemens didn’t do anything so heinous. But the position of Cameron and others–that we shouldn’t consider character–is outright contradictory to the guidelines of the Hall of Fame which they are supposed to be voting within.

        Furthermore, and this is important, if you do consider character, it’s no longer an “empirical”, or “logical” decision to be made. That’s because we don’t have a character WAR, and we never will. What is a good person is undoubtedly a matter of opinion. That’s where Cameron is way wrong, and why this whole piece is wrong.

        Finally, that’s why it’s totally reasonable to not believe Bonds and Clemens should be elected. I am sympathetic to the argument that they are so good at baseball it outweighs their character concerns. But I can also understand the people who say “cheaters shouldn’t prosper”, and it doesn’t matter how good they were, they got to that greatness illegitimately. If character is a criterion, which it is!, then both of those viewpoints are defensible.

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      • DNA+ says:

        The best of the best players are all in the HOF unless they aren’t for some very obvious reason such as betting on baseball or using PEDs. It seems a large swath of people don’t want the latter group in the HOF, but having a WAR cutoff would automatically put in a lot of these people that don’t have much support otherwise. Why should we remove the voting process for these people while retaining it for the marginal HOF cases? It seems the whole usefulness of the voting process if for dealing with both of these situations.

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    • Steven says:

      Why do you think we will ever get to the point where WAR will be perfected? That seems like a rather specious argument and not at all related to the issue at hand. We haven’t perfected WAR, and we still have legitimate arguments over what constitutes a Hall of Famer. Additionally, how is using a player’s value in deciding the Hall of Fame preventing the telling of narratives? Thousands of objects are held there that tell interesting stories not concerning a Hall of Fame players.

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      • Grandy Johndux says:

        The issue at hand is whether the Hall vote is an empirical, purely objective question or not.

        I use a thought experiment about pWAR because I think it helps you realize how boring and facile a Hall based only on the empirical question (“Which players are best at baseball”) would be. It would be a leaderboard.

        The Hall isn’t a leaderboard. It’s at least partially based on character; that’s in the criteria for induction. You may not like the criteria, but I see a whole lot of people, including Dave Cameron, just pretending that character and integrity and narrative aren’t part of induction. They are, by rule. To return to the beginning, whether a given player is worth induction is a subjective question because those fuzzy things are part of the criteria.

        What about my argument is specious? The idea that one day we will have a vastly improved version of WAR which encapsulates the vast majority of a player’s value? I think that’s pretty plausible. I think we’ll get there because we are already a solid portion of the way there, and people are still finding productive and interesting ways to improve WAR at a rapid rate (e.g. pitch framing, modifications to DIPS, etc.). I see no sign that the progress won’t continue until we have something like pWAR.

        Narratives get disrupted in an empirical WAR HoF because the reason a given player is in the Hall is because they met a numerical value threshold. That’s all. There’s not a special story behind their success, there’s not some particular thing that distinguishes them and puts them over the top; it’s just that their value, over their career, was greater than an arbitrary number. Exciting, right? It also kicks out Suzuki, and probably plenty of others like him.

        And then you start talking about the museum’s collections, which are cool and I’m pretty sure have nothing at all to do with my comment.

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        • Steven says:

          At what point did Dave say the criteria would be if a player achieves x WAR, he’s a Hall of Famer? That’s a strawman argument. You can look at actual value in terms of peak and longevity. How you combine the two would lead to an interesting discussion. For Ichiro, if his career ended up at 55 WAR and 60 WAR was the artifical limit, then how do you weigh his career versus his peak? For Mariano Rivera, how do you weigh his sustained excellence as a reliever? You can easily look solely at actual value on the ball field and create interesting discussion.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          You’re accusing me of making a strawman argument I didn’t make. It’s like a double-strawman. My point is that someday, it will be like a WAR threshold, when WAR is far enough along. That’s the future Dave Cameron would make, if you reduce it to the “empirical” question of which players are better; the only reason it’s not here already is that WAR isn’t sufficiently far along. I know he didn’t say that (hence, not a strawman), but that’s what his argument leads towards (I’m using an argument ad absurdum).

          You’ve also failed to engage with the main point, which is that character is part of the voting. Again, that may be distasteful to you or to Dave, but it’s there, it has to be dealt with. Maybe you want to change the rules, but right now, the rules state that integrity/character/mushy stuff is part of the decision.

          I’m not concerned with “interesting discussion”. I’m concerned with the Hall enshrining interesting people who were also really good at baseball. There’s really no argument for e.g. Mo Rivera if you’re only concerned with the Value As Baseball Player part of things (a mere 40WAR to his name…).

          In fact, according to Dave, there is one and precisely one logic that sets Hall of Famers, so there’s no discussion at all; it amounts to a computation–does player X meet the standard, whatever the standard is. You tried to reinterpret his words below, but they really don’t bear any other interpretation: he thinks there is only one way to define HoF-quality. There is only one weight of peak vs. longevity; there is only one set of stats that matter. There is only one real logic; he literally says that. Dave’s is not a narrative-based Hall. It’s a threshold above which excellent players get plaques. Maybe that’s a Hall you want; it doesn’t sound so great to me.

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        • Steven says:

          I don’t see Dave saying there is only one set of logic: “This is not to say that a logical process will lead everyone to the same conclusion, or that the goal is uniformity of thought, because logic can dictate different decisions for different people. But that doesn’t mean that every decision was made logically, or that the process behind each decision was sound.”

          He explicitly says there is no one set of logic to voting which debunks the notion he wants a single, explicit WAR threshold. Merely, he wants voters to utilize some sort of logical coherence.

          I agree that the character/integrity rule is something to debate as to its weight, but a voter shouldn’t use such faulty logic to vote only for Jack Morris because he didn’t play in the steroid era. Hopefully we can agree that vote wasn’t very good.

          I’d be hard pressed to see the logic in denying all steroid era players when many other players who used PEDs are already elected. I’d also be hard pressed to see the logic in denying Curt Schilling a vote. There is room for voters to use their own logic, but they need to apply their logic equally across all candidates. If character/integrity is very important to a voter, you can’t just assume all steroid era players took steroids and all pre-steroid era players never took PEDs. If value is very important to you, you need to actually look at the results of what the players have done; they will see there is no way Jack Morris is more deserving than Curt Schilling.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          huh. I guess Dave contradicts himself then? Cause he also says this:

          “While I have a lot of respect for Rosenthal, I’m with Passan on this one, and do not believe in the concept of “my logic” and “your logic”. Logic is not personal, and we should not obfuscate that fact by referring to our own whims and preferences as if they were logical.”

          That seems to be saying that there’s only one logic that’s OK. Also the whole bit about math and exam questions. Exam questions tend to have one right answer (especially math exam questions).

          If–a big if–he is saying that there’s multiple acceptable logical ways of deciding HoF-ness, then he shouldn’t be arguing against people who want to keep PED users out. That is a logically consistent point of view; he may disagree with it, but it’s logically consistent. Even Gurnick’s ballot may be logically consistent, if he’s able to articulate a clever argument for it (which he probably isn’t).

          Likewise, there are other points of view which would produce wholly different ballots than his. If that’s what he’s saying, then why is he upset that Biggio didn’t get in? Why is he so peeved about Bonds and Clemens? They are proven-steroid takers. If it is my belief that cheaters shouldn’t be rewarded with the Hall, that belief is perfectly logically consistent with not voting for those guys. Character can matter. Integrity can matter. And should, according to the rules.

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        • Steven says:

          I see your point and I guess this is as far as I can go in trying to figure out what Dave was saying. My interpretation was that he was peeved that a voter would vote only for Morris and keep out all steroid era players. If you want to use the character/integrity clause, then you have to actually look at the character and integrity of the players not just say they were all part of the steroid era. And if you vote for Morris because he had good character/integrity and provided Hall of Fame value on the field, you should have to vote for Mussina too who was also known for good character/integrity (with no steroid allegations) and provided more value on the field.

          I’m not sure if this is Dave’s argument exactly, but this is what I gleaned.

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    • Robbie314 says:

      “…I eagerly await all of the downvotes.”

      Clicked on wrong button. Sorry.

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  24. diderot says:

    Speaking of logic, three things seem apparent to me:
    1) asking ‘baseball’ to fix the problem is illogical. MLB does not run the HOF.
    2) Asking the Hall to ‘fix itself’ might be possible; but it seems unlikely that some part of the BBWA membership would not be up in arms no matter what new rules were ‘forced upon’ them.
    3) Consequently, Passan is absolutely right–the fix needs to be argued and agreed upon by the BBWA itself. Any voter complaining about the current system is disingenuous; the writers themselves hold the only potential for a solution.

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  25. fromthemachine says:

    Good article, but I’m not buying the ‘one logic’ bit.

    Simple logic says that Barry Bonds was one of the best hitters of all time, so he should be in the Hall of Fame.

    Complicated logic would ask questions like, “Why was Barry Bonds one of the greatest hitters of all time?” When you go down that path, morality, semantics and opinion begin to muddy a once simple statement.

    I think PED guys should be in the Hall of Fame. I don’t think morality should play into it. But I can sympathize with baseball writers who spent a decade asking these guys questions about steroids, only to be lied to directly, and in some cases even coerced into berating their colleagues for asking too many questions. That kind of thing is hard to forget/forgive/overlook.

    If we want to revert the HOF arguments back to simple logic, we will most likely need to remove the human element. I hear the BCS computers are looking for work. But then, the simple logic they used was prone to critique and conjecture as well.

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    • Ian R. says:

      The BCS was flawed in large part because it took into account a coaches’ poll from before the season even started. It’d be like inducting top prospects into the Hall of Fame based on their excellent scouting reports, regardless of what they accomplish in the big leagues.

      Your larger point about simple and complicated logic has merit, but that example makes no sense.

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  26. EdgarHOF says:

    Baseball is an exhibition, for those who watch it. The Hall of Fame enshrines great players and great moments of the game, so that fans can remember, and remain connected to those great moments and great players. Writers’ only job is to help report and bring the game closer to the fans. That’s why they have the privilege to vote for the HOF. If their voting policies are no longer acceptable to a majority of fans, then I feel that either the voters should be replaced, or the policies changed.

    Baseball is built upon fans. If only a few players from an entire generation gets into the Hall – who will fans from that generation go to the Hall to see? Who will we bring our kids to see? Like it or not, the further removed from history the fanbase gets, the smaller the fanbase. Passing on blurry photo-copied memories of Babe Ruth (since he was long dead when I was born) falls far short of real, *I was there* memories of Edgar’s double. Kids know the difference between imagination and real emotion and baseball will only thrive with the *continunity* of its history.

    A stagnant Hall, meant for only a few, is a dying one.

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  27. OaktownSteve says:

    The annual pointless argument. It’s pretty easy to reverse engineer this thing. There is no possibility of a right answer and no possibility of a uniform view because the Hall itself has no definition as a starting point. I thought JimNYC did a nice job of breaking it down. In the absence of defined criteria, any set of voters will have to come up with their own and that criteria will be a reflection of the character of each individual voter. As someone once said, “we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”

    As to the analogy with our political system, I think there is a second angle that is somewhat interesting. Like our current government, there seems to be a great deal of difficulty in framing arguments in terms of opinion instead of in terms of right and wrong and we see the resultant animosity that goes along with it. Of course, that might not be such a bad thing. Any democratic process demands passionate opinions that are publically debated.

    I disagree with you, Dave, when you say:

    Group A seems mostly content with any outcome, because by definition, the results of a survey cannot be correct or incorrect; they just measure the preferences of those people participating in the survey. They enjoy the ambiguity of the process, and often are the ones celebrating the annual discord over the definition of Most Valuable Player, because the gray area creates a playing field where all opinions are equally valid.

    This misses the point that the underpinning of any process like this is not that all opinions become valid, but that the competition of opinions creates a synthesis that superior to simply allowing a single person or a very small group of people decide what is right and what is wrong.

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    • Troy says:

      “that criteria will be a reflection of the character of each individual voter”. sure. and many of these so-called writers are complete morons (see chass, gurnick, etc) and thus their criteria is equally inane and indefensible. pretty sure thats where dave has a problem.

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      • oaktownsteve says:

        I know that’s where he has a problem, but if you are going to have the benefit of diverse opinions, you have to anticipate that there will outliers on other ends. However, it’s tough to exclude opinions from any particular group. It’s kind of like the idea of literacy tests other exclusionary voting tactics. Sure you can point to instances where an outlier opinion that may not be particularly valuable might be excluded, but so would many valid opinions, and at the expense of the breadth of the overall spectrum of opinion. The solution has generally been to trust the process and see the outlier opinions for what they are rather than put them up as evidence of an entirely broken system.

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        • Steven says:

          I don’t think Dave is saying we should only have a specific criteria for admitance; he’s merely saying voters should use some sort of logic in voting. I don’t think that’s overboard, and I don’t think he would disagree with others who use a different logic than him (as long as they are using an actually coherent logic).

          Of course we can argue at what point reasons can become logical. If I was a voter who only voted for Jacque Jones because my initials are also JJ, we can all agree that’s clearly illogical. I see your point on excluding some opinions, and this makes the issue very hard to solve. I do want to add, though, that allowing political representation is much more important than allowing everyone to vote for the HOF (they already limit the amount of people that can vote for it). Creating a more logically coherent HOF may be worth the payoff.

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        • Grandy Johndux says:

          “I don’t think that’s overboard, and I don’t think he would disagree with others who use a different logic than him (as long as they are using an actually coherent logic).”

          right, except for that long part where he says there’s only one logic that works–

          “While I have a lot of respect for Rosenthal, I’m with Passan on this one, and do not believe in the concept of “my logic” and “your logic”. Logic is not personal, and we should not obfuscate that fact by referring to our own whims and preferences as if they were logical.”

          He very specifically contradicts what you said.

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  28. Frank says:

    I liked this article, and it was nice to see the smartest changes being suggested brought up here. But it is missing out on the elephant in the room, which is that the real energy that’s creating this argument is the fight over letting PED users into the Hall. Most people discussing this (maybe not represented by Fangraphs readers) don’t care about who they give a ballot too, don’t care how many years it takes as a writer, don’t care how many people can be on one ballot each year. They’re angry with those who have decided, in different levels of nuance, that PED users aren’t getting in the Hall. Because they’re succeeding at keeping out people like Bonds and Sosa. And that fight is simply going to last until the losing side decides to stop the argument. Which could take years and years and years.

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  29. TADontAsk says:

    On the topic of removing those BBWAA members that are not actively covering the game, I actually disagree with this to a degree. Some of the players on the ballot had careers that started in the 1970’s. That’s now going on 35 years ago. These players would have had their best years in the 1980’s. If a writer covering baseball retired 10 years ago, I would contend they’d be perfect to argue the merits of Hall induction on that group of players.

    Likewise, I didn’t get into baseball in the early 1990’s, and only saw Morris, Trammell, Mattingly, etc. at the ends of their careers so I wouldn’t feel as comfortable with those guys as I would with the 90’s players. That would be my opinion on why I wouldn’t mind giving someone a ballot who hasn’t covered the game recently. Of course, if “recently” is the 60’s or something, then all bets are off!

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  30. The Stranger says:

    After reviewing the “fan ballot” I’m tempted to ask why we need the BBWAA at all. Keep the 75% threshold and let the fans vote, and you’d have an induction class of Maddux, Glavine, Thomas, Piazza, and Biggio. That’s a rock-solid group, with no glaring snubs and no undeserving inductees. Better than the actual 2014 class, IMO.

    Honestly, if they do this a few more years and keep getting results like that, there might be something to turning this process over to the fans.

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    • walt526 says:

      You’d need some sort of mechanism to prevent ballot stuffing, but I agree that there’s no reason to restrict voting to the BBWAA.

      The HOF could actually make themselves quite a bit of money by restricting voting to members at the Sustaining ($100/yr) or Patron ($175/yr) level. Maybe make a rule where you have to be a member for something like three or five consecutive years before being eligible to cast a vote.

      http://community.baseballhall.org/Page.aspx?pid=600

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      • Steven says:

        Yeah, that’s what we need. Only allow the richer people to contribute so the lower class can know they don’t matter to the sport despite the revenue that they create for it.

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  31. Plucky says:

    There is a sort-of middle ground here. Your comparison is between ‘preferences’ and ‘correct answers.’ There are actually two levels of preferences at work- one is whether or not a given player is worthy of induction, but there’s also the second-level preference of what the standard for induction ought to be in the first place. That the stardard for induction is deliberately ambiguous is a strength of the system, because it allows change much more easily than a more codified standard. Small hall / Big hall has no objective answer, and peak value vs career value doesn’t really have one either. Whether PEDs ought to be a dealbreaker or not is also a preference

    Ambiguity regarding any particular player is not a strength, however. Bulls*** like what Guernick did is maddening above all because he is not even adhering to his own stated reasoning. Sabermatrics do provide objective measures of comparing players to each other, and to a standard. They are obvioulsy imperfect and permanently under improvement, so there is some scope for discretion.

    So I don’t think we can demand a codifed standard, but we can at least demand that voters be consistent and logical within their preferences (strictly speaking, this is how economists define “rational”- you can prefer whatever you want and be “rational”, so long as you maintain internally consistent preferences and act in accordance with them). Don’t think of it as a multiple-choice test but an essay test- Your anwers aren’t necessarily right or wrong but they do have to be well-argued, logical, and internally consistent (not that any essays at non-graduate educational levels are actualy graded in this way, but thats a rant for another day).

    As a reform proposal, in addition to making every writer’s ballot public, they should be required to attach a written explanation of their votes which would also be made public (and kept in the HOF archives forever… fore-evv-ver)- individual explanations for every positive vote and at least a blanket explanation for the non-votes. Ballots returned without explanations would be rejected. The attached explanation would have several salutary benefits- 1) It would really reduce the number of ballots returned by people who don’t follow baseball closely anymore. If someone who ostensibly (by definition) writes professionally for a publication about baseball does not feel like they can defend their choices in print, then they have no business voting. Potential embarassment would have a certain effectiveness, not only at the time of the results but for years down the road. 2) It would put a lot of pressure on the voters to justify their reluctance to vote for people on their first ballot, or for their reluctance to vote in large classes. If writers really believe in “first ballot HOF” as a real distinction, they are free to explain as much in print. If they aren’t willing to do so, they can’t get away with voting that way and pawning it off on the collective electorate.

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    • Troy says:

      well spoken. and an interesting idea. would love to see the 15 writers who left off maddux defend their irrational decision.

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  32. GilaMonster says:

    Some people talk about Small Hall vs. Big Hall. The problem is the Hall of Fame is already broken. If you want a Small Hall you have 2 options.

    A)Use the standard of who is in the Hall of Fame to induct new members.
    B) Throw people currently unworthy out of the Hall of Fame.

    If Bill Dickey,Buck Ewing, and Yogi Berra belong in the HoF, so does Piazza.
    If Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina don’t belong in the HoF, neither does Sandy Koufax.
    If Boudreau belongs in, So does Trammell.
    If Gwynn and Yount deserves to be in, So does Raines and Dwight Evans.
    Sorry Lou Whitaker, Biggio and Sandberg will make it into the HoF, while you got screwed.

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  33. ajmack says:

    Good point. Dave Cameron and the many other Internet baseball writers now criticizing the lifetime rule will want it to remain once they actually get to vote. At least, that’s a fairly safe assumption.
    It’s noteworthy that the “enlightened” Internet baseball writers association, IBWAA, inducted the same three along with Biggio in their voting. Bonds and Clemens didn’t come close.

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  34. Chicken Little says:

    THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

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  35. DJG says:

    “I like chocolate ice cream is an opinion.”

    I’d say that in fact “I like chocolate ice cream” is a fact. It’s a fact about your opinion that chocolate ice cream is good.

    Great article.

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  36. jdbolick says:

    #1) It’s funny to me to see so much furor about the Hall being broken when it seems nothing of the sort to me, and then for the Deadspin ballot to so closely mirror the writers’. “EVERYTHING IS BROKEN AND YOU GUYS ARE IDIOTS EVEN THOUGH WE AGREED WITH YOU, RAWR!

    #2) Whether or not Bonds and Clemens were Hall-worthy before cheating is pretty irrelevant. If a guy is student body president at Harvard and is on track to be valedictorian, he doesn’t get a pass for cheating. He gets kicked out. And contrary to what several commenters claimed, it was against the rules to use PEDs. There wasn’t testing, but it was banned.

    #3) The more people you add to a group, the less meaningful inclusion becomes. You see this in team honorifics especially, where a relatively young franchise will retire numbers and put players in a “Ring of Honor” at a lower threshold than ones for an older franchise. I don’t even get the complaints about a Hall with particularly high standards to begin with, as that seems like a good thing to me, but it’s easy to understand why any such group would trend to fewer admissions over time.

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    • GilaMonster says:

      It actually wasn’t against the rules to use PEDs at the time/and or there is no evidence. A better analogy is a student at Harvard uses Adderall without having ADHD to better study. Using this Adderall is illegal, but it isn’t against Harvard policy and they don’t test for it. They change that policy after you graduate, but you already have your degree. It doesn’t matter.

      As for #3, that is true. But there is no uniformity of excellence. Curt Schilling had a better career than Sandy Koufax. But Koufax was a first ballot HoFer and Schilling is considered borderline.

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      • jdbolick says:

        For future reference, please check your facts before ever attempting to “correct” me because few things annoy me more than someone “correcting” something I said that wasn’t wrong. Fay Vincent explicitly banned the use of steroids in 1991: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/format/memos20051109 Bud Selig sent out a similar directive in 1997, but without testing players felt free to ignore both.

        Additionally, it appears that in your criticism of my analogy that you’re alluding to the blatantly false claim that steroids primarily just help players recover from injuries and/or train harder. That is absolutely not true, as medical studies have shown that a steroid regimen produces more muscle growth with absolutely no weight lifting program than a strenuous weight training program does without chemical enhancement. Steroids allow players to greatly exceed what would be their natural limits, both in speed and strength.

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        • GilaMonster says:

          However that policy change wasn’t agree to by the Player’s Association. That memo clearly wasn’t an attempt to ban PEDs, it was an attempt to protect MLB for prosecution. Therefore, if a player was caught with steroids, the government couldn’t assert that the MLB was allowing/promoting it. For example, Drunk Driving was illegal, but imagine if you got pulled or and the cop asked “Are you drunk?” “Of course not Officer” “Very well, carry on.” No breathalyzer or sobriety test. They obviously wouldn’t be taken seriously.

          It doesn’t matter. Until testing was established, all evidence is hersay at best and mostly circumstantial. There is unfounded claims that Mantle,Aaron,Mays all used some sort of PED.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          1) does the motivation behind the memo matter?

          2) “For example, Drunk Driving was illegal, but imagine if you got pulled or and the cop asked “Are you drunk?” “Of course not Officer” “Very well, carry on.” No breathalyzer or sobriety test. They obviously wouldn’t be taken seriously.”

          Basically, your argument seems to say that if you can’t or don’t get caught, cheating is legal and fine. In the old days when they had field sobriety tests (which were very elaborate versions of “Sir, are you drunk?”), drinking and driving was still illegal, and still amoral, and still very bad–even though it was more difficult to catch. MLB clearly said “no steroids”; that made it illegal and amoral, whether or not it was caught.

          Most of the evidence pre-testing was hearsay and/or circumstantial, I agree. A few people, however, have confessed or have such huge burdens of evidence against them that it’s obvious; several HoFers among them, most prominently Bonds and Clemens (who jdbolick originally referred to). I think it’s silly to pretend that we don’t know they took PEDs. The evidence is pretty clear.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          should be, of course “near-HoFers” or “HoF-quality players” since they obviously aren’t HoFers, yet.

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        • NY Expat says:

          Link? That contradicts everything I’ve heard about steroid use so far.

          And androstenedione wasn’t banned until 2004, when it was also made a Schedule III substance:

          http://mlb.mlb.com/content/printer_friendly/mlb/y2004/m06/d29/c783595.jsp

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  37. bothdakotas says:

    But Dave, Mint is the Maddux of gum flavors!

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  38. Llewdor says:

    Should we be surprised that an organisation still named as if “Base Ball” is two words is stodgy and old fashioned?

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  39. stuck in a slump says:

    Wasn’t there just an awesome article about how BBWA voters don’t even use seven of their ten votes on average? That makes Men Rosenthal’s first quote in the article nothing more than self righteous bullshit aimed at deflecting the blame from the real cause of the current problem: the writers themselves.

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  40. D says:

    A suggestion for BBWAA next year: add unlimited “consideration” votes in addition to the 10 induction votes. This change would partially separate the process of Hall induction from ballot rejection. Only the 10 induction votes would still count towards election to the Hall, but add consideration votes to the regular votes to keep players on the ballot. For example, I expect Palmeiro would have remained on the ballot were this rule in place this past round. As many have said, his candidacy may be viewed differently with 10 more years of perspective on this era.

    This change will encourage voters to prioritize their limited induction votes on the most worthy candidates since voters can stop “wasting” votes on guys who can’t get elected but they want to keep on the ballot. Biggio surely would have made it this year, with a possibility that this change would have been enough to get Piazza to 75%.

    There’d also be useful information, such as observing the fact that >75% of voters wanted to vote for Biggio this year. That could encourage more support next year for him and accelerate near-misses over the finish line.

    And the BBWAA could then consider adding a 2nd round of elections where all voting members get a 2nd ballot for players who missed 75% for induction but exceeded 75% when consideration votes are added. This ballot would have no voting limitations; it would be a yes/no vote on the handful (if any) players that cross the threshold based on future consideration.

    With such changes, the BBWAA would be more informed next year or in a few years, and they might be able to keep the 10-vote limit long term after using this setup to cut through the backlog of worthy players.

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    • Corey says:

      Why have a ballot at all? Why not just maintain a set of eligibility rules (years retired), and make the “ballot” a write-in free for all? Then when we think about the game differently in 90 years and someone gets discovered as having been an “elite” player who was unheralded in his time, he can still be elected. Players would generally stop getting votes after many years and would fade from the voting. What’s the purpose of a formal “ballot”? Just let them vote for whoever they want to vote for.

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  41. Dustin says:

    About as well put as could be. As much as we would like to see the emotional bullshit be eradicated, as long as the BBWAA allows illogical ballots to be filled out by myopic writers, we will not see any significant changes until the more logical thinking voters outnumber them. Could be multiple decades unfortunately.

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  42. Forrest Gumption says:

    Can Fangraphs do a WAR-only HOF of their own? Make this real easy:

    Everyone with 60+ gets in, or an average of 6 WAR over 5-9 years.

    Relievers do not get in: they are part time players just like designated hitters are, its a travesty that Bruce Sutter is in and Edgar Martinez is not.

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  43. Underwood4000 says:

    My concern is that, if you follow Group B’s logic far enough, you will wind up saying “Players who achieve a WAR of X” (or a peak WAR of X, or some metric) is the best way to decide the Hall of Fame. If you really believe that, fine. Otherwise, you have to accept that there is some room for debate, and that the debate itself can be healthy, even if it occasionally produces nutty ballots like Gurnick’s.

    I agree that the BBWAA should have a better informed (/ qualified) electorate. But to insist that there is one “empirically correct” way to vote seems to defeat the purpose of the election.

    (I apologize if this point has been made but I only got about halfway through the comments before feeling compelled to weigh in.)

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    • Grandy Johndux says:

      yes, I agree, and this is similar to what I argued above. This comments section is huge, but I feel compelled to speak up for this point because I think it’s important. The Hall isn’t an objective decision, by the very criteria it has established.

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  44. pft says:

    Look, the whole problem has come about because the BBWAA has chosen to allow its members to be moral police. Perhaps that allows them to sell more papers.

    There are too many players on the ballot because those who should be off due to being elected in the HOF are still on it.

    The basic fact is that a HOF without the best players in it is irrelevant. IRRELEVANT, how many ways can you say it or spell it?.

    And if BBWAA does not get its act together, they will lose the exclusive right to vote.

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    • Disagree, and again, I’ll refer to Rosenthal and his “authenticity.” It’s not the authenticity of cheating or not, but how much it changed performance and not.

      And, I get tired of people like Passan saying “greenies were the same.” Jim Bouton, a man in a position to know, says nope, per Olbermann:

      And then the bottle of “andro” showed up in McGwire’s locker. I can remember that week hearing the late baseball writer Leonard Koppett tell me on my show that nobody cared, that it wasn’t cheating, that it was nothing worse than vitamins or maybe, maybe, “greenies.” To his eternal credit, the author and former pitcher Jim Bouton not only disagreed, but got it exactly right. Some day, he says in the interview, baseball will have to reckon with years and years of records that will be artificially inflated, distorted beyond all measure, by the effects of a drug that lets you keep working out when the guys next to you – or before you, chronologically – have to drop the barbell.

      Sounds right to me.

      As for BBWAA losing its exclusive right to vote, what, are you going to pistol-whip the members of the board of directors of the Hall?

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      • bstar says:

        SG: do you have a link to that Olbermann piece or are you just typing what he said on-air? I’d love to read all of it.

        I too share your distaste for suggesting taking greenies and steroids are the same thing.

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      • Stringer Bell says:

        Is Bouton a scientist with a significant background in studying the effects of amphetamines and muscle enhancing drugs? I didn’t think so. Every single effect generally associated with these drugs are incredibly exaggerated, because you don’t magically become an elite player with the assistance of muscle building drugs.

        As for that really stupid drop the barbell thing, that doesn’t even make sense. Protein shakes, energy drinks, protein bars, water, etc will all help you to keep working out if you get exhausted at all. There is no measurable way to sit there and say steroids greatly enhanced numbers that much. You know what did? A juiced ball that was used after the Strike to boost ratings that were declining because the public was pissed off.

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      • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

        I am so tired of hearing the argument that steroids don’t do anything. Here’s a sentence from an actual, peer-reviewed, scientific review paper on the effects of steroids:

        “The available scientific literature describes that short-term administration of these drugs by athletes can increase strength and bodyweight. Strength gains of about 5–20% of the initial strength and increments of 2–5kg bodyweight, that may be attributed to an increase of the lean body mass, have been observed.”

        Source here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200434080-00003

        I’m not a world-class athlete, but if I was, I’d take being 5-20(!)% stronger over being slightly more alert. (Sidenote: 20 freaking percent as the upper limit. 20 freaking percent more strength, on someone like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens or Mark McGwire who is already a freak of nature in terms of their strength. That’s absurd.)

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        • Stringer Bell says:

          You took a small line in a small study, it’s not exact science. There’s plenty of literature based on other viewpoints, such as this site…

          http://steroids-and-baseball.com/medical-effects.shtml

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          It’s not a small line in a small study. It’s a review paper, which means it summarizes the results of numerous other experimental and observational studies to express something like the scientific consensus on some topic (at least according to the authors). If you didn’t like that line, look at this:

          “It has only been in the last decade that clear evidence for the muscle building properties of AAS [Androgenic-Anabolic Steroids] in normal males and athletes became available (72, 73, 77, 79, 84-89)”. (emphasis is mine)

          Those numbers are citations, each of which was a separate study. You’ll note, then, that there are 10 separate studies demonstrating the muscle building properties of steroids.

          I went ahead and reprinted the citations for 6 of those 10 studies at the bottom, to more fully convince you…

          This is literally the best kind of evidence one can get. It’s multiple, independent, separate, sources of peer-reviewed science from different groups, all reporting the same result: steroids increase lean muscle mass and strength, sometimes quite dramatically. I have read that page (steroids-and-baseball) many times and I was pretty convinced by it, initially. But the scientific literature says something different, and is quite clear about it.

          84.Bhasin S. The dose-dependent effects of testosterone on sexua
          function and on muscle mass and function. Mayo Clin Proc
          2000; 75 Suppl.: S70-5
          85. Hartgens F, van Straaten H, Fideldij S, et al. Misuse of andro
          genic-anabolic steroids and human deltoid muscle fibers: dif
          ferences between polydrug regimens and single drug adminis
          tration. Eur J Appl Physiol 2002; 86: 233-9
          86. Kadi F, Eriksson A, Holmner S, et al. Cellular adaptation ofthe
          trapezius muscle in strength-trained athletes. Histochem Cel
          Biol 1999; 111: 189-95
          87. Kadi F, Eriksson A, Holmner S, et al. Effects of anabolic
          steroids on the muscle cells of strength-trained athletes. Med
          Sci Sports Exerc 1999; 31: 1528-34
          88. Kuipers H, Peeze BF, Hartgens F, et al. Muscle ultrastructure
          after strength training with placebo or anabolic steroid. Can J
          Appl Physiol 1993; 18: 189-96
          89. Sinha-Hikim I, Artaza J, Woodhouse L, et al. Testosterone
          induced increase in muscle size in healthy young men is
          associated with muscle fiber hypertrophy. Am J Physiol En-
          docrinol Metab 2002; 283: E154-64

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        • NY Expat says:

          The steroids and baseball site doesn’t disagree with you, it just points out that working out gives you bigger gains. Under “Gains From Steroids”:

          “Although simple use of steroids will produce some modest increase in muscle mass, its real effects come into play when it is used in combination with substantial resistance training (weight lifting or comparable machine exercise). ”

          Also, that quote from the survey study conflates “normal males” and “athletes”. As far as I can tell from looking at the titles and googling the ones that didn’t have “strength-trained” or “athletes” in the title, only study 89 looked at males who did not work out.

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        • ankle explosion hr celebration says:

          Ex-Pat: I guess I’m confused by your argument (or maybe you’re just offering a correction?).

          1) Since the people in question are athletes (MLB athletes, specifically), that seems like who you’d want to test to figure out how steroids impact athletic performance.

          2) “Although simple use of steroids will produce some modest increase in muscle mass, its real effects come into play when it is used in combination with substantial resistance training (weight lifting or comparable machine exercise). ”

          Right–but not modest, with the weightlifting that pro athletes already do–5-20% increase in strength, according to the review article which summarized the results from 10 different studies. That’s enormous for an MLB hitter, who is probably already amongst the strongest humans on the planet. If Barry Bonds started out a HoF quality hitter, then proceeded to add 10-20% more strength to his frame, that seems a plausible way to put up Ruthian stats.

          3) “The steroids and baseball site doesn’t disagree with you, it just points out that working out gives you bigger gains.”

          Again, the MLB players are already working out. All of them. To be better, they wanted an edge on top of working out, which they got via steroids, which provided them on the order of 10% more strength than similarly hard-working players. That’s a huge advantage; seemingly bigger than something that keeps you awake.

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    • Grandy Johndux says:

      the thing is, the BBWAA didn’t choose to “allow” its members to be morality police.

      Rather, the Hall of Fame itself asked the BBWAA voters to consider such values as character and integrity (see here: http://baseballhall.org/hall-famers/rules-election/bbwaa). You may not like those as criteria, but those are the criteria. If you want to change them, lobby the Hall, not the BBWAA.

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  45. Dogkahuna says:

    Dave, you have not only concisely nailed this issue, but your explanation can serve as a sociological template for conservative versus progressive mindsets. Your analysis could explain political thought and tendencies just changing terminology here and there.

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  46. Nick says:

    Any voting process which denies Vin Scully a vote because he distributes his wisdom via the voice instead of via the written word…. is seriously screwed up. I’m not saying that Keith Moreland or Joe Carter should have had a vote because of their “stellar” time in the Cubs’ broadcast booth. But maybe after 2500 games broadcast, PBP/color announcers deserve a vote.

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  47. kamikaze80 says:

    the problem is pretty simple. generally speaking, the baseball writers: 1) lack the intellect and understanding of the game to cast knowledgeable ballots; and 2) can’t resist the temptation to make the process all about themselves, instead of recognizing the players whose performances objectively merit enshrinement.

    it’s a deeply flawed process.

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  48. Corey says:

    The problem if you see it as an empirical question, is that balloting is incapable of resolving the issue. If you want to know the answer to 2+2 you don’t take a poll because presumably some ignorant people might think its 5. This is subsequently the problem with ballot measures as a means of making public policy. If you’re going to treat it as an empirical issue, a position I’m sympathetic to, you need an empirical standard, if you ballot then people will inevitably treat it as an opinion for which there is no right or wrong answer.

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  49. M. Incandenza says:

    Well… it’s not actually a question of logic OR preference, but one of judgment. If it were a matter of mere logic, there would be provably sound criteria for determining the proper vote. If it were a matter of mere preference there would be no criteria for judging a vote as reasonable or not. But voting for the hall of fame is not like either of these: it is an action that must be determined according to the particularities of a situation that draws on one’s capacity for reason, but which cannot be reduced to simple quantitative or empirical analysis. It is, in short, an ethical action, and it requires a degree of wisdom to be done well.

    This semantic point brought to you by a professional philosopher in comment #163 of a blog post about baseball stuff.

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  50. Brian says:

    One of the largest potential catalysts for change would be a large scale rejection of the process. If all the “logic” based writers would reject their ballots or cancel their memberships in a public way the net outcome forces fundamental change or undermines the entire validity of the election process henceforth. The embedded rules of membership will slowly but surely evolve to a more quantitative system, but it summarily penalizes many wonderful players in the interim.

    Boycott 2014!! Fangraphs start the petition!

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  51. Breadbaker says:

    Here’s a question:

    Before 1952, MLB consisted of three teams in NYC, two in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis, and a single team in Detroit, Washington, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. There was no television, let alone internet. Teams in the five cities with only one team rarely made the World Series. So if I’m a BBWAA member in Detroit, I might never have seen a National League player play in person. I suspect, indeed, that most Deadspin voters had seen more baseball games in the other league than all the writers in those five cities.

    Yet they had a vote and the 75% induction percentage has always been there. So how did the voters in those cities have a clue whom to vote for, other than reading the stats?

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  52. Mike Green says:

    Rosenthal has some good ideas there.

    The Hall of Merit project at BBTF was (and is) terrific. It would be great if those of us who did not spend the hundreds of hours required to effectively participate in the project publicized the results. I have the odd disagreement with the Hall of Merit results, but I know that on balance those involved have put much effort into the topic than I did and are likely right.

    Could the Hall of Merit archive be placed, or linked to, on fangraphs, BBRef and so on?

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  53. Nostress says:

    Great article.
    But I would have to disagree on some points. If the hall of fame voting was a simple right-or-wrong process, why have a voting system in the first place?
    Why don’t we just take the overall top 1% career WAR players and add them to the Hall of Fame right after their retirement?
    The criteria of whether a player should be in the hall of fame or not should be dependent only whether people think a player should be in it. And regardless of what people say, any vote is an opinion. Maybe some opinions looks so stupid, like 2+2=5. But that’s why players don’t have only a few chances, nor require an unanimous vote to be elected.
    The issue with Bonds, Clemens, McGuire, and Sosa is certainly a logical one. their career stats show that they should be elected to the HOF with no doubt.
    But if some writers are angry just because they didn’t get in to the hall of fame, they are seriously overlooking one of the most important virtues in not only baseball, but in all sports: sportsmanship.
    Some people have an “opinion” that PED usage players rejected their duties as sports players. Fame and Money deceives many athletes into thinking that winning is the utmost importance, and it should be achieved with any means possible. But there are rules to follow. Players are not allowed to use performance enhancing drugs, as much as clubs should pay luxury taxes if they exceed a certain payroll, and as much as players and clubs are not allowed to fix matches. These are rules in baseball that MLB lovers made, for the good of baseball.
    And anyone has a valid reason to believe that outlaws do not deserve a honorary status.

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  54. David says:

    “The BBWAA regards Hall of Fame voting as the ultimate privilege, and any abuse of that privilege is unacceptable.”

    So evidently crowd sourcing your ballot is abuse, but turning in a blank ballot or failing to turn one in at all is not. Good to know.

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  55. John Martin says:

    I agree that there is no “my” logic or “your” logic, but a perfectly logical argument can result in factually incorrect or just plain silly conclusions. It really depends on the premises being relied upon. I can’t speak for Ken Gurnick, but at least one of his argument for voting only for Morris (and not for Maddox) seems to be: (a) players who played the bulk of their careers in the 80s did not take PEDs; (b) Morris played the bulk of his career in the 80s; (c) therefore, Morris did not take PEDs. That is a logical argument. Of course, his first premise is likely incorrect, or at least he does not offer any factual basis for it, and therefore, his conclusion is silly, and, likely, factually incorrect.

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  56. binqasim says:

    If the ballot becomes a yes or no for all players on it, there is no point for the 15 year limit on ballot, right?

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  57. ajmack says:

    Here’s an idea. I wonder what the odds are of a 62nd round draft choice becoming the greatest hitter of all-time at his position? Or compared to a first round pick?
    Not sure the fangraphs guys can be objective about it, but it would be interesting to know.

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