The Hall of Fame, From Scratch

Because of all the angst about this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, there have been a lot of words spilled trying to fix the process. I’m one of many who have suggested that, at the bare minimum, they need to expand the ballot to cover more than 10 slots. Others have offered their own suggestions, from changing the electorate to more clearly defining a player’s eligibility.

There are a lot of interesting opinions out there for ways to improve the Hall of Fame, but they generally start with the premise of tweaking the established methodology. Sometimes, though, I think it’s useful to think about changes without considering what is already in place, to ask yourself what you would do if you could just start from scratch. So, let’s do that with the Hall of Fame.

What would the Hall of Fame look like if we were building it anew in 2013? I’m sure it would be different for each of us. Maybe you’d move it to another location, where it could be more easily accessible to the public at large? Or maybe you’d pick a set proportion of each generation to be represented, so that each age of baseball was equally represented? There are a lot of practical changes you could make that would make the Hall of Fame very different than what it is now.

For, me, though, there’s one thing that stands above the rest as a way to make the Hall more interesting, and to settle most of the problems we have with the enshrinement process as it currently stands; a tiered Hall of Fame.

This isn’t an original idea, as many others have suggested it before me. Bill Simmons wrote about building an actual pyramid back in 2002. Here’s a Book Blog post from 2008 with a similar idea. I even mentioned the idea in passing at the end of an article from last year. It’s an idea that was originated by others, but one in which I am happy to continue promoting, because it gets at the very heart of what I see as the major issue with today’s Hall of Fame discussions; the binary nature of a yes/no decision.

No one sees baseball players in a two bin format when they play. These “great” or “not great enough” distinctions only come into account when their careers are over, and we’re trying to draw a straight line to dissect things that are best accounted for with curves. By forcing a decision down to just in or out, we lose all the subtlety with which humans actually think, and more importantly, the Hall of Fame loses the ability to tell the next generation of fans the reality of each player’s standing in the game’s great history.

Babe Ruth and Jim Rice are not equals, but in Cooperstown, they both have a plaque of equal size. That’s nice for Jim Rice’s friends and family, but it isn’t a representation of their place in baseball history. And, first and foremost, the Hall of Fame is baseball’s museum. It’s where you should go to see baseball’s history come alive. And then, when it comes to the plaque room, history gives way to equality, but that equality doesn’t represent reality.

So, instead of a yes/no decision, I’d center my Hall of Fame around the concept of tiers. Instead of Simmons multi-level Egyptian architecture, I’d settle for a series of rooms, each slightly smaller than the previous one. A suggested order:

The Great Accomplishment Room

Roger Maris would have ended up here for hitting 61 home runs and standing as the Home Run Champ for so long. Jack Morris could have a plaque here, for his epic Game 7 performance in the 1991 World Series. Bobby Thompon, for “The Shot Heard Round The World”. Any pitcher who threw a Perfect Game would get remembered here. Let’s honor the great moments of the sport, but honor those who performed them specifically for those great moments.

The Longevity Room

Some guys stick around long enough to earn recognition for their achievements, even if they never reached a level of greatness that we usually associate with the Hall of Fame. Omar Vizquel, for instance, is worth remembering, even if he was never anything close to the best player on his own team. Guys who reach milestone numbers, such as achieving 3,000 hits, could be enshrined in the game’s history for achieving a level of consistency and longevity that deserves recognition.

The Fleeting Stars Room

Dale Murphy, come on down. For a period of time, he really was one of the best players in the game. That he didn’t last as an elite player doesn’t eliminate the value he accrued during his prime. Guys who shine bright, but burn out too soon, deserve some recognition for their great years. Giving them their own space, and recognizing those who made a name for themselves in a short period of time, only makes baseball’s history richer.

The All Around Room

Those who combine multiple qualities of the first three rooms, providing both longevity and greatness, and are easily recognized as players whose entire careers stand as examples of what a Hall of Fame player should be. Both great and lasting, with memorable moments and the kind of reputation that earns you a spot in Cooperstown today. On this year’s ballot, that’s guys like Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, and Curt Schilling.

The Inner Room

The best of the best. All-time greats only. The icons of the sport. The room that every great player dreams of ending up in. Ruth. Mays. Mantle. Aaron. Williams. A room to really celebrate those who were the heros of their time.

The ballot would allow the voters to select the appropriate room for each player. It would reflect the differences in career types, while also allowing the museum itself to honor the variety of player types that populate the sport. And, instead of arguing yes or no, in or out, we could focus on the merits of the actual players and performances themselves.

That’s my ideal Hall of Fame revamp. What’s yours?

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

69 Responses to “The Hall of Fame, From Scratch”

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  1. Erik says:

    Out of curiosity, Dave, would players be eligible for multiple rooms in your Hall? I doubt you’d consider Roger Maris for the “All Around Room,” but I think he’s got a very good shot at a plaque in the “Fleeting Stars” room.

    If Dale Murphy gets in with a six-year, 145 OPS+ stretch (1982-87), doesn’t Maris have a shot with a six-year, 144 OPS+ stretch (1960-65)?

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  2. Mr Punch says:

    Apart from giving us better places to put the Bobby Wallace and Ross Youngs plaques, I don’t see that this proposal helps much. It really gives us a two-tier HOF, thus doubling the controversy.

    If we want two tiers, here’s an alternative proposal: keep (or improve) the current election process, but have a vote every 5 or 10 years on which HOF members belong in that Inner Room. That would accommodate changing perceptions to some extent, and generate a lot of interest.

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    • David says:

      It wouldn’t necessarily double the controversy. For one, it would clear up a lot of ambiguity for the borderline guys. We wouldn’t argue about compilers vs. shooting stars and who is “deserving”. For another, the lower tier is less of a thing to argue about in the first place.

      Now there would be great discussion whenever you tried to put someone in the inner sanctum. But that’s okay. For that I would suggest modifying the nominal voting period from retirement +5 to something MUCH later. I wouldn’t even be opposed to saying it’s death +10, or something like that, to remove all the possible emotional baggage from the decision.

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      • LK says:

        If the goal is to end up with the best possible selection of baseball players to leave to future generations when they’re writing books on our civilization, then death + 10 would be a great standard.

        If you think about the practical consequences of that though, you’re basically destroying any relevance the Inner Circle would have for current generations. I’m 24 years old; your rule means that I will almost certainly be dead before someone like Mike Trout (a contemporary of mine) could even be inducted; it means that there’s a good chance I’ll be dead before someone like Derek Jeter (my favorite player as a kid) could be inducted (not that he would be deserving of the Inner Circle anyway, at least by most people’s standards).

        In my opinion, you’re missing the forest for the trees. The point of the HoF is celebrate the game, to see our favorite players enter its most hallowed fraternity, and to spur debate. I see no reason to take all the fun out of it to ensure that the set of players inducted is perfect (a virtual impossibility under any standard).

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      • David says:

        D+10 was just an example, of course. My point more generally being that inner sanctum players are the sort that damn near ARE perfect. We don’t want cases like Jim Rice, where the memory of the playing days is too fresh and too tied in emotionally with who the voters watched during their own formative years. We also don’t want cases where mushy voters give more weight to an octogenarian former player because he’s not got more time left and wouldn’t it be nice for him to see himself enshrined next to the Babe?

        But there’s a lot of ground between Retire+5 and Death+10 …

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  3. Jojo Potato says:

    I’ve watched and read about baseball my whole life, and thought a lot about the HOF, but my feelings on the HOF have changed since I first visited in 2007, when I was 34. It changed my perspective on the HOF and I think all baseball fans who could manage it owe it to themselves to go.

    Three linked things were remarkable to me about the plaque room: 1) how many stars are enshrined whose names and exploits mean nothing to me; 2) how few people are actually in the HOF and 3) what a thrill it is to come across a plaque that does mean something to you, when that plaque is in no way distinguished from the plaques around it.

    Though there may be a vast difference between the Inner Circle and the Outer Circle, there was, and is, room for both in the Hall of Fame. It was my experience after leaving that I’d wished not for fewer icons but more, and certainly not for any subdivisions among the enshrined. Instead I wished for more continuity, a better understanding of how we got from 1840 to 2012. These guys, the best and the next best, all played on the same fields, weaving the same tapestry. That was just the way a visit made me feel. Others may have other experiences.

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  4. Choo says:

    Make the building a nonagon for symbolism and divide the wings into different eras (19th Century, Dead-Ball, Golden Age, etc) to maintain baseball’s historical perspective and allow players of the Longball Era (Steroid Era) admittance without “intruding.”

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  5. Tomcat says:

    Where would you put a guy like Helton? Fleeting Stars?

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  6. Paul says:

    I enjoyed this, and my comment isn’t specifically about this post, but about the HOF in general. I’m a lifelong MLB fan – specifically, a 27-year old Braves fan – but I’ve never been to Cooperstown. It’s high on my bucket list, but I have always planned to take my dad on a trip when any combination of Smoltz, Maddux, Glavine, Cox, and/or Chipper get enshrined, whenever that would be. It’s something I’ve planned on for 15 years. I didn’t know when, but that’s the key: it wasn’t even a matter of “if”; for the past 20 years, it was just a matter of “when”. There was probably a time when I thought Andruw Jones or some other favorites of mine were headed there too, and certain players ended up falling short. But those specific guys: no way, right?

    Well, it occurred to me recently that I probably have some Southeast-Texan mirror who’s been a diehard Astros fan for 27 years and has been counting down the days he could take his dad to Cooperstown to see Biggio and/or Bagwell get inducted. Since they reached that level of surefire Hall-of-Famer, he’s thought, “It’s only a matter of time.” And then they retired, and he thought, “Alright. 5 more years.” And now, he grows more uncertain each year. Not that their stats have changed, or that anything has happened to alter their place in baseball history or, maybe more relevant, the era they played in.

    It just got me wondering. What if these crotchety old BBWAA members, who feel so entitled to make up their own voting criteria, decide they aren’t voting for Maddux because he played in the PED era? There are voters who literally state “I just can’t vote for anyone from that era”. Obviously all those guys I want to see in there are going to get plenty of votes. But hell, it only takes a certain number of bad apples, and then there’s nothing else anyone can do. Five years ago, I would have bet anything that 75% of “baseball experts” trusted with the responsibility to decide who is immortalized in Cooperstown wouldn’t have thought twice about a ‘yes’ vote for Biggio and Bagwell. Now, who knows. The process is so flawed that who knows what to think. There is no rhyme or reason to the voting process anymore. All I can do is hope I have a reason to go one of these upcoming Augusts. And I hope the same for the guy who spent 15 years cherishing every Craig Biggio or Tim Raines or Barry Bonds at-bat, a planning phase of a dream vacation with dad that’s going on 20 years now – and counting.

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    • Johnhavok says:

      There was an interview on MLB sports radio last night and they were talking to HOF member Jim Bunning. He stated rather blatantly that he and the HOF membership would boycott the HOF induction ceremonies for anyone inducted who is even suspected of PED use. Regardless of proof, regardless if the suspicion is warranted or not, he said that nobody should get it who is even suspected. Anyone suspected of PED should be painted with the same brush as those who are proven to have used or admitted to have used but not caught.

      I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The belief that the people who vote for the HOF are supposed to be gatekeepers of morality rather than just simply recognizing people for great careers is ridiculous.
      Another interview from on there from a sportwriter who said he would not be voting for Mike Piazza gave his reasoning… he said that while in the locker room Piazza would always have a towel over his back to cover up his back hair and pockmarks, because those were clear signs that he was juicing. Yup… back hair means steroids. No proof, no nothing… just back hair. That is his reason for not voting for the best offensive catcher of all time.
      Another writer stated he would turn in blank ballots every year in protest over some guys who suspected of PED use who in his opinon should never get in. He would never vote for ANYONE else, even if they were clean and deserved it, because there would be someone who might get in to the HOF who was suspected of PEDs, not proven… suspected.

      These writers(not all) need a reality check. Some of these guys have themselves on such a high pedestal it’s astonishing.

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      • Synovia says:

        Completely agree. Its also pretty funny listening to the hypocricy. We KNOW that Hank Aaron tried amphetamines. We KNOW that Babe Ruth injected himself with sheep testosterone.

        Its just the typical “Your generation is ruining everything” bullshit that oldtimers like to spout.

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        Isn’t it ironic that Jim Bunning was a US Congressman, tasked with making the laws of the U.S.? Yet he condems a whole generation of players without real evidence.

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      • Dan says:

        Absolutely nothing ironic about it. He’s a Republican.

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      • Well-Beered Englishman says:

        To rephrase Dan:

        Absolutely nothing ironic about it. He’s a Congressman.

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    • Terence says:

      I’m 27. I lived in south Texas all my life. I can’t count how many times my dad took me to the Astrodome and bought tickets to sit in an empty building and watch great baseball. We used to talk about taking a trip to Cooperstown to see Bagwell and Biggio go into together and be the first two with a star on their hat. I’m not sure if tonight I’m more sad or more angry, but I know this, my dad and I won’t get our dream trip this summer. That’s because a bunch of self-righteous assholes don’t enjoy baseball and don’t like fun.

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      • Paul says:

        I guess what it boils down to that frustrates me so much is that these [mostly older, clueless] writers feel so empowered that they can decide the guys we grew up watching – the players that made us fall in love with the game of baseball – don’t deserve to be there next to the guys they grew up watching. Where does it end? I’m actually a proponent of a smaller-HOF (as a Braves fan, you won’t see me pleading Murphy’s case), but on what planet are Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, and a whole list of other guys who are getting screwed NOT Hall-of-Famers? Not to mention Bonds and Clemens, two of the 5-10 greatest players ever.

        One of the guys who writes for – and I’m too disgusted to even check back to see who it was, but it’s the same guy who said he wouldn’t vote for ANY PLAYER FROM THE PED ERA – voted solely for Jack Morris, and his criteria was that Morris received MVP votes in 4 seasons. What? That’s your logic?? Raul Ibanez got an MVP vote last year. Juan Gonzalez WON 2 MVP’s. And the best part – THESE ARE THE SAME CLOWNS WHO VOTE FOR THOSE AWARDS! So essentially, if he wanted to, he could vote for Dan Uggla for MVP for the next 14 years, and then 19 years from now, vote for Dan Uggla to be in the Hall of Fame because he received MVP votes in 14 different seasons.

        I honestly wish I could stop getting so worked up over it and stop caring. But I’m tired of these writers, many of whom are barely qualified to have have a conversation about baseball at this point, essentially saying that the entire generation of players that made us fall in love with baseball – guys who are absolutely, unequivocally, 100% qualified and deserving the prestige of Cooperstown – aren’t qualified. For bogus reasons that have nothing to do with their baseball careers. At risk of sounding overly dramatic, it’s like taking away part of my childhood, and it pisses me off.

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  7. Detroit Michael says:

    But where would we move Bowie Kuhn’s plaque?

    How about Alexander Cartwright, Candy Cummings and Morgan Bulkelay, who are all honored for things they didn’t actually do?

    Seems to me you need a Fantasyland room. ;-)

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  8. The Nicker says:

    This is actually a great way to account for Steroid era players, becuase you can put guys like McGwire and Palmeiro in the Gaylord Jackson/Rose room along with other players that violated the spirit of baseball. Then you can start Bonds and Clemens in the room and debate their entry into the Inner Sanctum.

    I would also advocate for certain players to get their own small rooms, or shrines. Cobb, Ruth, Mays, Williams, Paige. These players’ stories can take up a small room believe me. As someone that loved the HOF the way it was when I went there, I think this idea and its progenitors would make it that much better

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    • drewcorb says:

      I think it would be awesome to have a room dedicated to players who violated the spirit of baseball. That would be hilarious.

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    • RJ says:

      All these guys have their own displays in the museum part. Everyone should go to Cooperstown just for the museum, don’t worry about the Hall. Also make sure to do a tour Ommegang Brewery afterwards.

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    • Dustin says:

      I agree. A room for cheaters would respect their accomplishments to the game while kind of officially brandishing them an outsider…

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  9. Bookbook says:

    I’m imagining the many to many relational database and the mess we could create. Ty Cobb? If he didn’t find ways to cheat, I’m a monkey’s uncle. Willie Mays? Greenies. Mickey Mantle? Does playing drunk count as cheating, or cheating your teammates? Can Pete Rose go in the cheater’s room, the moments room (for hits and 44-game streak), the regular HOF room, and maybe also the compilers purgatorium for the dreadful last several years? I assume he doesn’t get into the inner sanctum.

    If we do this right, each player’s career can be the source of several controversies, one for each room, and maybe several plaques.

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  10. metsmarathon says:

    i think you’ve overcomplicated it by half (or more).

    its been a while since ive been to hte hall, but i’ve gotta think there’s some recognition afforded to the great accomplishers already. if there really needs to be a plaque for maris’ 61, or morris’ game 7, or maz’s homer, then by all means, mint one. i don’t think a change needs to be made on their behalf.

    if an accomplishment rises to the level that the player is somehow elevated above his peers when viewing his career in toto, then consider it as such when evaluating the player for full enshrinement.

    i think the biggest problem with the hof voting (aside from the ped issue, for which some guidance should be issued by the hall) is the silly notion of first ballot hall of famers.

    if installing an inner circle can somehow alleviate this process (hold a secondary election whereby, of those enshrined a given year, where the electorate can endorse a guy for inner-circledom, perhaps) then do it. also, perhaps hte electorate should pay more attention to the history of hte thing they are giving lip service to protecting the legacy of, and realize that the reason joe dimaggio didn’t get in on the first ballot was because the voting process was clumsy, inherently flawed, and different from today. and he still got voted in before he’d been retired five years.

    dimaggio didn’t wait because he wasn’t worthy of being a first-ballot hall of famer. he waited, essentially, because the voters didn’t know what they were (supposed to be) doing.

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    • MrKnowNothing says:

      P sure you’re correct that there is already recognition for all of the great things that have happened throughout history. People have this idea that if you’re not elected to the HOF then you’re just erased from baseball history, when that isn’t the case.

      It just means you don’t have a plaque.

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      • There are halls for Latin baseball, the movement of African-Americans into baseball, Japanese baseball, a collectibles exhibit, stadiums and the evolution if the baseball stadium, and finally for current/recent baseball involving all 30 teams.

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  11. philosofool says:

    I like your suggestion, but architechturally, you have it all wrong. The museum should by laided out like a baseball field (I’m not asying it should be a field, but the places in the museum should clearly match the structure of a field. The great events area would be the stands, because these were really about being there when it happened. Down the thrid base line, chronologically arragned, would be inner circle hitters; inner circle pitchers would be facing them, from the first base side. At second base, in honor of Jackie Robinson, would be the stuff about the changing world the baseball encompasses. Great-but not inner-cirlce great players would be on the baseline in the out field. The field itself would be reserved for the history of the sport rather than particular players.

    Maybe these aren’t the exact choices you’d make architechturally, but I think the basic idea is sound.

    Also, the roof should be pained like a sky. God forbid it fell like a dome.

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  12. Eminor3rd says:

    So long as there exists a border, there will exist borderline players. I see where you are coming from, but I don’t think this will actually end any sort of controversy.

    I think we should all step back and think about what the HOF really means to us. It’s a museum with plaques, but most of us never actually go. What it means to most of us is an accomplishment for players we watched. How much do you really care if Bonds isn’t there? It doesn’t change ANYTHING about how you’ve experienced his career. You saw what you saw of him, and you think what you think about him. It really doesn’t matter at all if he is or isn’t “in” the HOF. Kids 50 years from now aren’t going to never hear about Bonds if he isn’t in the HOF.

    I posit that the chief benefit of this whole process is, in fact, the controversy and discussion around who is in and who is out. You may feel frustrated by it, but if it didn’t exist, there would just be absolutely no news about baseball right now. I mean, the Dodgers signed JP Howell the other day — that’s your top story. Baseball has done a great job of making its brand reach its fans 365 days a year, and a lot of that has been through controversial awards and stuff.

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    • Philip Christy says:

      Good point – I’ll always have my Bonds memories, regardless of whether or not he gets a plaque. The real problem here is that if these voters can’t give upper echelon players like Bonds and Clemens a plaque, they aren’t destroying our memories – they are destroying the Hall Of Fame.

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  13. Nick says:

    “Babe Ruth and Jim Rice are not equals, but in Cooperstown, they both have a plaque of equal size. That’s nice for Jim Rice’s friends and family, but it isn’t a representation of their place in baseball history.”

    No one on Earth is confused about Babe Ruth’s greatness relative to Jim Rice, the HoF doesn’t change that. All you need is a brain to know this, not tiers.

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    • Spike says:

      Yeah jeez, do we really need the separate the uber-great from the merely-great??

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        It’s more separating the great from guys who are not much better than Paul O’Neill or Bernie Williams.

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    • Bad Bill says:

      Well said.

      Dave’s proposal looks appealing at first glance, but it overlooks the simple fact that it’s the way the actual Hall of Fame — the physical structure and the things therein — already conducts itself. There are tons of exhibits on great accomplishment, fleeting stars, the ultra-long careers, and more. The exhibits are dynamic rather than static, as is more or less obligatory for a building maybe a tenth as large as is necessary to hold all that deserves “fame” in baseball — or maybe a hundredth. But they completely dominate in size the actual hall with the plaques.

      What needs to be redesigned isn’t the Hall of Fame itself. It’s the way we think about the place — we, and particularly, the BBWAA, which I quite agree has a collective craniorectal insertion at the moment.

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  14. Tom says:

    I really like this idea, but I would go one further.

    Create a room “The Hall of Shame” where ANYONE caught violating baseball’s rules (gambling, corked bats, PED, sandpaper, etc.) would be put down there. This allows Pete Rose to get into the Hall of Greats, but also immortalizes the bad things. History isn’t just about the good things.

    I also believe this would serve as deterrent for future cheaters. Does the next fringe player forever want there name to be seen by visitors as a cheater?

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    • drewcorb says:

      Again I’ll say, I would love to watch the induction ceremony for players going to the Hall of Shame.

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  15. Spike says:

    Holy overcomplicating things, batman! An Inner Circle and Outer Circle!? omg. Imagine the arguments over who belongs in the IC? If it becomes any more idiotic and esoteric than it already is, I might just go up there and burn the whole building down!

    The only things that need tweaking now are the voting guidelines and the voters themselves. Some clarity about players with no known evidence as juicers being distinguished from those with known evidence should be written into the voting process. And whoever gets the privilege of voting (assuming the voting population is expanded must pass a basic and historical competency test) should have to sign an oath that they voted based on known evidence rather than innuendo regarding juicing and further that they voted w/o any personal bias. And finally, of course require all the ballots be made public.

    Too many of these voters carry their own personal views onto their ballots, not to mention their lack of knowledge and it’s killing the entire process.

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  16. CircleChange11 says:

    Uh-Oh, Dave referred to a Bill Simmons idea and wrote about it.

    I’ve seen where this leads. *grin*


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  17. OaktownSteve says:

    Here’s outside the box (particularly these days): why fix it at all? Ever been there? It’s great. You just wander around soaking up whatever baseball is on offer. The town is pretty cool. You have to make an effort to go there so it’s not a zoo like it would be if you put it in downtown Manhattan.

    As for the way folks get elected, talk about some good messy human stuff. Is there anything that generates more conversation about what the game is and is not, what greatness is or is not, how the game reflects us as a people and a culture or does not than the annual debate about who goes in and who doesn’t?

    For some reason the Hall seems to bring out the inner Platonist in everybody, as though there is some idealized HOF in the clouds somewhere and the actual HOF is just a pale and compromised version. The more you try to use logic or whiteboard solutions, the more you realize that it’s not a problem and therefore has no solution because it is and always should be a matter of subjectivity.

    The one argument I can see is that there are tangible, monetary benefits that accrue to the players who get in, and I do believe in fairness, but there is no scenario where certain players will not feel like they’ve been wrongly excluded from something or have been insufficiently recognized and no scenario where folks won’t feel like somebody was overly celebrated or wrongly included.

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  18. Keith says:

    The only problem with the inner room is that is essentially the HoF now, so we’ll have the same bickering about people going to that room as we do going into the Hall presently.

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  19. stan says:

    I like the idea but I’d probably still call all of the entrants “hall of famers” and then explain that he’s in because of longevity, fleeting star, incredible accomplishment.

    The problem with that, and your model, is that when you create separate categories you create even more gray area for people to sneak into. Five islands have more shoreline than one big one.

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  20. chief00 says:

    I’m Canadian and I’ve been to Cooperstown. I loved it. I don’t understand why people want to get away from the disagreements and controversies generated by selections/selection processes. That’s part of what makes it so interesting: you argue in favour of your player, and I’ll counter it. But ultimately the choice is up to someone else. The whole situation lends itself to controversy and disagreement. Anyways, it gives us something to research and write about passionately.

    Is there a separate section for the Women’s League and the Negro Leagues? Think very carefully before you answer that question. Segregation isn’t as volatile an issue here in Canada. On that note, we probably need to reconsider our definition of ‘greatness’ prior to integration. Babe Ruth never had to hit against Satchel Paige or pitch against Josh Gibson.

    Embrace the controversy inherent in the the Hall of Fame. Weren’t the early days of Hall election tiered somewhat? Didn’t they need to make up for lost time (almost a century of baseball history)? Weren’t the best of the best the first ones elected, before the focus shifted to everyone else? There has never been a time in baseball history when all the players eligible for election were, (1) equally talented, or (2) morally impeccable.

    I ook forward to the time when voters use a different basis for selection (e.g. more sabr stuff). Then we’ll have some controversy… :)

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  21. Paul says:

    By the way, read this Nate Silver piece if you haven’t. Two guys getting royally screwed: Bagwell and Piazza. What’s happening to them right now is pretty much unjust and un-American.

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    • Philip Christy says:

      Un-American? McCarthyism was born here.

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      • Dan says:

        Comparisons so facile and false are born here.

        I think by “un-American” he means that it isn’t in the spirit of a true meritocracy, and one where people are innocent until proven guilty. McCarthy himself was un-American by Paul’s standard, I’d be willing to bet.

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  22. Ben says:

    If you go to the museum, they basically have all the stuff you’re talking about. So while Maris will probably never be inducted into the Hall, his 61 HR accomplishment will always be a feature of the museum.

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  23. chuckb says:

    I think there would also need to be a room for those who transformed the sport and society beyond baseball. Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby belong here. I’m not sure who else but this would be reserved for people whose contributions to the society were bigger than the sport. Maybe Roberto Clemente. I’m sure many can think of others who belong.

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    • fish says:

      In a slightly different direction, but generally of the same idea, how about Tommy John? He certainly changed the sport, and for the better. Marvin Miller. Curt Flood.

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  24. KCDaveInLA says:

    Good article – interesting that you cite Babe Ruth and Jim Rice to represent the spectrum of HOF accomplishment. I would say that’s about right.

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  25. Nathan says:


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  26. cthabeerman says:

    I’ve always wondered how difficult it would be to get MLB to support (much less endorse) a separate museum with different entrance requirements than the current Cooperstown setup.

    It would start with any player that has had his number retired by any organization(s). I think that would cover most everyone that most of us feel are “deserving.” There’s probably some very talented journeymen that may end up not having a home right off the bat, but perhaps those situations could be decided by a counsel with the sole question for candidacy being, “If this player played for one team for his entire career, would he have been recognized/enshrined into the organization’s hall of fame/ring of honor/whateveryoucallit?”

    From there, you can move on to add the single-season record holders, perfect game pitchers, consecutive what have yous, etc. I don’t know that you’d want to get too whacky with all the different categories, but I think there could also be one of Dave’s rooms for all the miscellaneous feats and achievements that have occurred. Highlight the excellence that occurs each year but doesn’t always earn awards…Kris Medlen’s second half of 2012, for instance (absolutely thrilling, but destined to be forgotten by most).

    There’s so much more to baseball than just the Hall of Famers, anyway. If my love of the game was limited to only the best of the best, it wouldn’t include most of my favorite moments.


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  27. dafuq says:

    One of the best ideas I’ve seen from Dave and on the topic of HOF.

    Excellent article.

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  28. I don’t think they should changed a lot of the exhibits at Cooperstown, however, I do agree with Dave if he is ONLY suggesting which players get into the HoF.
    The hall of fame does celebrate the great moments and accomplishments very well, they even have Latin baseball and African-Americans receiving their own exhibits/rooms.

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  29. Dr. Chaleeko says:

    Keep the Hall like it is. But to increase fan engagement, create a survivor-style cutdown that fans participate in via the HOF’s website. A screening panel selects 20 or 30 eligibles. Fans cut it down to 10. Some electorate can then vote with the usual 75% rule or with a winner-take-all format, or a hybrid if those two. Kind of like a primary + electoral college system. We all get to have some say, and if we don’t like how it goes, we do a better job of presenting a candidate’s case next year.

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    • Anonymous says:

      This would result in further bias against players in smaller markets and players more remote from their playing days.

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  30. Billion Memes says:

    Too complicated of a solution. I view it this way:

    Problem: Too many voters out of touch with baseball or don’t cover baseball at all anymore.
    Solution: Instead of difficult entry for new writers and lifetime voting for writers once they’re in, simply switch it. Easier entry for writers who cover the game, say 3 years instead of 10. More difficult to remain a voter, say recertification as a writer who covers baseball every 3 years from then on.

    I think 10 player max ballots are fine, y/n vote is fine, 5 year waiting period is fine, 15 years on the ballot is fine. If you fixed the root cause, none of these other things would be an issue. We’d just be left with good arguments over Tim Raines vs. Jack Morris, something on which reasonable people can disagree.

    There are probably many who would say, “but the writers would never voluntarily agree to such new guidelines for membership.” To me, that just hammers home the point further. If the writers are the root cause of the issues arising in the annual voting and they are unwilling to change the way they do things for the good of the game, then that just reinforces the idea that the writers are the root cause. Its not about the writers!

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  31. 81 says:

    Dave is obsessed with the Hall of Fame. I mean Dave is pretty clearly obsessed with baseball in general but really fixated on that one thing.

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  32. Dayday says:

    I’m not a very sentimental man, so I’d like the hall of fame to be a website with way too much flash.

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  33. tommy says:

    I don’t understand why you put Craig Biggio in the all around room and not the longevity room. Did he not just hang on to make it to 3,000 hits so he can increase his chanced for the HOF? Had Biggio retired after 15-17 seasons in Houston he’d be just that, retired. That’s not an example of “What a HOF career should be”.

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  34. Hurtlockertwo says:

    “It is played everywhere. In parks and playgrounds and prison yards. In back alleys and farmers’ fields. By small children and old men. Raw amateurs and millionaire professionals. It is a leisurely game that demands blinding speed. The only game in which the defense has the ball. It follows the seasons, beginning each year with the fond expectancy of springtime, and ending with the hard facts of autumn. It is a haunted game, in which every player is measured against the ghosts of all who have gone before. Most of all, it is about time and timelessness. Speed and grace. Failure and loss. Imperishable hope. And coming home.” Ken Burns

    This is what the baseball HOF is about.

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  35. CircleChange11 says:

    I think this solution makes more problems than it solves, which realistically means it’s not a good solution.

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  36. Baltar says:

    I agree 100% with all of your recommendations.
    Let’s do it.

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  37. Paul Slydo says:

    Forget all these ideas. Instead, each year survey 1,000 people (or whatever’s necessary for a representative sample) and ask if they recognize the names from the Hall class fifty years prior. Those that are recognized by more than a certain percentage have their plaques moved into a special hall. This would create a place for those who truly left their mark – the Cobbs, Ruths, Dimaggios, Mantles, Gibsons, Robinsons of the world. Anyone who’s been to Cooperstown knows there are a lot of players on the wall who have long been forgotten. They can remain, but those who stand the test of time move on to a higher honor.

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  38. RMR says:

    It would be fascinating to see an attempt to play this out in a completed matrix. I tweaked the terms a little, but it’s basically Dave’s. You could try thresholds such as:

    – Shooting Stars: 8 year stretch with 40+ WAR
    – History Makers: Subjective, but would be focused on the degree to which the accomplishment captured the public imagination in a lasting way
    – Great accumulators: Hit a notable career threshold (3000 Hits, 500 HR, 300 Wins, 8 Gold Gloves, etc.)
    – All-Around Stars: Players who reach the 70 WAR threshold
    – All-Time Greats (e.g. Inner Circle): Players who reached the 90 WAR threshold (33 position players, 15 pitchers so far) OR achieved all of the above

    Maybe I just gave myself some fun homework… Would be fascinating to see who currently in the HOF would be left out and who currently out would be pulled in.

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