Fixing the Hall of Fame (One More Time)

December 5, 2014

                I’d better do some work here.  Ma’ buddies Joe Posnanski and Tom Tango have been having a semi-private, semi-public discussion about the Hall of Fame voting structure and how it relates to Gary Sheffield and Tim Raines and such, while I have been rolling around the house like a large pool of liquid lethargy, not having written anything in a month.   It’s an interesting topic, and actually, I love writing about how to get better Hall of Famers; the only problem is that it seems futile.  I could come up with a thousand schemes to elect Hall of Famers, all of them better than the current system, but the Hall of Fame wouldn’t adopt any of the thousand.  What then is the point?

                The point is that it leads to better understanding of the problem, and also, I’ve got to do something to get myself out of this life-destroying lethargy I have been in since I got back from Ireland.   The first thing that should be noted, about the Hall of Fame’s selection process, is that more than 99% of the shoddy work has been done not by the BBWAA, but by the various and sundry and mundry committees that have acted on the Hall of Fame’s behalf.

                It is an odd thing, that

1)      MOST of the people who are in the Hall of Fame were not actually selected by the BBWAA,

2)      ALL or virtually all of the unworthy selections to the Hall of Fame were not made by the BBWAA, and yet

3)      Discussion about the Hall of Fame selection process is 90% focused on the BBWAA voting process.

 

Even sophisticated people like Joe and Tom fall into this trap, or what seems to me like a trap, of trying to fix the part of the system which isn’t broken.    You take your Honda to the Honda dealer, explain that your transmission is shot and the gas pedal is balky; they offer you an oil change and a new set of spark plugs.   I am going to fall into this trap myself in just a moment, but first I wanted to observe that I was walking into this trap.   That way, I don’t feel like I am falling into a trap; I feel like I am walking into a trap with my eyes wide open and my zipper shut.

Why are we focused on fixing the part of the automobile that actually works fine?   Because it is public.    What is public is accessible; we feel that we can influence it, that we can fix it.   The work done by committees in darkened rooms of the Otesaga Hotel has been uniformly terrible, but we don’t have enough details to discuss it.    Rick Ferrell is elected, or Doug Harvey or J. L. Wilkinson, and we all say, "What the blank?", but beyond that we don’t have enough information to discuss the event—nor did we have any warning to prevent it.

The first thing that needs to be done, to fix the Hall of Fame system, is:  Terminate all of the side committees.   Close all of the backdoors and side doors and windows and air vents or however the hell it was that Alex Pompez and Travis Jackson and Dracula got into the building.     Get rid of those, and promise us that there will never, ever, ever be any more of them.   That’s a good start.

Next, establish a rule that four persons must be selected to the Hall of Fame in each year; not four persons MAY be selected; four persons MUST be selected.

A regular flow of entries of a fixed and steady number—coming out of a consistent and well-defined process--creates standards.    The Hall of Fame suffers from indefinite standards because inconsistent and incompatible processes are used to make the selections.    Travis Jackson is in; Alan Trammell—obviously a better player than Travis Jackson—is out.    This is because those passing judgment on Alan Trammell’s career are different in every way than those who plucked Travis Jackson from the lost island of New York Giants history.  If four candidates and only four candidates could be selected each year in a well-thought out, public process, Rick Ferrell, Alex Pompez, Eppa Rixey and Dracula would never have been selected because they could never have fought their way past the better-qualified candidates who have been left out.  

Varying processes, with a lack of review.  A group of 12 or 16 or 18 old men get together in a room and talk themselves into believing that Chick Hafey is a Hall of Famer, and nobody reviews it; they just announce it, and then they try to sucker everybody into believing that this wasn’t some colossal foul up, but that Chick Hafey had mystical abilities that have up to now escaped proper documentation.    You need checks and balances; we need for one committee to review the work of the previous committee, and decide whether it was reasonable or unreasonable.    The problem with that is, if one committee reviews another, you can reach stalemate, as all of the committees disagree with one another and nobody gets elected except Cal Ripken and Derek Jeter.

OK, we have terminated the side committees, and now we are going to replace the BBWAA.    We are going to replace it with a four-step process, in which the four steps are:

1)      Nominate 32 candidates,

2)      Cut the list to 16 by head-to-head competitive voting,

3)      Cut the list to 8, and

4)      Cut the list to 4.

Historically, about three players per year have been selected to the Hall of Fame.   Going forward, I think four per year is a better number.    Some of the reasons why four is a better number than three can be explained by the article "The Expansion Time Bomb", which was published here on February 17, 2010, and which can still be read on this site by clicking "articles" and searching on down until you see it.    Also. . .three PLAYERS per year, plus a certain number of other candidates.   Four per year is about what we have been selecting, if you include managers and executives.  I think four per year is actually LESS than we have been selecting.

The BBWAA has little history of selecting unqualified candidates, but the BBWAA has passed on—rejected—a large number of well-qualified candidates.   The BBWAA whiffed on Joe Torre, Ron Santo, Nellie Fox, Tim Raines, Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans and others.    These are failures, too.  These failures create pressure to open the alternative admissions process—and the alternative admissions process is a dart board.   By insisting that the "regular" process select four honorees per year, we can eliminate the pressures that lead ultimately to the substandard selections.     At four selections per year, the de facto standards for Hall of Fame selection will move up, because all of the selections will be made by a regular, organized process designed to find not players who are to the liking of group, but players who have survived a rigorous process of review and advancement.

I skipped there the step of "Who should be eligible?"

I like the five-year waiting period; I think it serves a proper purpose, and I am willing to allow the Hall of Fame to keep in place their ban on Untouchables like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joey.   But since there are no more Old-Timers Committees or Veterans’ Committees or Special Committees, players (and other candidates) need to remain eligible in perpetuity—and can remain eligible in perpetuity, in this system, without crowding the ballot so as to prevent elections.   Also, the minimum ten-year service in the major leagues is no longer a necessary requirement.  The purpose of the ten-year service requirement was to establish a base-line minimum.  Since four people are going to be elected every year come communism or high water, we don’t need to worry any more about clogging the pipes with unworthy candidates.  Unworthy candidates can be nominated, because they’ll be rejected by the subsequent process.

Then we form fan organizations to nominate the 32 candidates.  There are 30 major league baseball teams.   Each major league baseball team is charged to create a fan support organization, and that fan support organization is charged to nominate one player to represent that team in that year’s vote.   The Yankee fans, for example, can nominate Roger Maris, Don Mattingly, Bernie Williams or Mike Mussina or whoever they want to nominate.    The Tigers fan group can nominate Whitaker or Trammell or Jack Morris or Mickey Lolich or Norm Cash or Bill Freehan or, since we have eliminated the 10-year minimum, Mark Fidrych.    The Dodger fans can nominate Steve Garvey or Bob Welch or Mike Piazza or Babe Herman or Gil Hodges or Maury Wills.  The Colorado Rockies fans won’t really have a strong candidate until Todd Helton retires, but they can still participate in the process by nominating Larry Walker or Andres Galarraga or somebody.

One problem we’re going to run into right away is what to do about franchise shifts.    Fortunately, franchise shifts are now so rare that we don’t have a huge problem there, but. . .OK, what do we do about Montreal?   The Washington fans don’t care anything about the Montreal players, who thus become orphans in the system.

It is normally about 20 to 25 years from the peak of a player’s career until he becomes a serious Hall of Fame candidate, although it is sometimes less.    My suggestion would be that the "old" city owns the right to nominate the candidate until 30 years after the franchise shift.    The Washington fans at this point wouldn’t really have anyone who is a serious candidate anyway.    If we assume that Strasburg or Bryce Harper steps forward and has a Hall of Fame career, then we have to assume that they won’t finish that career until sometime outside of 2025, more likely 2027 or 2028 or well. ..actually later than that.   Five-year waiting period, its 2032 or 2033.   Since the team was in Montreal through 2004, the Montreal fans own the nominating process until 2034.

There are 30 teams, and I have suggested 32 nominees per year.    The other committee is charged to nominate the best candidates not being nominated by any of the 30 team panels.   These would include players like Gary Sheffield, Rusty Staub and David Cone who are not clearly associated with any one team, but also institutional figures like commissioners, league presidents, inventors, umpires, vampires and people who lead drives to build new stadiums.    These would also include the representatives of dead franchises from long ago, people like George Van Haltren and Mickey Vernon. . .anyone who is a good candidate but not being nominated.

There may be a problem here, which is that the two nominations from that category are not enough.   Historically, people like this—umpires and executives and long-ago stars—have accounted for much, much more than one sixteenth of the Hall of Fame population.    This group would not need to nominate executives or managers; if the St. Louis or Oakland fans want to nominate Tony LaRussa, they have the same right to nominate him as Mark McGwire.

Anyway. . .two "free" nominations are not enough to ensure that good candidates who are not fan favorites in any one city are nominated, so I suggest this.   When a team has a "successful" nomination, that team does not nominate a player the next year, and those four nomination spots are passed instead to the "open field" committee.   In other words, let’s assume that the Yankee fans nominate Derek (Dirty Rotten) Jeter in 2019 and that he is elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, then the Yankees would not have a nomination spot in 2020.

Trying to think along with the rabble. . .I will get letters here complaining that actually, Mariano Rivera will be nominated and elected in 2018, which will mean that the Yankees will lose their nomination spot in 2019, which will mean that Derek Jeter will not be nominated until 2020, which will mean that St. Derek has to wait out an entire year, and this is a terrible injustice and an intolerable situation and yada yada yada.    My response to this is:  1) give me a break; I’m just trying to explain how the system works in theory, not how it will work in detail, 2) that this is not really a terrible injustice or an intolerable situation; it is more in the nature of a trivial inconvenience, and 3) actually, it’s not even that, since in this extremely unusual situation, in which a team has two first-ballot Hall of Famers retiring in two seasons, the Open Field committee can and should nominate Derek Jeter in 2019, rather than making him wait a year.   

Anyway, in each election after the first one, then, there are 32 nominations—26 from teams, and 6 from the open field committee.    My next rule would be that a player who is nominated but not elected must then wait three years to be re-nominated; in other words, if Pedro Martinez is nominated by the Boston fans in 2015 but not elected, then they cannot re-nominate him in 2016; they can switch to nominating Clemens, or Jackie Jensen, or Manny if he is eligible, or Dwight Evans or Dom DiMaggio or Nomah or Nosferatu or Frank White if for some reason they choose to do that , but they can’t re-nominate Pedro until 2018.

Unless.   There’s an "out" from that, a really big out, but I need to do some more explaining before I get there.   First, the 32 candidates are matched against one another in head-to-head voting.   Let us suppose that we are in the year 2018, and let us suppose that the players nominated in 2018 are as follows:

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

Randy Johnson

 

Minnesota Twins

Tony Oliva

Atlanta Braves

Andruw Jones

 

Montreal Expos

Tim Raines

Baltimore Orioles

Mike Mussina

 

New York Mets

Jerry Koosman

Boston Red Sox

Manny Ramirez

 

New York Yankees

Mariano Rivera

Chicago Cubs

Stan Hack

 

Oakland A's

Vida Blue

Chicago White Sox

Minnie Minoso

 

Philadelphia Phillies

Dick Allen

Cincinnati Reds

Ted Kluszewski

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

Dave Parker

Cleveland Indians

Rocky Colavito

 

San Diego Padres

Trevor Hoffman

Colorado Rockies

Todd Helton

 

San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds

Detroit Tigers

Jack Morris

 

Seattle Mariners

Edgar Martinez

Houston Astros

Craig Biggio

 

St. Louis Cardinals

Ken Boyer

Kansas City Royals

Frank White

 

Tampa Bay Rays

The Vampire Lastat

Los Angeles Angels

Tim Salmon

 

Texas Rangers

Pudge

Los Angeles Dodgers

Mike Piazza

 

Toronto Blue Jays

Dave Stieb

Miami Marlins

Edgar Renteria

 

Open Field

Gary Sheffield

Milwaukee Brewers

Cecil Cooper

 

Open Field

Jim Kaat

 

 

The first question we have to ask is how we arrange these 32 candidates into a field of 16 head-to-head contests, a tournament.   I would be comfortable "seeding" them at random, but other options would include:

 

1)       Seeding them chronologically by date of birth,

2)      Seeding them by the length of their major league careers, and

3)      Seeding them by previous nominations to the Hall of Fame; in other words, a person nominated four previous times would be seeded ahead of a person nominated/not selected three previous times.  

 

A random seeding process actually would work fine and would cause no problems, but people who are not mathematically literate tend to be uncomfortable with random seedings, and would probably demand something else.    I don’t care; it really doesn’t matter in the long run how the candidates are seeded.    Let’s say for the purpose of illustration that it is random.    I seeded these 32 candidates at random:

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Mike Piazza

Houston Astros

Craig Biggio

   

Toronto Blue Jays

Dave Stieb

Seattle Mariners

Edgar Martinez

   

Detroit Tigers

Jack Morris

Open Field

Jim Kaat

   

Pittsburgh Pirates

Dave Parker

Arizona Diamondbacks

Randy Johnson

   

Tampa Bay Rays

The Vampire Lastat

Milwaukee Brewers

Cecil Cooper

   

Oakland A's

Vida Blue

Chicago White Sox

Minnie Minoso

   

San Diego Padres

Trevor Hoffman

New York Yankees

Mariano Rivera

   

Boston Red Sox

Manny Ramirez

Colorado Rockies

Todd Helton

   

Baltimore Orioles

Mike Mussina

Miami Marlins

Edgar Renteria

   

Cincinnati Reds

Ted Kluszewski

New York Mets

Jerry Koosman

   

San Franchisco Giants

Barry Bonds

Minnesota Twins

Tony Oliva

   

Cleveland Indians

Rocky Colavito

Kansas City Royals

Frank White

   

Montreal Expos

Tim Raines

Philadelphia Phillies

Dick Allen

   

St. Louis Cardinals

Ken Boyer

Chicago Cubs

Stan Hack

   

Texas Rangers

Pudge

Atlanta Braves

Andruw Jones

   

Los Angeles Angels

Tim Salmon

Open Field

Gary Sheffield

 

At random, the two leading vote-getters remaining from last year’s ballot are matched against one another (Piazza and Biggio), and it happens that similar players are matched against each other in several cases—Jack Morris against Jim Kaat, Mariano Rivera against Trevor Hoffman,  Manny Ramirez against Todd Helton and Ken Boyer against Stan Hack.    Edgar Martinez and Dave Stieb are not similar players, but they are players of similar stature, and they represent the 1977 expansion pairings, the Mariners and the Blue Jays.   Anyway, someone would win each of these contests and someone would lose.   Let us assume for the purposes of argument that Biggio would beat Mike Piazza, that Edgar Martinez would beat Dave Stieb, that Jack Morris would beat Jim Kaat, that Randy Johnson would beat Dave Parker, that Cecil Cooper would beat the Vampire Lestat, that Minnie Minoso would beat Vida Blue, that Mariano Rivera would beat Trevor Hoffman, that Manny Ramirez would beat Todd Helton, that Mike Mussina would beat Edgar Renteria, that Ted Kluszewski would beat Jerry Koosman, that Barry Bonds would beat Tony Oliva, that Rocky Colavito would beat Frank White, that Tim Raines would beat Dick Allen, that Ken Boyer would beat Stan Hack, that Ivan Rodriguez would beat Andruw Jones, and that Gary Sheffield would beat Tim Salmon.   Then we would have 16 candidates in 8 contests in the second round:

 

Craig Biggio against Edgar Martinez

Jack Morris against Randy Johnson

Cecil Cooper against Minnie Minoso

Mariano Rivera against Manny Ramirez

Mike Mussina against Ted Kluszewski

Barry Bonds against Rocky Colavito

Tim Raines against Ken Boyer

Ivan Rodriguez against Gary Sheffield

 

In the second round it is obvious that Randy Johnson would beat Jack Morris and that Barry Bonds would probably cream Rocky Colavito despite the steroid issue, but the other outcomes are not as obvious.   Let us say for the sake of argument that Biggio bests Edgar, Minnie Minoso beats Cecil Cooper, Mariano Rivera eliminates Manny Ramirez, Mike Mussina beats Ted Kluszewski, Raines beats Boyer and Ivan Rodriguez comes out ahead of Gary Sheffield (which I don’t believe that he should, but I do believe that he would.)   These, then, would be the four matches for the final round of the voting:

Craig Biggio against Randy Johnson

Minnie Minoso against Mariano Rivera

Mike Mussina against Barry Bonds

Tim Raines against Ivan Rodriguez

 

Probably your Hall of Fame selections would be Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, Barry Bonds and Ivan Rodriguez, I am guessing, but it doesn’t matter much because any of these eight are legitimate Hall of Famers; we are merely selecting the most legitimate, and asking the others to wait a year.

When a player is nominated/not selected, that player (that candidate) cannot be re-nominated in the following year or in the year following that, except that players who are eliminated by direct comparison with the four who are selected can be re-nominated the next year.    In other words—assuming that the four selected are Randy, Mariano, Bonds and Pudge—then any player who has been directly eliminated by one of those four can be immediately re-nominated.    Each Hall of Famer will eliminate three other candidates in the process of selection, so there will be 12 candidates who can be re-nominated the next year; the field of 32 becomes 4 who are selected, 12 who can be immediately re-nominated, and 16 who have to wait three years before they can be considered again.   In this illustration Dave Parker, Jack Morris, Craig Biggio, Trevor Hoffman, Manny Ramirez, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Rocky Colavito, Mike Mussina, Tim Raines, Gary Sheffield and Andruw Jones could be re-nominated in 2019, while Mike Piazza, Dave Stieb, Edgar Martinez, Jim Kaat, Cecil Cooper, Lestat, Vida Blue, Todd Helton, Edgar Renteria, Ted Kluszewski, Jerry Koosman, Frank White, Edgar Renteria, Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, Stan Hack and Tim Salmon could not be re-nominated until 2021.  

                I think the provision requiring that new names be placed on the ballot is necessary to prevent local nominating conventions from becoming unduly polarized.  Absent such a rule, what is going to happen is that the advocates of some candidate will take over many of the nominating groups, and constantly re-nominate candidates who aren’t going to be elected.    The Tigers group, for example, might be taken over by Jack Morris supporters and re-nominate Morris year after year, excluding Trammell, Parrish, Freehan, Lolich, and other deserving candidates.  But the exemption for those directly eliminated by the Hall of Famers is necessary, because there will be situations in which a first-round matchup is Randy Johnson against Ken Griffey Jr. or something.   It is OK that one of those giants has to wait a year, as Joe DiMaggio did, but less OK that a player of that stature has to wait three years and hope that in the next turn he doesn’t get matched up against Albert Pujols.

                Twelve candidates can be re-nominated the next year, but not all of them will be.   Let us take Rocky Colavito, for example; he can be re-nominated in 2019 although he is not a strong candidate.   Once the system is up and running, Colavito would have to beat out in the Cleveland precinct whoever it was who was the nominee three years ago and is now eligible again.  In many cases, the vote to nominate Colavito will have been close anyway; it may have been Colavito 57, Wes Ferrell 56, Jim Thome 55 in his local precinct.  When Colavito’s nomination fails, it is not obvious that he will win the nomination again the next year; sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t.  But in this way, the percentage of "good candidates" in the 32-man field will be increased by allowing the better candidates to be re-nominated more quickly.   

                There are a lot of questions that I have not answered yet, the largest of which is "Who decides between Randy Johnson and Dave Parker?"     But first, I wanted to make this argument.   The genius of this system is that it focuses the task assigned to the voters to a simple, manageable question.  

                One of the problems with the BBWAA voting system is that it assigns the voters a sprawling, unmanageable task. The BBWAA voter is asked to review the credentials of dozens of candidates, make a mental list of them 1 through 44, and decide which ten are the most qualified. That done, he is asked to compare the player to some indefinite, unwritten standard:  is this player above the line?   In that system it is easy for someone to be overlooked—and once he is overlooked, very difficult for him to get redress. In this system that I have proposed, the voter is asked merely to study two specific players, get command of the information about those two, and choose one or the other.   That is a task much more in keeping with the capacity of the human mind.    

                And the player who is "locked out" here—the next Lou Whitaker, the next Ron Santo—that player has an obvious pathway to get back in the process.   Lou Whitaker’s advocates simply have to go the Detroit nominating group, and make the case for Whitaker to be given a place in the rotation of nominees, along with Trammell, Rudy York and Jack Morris.     If the Detroit group doesn’t nominate him, the Open Field group can.

                I think a Tim Raines, an Alan Trammell. . ..I think a player like that has a better chance of thriving in the system if the voter is forced to consider his qualifications, rather than being given the option of overlooking him.  If you are forced to ask yourself "Who do I really want to have on my team:  Tim Raines, or Kirby Puckett?" you are probably going to realize that Tim Raines is the better candidate.    Perhaps I misstated my argument there.  It is obvious, and it would be easy to demonstrate, that Hall of Fame voting is shaped by "attention effects".   Dizzy Dean was selected in part because 1) he was part of the national broadcast team, and 2) there was a movie about him and a publicity campaign for the movie.    Players benefit from an attention effect when they die.  But if the attention effect merely pushes the candidate into a direct competition with another candidate, that mutes the effect.   Am I going to vote against Jim Kaat, a 285-game winner, because Jim Bunning has been elected to the United States Senate?   Am I really going to vote against Vada Pinson because the Yankee fans are emotional about Phil Rizzuto not being elected?

                A panel cannot simply select Alex Pompez; it must select Alex Pompez and reject someone else.  By limiting those selected to four per year, we force the advocates of Phil Rizzuto to show not merely that he is above some imaginary line of greatness, but that he is actually better, more qualified, than a series of other candidates.   They must first select him as their nominee over Mattingly, Maris, Elston Howard and Jim Leyritz, and he must then win three levels of head to head competitions with other well-qualified candidates, judged by impartial experts. 

                Another question:  Who are the judges?    First, I think it is an adequate answer to that question to say simply that the judges should be the best-qualified people that we can find.    Among the failings of the BBWAA system—which again, I am not exaggerating—but among the failings of the BBWAA system is that is very careless as to who gets the ballot and who doesn’t.    Well qualified people—Bob Costas, for example—are permanently locked out of the system, prohibited from voting—while totally unqualified people are allowed to vote.    If we start over and keep our eyes open and our zippers shut, we can avoid that problem. 

                As to who the best qualified people are. .. how about this.   Let us suppose that we set up 16 ten-person panels, with each ten-person panel consisting of three former players, three members of the media, three persons like Craig Wright or Rob Neyer or John Thorn who are very knowledgeable about the history of baseball, and one executive or scout, one baseball professional.    Each of the 16 panels can elect one "moderator" or "captain", before they know which two players they will be asked to compare, and that person’s vote will be the tie-breaker in case of a tie.   Each panel is then assigned one of the 16 sets of first-round candidate matchups.  

                In the second round, we have 8 sets of 20-man panels; in the third round, 4 sets of 40-man panels.   You were probably wondering why I didn’t just suggest a 7-man or 9-man panel in the first round, thus avoiding possible ties, but when you move to the second round, then you have 14- or 18-man panels, same problem; you’re always going to have an even number of voters—thus the possibility of a tie—in the second and third rounds.  

                Let’s talk about the schedule.   First, I want this to be a public process, with the public aware of and involved in the argument at each step of the way.  Let us say that we begin announcing the candidates, one a day, beginning on October 1. On October 1 we announce that Chipper Jones is the candidate representing Atlanta, on October 2 that Brian Giles is the candidate representing San Diego, on October 3 that Bobby Grich has been nominated to represent Baltimore, etc., etc.   In this way there is a screen crawler about the Hall of Fame process every day for a month, which keeps the Hall of Fame in the national conversation.    

                The last nomination would be about November 1.   After that we take a ten-day hiatus to allow the machinery to work, and then we begin announcing results, again, one a day; on November 12 we announce that Bobby Abreu has advanced over Vladimir Guerrero, and that tomorrow’s announcement will regard the competition between Todd Helton and Curt Schilling.   On November 13 we announce that Todd Helton has been selected to advance over Curt Schilling.   This goes on until late November, then we take a ten-day break, and begin announcing the results of the second-round voting. The final selections will be announced in early January, one a day for four days.  

                The "string along" schedule of announcements is necessary in part because some player might be nominated by two different groups.  If all of the groups meet on November 3 and announce their nominations on November 4, we might find that Gary Sheffield has been simultaneously nominated by the Dodgers and Yankees; it might seem unlikely, but it CAN happen, and then there is Murphy’s Law:  Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  If there is a way the system can fail, nature will find the pathway to that outcome.  The "Open Field" nominations need to be made at the end of the process, because it is their job to clean up after the other committees, to nominate the most deserving candidates who are being overlooked.  They can’t be certain who has been overlooked until the other nominations are known. 

                There will be objections here that we will be embarrassing players by announcing that they have been rejected as Hall of Fame candidates.   I don’t really see it that way.   We have five candidates for each Oscar; four of them will be publicly rejected on national television.   Are they embarrassed by this?   Are they humiliated by their public rejection?   You can look at it either way:  that it is an honor to be nominated, or that it is an embarrassment to be rejected.   If you’re a healthy, intelligent person, you’ll look at it as an honor to be nominated.   90% of Hall of Fame caliber athletes are healthy, intelligent people, and athletes understand competition. They’ve lost before.  I don’t really think that athletes are going to react that way, although some members of the media will seize themselves up in righteous indignation supposedly on behalf of the athletes.   But I think we can get past that. 

                Some of the votes are going to be controversial.  There is going to be some selection that doesn’t seem right to the wise men of ESPN, and it will be attacked.  Who are these people, who think that Bobby Abreu was a greater player than Vladimir Guerrero? What are they smoking?   When these men were active and competing against one another, Vladimir was a huge star. If you had said that Bobby Abreu was a better player than Vladimir Guerrero in 2001, when they were at their peak, you’d have been laughed out of the building.   Can we get one of these voters on the phone, to discuss this?

                That’s OK, too, that there will be criticism and controversy of that nature; controversy is the lifeblood of the Hall of Fame. What one hopes is that through the controversy, through the smoke and fire extinguishers, the eventual selections become highly anticipated events.  We want the networks standing by their desks in January, awaiting the announcements with experts primed and painted and ready to comment.  

                But I am not advocating this system because it will generate controversy; I am not advocating this system because it can be used to keep the Hall of Fame debate front and center for three months.  I am advocating this system because I believe it will select the best qualified players.  We don’t find the national champion in basketball by watching the teams practice and then voting on who would win; we find the champion by putting them through a systematic, organized competition.   A system of sifting the candidates through layers of comparison will produce better Hall of Famers than any process of simply lining them up and choosing an indefinite number of players from a long list of maybes.

 
 

COMMENTS (59 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
......and I think that as long as we forget about those final comments of his about Bill and remove the general stridency, his points are dead on. I think he is absolutely right about HOF picks not being a competition but a judging according to a bar of excellence, and that a big issue with Bill's proposal is that it turns this upside down. Regarding how the 10-vote limit already makes it into somewhat of a competition -- YES INDEED, but only somewhat, because it would seem doubtful that in more than a handful of cases a voter's 11th or 12th or 13th or 14th choice is someone with much of a chance; and in any event the 10-vote limit can easily be changed, and it seems there's a fair chance it will be.
10:35 PM Jan 14th
 
tangotiger
Wow. And this is a comment from someone who pays to be part of Bill's community!

Derek Jeter is eligible for the 2020 induction ceremony. The nomination will happen in 2019. What an incredible amount of nick-pickiness to try to make this as an example of poor editing or research.

As for the HOF in not being a competition: have you read what the voters did in the last two years? It's EXACTLY a competition, if you are constrained at 10 players per ballot. This is what the voters themselves said.

On top of which, even in other years, it's clear that when big names come off the ballot, and few or none come on, then the returnees make SUBSTANTIAL gains because of it. That's again because of the competition angle.

Your whole post is nothing more than a summary opinion with no evidence.
3:19 PM Jan 11th
 
thedanholmes
There are so many problems with this idea and the idea is so bad that I am not sure where to begin. First, and most glaring --- the Hall of Fame is not a competition. It's not about which player is better than another player. This is so obvious that I am embarrassed that Mr James didn't realize it. Look, the Oscars are selected as a competition, to choose which movie was the best in a certain year, not to choose which movies belong in the Smithsonian vault. The vault idea --- that's the Hall of Fame. We are choosing players who meet a standard of excellence. The ballot is simply a mechanism to allow the electorate to choose the players they feel rise to the level of greatness. They aren't being asked to rank them and that's not the point. I know many of the writers, and I assume many of you do too, and that's not what writers are doing, they are measuring the candidates based on whether they are worthy of a Hall of Fame standard.

I suspect that if I had come up with such an idea it would have been panned. But since Mr James came up with it some of you are falling over yourselves to call it brilliant. It's so flawed I am amazed. Why do the Rockies get just as much a chance to nominate a player as the Yankees or Tigers who have over 100 years of history and far more players who are good candidates? Why in the hell would Derek Jeter have to wait a year or two because some earlier Yankee got in?

By the way, Mr James is also slipping. It almost seems like he doesn't care about his writing any more. There are so many errors. For example. the five-year rule is five years put of the game, so Jeter won't be eligible until 2020. If Mr James can't bother to get basics of the HOF rules correct, why should I trust anything else he says?
3:02 AM Jan 2nd
 
tangotiger
Why would you take the average for the relocation gap? You want the MAXIMUM.

Thirty years seems perfect to me based on your own data.
9:32 PM Dec 8th
 
migross76
I'd love to see the nominations open to Negro Leaguers. How great would it be if Kansas City passed on Frank White to nominate Buck O'Neil?

Although I'd favor the nominations open to any role that routinely makes team hall of fames (e.g., manager, broadcaster), I understand how much more difficult it would be for the voting groups to decide between a player and a non-player.
8:02 PM Dec 8th
 
migross76
"My suggestion would be that the "old" city owns the right to nominate the candidate until 30 years after the franchise shift. The Washington fans at this point wouldn’t really have anyone who is a serious candidate anyway."

30 years seems a little long. Here's each relocated franchise with the last year of a no-brainer nomination:

MLN(1953): Spahn(1965)
BAL(1954): F Robinson(1976)
KCA(1955): R Jackson(1987)
LAD(1958): Snider(1964)
SFG(1958): Mays(1973)
MIN(1961): Carew(1985)
ATL(1966): Aaron(1976)
OAK(1968): R Jackson(1987)
TEX(1972): Jenkins(1983)
WSN(2005): ??

WSA(1961): ??
LAA(1961): Carew(1985)
NYM(1962): Seaver(1986)
HOU(1962): Morgan(1984)
MON(1969): Carter(1992)
SDP(1969): O Smith(1996)
KCR(1969): Brett(1993)
SEP(1969): *cough*
MIL(1970): Yount(1993)
TOR(1977): Molitor(1998)
SEA(1977): E Martinez(2004)
MIA(1993): Brown(2005)
COL(1993): Walker(2005)
ARI(1998): Schilling(2007)
TBR(1998): Longoria(~2025)

Adding a 5-year wait, that's a 22-year average for relocated teams and 26-year average for expansion teams. And that's not taking into account HOF-quality players that have minor ties to the team (e.g., Ivan Rodriguez playing for the Nationals).
7:54 PM Dec 8th
 
MarisFan61
(.....just wanted to highlight and appreciate this thing that Tom said:
"But WAR is not objective. It's consistent, and it's transparent, but it's not objective. It's as subjective as anything out there."

Remarkable, and wonderful. BTW I'd offer that it's too modest. Even I would say that "WAR" is more objective than most stuff out there.
1:08 PM Dec 8th
 
joedimino
I've got all of the numbers for the NegL's elected to the Hall of Merit in terms of career dates, and I can get the numbers together for those in the HoF that we didn't elect, guys like Judy Johnson. I should be able to put all of that together to find a smoothed out pattern for how many NegL precincts to have each year.

I could probably come up with at least a starter first run schedule for the whole thing but it will take a day to a few days, I'm on travel for work this week ... But weather could have me working out of the hotel tomorrow, which would help, time wise.
1:01 PM Dec 8th
 
tangotiger
NegL: yes, excellent approach there.
10:57 AM Dec 8th
 
joedimino
That's why I said you could use PA, IP whatever.

Your points are good. You win. I'd use stats to seed, but it's not a big deal. Let's just move on.
9:38 AM Dec 8th
 
joedimino
I agree on the Negro Leagues points. I think there a roughly the correct number of Negro Leaguers in already. So back track the math to have enough extra precints to elect the correct number added to the pool.

Basically figure ML HoF and use ML teams for that. Figure the number to get the correct number of NegL. Then just combine them for the appropriate years and direct the voters that they must give a fair shake to the NegL players or they have to recuse themselves.

I was just trying to keep my ideas general, but definitely agree it's a careful process to get it correct.

I would have the NegL precincts start with the first year Frank Grant would be eligible, since he's probsbly the earliest NegL player of HoF quality.
9:37 AM Dec 8th
 
tangotiger
But WAR is not objective. It's consistent, and it's transparent, but it's not objective. It's as subjective as anything out there.
9:34 AM Dec 8th
 
joedimino
I said why, said I wanted an objective way of dosing it. Voting is subjective. It's not a big deal, I said that too.
9:30 AM Dec 8th
 
tangotiger
Negro-Leaguers:

Yes, the point was the number of precincts. Bill proposed it for the CURRENT era, and based it on MLB teams, which is fine.

But if you do it retroactively, how do you establish the precincts? Are you going to have one precinct dedicated to Negro League? And when does that start (15 years after first season?) and how far into the future does that go? (Like the Expos rule?)

I'm just saying that if someone wants to undertake this process retroactively, you ought to have some care, and not be lazy and say "MLB-based precincts".
8:51 AM Dec 8th
 
tangotiger
"Letting the fans seed delays the process at least two weeks."

It can be done in 24 hours. When I put up my Hall fan polling, I got results from hundreds of votes in under a day.

And we see how fast fans vote with stuff like the Internet Baseball Awards and the various "fan vote" that MLB.com puts up for the All-Star game etc, where they gets thousands of votes rather quickly.

So, you can even establish the seeding with ONE HOUR of voting. We don't really needs millions of fans voting. Just a couple of thousand is enough.

Anyway, you haven't said WHY you don't like it. Just that you've DECIDED you don't like it. It's hard to have a debate when there's nothing of merit to actually discuss.

***

And here's another benefit of fan-voting: imagine that this goes on for a few years, and seeds #1 through #4 always go in. Always. Suddenly, we've proven that if you wanted to turn the whole thing to the fan, you won't have to worry about Skynet.

And say that occasionally a #5 or #6 seed gets voted in, or that a #1 seed does not get voted in: now you have a huge story, because you have a fans v voters issue. You have actual upsets.

***

There's just so many positives to the fan seeding. I've yet to hear of a single negative.

8:48 AM Dec 8th
 
joedimino
I would definitely include Negro Leaguers. We showed at the Hall of Merit that they can absolutely be included and they do not need to be separated, there are good MLEs out there, and a lot more public data now than we had at the time. We ended up electing many of the same guys the last committee did, before they did, and with a lot less data than they had.
11:26 PM Dec 7th
 
joedimino
You last post wasn't there when I started typing :-)
11:23 PM Dec 7th
 
joedimino
Letting the fans seed is fine. I don't like it, but I wouldn't go to the mattresses over it. I'd just rather it be objective. Even if not WAR, something simple like plate appearances and some multiple of innings (or innings time LI for relieves) that puts the pitchers in a reasonable spot on the list. Letting the fans seed delays the process at least two weeks since you have to wait for the nominees to be released, then organize and compile a fan vote. Fans can be included in the nominating process, give them a percentage of the vote there.

80% or 90% players v. others, who cares? That's why I'd rather just see the players elected separately which was the main point. One manager/GM/executive/scout/ump a year (for modern times) seems reasonable, but whatever. It's a minor nit to pick. Make it one every other year if you prefer 90 to 80% players. Just keep the system separate.

I'll try to do the math on the start year, but it doesn't matter that much. I'd rather start in 1890 and figure out the percentage of precincts that we use for the number of electees each year than figure out what year gets you the right number of electees, if that makes sense. That's how important I think it is to start early.

I just need to figure out how many players are in the Hall, then it's simple math going backwards on the numbers of teams. You'd also have to add in how to count the negro leaguers and how many teams/precincts to credit them with too. I can try to do that tomorrow.
11:21 PM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
As an ILLUSTRATION, if we vote in number of persons = numbers of teams / 8 (so, 3.75 these days), then starting in 1876 would give us 347 persons.

Though obviously, you may turn 30 teams into 32 precincts, and then you have to decide if you want to do the same (and how) with the 16 team and 20 team and 24 team seasons. But, set that aside. I'm trying to do basic math.

If you start the voting in 1919, you get 261 persons.

If you start in 1936, you get 227 persons.

There are 306 persons according to this page:
http://baseballhall.org/hall-of-famers

To match that, you'd start the voting with the 1896 induction season. But if you start adding the extra precincts, you'd have to start the voting later.

***

Of course, if you do this retroactively, you have to decide if you will do this only based on White teams. It'd be pretty insulting, especially since this is the Baseball HOF not the MLB HOF.

10:43 PM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
Bill's proposal makes more sense and fun to discuss without these debate-ending reality checks.

Especially since these reality checks only exist in the myopic view of today.
10:30 PM Dec 7th
 
Fireball Wenz
Would Bill's precinct system lead to a bias in favor of the one-franchise player, the Al Kalines, and against the well-traveled players, the Gary Sheffields?

The Hall of Fame is fatally flawed now anyway. The admission of so many merely very good players such as Kelly and Kell and Hooper and Ferrell has made the standards too squishy. Who wants to tell some 80-something ballplayer "yes, you were plenty better than a bunch of guys in there, but we're making new rules." The Veterans Committee members know many of these guys personally. They are going to lean towards induction.
8:46 PM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
As for the starting year: I was only asking a math question. So, in order to do the "precincts / 8" to elect the candidates, what year do you need to start the process to match the current number of inductees?​
6:23 PM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
Personally, it's ridiculous if the players make up less than 90% of the elected persons. And I'd go even at 95%.

WAR: again, this whole thing is based on input of people. There's no need to introduce a system for seeding. This is why you don't want to do it.

Now, you tell me why you don't want fans seeding the players.
6:21 PM Dec 7th
 
joedimino
Tango, we found that you have to start as early as possible, because enough people will 'timeline' (meaning bias their analysis closer to the present) no matter where you start from, so it's the only way to ensure those guys get elected.

It's not that difficult, just elect 1/8 of the precincts and carry over any remainder (so some years you elect 2, others 3 in say a 20 precinct era).

Also, you could seed by WAR and let the special committee insert the non-players. Honestly, the non-players and players should be in separate systems. Elect 1 non-player each year in modern times, or one for each 32 precincts over history (1/4 of the players basically). I don't really see any benefit to putting them on the same ballot with the players.
12:39 PM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
Retroactive:

Joe is right that the precincts wouldn't be 32 in a 16-team league. And, all you have to do to match the current number of selections is to select a date in which that would be true. So, instead of starting in 1890, you might start in 1914, or 1929 or 1941 or whatever ends up being the equivalent.
10:45 AM Dec 7th
 
tangotiger
DMBBHF: I started a thread over at the boards:

Joe: Won't work for non-player selections. Giving the fan the vote to seed would include them in the process, however benign it really is.
10:44 AM Dec 7th
 
3for3
I like the idea. Of course it will never happen. I love the idea of closing the door on past players. They had their chance. Sure, some of them might belong, but, too bad.

Going to a guaranteed 3/year is also best. At least for the foreseeable future, there are plenty of HOFers to soak up 3 spots. The expansion time bomb in combination with the steroid issue makes the ballot far too crowded, at least at this time
10:12 AM Dec 7th
 
nettles9
I like this idea because it gives opportunities for others besides the writers in contributing to electing Hall Of Famers. Why shouldn't Bill, Rob, Voros, Bob C., Lestat, Tom T, or anyone else be part of the process?
8:16 AM Dec 7th
 
joedimino
Which is why I said to prorate ... You wouldn't have 32 precincts for an 1890 election. :-)

Also I agree with Tango, seeding would help. Just seed them by WS or WAR or something.
10:54 PM Dec 6th
 
ventboys
Starting in 1890 and inducting four a year gets us exactly five hundred players as of this year - more than double the current Hall player roster and nearly two hundred more than the combined roster. I would guess that a retroactive vote would need to have some different limits.
8:11 PM Dec 6th
 
joedimino
I love this idea. Very cool. As someone who has run a mock Hall of Fame (the Hall of Merit) that took the better part of a decade to work through history, a project like this could be a lot of fun, and we'd gain a ton of knowledge through the process.

If we do something like this as a group here, I'd take it one step further. Start with this system, but go way back, to like 1890 and start there. Use the cities of the time as the nominating precincts. You could have a 15-year waiting period before a new city is allowed to nominate. You could also have the Negro Leagues as a nominating precinct or two as well, when that time comes. Prorate the 4 a year based on 1/8 of the nominating groups as time moves along too.

I would love to do something like this as a long term project, would definitely be interesting to see the results.

Regarding the comment about forcing 4 a year giving clunkers, that doesn't really happen. We had 1-4 players elected per year (on a pre-determined schedule based on a 12-year lag of the number of teams) in the Hall of Merit (starting in 1898), ending with the same number of players elected as the Hall of Fame and it was never an issue. Sometimes a great player has to wait an extra year, and other times you get some 'backlog' elections, but that is the point.
6:21 PM Dec 6th
 
KaiserD2
I think Bill has some very good ideas here, beginning with the idea of eliminating the extra committees. I think his ideas could be tweaked; I'm not sure head-to-head seeding is the way to go, but the idea of successive rounds is not a bad one. It seems to me that if the writers were responsible for every possible candidate, not just the ones they worked with, it would put great pressure on them to become more sophisticated in their analysis and to read more sabermetric literature, and that could only be a good thing.

I do not think, though, that this will cure some of the biggest problems involving HOF selection, problems which Bill wrote a lot about early in his career but has now pretty much put aside. The biggest problem, of course, is that we all have people we'd like to see get in (including me), and the easiest way to argue they should be in is to say that they are better than some one who already is in. Because of the many terrible decisions Veterans' Committees have made, that opens the door very widely indeed. It is true that Alan Trammell was a much better player than Travis Jackson. But based in particular on peak value, which I happen to think is much more important than lifetime totals--only my opinion, I know--he was not as good as Lou Boudreau, or Luke Appling, or Cal Ripken, or (especially) Barry Larkin, who was far and away the best shortstop of his generation. I think Tim Raines is a much more legitimate candidate than Trammell. I also think Jim Wynn is at least as good a candidate than either one of them, and I think it's a real blind spot that Bill could write the whole essay without mentioning his name. Wynn had substantially more peak value than Ron Santo, for instance, or Orlando Cepeda, or Tony Perez, or Andre Dawson. (There I go, picking the weakest comps. Who can resist?)

Both Craig Biggio and Derek Jeter are examples of good players who were durable and played in a very high-offense era which allowed them to pile up very impressive lifetime totals in certain categories, particularly hits. But Biggio had only one really great season and Jeter had only one really good one (largely because of his amazingly negative defensive value.) They were both a bit above average for a very long time. Jeter, of course, is going to be a near-unanimous first ballot selection the first year he's eligible.

Now I don't think the "expansion trap" is real. The reason will become apparent when my book comes out. (I can't predict when that will be.) If you focus on peak value--the number of people who have had, let's say, 5 or more seasons with more than 4 WAA--the number of great players has not significantly increased from generation to generation. Believe me, that's a certified, incontrovertible fact. I'm not talking about relative numbers, either, I'm talking about absolute numbers of great players. So off the top of my head, I don't think it's necessary to add four new people every year.

I might add that the Hall voters have subconsciously agreed with my standard of greatness (see above) to a surprising extent. There are only a handful of eligible players (of whom Raines and Stieb and Wynn, by the way, are 3), with five seasons of 4 WAA who are not in the Hall. (There are also of course quite a few Gen Xers with steroid issues who have at least 5.) On the other hand, while a majority of the players with only 4 such seasons are in, a good many are not. (Minoso falls into that category.)

If I had any influence over the process, which I don't and never will, I would advocate admitting only people who would improve the overall quality of the Hall. I'm not sure where the median is at this point, but it certainly would not keep out anyone with 5 seasons of 4 WAA or more.

DK
10:38 AM Dec 6th
 
rgregory1956

I am probably a minority of one. I don't see a huge problem with the way the HOF voting is currently set up. Tweaks are needed of course, especially with the various VetComs; and it is unfortunate that a lot of very knowledgeable people don't have a say. But a massive overhaul isn't necessary.

People complain about Tommy McCarthy and Rube Marquard getting in. "The Hall is too inclusive". People complain about their favorites not getting in. "The Hall is too exclusive". It's the Goldilocks Syndrome. "The old HOF is too inclusive. The current HOF is too exclusive. But this proposed HOF is juuuuussssstttt right".
7:46 AM Dec 6th
 
DMBBHF
Regarding TangoTiger's suggestion: For those who want to do a mock setup, you can use the Bill James Boards for that. You can create a series of polls. List 5 names for each team for nomination, and take it from there. I'd be happy to help organize it and see if we can get any momentum behind it, but I'll ask for some advice first. Would you suggest one person (perhaps me) be responsible for coming up with the 5 names for each and every team. and then posting a series of based on those names? Or, would it be preferable to just list all 32 slots and hold open-ended voting without presenting 5 nominees? I'd be happy to come up with 5 names for each team, but not sure if everyone would be satisfied with my choices for nomination (or anyone else's either). Again, I'd be happy to organize, but I'm open to advice. Thanks.

7:15 AM Dec 6th
 
rfleming
Just the possibility of Derek (DR) Jeter having to "wait" an additional year because of another Hall of Fame caliber player coming before him brings tears to my eyes (tears of joy you understand).
5:53 AM Dec 6th
 
wdr1946
This system actively discriminates against overlooked nineteenth century players like Pete Browning; also against persons not associated with any team like Marvin Miller; and assumes that all the teams have produced worthy Hall of Famers in equal numbers. The present system, although imperfect, is better.​
4:04 AM Dec 6th
 
articmike
I guess all of us including Mr. James know that no such system will be ever implemented; nor any system, similar or dissimilar, that could be viewed as revolutionary against the history compiled to date; but, for the heck of it, I just want to state my opinion about seedings.

For most of the expansion era - and here, I'm referring to the expansion era in the NFL (the same years as in MLB anyway) - I've been pretty happy with most of the pre-set systems that the NFL has used to set up its schedule 10 years or 100 years into the future. Opponents rotate around year-to-year on a set schedule, and, except when they have some weird set up (such as 2 conferences of 13 teams each), it works out real well. An analogous system for any even number of bracketed seedings works out just as well.

You'd just have a perpetual schedule; Atlanta nominee vs. Baltimore nominee in years x, x+32, x+64, etc., Atlanta nominee vs. Boston nominee in years x+1, x+33, x+65, etc., Atlanta nominee vs. Chicago nominee in years x+2, x+34, x+66, etc, Atlanta nominee vs. Cleveland nominee in years x+3, x+35, x+67, and so forth; with all the other cities in the bracket moving around in lock step so that every local committee's nominee faces every other local committee's nominee every so often. Every committee gets a number, as well as a name. In that way, when Anaheim becomes Los Angeles, everything doesn't have to be re-seeded. Los Angeles gets Anaheim's old number, and the system lives on, with new monikers. When Montreal loses a committee, Washington just gets put under the heading of "successors and assigns" of Montreal and inherits a slot. Because of having a numbered system of ID's, each bracket would take on one of the aspects of an NFL draft board, in that, for a given year, the matchup could be Texas nominee vs. At Large Committee III via New York, because Texas could be on the schedule for a matchup with New York, but a New York nominee may have been just inducted. Anyway, it's the NFL way - and boy, does the NFL do a lot of things poorly, but their perpetual scheduling has a really nice structure to it. Their structure is super simple, even though, when you put it in the hands as one such as me for explanation, it sounds as simple as planning on a scratch pad to use Jupiter's gravity to route a probe into orbit around Neptune. It's simple nonetheless, yet works out as precisely as a plan by a scientist to use leap seconds for the next 10,000 years to make sure the atomic clocks all are properly calibrated. It's all just a matter of remembering to add at the end of the Mayan calendar "and then you just cycle back to the same state as at origin."

For the record, random seedings are good, but they don't seem good to too many people. I'm pretty sure that there comes a time at places like Wimbledon or Augusta or a Ryder Cup clubhouse where, in front of some witnesses but not in front of a throng, names are drawn from a hat and people walk away pretty satisfied that randomness (close enough for government work, or close enough for non-think-tank work) has been achieved. Hat drawings make decent television, but when you do get all the NBA's fans to watch a bunch of names go into and out of a rotating drum, the conspiracy talk amongst fans of the "losers" starts up rather quickly, and people opine endlessly about how easily the system can be rigged, and come to believe it is rigged; which is not great. Hats off to those state lottery committees, which seem to have done a satisfactory job of demonstrating to people that blowing air all over the ping pong balls guarantees a fair drawing of random numbers, but it seems like a lot of trouble for a once-a-year bracket-drawing process, so I'd favor having the brackets set in stone ahead of time.

1:49 AM Dec 6th
 
the_slasher14
The best thing about this system is it avoids the Frisch fiasco, which under present rules is pretty much inevitably going to happen again someday. The existence of the special committee for Negro League players was justified (but not any longer); the existence of a committee that gets to overrule the writers on a regular basis is not.

That said, I think requiring four and only four new entrants per year is almost certain to produce some howlers (in either direction) every now and then. As Bill noted in his book on the HOF, the writers ran into a problem early on in the voting process because they had TOO MANY qualified players and ended up choosing nobody a few years because nobody stood out enough from the others once Ruth and Mathewson and all were in, even though it was pretty clear that many of them belonged. This is sort of what we're looking at now, with the PED problem compounding the problem by having players on the ballot who can't get 75% but are blocking others from winning because some writers will vote for them on principle. I happen to agree with the principle, but right now it's a roadblock for people like Mike Mussina who nobody thinks used PEDs (rightly or wrongly) but will have a hard time getting in while guys who did use them are absorbing his votes with no chance of getting to 75%

The obvious solution to the logjam is to GET RID OF THE TEN VOTE LIMIT. As Bill says, the writers really haven't made too many really terrible choices. But we now have a ballot so impossibly clogged that at least one writer is abstaining from voting this year because by doing so he actually helps his choices (he believes) more than if he votes for them. If you do that, you can also scrap the ten-year limit as well, since it serves no useful purpose if writers can vote someone in later. Joe Torre was never a slam dunk for the Hall, and the (then) 15-year limit came and went before he became an obvious choice when the playing and managing parts of his career were both in the books. On the other hand, Jack Morris isn't likely to suddenly pick up votes as time goes on -- if anything the fact that the 15-year limit was creeping up on him caused MORE people to vote for him than would have otherwise, and may have kept Craig Biggio out last year.



9:08 PM Dec 5th
 
ksclacktc
Thanks
7:18 PM Dec 5th
 
ventboys
While I would be concerned about unintended side effects if this was done in real life - by the real Hall of Fame - that doesn't mean I don't love the idea. This would make a wonderful book premise, or an extended exercise somewhere on the site.
7:18 PM Dec 5th
 
bjames
Responding to ksclacktc. . .the definition of a Hall of Famer in this system would be the same as it is in any other system.
6:27 PM Dec 5th
 
Hal10000
I love this idea. It's a pity that the inertia in the HOF is too strong to consider these kind of reforms.

(And I do wonder if we could play this out with the BJOL readers. That would be kind of fun.)

One other thing I thought of: this could reduce if not eliminate the silly controversies over what cap a player wears into the HOF. It would almost always be whatever team successfully nominated him.
4:28 PM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
It's undefined. It's whatever the voter wants. No one is going to look at the definition anyway, other than to be a politician and make some halfa$$ed argument against someone: "See??!? Right that, in paragraph 2.b, subsection ii, it says..."
4:17 PM Dec 5th
 
ksclacktc
I may have missed it after looking back through. But, what is the definition of a hall of famer in this system? The better player?morals and ethics? peak? career? Barry Bonds but not Pete Rose?
3:13 PM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
And if all 10 people on the nominating precinct think it's RJ for both precincts? I think Bill's tiebreaker rule is simple enough here.

***

For those who want to do a mock setup, you can use the Bill James Boards for that. You can create a series of polls. List 5 names for each team for nomination, and take it from there.


2:43 PM Dec 5th
 
rangerforlife
To resolve dual nominations, you could simply "award" the player to the team which voted for him more strongly. If Randy Johnson wins 48% of the Yankees vote, but wins 91% of the Snakes vote, then he becomes the Arizona nominee, and the Yankees' nomination proceeds to the next highest vote-getter.
1:52 PM Dec 5th
 
bjames
Regarding SRoney's question about Vladimir's eligibility; the eligibility for nomination belongs to the player, not to the group nominating him. So a player rejected one year as a nominee by San Diego cannot be selected the next year as a nominee of Oakland. Regarding the down-in-the-details question about who would sit on the juries. . .I would be no more qualified to make up an answer to that one than would any of you.
1:19 PM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
One thing with regards to the panel selection is that there are either term limits, or (my preference) that it rotates, so that you have some change year to year. That's how they handle MVP, Cy, etc voters.​
1:11 PM Dec 5th
 
mskarpelos
Bill, how specifically would it be decided who will sit on a panel of judges? Does the Hall of Fame decide this? Does MLB, each individual team or the players' union have any input? Would Rob Neyer be a media person--he works at Fox Sports--or a historian? For that matter, are you considered a baseball professional based on your work with the Red Sox, a baseball historian for your Historical Abstracts or a media person for running Bill James Online? Could I submit an application and take a comprehensive test (something along the lines of the Bar Exam or the CPA exam) to demonstrate my own knowledge of Baseball History in the hopes that I could be considered for panel membership? I'm not trying to be picky, but it seems to me that the success or failure of this system depends largely on everyone believing that the panels consist of qualified judges, so the process by which panels are selected is critical. I'd be interested, then, in you going into more detail about panel selection.
12:49 PM Dec 5th
 
Brian
I love it. You can't do anything about the undeserving players who are in, but this is a great way to give a fair chance to the deserving players who have been left out. I would have liked 5 candidates, but that means you have to start with 40, which screws up the balance between at-large and team nominations and also screws up the announcement schedule.

Actually, could the Hall run 2 tournaments at once - 4 spots for players and then 1 or 2 spots for other contributors? The latter tournament would just have to have 1 or 2 more rounds.


12:48 PM Dec 5th
 
MarisFan61
Please nobody miss the verb in ".....Barry Bonds would probably cream Rocky Colavito...." :-)

Regarding the basic idea, although I think it's real interesting, I'm with Ventboys' gist.
12:40 PM Dec 5th
 
sroney
First, it wouldn't always be 26 teams nominations and 6 at large, because the at large nominees might get in some times.

Second, if the Expos nominate Vlad and he doesn't get in, does that mean that the Angels cannot nominate him the next year, either?
12:11 PM Dec 5th
 
rwarn17588
This is a fantastic way to elect Hall of Famers. It would create more publicity for baseball and its history. I know I sure as hell would be watching for the nomination and elimination announcements every day.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see other Halls of Fame steal this formula.

Too bad the article is behind a paywall. More people should read this proposal.
11:56 AM Dec 5th
 
ventboys
This sounds like it would be a great deal of fun, but I wouldn't recommend it for real life. While the process would create excitement for the vote every year, it would render the actual inductions - and the Hall of Fame itself - to a supporting role in the farce. Tournaments don't determine the best; they identify a winner. It's not the same thing, and I submit that the Hall of Fame holds such a special place in our society BECAUSE no winner is clearly identified, and more importantly no LOSER (I'd use italics but they don't work, sorry for the caps). A large portion of the Hall's public discussion is centered on the guys who you propose to eliminate from the process. I certainly understand the sentiment, but (1) that ship has flown; Hafey and Travis are in the Hall - (2) arguing over Mattingly and Grich in Hall debates is roughly half of what hardcore baseball fans do for fun - and (3) tournaments in general tend to obscure their own results. I humbly submit - and I'll exaggerate for the fun of it - that this is THE WORST IDEA IN THE HISTORY OF THE HALL OF FAME DISCUSSION!!!
It isn't, of course, and it would be a ton of fun to do - but I would be concerned about the ramifications.​
11:04 AM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
I like that idea for the tie-breaker.

And also, since the announcements are done daily and (presumably) at random, the two precincts couldn't get together and say "you pick RJ, because we also have Edgar to nominate, and you have no one else".

So, DBacks might go with RJ, Gonzalez, and Mariners might go with RJ, Edgar, and then based on ordering of announcement, it might be RJ, Edgar or RJ, Gonzalez.

If they try to outsmart the system (Prisoner's Dilemna!), they might end up nominating Gonzalez, and Edgar, because each was counting on the other to nominate RJ!
10:57 AM Dec 5th
 
bjames
My assumption was that if the Mariners and Diamondbacks both nominate the Big Unit, one of them (whichever one would be announcing LATER) is given the opportunity to nominate somebody else before their nomination is announced. Each group COULD have an nominee and an alternate, and the alternate is used if the nominee has been put forward by another group.
10:30 AM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
Presumably, in case of ties (DBacks and Mariners nominate RJ), the "missing" nomination goes to the "at large" group?

What I also like about this is that it gives Steve Rogers and Dennis Martinez and Le Grand Orange a chance, either because Raines or Dawson would have had to sit one out or were eventually elected, and so, open the door for someone else.

I love it, because they all become legitimate candidates, simply being the best available.


9:42 AM Dec 5th
 
tangotiger
Brilliant!

I am in awe by both the wide-ranging scope and the apparent simplicity of it all.

I will contribute only one thing, and that is the "seeding". We can easily get fan involvement to do that, since it'll be better than random, or just as good as anything else. And, in can be done in a similar "head to head" kind of approach by doing what I do here:

tangotiger.net/hall/

And you can see how the seeding would look:
www.tangotiger.net/hall/index3N.php?is_pitcher=0

Worst-case: the system is somehow compromised, and you get something that looks random anyway. Best-case: the fan feels a part of the process.
9:29 AM Dec 5th
 
rtallia
How about we do a mock version of this? We'd need a programmer I guess to set up a system were BJOL members can just go in and click, but I guess we could just do a big spreadsheet on Google Docs or something as well. We've got enough readers here to do the 32 nominations as well as vote in the later rounds, certainly...what does everyone think?
9:16 AM Dec 5th
 
 
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