Itsy-Bitsy HoF voting results

February 28, 2017

We had 18 respondents to my little poll on what the smallest imaginable Hall of Fame should be, and it reached one indisputable conclusion: Babe Ruth is an inner circle unto himself.

17 out of 18 BJOL respondents said Ruth was the best player of all-time, giving him 89 points out of a possible 90 points, and placing him well-ahead of runner-up Willie Mays who garnered only 62 points. But Mays sorta did the same thing to the next runner-up, Honus Wagner (34 points), who in turn did the same to the next group of very closely bunched contenders: Musial (16), Aaron and Williams (tied with 15) Cobb (13) and Johnson (12).  Also getting votes were such all-time almost-greats as Mantle (5), Schmidt (3) Young (2), Griffey (1), not to mention people who hadn’t made Bill’s A-list in the first place, as my rules required, like Barry Bonds, Pete Rose,  Jackie Robinson, Ross Perot, and Minnie Mouse, none of whose votes I chose to count, some of whom I think personally belong in the top five.

It’s absurd of course to make anything at all of such a tiny group, both of voters and of candidates. If we did this again with a different group of 18 knowledgeable voters, I’m sure some of the results would be vastly different, and if we did this with a group of 18,000 knowledgeable voters, or 18 million voters (I’m sure we’d run out of knowledgeable ones after a point), we’d get different results as well. But the form of the results would be similar:  the field of nominees would be very limited, there would be sharp cut-offs within that limited field, and there would be players who gain wide support for an elite inner-circle Hall of Fame and those who would fall short however you measure support. That last category was what I was seeking to show: any knowledgeable group is able to distinguish the truly great from the not-so-truly great, if you can find a way to force it to make hard choices.

It doesn’t really matter ultimately if you decide your inner-circle will consist of only Ruth, or only of Ruth and Mays, or of Ruth, Mays, Wagner, Musial, Aaron, Williams, Cobb and Johnson.  My point wasn’t to have a Johnson-measuring contest. My point was that almost any large and informed group is able to draw distinctions between groups of players and that those distinctions are more useful in forming a Hall of Fame than the simple in-or-out system we’ve been using up to this point. The neat thing here, I think, is that a system of larger and larger circles would allow people to define the Hall of Fame as they choose to, and not get entangled in the annoying circular endless pointless discussions of what IS a Hall of Fame.  I’ve just gotten so tired of hearing and participating in that discussion and would give a lot never to hear it again.

We would still have ongoing discussions, of course, but I think they would be more focused: "Player A doesn’t belong in the same general category as Player B!" you might opine under a system of fine gradations of excellence. Okay, you’re no longer arguing "Is he a Hall of Famer, whatever the hell that is?" as much as you’re arguing "Have we placed him correctly within these 16 radiating circles of excellence?" The latter question is more interesting and much more concrete. Discussing it could conceivably have a positive effect, that of changing a player’s category once it’s shown that the original placement is wrong, as well as that no change in placement is ever permanent or even very meaningful.

As it is, we all accept that there are players in the current Hall of Fame who shouldn’t be anywhere near Cooperstown’s zip code, and there are players outside the Hall who are as good as many players in it, and there ain’t a damned thing we can do about it. We can’t agree on who these players are, which is one of the big reasons we can’t begin to fix the problem, and the whole concept of throwing players OUT of the Hall of Fame offends a lot of people on general principles (which I think is itself an interesting discussion, but not really relevant here). The radiating circles would at least ameliorate the problem since you would no longer be trying to show how Gil Hodges or Bill Mazeroski or Molly Putz is as good a ballplayer as Willie Mays and you’re not trying to show that he’s better than Ray Schalk. You’d just need to show that Hodges is assessed approximately where he should be, and you’d be free to accept or reject that level as being in or out of your own idea of what the Hall of Fame means.

We’re ready, technologically and intellectually, to embrace a different concept of the Hall-of-Fame. The mechanics of how, exactly, we would do that is wide-open, but I think we’re ready to advance to the next stage of honoring great MLB players.

Here’s your vote-tally, as best as I could figure (and as best as I could reduce our names to only two letters—I’m sure you can figure out who is who by referring to the original Comments section). I’m also quite sure the results would be different, slightly, if I’d asked for a top-ten HoFers list, but I’m positive that no matter how we sliced it, there would be a few significant cut-off points, distinguishing gradations of greatness.

 

 

rt

FW

Ze

D32

dt

Fr

Gl

bb

ks

Ow

wi

bd

MF

co

tc

br

Mi

sg

18

Ruth

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

4

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

89

Mays

4

3

4

4

4

3

 

5

 

4

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

62

Wagner

 

4

 

2

2

4

4

3

4

2

4

 

2

 

 

3

 

 

34

Musial

2

2

 

1

 

 

3

 

 

 

2

2

 

1

 

 

 

3

16

Aaron

3

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

3

1

 

2

2

15

Williams

1

 

3

 

3

 

2

 

 

 

 

3

 

2

 

 

 

1

15

Cobb

 

1

1

 

 

1

 

 

 

3

1

 

 

 

2

1

3

 

13

Johnson

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

1

 

1

 

 

3

 

3

2

 

 

12

Mantle

 

 

 

 

1

 

1

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  5

Schmidt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

  3

Young

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  2

Griffey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1

 

As promised, five points were awarded for a first-place vote, four for a second-place vote,  etc.  There are many ways to do this that are much less crude, though crudeness was in a way the goal here. Asking for a top-ten in each of six twenty-five-year eras, or a top-ten by position, or a top-twenty by era AND position, and then to have a run-off among the winners for a top-five cumulatively, might have yielded different results, assuming my goal here was to elect an elite inner circle.

Thanks for participating, if you did, or for reading, which you are, or just for continuing to breathe. I kept thinking of the enjoyable arguments we would have had here if Bob Gregory had still been among us—probably be arguing still.

 
 

COMMENTS (8 Comments, most recent shown first)

Manushfan
Hell my hall is Manush, Cuyler, Fingers, Mazeroski, etc. I'm okay with that. But a good article anyways.
7:23 PM Mar 10th
 
Manushfan
Hell my hall is Manush, Cuyler, Fingers, Mazeroski, etc. I'm okay with that. But a good article anyways.
7:23 PM Mar 10th
 
bgorden
Where is Lou Gehrig??????
12:53 AM Mar 6th
 
areuss44
If you did a poll of knowledgeable football fans, who followed football history, it would be much more heavily tilted toward the present. The debate of the greatest quarterback ever would be between Brady, Manning, and maybe Montana. Those considered the greatest of the previous couple of eras--Staubach, Unitas, maybe Starr--would be way down the list. Would Otto Graham or Sammy Baugh even register? Football fans tend to assume that the greatest players are playing now, or have played very recently. Baseball fans appear to assume that the greatest played a long time ago. The question for knowledgeable baseball fans is, do you really believe that among the ten greatest players in baseball history, none has played a game in over a quarter century? Only one has played a game in the last forty years?
4:22 PM Mar 3rd
 
JohnPontoon
You'd best not be questioning the credentials of Molly Putz. You'd just best not.
5:23 PM Mar 1st
 
metsfan17
Its just like the regular vote. Who didn't put Mays in? Ha.
7:02 PM Feb 28th
 
wdr1946
I knew someone who said that the Hall of Fame should have only two members,
Ruth and Cobb. After that, everyone else is worse- in his view. Maybe he is right.
The top five, as in this poll, are virtually impossible to pick. Probably the top twenty would catch all the well qualified candidates. Players like Hornsby, Speaker, Lajoie, A-Rod, and Rose didn't get a single vote, and only two pitchers are on your list.
5:17 PM Feb 28th
 
steve161
It's fascinating how seeing a result like this concentrates the mind. I didn't vote, because I generally feel unable to state with any degree of confidence that Musial is better than Mantle or Aaron is better than Williams.

But I look at that top three and find myself thinking that the 18 voters really nailed it, both in the rank order and the separations. And the group from 4-8 looks pretty good, though I'm mystified that Mantle didn't rate higher, and I think you could draw the names Musial-Aaron-Williams-Cobb-Mantle out of a hat and be happy with any rank order.

It's likely, isn't it, that if he had been eligible for this exercise, Bonds would have turned that top three into a top four.

I'd leave out the pitchers. I don't see any way to compare them to position players that doesn't involve a lot of numerological mumbo-jumbo and dubious equivalences. I also believe that pitching has evolved to a much greater extent than position play, so comparing pitchers across the century is pretty close to futile. But that's a discussion for another day.
8:27 AM Feb 28th
 
 
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