The Expansion Era Ballot Part II

November 18, 2013

II. The Special Ballot

 The Hall of Fame has launched a new attempt to straighten out some wrinkles in the voting, and I heartily and unreservedly applaud the effort.

Five points here, some of them old and some of them new:

1)  The Hall of Fame’s voting structure, at its inception, was very, very badly thought through, which is to say really that it was not thought through at all.   There were two assumptions on which the system was built:  a) that the BBWAA should be the electoral college, and b) that a player should be selected only if 75% of them agree that he is worthy of selection.  They didn’t stop to think through how any of this was going to work in practice, so it doesn’t actually work very well in practice.

2)  Because the "front door" of the Hall of Fame has never been reliable, the Hall of Fame has found it necessary, over the last 70 years, to create "back doors" into the Hall.   They have created, at different times, many back doors.   This is the "new back door", but there is nothing new about the fact that they have created a new back door; they do that all the time.

3)  It was, in fact, necessary and appropriate to create this "new back door" at this time, due to The Expansion Time Bomb.   The Expansion Time Bomb was an article published here on February 17, 2010.  The first paragraph of that article reads as follows:


Over the next thirty years, the de facto standards for induction into the Hall of Fame will change substantially. They will not change for the "worse", in the sense of changing downward. They will move upward. They have to. They will move upward by so much that it will put pressure on the Hall of Fame to revamp their election system, because players are being left out who not only meet but substantially exceed the historical standards for Hall of Fame selection. The Hall of Fame will revise and expand its selection processes to include more players—as they have revised their process many times in the past—but even so, "deserving" players (deserving in the sense of being better than those selected in the past) will continue to be excluded. The reason these things will happen is expansion.


                This new effort, this "new back door" IS the revision of the process that was predicted in that article almost four years ago.  I am pleased and surprised that it happened this quickly.  I would have guessed, given the troubled history of the Hall of Fame’s selection process, that they would have waited until the problem was out of hand until they tried to address it.   They didn’t.   Good for them.

                4)  The Expansion ballot also represents an important step forward for the Hall of Fame selection system, in another way.   It’s a two-step process.

                One of the reasons that the Hall of Fame selection system hasn’t always worked is that they have relied entirely or almost entirely on a one-step process.    When the Veteran’s Committee does something stupid, like vote Rick Ferrell or Lloyd Waner into the Hall of Fame, there is nothing that anybody can do about it, because it is a one-step process.   Once it is done,  it is done.    When the Special Committee on the Negro Leagues selected Alex Pompez in 2006, everybody in the world who wasn’t on the committee said, "Oh, my God; what have you people done?", but there was no way to undo it because it was a one-step process and the step had been taken.

                In The Politics of Glory, I urged the Hall of Fame to consider a two-step process—that is, a process in which one group nominated new members, and another group ratified them or declined to do so.   Here, for the first time, they have actually done that.   I applaud the step forward.  

                5)  While the yet-to-be-announced results of the second step are being widely debated (and will be debated here over the next two days), what could be missed is that the first step of the process has been done very well.    Whatever group did the initial stage of research, quietly and behind the scenes, nominated 12 people (who we will discuss one at a time in just a moment.)    All 12, in my view, are reasonable nominations.    There is no one on that list of 12 who is clearly or even arguably below the standard of those who have been selected in the past.   There is no George Kelly here; there is no Tom Connolly or Vic Willis.   Again, I applaud them for their effort.   Good job, guys. 


COMMENTS (10 Comments, most recent shown first)

I think that the golden era and the pre-integration era committees should meet every 4 years and the expansion committees should meet every two years.
For example: pre-integration (year one), expansion (year 2), golden era (year 3), expansion (year four), and then repeat the cycle. As has been stated before, the pre-integration and golden era already has a lot of candidates that have selected and the people to choose to put on the ballot are not increasing in number. The danger of putting the golden era and pre-integration ballots as one is that you might find that since some people are living that are from the golden era, that there would be pressure to recognize these people over a more qualified candidate from the pre-integration era.
12:49 PM Nov 24th
I have to agree with Jwilt ... this isn't a ballot full of awful selections, but they missed pretty much all of the necessary choices.

I was waiting for Dwight Evans, and hoping (but without much hope) for Rick Reuschel ... and others will have similar choices ... but of the six players chosen I'm really not excited about any of them making the Hall.

I admit a degree of personal bias there -- I never ever liked Steve Garvey, for example. But heck, the numbers pretty much back me. I was a big Tommy John fan ... personal bias again, as I grew up in Chicago ... And my wife would certainly back Ted Simmons, partly, she'll admit, based on the view from behind the left-hand batter's box back in the '70s in STL ...

(None of these comments apply to the non-players, mind you ... I think that's a reasonable list.)

All that said, Bill's main points remain very sound, about the need for a different way into the Hall, and about the basic idea behind this ballot being pretty sound.

Rich Horton

6:59 PM Nov 21st
Poor wording on my part, Bill. I think the part of the process by which they pick the best candidates and then vote on those candidates is good. The part of the process where they keep cycling over earlier eras is a big problem, though.
8:23 AM Nov 21st
" They didn’t stop to think through how any of this was going to work in practice, so it doesn’t actually work very well in practice."

This will work to describe anything done by Humans. Even this.
11:47 PM Nov 20th
I agree with Hal10000 about the Pre-Integration Era. There are still some good candidates from the Golden Era, including Minnie Minoso. Maybe combining the two earlier eras into one and having the Expansion Era two times out of three would be better. The Hall also needs this back door because the front door has become impossibly clogged not just because of the factor Bill identifies but also because there is fundamental disagreement about steroids-era candidates leading to almost no one being able to win 75% of the BBWAA vote. Love this series Bill!
1:55 PM Nov 20th
Hal1000--That's exactly right, except for the puzzling comment that the process isn't the problem. The process IS the problem, exactly as you described, except that you described exactly how the process creates the problem, but preceeded it with the mystifying generalization that the process isn't the problem. If you have a process that encourages and virtually dictates the selection of additional candidates from a pool that is already thoroughly picked over, that's a problem.
1:20 PM Nov 20th
Bill, what do you think of the other eras this back door is cycling through (Pre-Integration and Golden Era). To my mind, the process isn't the problem. The problem is that these are eras that have already been picked over multiple times. You keep cycling through them, you are creating a pressure to elect ever more marginal candidates. I'm glad Deacon White is in the HOF but I don't think he was the biggest absence.
9:07 AM Nov 20th
Those who enjoy Bill's series of articles might also enjoy this one from Chris Jaffe on the same topic:
7:38 AM Nov 20th
I don't see anything new about this Expansion Era ballot. As the following link explains, the "back door" method of Hall of Fame induction was last changed in July 2010 and this is a continuation of that effort:​
7:25 AM Nov 20th
If you make a list of position players who: a) were born during or after 1940, and b) didn't play after 1992, and c) aren't in the Hall of Fame, and sort by career rWAR... Dave Concepcion is 42nd on that list. Steve Garvey is 49th. Dave Parker 43rd. Ted Simmons 24th.

While these guys might not be as bad as the bottom-of-the-barrel Vet's Committee selections they're not in the same zipcode as a large number of their own peers who have been passed over by the Hall. Bobby Grich, Dwight Evans, Buddy Bell, and Graig Nettles all have nearly twice the career value of Steve Garvey. This committee did a good job of not nominating, say, Bobby Murcer and Chris Speier, and Lee May, but that's not saying a lot.
6:55 AM Nov 20th
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