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Plausible Reforms for the Hall of Fame

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  • #16
    Amend the BBWAA’s five percent rule.

    Presently, a player is eligible for the BBWAA ballot six years after his final season in Major League Baseball. So long as he receives 5 percent or greater support from the writers each time, he is eligible for up to 10 BBWAA elections. Any player receiving 5 percent or greater support in an election is automatically placed on the next year’s ballot by the Screening Committee, unless he has already appeared in the maximum 10 elections.

    This prohibits eligible players who fail to receive 5 percent in their first election from being reconsidered by the BBWAA, yet does not permit these former candidates from becoming eligible for the Today’s Game committee. They wait in a “No Man’s Land” for the better part of a decade before their case can be looked at again.

    This is especially unfair to many of these candidates as the reason they do not receive 5 percent may have more to do with the limit of 10 votes per elector and a good number of excellent candidates on the ballot. As voters who deem more than 10 candidates worthy of election are forced to leave some of their choices off their ballot, the vote results, particularly for lesser-supported candidates, are skewed. More than a few of these candidates would have received more than 5 percent support had voters been given free reign to vote for an unlimited number of candidates.

    Further, this processs often leads to the circumstance where some players who were recently expunged from the ballot are better candidates than most of the newly eligible players who the Screening Committee is restricted to considering.

    Harold Baines, Lance Berkman, Kevin Brown, Carlos Delgado, Jim Edmonds, Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles, Juan Gonzalez, Jason Kendall, Kenny Lofton, Rafael Palmeiro, Roy Oswalt, Jorge Posada, Johan Santana, Miguel Tejada and Bernie Williams are examples of such expunged candidates from the past 10 elections.

    In 2020, there’s an excellent chance that newcomers like Josh Beckett, Eric Chavez, Adam Dunn, Rafael Furcal, Raul Ibanez, Carlos Pena and Brian Roberts will be selected by the Screening Committee. The ballot would be much stronger if the latter group were replaced with players from the former.

    Providing the electorate with the best eligible candidates is the only job of any screening committee in a Hall of Fame. There is no justification for arbitrarily eliminating the eligibility of good candidates with the misfortune to appear on a crowded ballot. Certainly not for clearly undeserving players simply because the former had their one chance and the latter are new.
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

    Comment


    • #17
      Restructure the BBWAA Screening Committee and process.

      The BBWAA Screening Committee should be expanded from six to 18 members, with three members to be elected at each annual meeting of the BBWAA for a six-year term. This expands upon the current process, in which two members are elected each year to a three-year term. I would suggest that no member of the BBWAA serve more than three terms on the committee, nor may anyone serve in consecutive terms. This guarantees that, at maximum, a screener may serve a maximum of 18 elections over at least a 20-year period of time. This provides for greater rotation on the screening committee and a greater diversity of opinion on the candidates, both of which are desirable outcomes.

      Presently, the committee must include all candidates whose eligibility has not expired if they received 5 percent support in the previous BBWAA election.

      The Screening Committee is additionally charged with filling the remaining ballot spots at their discretion, but are restricted only to players who are newly eligible. How many total players are on the ballot is also up to the Screening Committee, so long as it does not exceed 40.

      Both of these two aspects of the committee’s role should be changed.

      First, the automatic selections should be reserved for those receiving 20 – not five – percent support in the previous election. These are the most serious candidates the BBWAA is reviewing and it leaves more ballot spots open to the Screening Committee’s judgement. This would leave us with six holdovers from the 2019 election.

      Second, the total number of players on the ballot should be exactly 20. In our example for the 2020 Screening Committee, the committee would have 14 open spots on the ballot to fill.

      By permitting the Screening Committee to review any eligible candidate, these remaining spots are not solely reversed for newcomers. There are, at most, four to six candidates worth reviewing from among this year’s newcomers. Brad Penny does not need a hearing before the voters.

      With nearly one-third of all BBWAA candidates in the past half-century receiving zero votes, there’s a darned good argument that just making the ballot is not, in fact, an honor (as some suggest).

      Five years ago, BBWAA voter Joe Posnanski wrote the following about this line of thinking:
      I think the reasoning behind having all these first-timers is that it is supposed to be some kind of honor just to be included ON the Hall of Fame ballot. I don’t think it actually IS an honor since, for the most part, these players are mocked for being there and anyone who votes for them is mocked too. Rich Aurilia was a fine player, and maybe he will get something out of getting zero votes this year. I have to believe there’s a better way.
      Anyway, most of the first year players get an embarrassingly low number of votes.
      By permitting the Screening Committee to vote for any eligible player, they could substantially improve the gravitas of the average candidate on the ballot. Let’s suppose that we give five spots on the 2020 ballot to newcomers Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Cliff Lee and Paul Konerko. That gives us nine spots left to fill.

      The committee could select players with less than 20 percent from last year’s ballot – Todd Helton, Andruw Jones, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen and Billy Wagner among them. They could add from other former candidates, too. Perhaps the committee feels that Jim Edmonds, Kenny Lofton and Bernie Williams deserve another look?

      The point is that the Screening Committee should be charged with nominating to the ballot the best available candidates and that all candidates who have not exhausted their 10-year window of eligibility should remain eligible, whether they previously received a certain level of support on a ballot in the past or not.

      After all, the Today’s Game committee just this year elected Harold Baines, who fell below 5 percent after a couple of tries.

      Finally, since the open ballot spots are limited, the committee members should be polled to list the top X candidates who are not holdovers, with X being the number of open spots for that year’s ballot. Those candidates with the highest vote totals in the tally of this nominating vote will be added to the ballot. In the case of a tie for the final spot, all those tied will be added to the ballot. (Okay, so technically, it’s possible to have more than 20 names on the BBWAA ballot under this scenario.)

      Combined with the amendment of the 5 percent rule, restructuring the composition and process of the BBWAA Screening Committee will create a better ballot, allowing BBWAA voters to focus their attention on more deserving candidates and removing some of the reason for “strategic” voting, which confounds many.
      "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
      "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
      "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
      "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

      Comment


      • #18
        I may have missed it, as you've articulated many well thought out comments here and elsewhere, but if you had to pick one single HOF voting change you'd espouse, what would it be? And one single most likely change that you think could happen if it differs from the first?

        No maximum number of players writers could vote for?

        And thank you for putting together all these great posts...I know how much work you've put into these HOF threads.
        All Hail Harold Baines, Baseball Hall of Fame Class 2019

        Play the Who am I? game in trivia and you can make this signature line yours for 3 days (baseball signatures only!)

        Go here for a link to all player links! http://www.baseball-fever.com/forum/...player-threads

        Go here for all your 1920's/1930's OF info

        Comment


        • #19
          Chadwick- As always, I enjoy your insights and suggestions pertaining to the HOF. Now if we could just get more historians on all committees, the selection results would be improved enormously. I think that is the crux of the problem. I think the HOF will slowly move in the right direction with this, but I may not live long enough to see the results.

          Comment


          • #20
            Thank you, gentlemen, for the kind words.

            I believe any change to the electoral process must begin with the fundamental understanding that the only purpose of the election process is to elect worthy candidates (and its obverse, to not elect unworthy ones). Like the "national interest" in foreign policy, this is the only sound basis for any reform. If we can't agree on why the change is needed, then we won't agree on what that change should be.

            Toledo puts forward a great question. I'm going to cheat and split the baby and then explain why.

            For BBWAA elections, the most substantive reform would be to permit electors to vote for as many candidates they deem worthy. This one change would be far more useful than shrinking the ballot, eliminating the 5 percent rule, maintaining candidate eligibility for the full 10 years, eliminating "throwaway" votes, making the process transparent, improving the screening committee, removing "bad" voters from the process, or any other reform I could suggest.

            First, the principle that every voter's opinion should count clearly does not extend to voters who see more than 10 deserving candidates on the ballot. It's long past time that the Hall of Fame fully enfranchise all BBWAA voters. Until they do, the votes of "small hall" voters will continue to count disproportionately more than their colleagues with a more liberal view of the candidates. I can't stress enough how wrong this imbalance of opinion is. The truncated ballot of "large hall" voters has been responsible for more than one BBWAA candidate just missing election and certainly the cause of more than a few dropping off the ballot completely at the other end.

            Second is the practical consideration. Over time, the BBWAA electorate has begun to smarten up with regards to evaluating player performance. This trend can only continue. Allowing an increasingly informed electorate to vote its full opinion all every candidate will only lead to a more robust conversation and better results. I do not have any particular candidate in mind as I write this, nor any specific type of candidate, but permitting all electors to vote their complete opinion on the candidates is not only the right thing to do, but will improve the process. Worthy candidates will consolidate support faster and many minor complaints about the process - particularly the results of "strategic voting" are completely eliminated.

            As for the committee process, the single greatest difference-maker would be to restructure the Historical Overview Committee to a group of historians (only), absent any members of the board, Hall honorees or BBWAA members. This not only precludes conflicts of interest on the committee, but it ensures informed screeners, provides a genuinely authoritative voice to the composition of the ballot, and facilitates the very best of eligible candidates for the electors to consider.

            There are 10 candidates per ballot, whether players, non-players or a combination of both. If the ballot was assembled by John Thorn, Bill James, David Neft, etc. rather than the existing HOC, I may lobby for my personal favorite to make the ballot, but I wouldn't complain about the HOC's choices, much less the HOC itself. More significantly, voters (no matter who they are) are prevented from even considering candidates who don't make the ballot, much less electing them. Dave Concepcion might belong in the Hall of Fame. Perhaps. It is certain that, worthy or not, Concepcion is not one of the 10 best candidates from his era. I would have suggested the same was true of Harold Baines last year (though, in fairness, the smaller pool of eligible candidates makes that an argument I have less of a stomach for). If the voters are presented with 10 worthy candidates on the ballot, what difference does it make which ones they elect? The screening committee exercises a stranglehold over the process and replacing these BBWAA voters with credible historians and scholars (whomever the individuals would be) would do more for improving the era committee results than any other single reform.

            Now, here's why I had a different answer for each group. The BBWAA screening committee is important, but name the last time a remotely deserving Hall of Famer was actually left off the ballot. I can't, off the top of my head. Furthermore, by allowing all BBWAA members the full effect of their opinions (by eliminating the 10 vote maximum), you're guaranteeing better results in the voting far more than anything the BBWAA screening committee could do.

            On the other hand, I could have suggested putting John Thorn, Bill James, et. al. on the era committees themselves, but the presence of "experts" without conflicts of interest or personal grudges/biases of the nature of former teammates, opponents, employers, etc. doesn't guarantee good results if the ballot itself isn't robust with good candidates. The HOC could keep tossing BBWAA "favorites" onto these committees and we'll keep seeing Steve Garvey instead of Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker instead of Dwight Evans and Dave Concepcion instead of Lou Whitaker. Results would improve, but only marginally so.

            In each case, I wanted to identify the one change which would best help meet the objective of the election. That happens to be difference reforms, however, for each body.

            As far as the likelihood either becomes policy? Under the current board, a binary BBWAA vote is an easy "hell, no" to predict. It is possible, however, that the board may be open to the presence of some historians. Just adding John Thorn to the HOC would be a valuable addition which would yield fruit. Perhaps that would be the better way to pose the suggestion to the board? After all, the smaller the aim, the more likely one is to hit the target.
            "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
            "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
            "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
            "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Toledo Inquisition View Post

              This isn't bad as it is logical, but I'd prefer to have the 1871-1919 and 1920-1959 full committees. Roughly equal numbers of years, and it avoids lumping together 88 years of history.
              I think it makes more sense to break it down like this:

              Pre-1892 - Meets once as a special committee similar to what happened for the Negro Leagues. Look at all contributors, pioneers and players who played most of their career in this era and elect the ones who are the most deserving. After that, meet once every 12 years.
              1893-1968 Meets every 3rd year - this could also be split as 1893-1921 and 1922-1968.
              1969-1993 Meets every 3rd year
              1994-date Meets every 3rd year
              Last edited by jjpm74; 08-23-2019, 03:16 PM.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by jjpm74 View Post
                I think it makes more sense to break it down like this:

                Pre-1892 - Meets once as a special committee similar to what happened for the Negro Leagues. Look at all contributors, pioneers and players who played most of their career in this era and elect the ones who are the most deserving. After that, meet once every 12 years.
                1893-1968 Meets every 3rd year - this could also be split as 1893-1921 and 1922-1968.
                1969-1993 Meets every 3rd year
                1994-date Meets every 3rd year
                More important than breaking down baseball history into smaller - more meaningful? - committees, which would give more attention to individual candidates within each respective era, is the practice of having any committee meet annually. I point, again, to the annual BBWAA elections and the gradual move of candidates towards election over time. Holding annual elections give electors more exposure to each candidate and creates more opportunities for discussion of the candidates between voters, between voters and people whose opinions they may seek on the candidate, etc. It keeps the candidates - particularly the top candidates - in people's minds more routinely. All of this leads to a greater likelihood of a candidate being elected.

                Under the current system, merely adding additional committees which meet every other, or every third (or fourth, or fifth) year does do nearly as much to facilitate elections as the existing committees meeting more regularly. Heck, if we had a single Veterans Committee, as we once did, but it met every year, we could go back to seeing perhaps one old-timer elected per year or more?

                As a practical matter, the board is unlikely to staff too many committees since they seek to do so with Hall honorees and board members. They are probably disinclined to ask too many, or to ask too much of any one. As is, Joe Torre could reasonably serve on the Golden, Modern and Today's Game committees. I don't think the board wants to see that, however.

                Finally, to create an additional committee, the board would require a compelling reason. I could perhaps see a separate one for 19th century candidates, but a special one-time committee for that period, not unlike the 2006 Special Committee on the Negro Leagues, would be just as likely as a permanent committee that meets every 5 or 10 years.

                Something else to consider is that, so long as the Historical Overview Committee remains composed as it currently is, more ballots for smaller periods of time leave more opportunity for more questionable selections making the ballot (or potentially getting elected). We've seen this with the Today's Game committee in two iterations already. Yes, the HOC may put a stinker or two on a ballot for a larger period of time. While we might hope for a 19th century ballot that includes Ross Barnes, Joe Start, Jim McCormick, Jack Glasscock, Harry Stovey, Bill Dahlen, Doc Adams, etc. it's possible that some of those spots could go to Ned Williamson or Al Reach or Deacon McGuire or Dave Orr, guys who aren't horrible to review, but who stand a good measure behind the Charlie Bennetts and Paul Hines' of the world. If we shortened the Modern Era committee, the committee might be more inclined to put Ron Guidry on it, while leaving Dave Stieb off. The problem isn't Guidry or Fernando Valenzuela, for example. It's why Guidry or Val, but not Stieb. You get the idea.

                Where a larger number of committees, each with authority over more narrow domains would make sense is in an ideal electoral process, where committees of historians who specialize on the period/subject assemble a ballot and vote, but the winner of the election is not automatically inducted, but rather nominated to a larger ballot. The larger ballot, for the VC voters, would then have X players from Era A, Y players from Era B, Z players from Era C, etc. If the Hall had qualms about too many (or too few) being elected from a certain era, it could increase or decrease the number of nominees from that period on the larger ballot. There would be no reason that historians on the nominating committees couldn't also serve on the larger committee that did the voting on the general ballot. We would have a much better ballot and, therefore, much better results.

                The board isn't likely to replace the HOC with historians. As I said before, I'd settle just for getting John Thorn added to the HOC. His inclusion alone would yield noticeable differences in the overall ballot quality.

                Your suggestion is a good one, it's just not a practical one given the disposition of the current board of directors. Hence, I didn't want to hash out exactly how many committees, and what years they should cover, in this thread. It's a fun exercise, but a moot point.
                Last edited by Chadwick; 08-25-2019, 06:38 PM.
                "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                Comment


                • #23
                  I think "Williamson" got autocorrected to "Williams".

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Thanks, Cougar. Fixed.
                    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                    Comment

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