By In Stuff

The Tango Option

On Friday I plan to post this thing about Curt Schilling, Jack Morris and pitchers facing pitchers … but first, I just got an email from Tom Tango that hits upon a brilliant Hall of Fame idea that, by pure coincidence, I’ve been pondering the last few days (kismet!).

This idea is, in fact, so good that I’m actually a bit surprised it wasn’t put into place years ago.

Before explaining the idea, let me explain the problem by looking at a few players:

• Dan Quisenberry, 3.8% of the vote

• John Franco, 4.6% of the vote

• Dwight Evans, 3.6% of the vote

• Lou Whitaker, 2.9% of the vote

• Kevin Brown, 2.1% of the vote

• Albert Belle, 3.5% of the vote

• Orel Hershiser, 4.4% of the vote

• Will Clark, 4.4% of the vote

• Keith Hernandez, 4.3% of the vote

• Ron Guidry, 4.9% of the vote

• Willie Randolph, 1.1% of the vote

• Graig Nettles, 4.7% of the vote

• Darrell Evans, 1.7% of the vote

• Buddy Bell, 1.7% of the vote

Now let me make clear right up front: I’m not saying that any of these players belongs in the Hall of Fame. I do think a handful of them belong, but that’s not what I’m arguing here. What I’m saying is that all these players — and others like them — deserved a real conversation. And a real Hall of Fame conversation — as we have seen with borderline cases like Jim Rice and Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven and Jack Morris and others who didn’t make the Hall of Fame, like Steve Garvey and Jim Kaat and Minnie Minoso — takes time to build.

See, it isn’t just the guys who eventually make it into the Hall of Fame. I think Minoso belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I couldn’t argue that he didn’t have his case heard; he was on the ballot for 15 years. The BBWAA looked hard at him and decided no. That’s fair. Lou Whitaker, meanwhile, was on the ballot for one year. And I would say: That’s not fair. Bruce Sutter and Dan Quisenberry had almost identical careers. I’ve broken this down hundreds of different ways, and every argument you can make that shows Sutter was better, I can counter to show Quiz was better. Sutter managed some early traction (probably because of the Cy Young Award he won in 1979) and stayed on the ballot long enough to get enough Hall of Fame support. And Quiz (probably because he finished second in Cy Young voting twice and third two other times but never won it) fell off the ballot in one year. It isn’t an equitable way of doing things.

The problem — as Tango sees it, and I agree — is that right now there are only two options for voters: Yes and No. That’s it. If this was a one-time election, that would make sense. You only need two options for presidential elections. But it isn’t like a presidential elections. This isn’t a one-time election. This year’s “No” might be next year’s “Yes.” Or it might be a yes in five years. Or 10 years. Certain people vote “No” in a players’ first year on the ballot, knowing full well that they will vote “Yes” the next year. It’s a messy process.

So the Tango solution — one that I have been thinking about too — is to add a third option for voters. The options would be:

1. Yes.

2. No.

3. No for right now, but the players deserves more consideration.

And the way it would work is — no more 5% minimum to stay on the ballot. Instead, any player who gets 50% of either “Yes” or “Deserves More Consideration” stays on the ballot. Every player who gets less than 50% of “Yes” plus “Deserves More Consideration” falls off.

It seems to me that this is better in so many ways. Right now, people try to say many things with their “Yes” and “No” vote — a lot more than “Yes, I think he’s a Hall of Famer” and “No, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer.” They are trying to say, with just those two choices, “Yes, I think this player should stay on the ballot.” Or “No, I don’t think this player should go in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but next year I’ll change my vote.” And “No, I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, but I hope enough other people vote Yes so I can think about it again later.”

Remember Roberto Alomar’s first year on the ballot? Pretty much everyone knew the guy belonged in the Hall of Fame. But people wanted to send him a message — because of the spitting incident, among other things I guess — and so they didn’t vote him, but the next year 90% of them did vote him in. That’s a pretty unseemly process, no? Some people voted “No” on Willie Mays. I mean: Willie Mays! Same with Hank Aaron. Same with Ted Williams and Tom Seaver and Bob Feller and Jackie Robinson. The idea seems to be that certain voters don’t think anyone should be voted unanimously … but again, isn’t that an unseemly way to do it? To vote “No” on Willie Mays?

This way: There’s no hidden agendas. If you think Alomar deserves to go to the Hall of Fame but not in his first year on the ballot, you vote that way. You vote “No for now.” It’s simple and it’s open-ended and it sends the message you wanted to send in the first place.

The bigger thing, of course, is that this process can open up the chance for players to have their careers viewed properly. I don’t know if Kevin Brown would have gotten 50% “Deserves more consideration” — probably not — but I do know that I would have voted on him that way. Instead I voted No because, at the moment when I voted, I did not believe Brown was a Hall of Famer. I try to vote honestly. And now that he’s off the ballot, I think it’s kind of a crock … he was a great pitcher who — like Blyleven and Morris and Kaat and Tommy John and other great pitchers — deserved to be discussed and argued about.

As with everything else going on with Hall of Fame voting … we also have the consider the steroid era guys. An option like “Deserves more consideration” would make it so that people who are honestly wrestling with the issue can delay their choice for a year or two. I’m not saying this is a perfect plan. There are no perfect plans. Maybe this Tango Option would mean that voters won’t face their responsibilities and will keep putting off their decisions. Maybe it would mean that some people would vote that way so that no player was ever elected unanimously. Maybe there are major problems I’m just not seeing.

Still, I like the idea. I think there’s a real chance that Rafael Palmeiro will fall off the ballot this year or next year. I’m not a Palmeiro guy, but I don’t think that’s right. I think this is the absolute worst time for him to be on the ballot, when the feelings about him and the era when he played are at their most raw. I think he deserves to have his case argued for the next 10 years while the steroid era begins to come more into focus. But I’m not going to vote for Palmeiro … this ballot is so stacked, I’m voting for 10 players and already leaving off two or three guys I might have otherwise considered. I think Palmeiro does deserve more consideration. I wish I could check that box.

33 Responses to The Tango Option

  1. filihok says:

    Wouldn’t it make more sense just to get better voters?

  2. Brad says:

    The only problem with this is that voters are currently limited to voting for a maximum of 10 players. As you said, the ballot is so stacked right now. If it is stacked right now, how will adding more players to the ballot accomplish anything. This idea cannot really be implemented without addressing the limit on the number of players that can be voted upon on one ballot.

  3. Joe: I get the sentiment, but I’ll bet that the upshot would be players would get “Not now” instead of Yes votes, and even fewer players would get voted in by the BBWAA.

    The BBWAA, as a voting body, sucks now and has sucked for years. The best suggestion for a more intelligent Hall of Fame would be to more carefully select voters. Eliminating the general-sports columnists would be a great start. Getting rid of the 10-year membership requirement would also be a good move, because the oldest guys are a weakness, not a strength.

    Don’t give these guys more chances to say Cal Ripken and Willie Mays and Rickey Henderson don’t deserve a unanimous induction. What group of smart baseball enthusiasts would agree with that statement? But the BBWAA did.

  4. The entire Hall of Fame system is like the to-date BCS: artificial, awkward, and stranger the more you think about it. Why is the Hall’s ownership structure what it is? What’s up with the continuing emphasis on a 1960’s conception of what a sportswriter is? Why in fact are sportswriters the ones with the vote?! Why not a committee selected by the owners and players each year? Why not the umpires? (Okay, maybe not umpires.)

    I suggest a different idea, by the way. The problem with what you suggest is it adds complication, nor does it get rid of the gamesmanship. (Some writers will still send a message with a ‘no’ vote.)

    What I would propose is that the normal vote would be kept as-is. But in addition, every year all eligible writers would be able to vote for X or Y (say, five) players who went off the ballot within the past five years, other than by terming out after 15 years, who they think should be put back on the ballot for consideration. If any player gets X or Y percent of that second vote (say, 10%, or double the current threshold for falling off the main ballot), he goes back on the normal ballot the next year.

    This fixes the game theory problem of deserving players falling off because everyone assumes someone else will vote for him. But it does not introduce a fundamental change to the current calculus. It’s not as if either of these proposals fixes the Willie Mays problems anyway: a voter under your new proposed system could have voted Mays needed further consideration, and that would not have been much better than what actually happened, and in fact would be in a way more dishonest.

  5. Tangotiger says:

    Thanks to Joe for giving it such a full-length treatment!

    For those interested, I mocked this up two years ago. Anyone who gets 50%+ of “Never” is banished. Everyone else returns. You can vote as many Yes as you want. Player remains on ballot for 10 years max. (And by the way, I’d make the player eligible when he turns 45 years old. If that meaning we have an active hall of famer like Gordie Howe, then so be it.)


    Yes, obviously we need better voters. I’d go with SABR, which is really filled with fans who love history (and are not that big into sabermetrics, ironically). You can let BBWAA have the first pass vote, maybe be the ones to nominate ten players, and then let those who dedicate their spare time to baseball history judge the players to vote in.

    Also, mandatory elect-2 (or elect-3). You can pretty much tell that for the next 5-10 years, that’s not going to be a problem that we’ll be electing “too many” players.

  6. The real solution is sportswriters shouldn’t be the ones to vote anymore. When the process began sportswriters made sense. They had better access to information pertinent to the decision than the average educated fan. The Internet has changed that. Sportswriters have shown they on the aggregate are no more above petty and uneducated votes than the average fan through annual awards and hall of fame votes. The privilege of voting for these things should no longer be restricted to the “elite.” Instead, MLB should allow fans to register as voters. They should have to identify themselves by SSN and take a test to prove their knowledge of the game. Those who pass get the vote for all awards and the hall of fame. The elite have squandered their privilege and it is time to open the gates up to reflect the reality of the educated modern fan.

  7. Theo says:

    This is a good point. I’ve been arguing against the 10-player limit first, as I think that would help clear up some of the ballot crunches. But this could cover a good number of cases, I imagine. Although 50% is a little high-knowing the current electorate, I would bet a lot of them start voting even more strictly with a “deserves more consideration” option.

    Another option would be something in between the Veterans Committee and the regular ballot, for people like Whitaker and Brown who should have received more debate than they did, but fell off immediately. That way, they don’t have to wait 14 more years to even be eligible again.

  8. Unknown says:

    I’m not sure a “no for now” option would work. I can see many players getting a “no for now” vote, and forever remaining there until they are gone.

    I think another option would be to give players a two-year stay on the ballot, as long as they get three or four votes in year one. This will reduce ballot glut but also eliminate marginal players getting the hat tip (i.e. single vote) from a local reporter or a friend. They would need to get 5% by the second year, as opposed to the current first year limitation. What that would do is force all voters to look at players sitting at 3 or 4% in their first year, players such as Lou Whitaker or Kevin Brown or etc., with the realization that a player they believe they can decide on in future years will almost assuredly drop off the ballot. My guess is many voters, looking at someone like Whitaker, would vote for him in year two to keep him on the ballot. Any player who fails the 5% test in two consecutive years will fall off the ballot.

    Is it perfect? No. Yet BBWAA members will get a warning that a player worthy of consideration may be gone in rapid order if voters don’t act in year two.

  9. Sort of related, there is a part of me that hopes that no player is elected to the HOF this year. With the addition of Clemens, Bonds, Piazza and Sosa to the already existing McGwire and Palmeiro, and with Gary Sheffield and Ivan Rodriquez and others suspected PED user coming down the line, eventually many HOF ballots will be paralyzed by a collection of truly great players who will never be elected to the HOF yet will remain on the ballot, with in many cases a majority of BBWAA members continuing to vote for them every year. The issue will grow and worsen yearly.

    It’s not that I want the Hall paralyzed. I want the lazy moralizing and/or narcissistic voting from BBWAA members to be brought into greater focus, forcing MLB and the HOF to basically offer guidance and confront the issue. So, yes, I’m hoping for no players to be elected this year.

  10. boston12855 says:

    Luis Tiant, please. Just compare his numbers to Catfish Hunter. I just don’t understand it.

  11. “You only need two options for presidential elections.”


    Also, while this seems like an improvement at first glance, I think it’s an awfully big assumption to think this would really solve any problems. It would likely allow guys like Whitaker and Brown to remain on the ballot, with with mostly the same electorate, I don’t think either of them would ever climb to 75%. Meanwhile, a lot of guys who’ve gotten in with ~80% of the vote probably wouldn’t have. What the Hall needs is a better electorate.

  12. 1. The third voting option is a good idea, IMO.

    2. 50% for the “Never” line seems way, way too low. I’ve got to think that will lead to more premature eliminations than the present system. And if you need 75% “Yes” votes to get in the Hall, you should need at least 75% “Never” votes to get kicked off the ballot. 90% might be even better.

    3. I don’t like an absolutely final rejection of anyone, at least unless the body of voters becomes incredibly (and prehaps unrealistically) good. Fortunately, the HOF voting rules change often enough that Whitaker et al. will probably get voted on again someday.

  13. Steve C. says:

    Lets get one thing clear. Fans should NEVER be allowed to vote for the Hall of Fame. EVER. The All-Star game is a perfect example of why that is. Even though the current fan has access to more information then at any other time in history Fans are generally just as blind and biased as any sportswriter.

    The Hall of Fame would be filled with everyone’s “favorite” instead of it being a showcase of the best players to ever play the game. We don’t need that. The Dumb Money hit the nail on the head with this…

    “What I would propose is that the normal vote would be kept as-is. But in addition, every year all eligible writers would be able to vote for X or Y (say, five) players who went off the ballot within the past five years, other than by terming out after 15 years, who they think should be put back on the ballot for consideration. If any player gets X or Y percent of that second vote (say, 10%, or double the current threshold for falling off the main ballot), he goes back on the normal ballot the next year.”

    …This, I feel, would address the problem and allow players to get another look when they would have otherwise been passed over.

    For me personally I’d like to see a committee established for Hall of Fame voting with checks and balances in place to prevent impartial votes from taking place. Where the individuals selected for said committee actually sit down and weigh a players accomplishments with those of their peers and identify those truly deserving of selection into the Hall of Fame.

    The Hall should be a place that reflects the best all around players that ever played in the Major Leagues. Not just offensive players, or good defensive players but the best all around players. To accomplish this we need better voters and a better voting process. Not just one or the other.

    • Dave says:

      Perfectly Stated Steve, Fans would Kill the HOF. And I do love your idea about having another slot for keeping them on the ballot.
      Voters get 10 votes. Peter Abraham, A Boston Sportswriter just posted the 8 that he voted for, WASTING 2 votes and leaving Jack Morris off his ballot. He wrote in the article “He(Morris) was more about great moments than consistent excellence.”
      Morris will garner over 60% of the vote and be on the ballot next year again in his final attempt if the “bleeding hearts” don’t put him in this year. I think the first few years a player is on the ballot should be reviewed because 15 years after a player retires like Morris and Jim Rice, should not be when writers decide OK he was good enough.. it should have been before that point.. I am glad Rice and other 15 year guys get in but WOW lets review this process and its voters

  14. Chris Smith says:

    Amen, Steve C. I’m more for a committee of managers, some scouts, and some sports writers. These are the most informed people.

    Fans cannot devote entire lives to baseball the way these three groups can.

    • Chris says:

      Not all fans are created equal nor are all sportswriters. I’m fine with the fans staying out of it, but could it be possible for the fans to select the sportswriters involved?

  15. Jeffrey says:

    I would suggest that any player who falls off the ballot within their first 5 years gets placed back on the ballot on what would have been their 15th year of eligibility. This way, the player gets one final “look” by the BBWAA, and gets the benefit of an additional 10+ years of time that may allow proper perspective to set in.

    Adding a third voting option would just obfuscate the process more than it already is.

    • Frank says:

      @ Jeffrey – I totally agree that adding a third voting option just obfuscates things. However, that “final look” thing is what veterans committees do.

  16. Frank says:

    I suggest lowering the threshold for the first time eligible players to 2.5%. However, it should also be raised progressively by, say, 2.5% each year. By year 10, the player has to have 25% to stay on the ballot, and then keep it at that level for the remaining years.

  17. Dave says:

    Baseball’s Hall of Fame voting has left many good-great players out of the prestigious halls of Cooperstown.
    75% of the voters must vote a player in… that is 3 of every 4 voters must have a players name on their ballot for a player to have a plaque. Needing to be on 5% of the ballots to remain on the following years ballot… I consider that to be fair, but the names above are perfect examples of why there needs to be some sort of process to allow players of the caliber of Dwight Evans, Ron Guidry, Dan Quizenberry, and John Franco to remain on the ballot for at least an additional year, So why not make it that a player in his first year needs 3% and above 5% on year 2… I like what someone else suggested that they need to increase each year and by year 10 would need 25% .
    But, sadly.THIS WILL NOT CHANGE Cause the BBWA is fickle when it comes to voting but staunch about changing the rules because “That is how it has always been done”. Well I think its time for a change.. because NOBODY has EVER been unanimously voted in…NOBODY!!! Not Even Babe Ruth or Cy Young so let’s keep a 73 year old systm in place just for nostalgia… Wow, even the game has changed more than the voting process in that timeframe… The BBWA needs to get over themselves and reconsider cause there are at least 2 names on the above list that in my opinion should have been up for vote for a long time or enshrined in Cooperstown.

  18. Scott says:

    Every single time you write about this issue, you try to rephrase the same two points: you want the steroid guys in the hall, and you don’t like the fact that the voters make a judgement call instead of relying on the same bulletprrof logic that led you to your own judgement call. You are just argument shopping here. That’s what 2 year olds do. You aren’t going to change the underlying facts: the hall voting was set up specifically to allow for a judgement call to be made by the voting body, and nearly 4/5 of that body are going to punish perceived steroid users.

  19. Adam S says:

    This an an absolutely horrible idea, and the counterargument to this is incredibly simple, simple…either a player is a Hall of Famer, or he (she when women get to play) isn’t.

    This should never be a case of “not right now, but maybe next year or the year after that.” The stats aren’t going to change. The player’s contribution to the game won’t change. The only thing that will happen is another year of arguing over Player X in an attempt to somehow alter the historical context of Player X’s accomplishments to the point where a conclusion/consensus can be reached. The problem is that if a consensus seemingly can’t be reached, said consensus already has…Player X is not a Hall of Famer.

    I fail to understand why we need “discussion” over borderline cases. The point of the Hall of Fame is that the greats of the game are enshrined, and borderline <> great. Each player should get to appear on the ballot once and only once, the writers can elect as many or as few players as they want, and done. If that means 10 players get in one year because they all retired at the same time and they were awesome, then that’s a bumper year for the Hall of Fame. If that means no players at all get in, then so be it as well.

    • Completely agree, Adam. Voters have five years after a player’s retirement to weigh their candidacy. As you say, if a player doesn’t generate the support of 75% of the voters then that player probably doesn’t belong in the HoF. Baseball acknowledges the better players of their era by designating them All-Stars; the Hall of Fame is for the best players in history, the greatest of the great, and there should be no borderline cases.

      Steroids and PEDs muddy the waters significantly, but there will likely never be a way to clear them entirely. MLB needs to be more proactive and intelligent in their policies, players need to be held accountable to the rules in place, and voters need to constrain themselves to the facts. If a player abides by the rules and is irrefutably among the best to ever play the game, even if he’s a jerk, put him in the Hall. If it’s been proven that he’s broken either the law or the rules of the game, the character clause can be invoked and a “no” vote justified.

  20. Your explanation makes perfect sense, Joe. Good judgment!

  21. Badfinger says:

    I think there are rule changes that can get made that would alleviate this issue more than adding a 3rd vote type to the ballot. I don’t trust a third vote type, because BBWAA voters are already confused kittens when it comes to simple Yes and No.

    Rule change 1) No first year elimination. Plain and simple, you must be on the Hall of Fame ballot for more than a single year. You can phrase this any way you want. Everyone gets 3 years on the ballot, everyone gets five, everyone gets two, whatever. Then you resume the system now: after X guaranteed years on the ballot, they must receive whatever amount of support is considered fair to remain there for the full duration (15 years or election).

    Rule change 2) Eliminate the vote cap. This does nothing to voters who are already turning in ballots that ONLY have Craig Biggio and Jack Morris on them. This does everything for players like Edgar Martinez, Kenny Lofton, Raffi, guys like Tim Raines that somehow actually need more help. It also means some writer doesn’t have to stop his tradition of tossing a vote to a guy who played ball for 10 years in one city so that he could have a Hall of Fame vote in years where there are potentially 15 legitimate electees.

    Boom, done. That simple, that easy.

  22. A related article by TJ Quinn that outlines some of his gripes about the vote; issues troubling enough for him to give up the honor of casting a ballot:

    It seems clear that the process needs to be tinkered with. A similar idea: allow voters to leave a player’s name on the ballot unmarked. No yes, no no, just blank. Then, a player falls off IF and ONLY IF more than 50% of voters mark him as a no. Obviously if more than 50% vote for them, they are inducted.

  23. Mike says:

    I feel writers should, b/c they can vote for up to 10 players, MUST vote for a minimum of 5 players, plain and simple. The fact that if someone sends in an empty ballot (w/ no votes) that it counts, but if someone votes for more than 10 players, their ballot is voided, makes no sense.

    As far as the 5% dropped off ballot rule, I think it is fair, and though I was a big fan of Quiz, Dewey Evans, Will Clark, and Keith Hernandez in the 80s, the “standard” career HOF type numbers (300+ saves, 400+ homeruns a/o 3000+ hits) were not reached by any of them and I honestly could not see any of these guys securing enough votes (except maybe Dw Evans, and that is a stretch) from any of the Vet’s committees years from now.

  24. Rob Smith says:

    So, Joe is voting for 10 players. McGwire, Clemens, Bonds, Bagwell, Sammy Sosa….how repugnant!

  25. Rob Smith says:

    So, Joe is voting for 10 players. McGwire, Clemens, Bonds, Bagwell, Sammy Sosa….how repugnant!

  26. Joe Garrison says:

    This method would change the perspective quite a bit. It would require every voter to hang a label on every player rather than ranking the players on the ballot and then drawing a line between two of them (or above all of them if no one appears worthy).

    If this method were implemented, the list could become quite large some years. The upside becomes clear. Players would then be compared to a larger peer group rather than their consideration coming up with those fellow ballplayers who just happened to retire during the same year.

    I am kind of cold on this idea, but the process does deserve improvement. I think it would be better to keep the same system in place, but guarantee each players three years of consideration. If a player scored five percent or lower three years in a row, then he would be removed. Or once a player scored below five percent in three different years he would be removed.

  27. I think there’s a real chance that Rafael Palmeiro will fall off the ballot this year or next year.


  28. […] appear to be doing away with the 10-vote limit anytime soon, and are reticent to adopting novel methods to alleviate some of the clutter on the ballot, it appears some of the deserving candidates may run […]

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