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:
• 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:
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.