By In Baseball

The Veteran’s Committee and Bad Math

SAN DIEGO — There are four people in my immediate family, and every week or two we decide to go out for dinner. This always begins with high hopes and expectations. And every week or two we end up instead going to Jersey Mike’s to get sandwiches and then come home and watch a movie.

This happens because of math.

Four people means four votes for where we go to dinner. No two people EVER vote for the same place.

Four people also means four vetoes for where we don’t go to dinner.

Margo, my wife, always votes for something kind of exotic place, some new restaurant, some vegetarian place that specializes in dandelion cutlets, some new chef’s restaurant written up in the papers. The other three of us rotate in using our vetoes.

I suggest … whatever, it doesn’t matter, because nobody’s interested what I want to eat.

Elizabeth, our oldest daughter, pleasantly abstains — she is willing to go anywhere except every single restaurant you can come up with.

And Katie, our youngest daughter, always suggests mall Chinese food. Margo vetoes this continuously which doesn’t bother Katie at all because what she really wants is to go to Jersey Mike’s, get sandwiches, and come back and watch a movie, which is what we end up doing.

All math leads to Jersey Mike’s … and this, believe it or not, is simply a simplified version of ongoing problem with the Veterans Committee for the Baseball Hall of Fame. There, too, all maths point to Jersey Mike’s.

The Veteran’s Committee — a 16-member group of players, executives, sportswriters — once again met this year, and they enthusiastically discussed 10 pretty darned good candidates on what was called the Golden Era Ballot. The Committee Members then voted; a player needed to make 12 of 16 ballots to be called Hall of Famers.

Yes, they voted. And Monday afternoon here in San Diego, they had a fairly large press conference with five people, including Hall of Famers Fergie Jenkins and Pat Gillick on the dais. Then Jane Forbes Clark, the Chairman of the Board, stepped to the microphone and announced … nothing. Nada. Zippo. The committee had not voted in any of the players. OK, folks, thanks for coming. Please tip your waitress.

It was, to say the least, a disappointment. They don’t form committees to NOT elect people into the Hall of Fame. After the rather uncomfortable press conference, I heard one of the committee members turn to another and say, “I feel like we failed.”

But here’s the point: Did the committee fail? Or did the system fail THEM? I think it was the second. I think this whole thing was just bad math.

First a little history: In 2001, the Veteran’s Committee elected Bill Mazeroski to the Hall of Fame. There’s a pretty good argument to be made that Mazeroski is the greatest defensive second baseman in baseball history and, as such, deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. Trouble is, Maz was a lifetime .260 hitter (with a .299 on-base percentage) and, after he was elected, there was some pretty significant panic. Help! Help! They’re electing .260 hitters to the esteemed baseball Hall of Fame! Won’t somebody help us?

See, here’s what you need to know about the Hall of Fame: The wind blows out. That is to say, nothing scares the Hall of Fame more than what can loosely be called a “lowering of standards.” In truth, there are several people in the Hall of Fame who are less deserving than Bill Mazeroski, but in truth Cooperstown was not where baseball was invented … there’s a mythology about the Hall of Fame that comforts the board members and mobilizes the inducted players, a mythology that the Hall of Fame is Willie Mays and Walter Johnson and Mike Schmidt, not Lloyd Waner and Jesse Haines and Freddie Lindstrom.

Electing Bill Mazeroski and his .260 average pierced that mythology, and so the Veteran’s Committee was disbanded. The Committee has come back in various forms in the last 14 or so years. And it should be said that these committees have elected A LOT of people since 2001. They have elected seven managers, four executives, two umpires, one 19th Century player and 17 people who were involved one way or another with the Negro Leagues.

How about living players? Here’s your total: 0. The Veteran’s Committee has only elected two 20th Century players since 2001. One was Joe Gordon, who had died 30 years earlier. The other was Ron Santo, who had died two years before.

That’s right. The Veteran’s Committee has not voted in a living player since the Bill Mazeroski panic.

This year, it seemed inevitable that the Vets would break that streak. They were given a really strong ballot of 10 people — seven who are still living. There was Minnie Minoso, the man professor and author Adrian Burgos calls the Latin Jackie Robinson. There was Dick Allen, one of the most fearsome hitters of all time. There was Jim Kaat with his 283 victories. There was Maury Wills, who helped launch a stolen base revolution. There was Luis Tiant, El Tiante, who pitched like no one else.There was Tony Oliva, who smashed the hardest line drives of his time. There was Billy Pierce, so slight, throwing fastballs that seemed to rocket from his left hand.

The other three candidates — Gil Hodges, Bob Howsam and Ken Boyer — were also compelling candidates.

So: Ten good candidates. And I believe, having talked with several members of the committee, that they fully understood how good a list this was and how good these players were. The ones I talked to fully expected to vote at least one player in, maybe two or three.

So why did they fail to vote in any of them?


Here were the final totals — once more, players needed 12 of the 16 for election:

— Dick Allen, 11
— Tony Oliva, 11
— Jim Kaat, 10
— Maury Wills, 9
— Minnie Minoso, 8

All of the following got fewer than three votes:
— Ken Boyer
— Gil Hodges
— Bob Howsam
— Billy Pierce
— Luis Tiant

So, you can see that Allen and Oliva fell one heartbreaking vote short of the Hall, Kaat two votes short. You can also see that five players got “fewer than three votes.” Why didn’t the Hall include their vote totals? At first I thought it was because they didn’t want to embarrass anyone who did not get a single vote … which is understandable. But there’s something else at work here too.

See, the ballot had 10 players, but voters were limited to four players. They did not have to vote for four, but they could not vote for more than four.

That means the maximum number of votes cast was 64 (4 x 16). The top five players got 49 votes, which means that there were only 15 possible votes left. It seems very unlikely that each of the five players got exactly three votes, so my guess is that not everybody voted for four players. In fact, I would bet that a few ballots had three or fewer votes on them. This is important because even with 16 FULL ballots, the odds of a player on this ballot getting elected were pretty slim.

Back to the math. Tom Tango explains it this way: Let’s say all ten candidates on the ballot were equally qualified for the Hall of Fame. That’s not quite true here, but it’s a good starting point — you had 10 good candidates. If they’re all equally good candidates, then each one had a 40% chance of getting picked for a ballot — 10 players on the ballot, voter chooses four, 40% chance. Pretty simple.

Well, if a player has a 40% chance of being on one ballot, his chances on making 12 of 16 is … get ready for it, less than 0.5%. That’s not 5% — it is less than one-half of one-percent. 995 times out of a 1,000, the player would NOT get elected. And remember, that’s assuming every voter uses all four of his votes.

Now, in this case, the panel did not see all ten candidates as equally qualified. They saw Allen, Oliva, Kaat, Wills and Minoso as the best candidates — those five players drew AT LEAST 77% of the total votes cast. For the record: I don’t agree with the Committee. I think Tiant was woefully under-appreciated as was Ken Boyer, and I think Wills was wildly overvalued. But these are just opinions, and we were talking math.

So, let’s look at the math again. Let’s say that you ask all 16 voters a question: Should Dick Allen be in the Hall of Fame? And let’s say that 14 of them say, “Yes.” That’s good right? Fourteen of 16 is 88%, way above the Hall of Fame threshold. OK, Allen is in!

Wrong. Even then he would probably NOT get in. Remember: There were at least FIVE strong candidates, and each voter was limited to four. If Allen had a 80% chance to appear on each of those 14 ballots, there would STILL be less than a 50% chance (44.8% to be exact) of him getting the 12 votes he needs for the Hall of Fame.

Jim Kaat is a good personal example. I think Jim Kaat should be in the Hall of Fame. But, given only four votes, I would not have had him on my ballot. I had Minoso, Tiant, Boyer and Allen higher than him.

You see the point? The Hall of Fame set up a mathematical mousetrap. Every turn runs into a statistical wall. There were too many people on the ballot. The voters were given too few votes. The only way to get a Hall of Famer with this system is to basically have a ballot split so that two or three candidates are separates from the rest. This happened last year when three great managers — Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox — were put on a ballot with old players. The committee united behind the managers. The committee has proven an ability to unite behind managers, behind umpires, behind executives — heck, they somehow found 12 votes for Bowie Kuhn. But they cannot unite behind living players … and that’s disappointing. Players should be elected to the Hall while they are living.

I suspect the Hall of Fame will tinker with the system again — maybe increase the number of votes each voter gets or have the committee shrink the ballot or something like that. In the meantime, it’s unfortunate that a Veteran’s Committee got together once again just to tell Minnie Minoso, Dick Allen, Tony Oliva, Jim Kaat, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills that they just weren’t good enough.

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72 Responses to The Veteran’s Committee and Bad Math

  1. Tim says:

    It’s a disappointment for sure. That must have been.One.depressing press conference. Kaat and Allen got hosed”

  2. Travis says:

    Start with the 10 man ballot. Vote. Top 5 advance to a second round of voting. Vote again, those getting 12 of 16 votes get in.

    • Bpdelia says:

      So. Very. Simple. In my opinion they should do the exact same ballot again next year. How many dedicated baseball fans look at that list and go…… Hmmmmmm nope.

      Very few. One of those freaking guys is a hll of famer. I think five and maybe six are.

      They won’t do that group again before most are dead though.

      Any the really crappy thing is the only people paying attention to this story are people like us. Basically the one percenters of baseball fans.

      And so these players, these wonderful players, don’t even get a nice long PUBLIC discussion that would get their careers back in front of the causal fan.

      The two tier run off system produces an news cycle.

      Page 8 stories about the first vote.

      Page 2 stories about “Allen, Kaat, Minosos one step away from Hall”. Which leads to:

      Cover story ” Allen, Minoso get Hall Call at Last “.

      So disappointing.

      This bothers me even more than Raines, Trammel and Whitaker, Bagwell etc because the odds of Kaat and Minoso being alive when this happens again are very small.

  3. Jake says:

    I started reading Fever Pitch today, and very early on Nick Hornby writes that he was willing to go anywhere with his father except all the places his father suggested. Probably just an odd coincidence, but can’t help but wonder if Poz borrowed a phrase. It’s a common idiom, I suppose, but I thought it was interesting.

    • perry534 says:

      I’ve read Fever Pitch many times, and I thought the exact same thing. Not that Poz borrowed it, but when I read the line I immediately flashed on Hornby’s. That’s at or near the top of my favorite sports books ever, by the way — lucky you getting to read it for the first time.

  4. Same as the problem with the writers’ ballot. There’s something about the HOF that makes those who design the system into gibbering idiots.

    I read Bill James’s recent proposal for HOF voting and found it way too cumbersome, but at least the thought behind it was…well, thought.

    • Don Maristch says:

      James is full of himself and an Allen hater. Period.

      • “James is full of himself and an Allen hater. Period.”

        Both of these assertions may well be true, but have nothing to do with the mechanics of his proposal, the greatest objection to which is the near certainty that it will not be considered, much less adopted. If that’s right, then it’s just self-indulgent hot air. Still, I’ll continue to look forward to Joe’s take.

  5. Crout says:

    So the question is…..why was it done this way? I mean, I am assuming that the folks who run the HOF are pretty smart people. Were they completely unaware of the boondoggle they created? How can that be?

    • Like Joe suggested, they can’t do math. I run into this problem all the time at work. People can’t do a simple business proposal….. which involves nothing more than multiplying and dividing. They also can’t whittle down a priority list to a manageable level. I immediately saw a problem when there were only four votes given to each member, ESPECIALLY since every single person on the ballot had a compelling HOF case. I didn’t take the time to analyze it as Poz has wonderfully done, but it was pretty obvious that it would be almost impossible to get to 75%…. unless…. there were discussions ahead of time where, more or less, the committee decided to unite behind 2-4 players and vote them in, or at least eliminate a few from consideration. This is where the committee may have failed. Why wouldn’t they have understood the math issue and discussed it beforehand and narrowed down the list? In the NFL HOF, they have a process of trimming the field before the final vote. Now the rules/process may prohibit that here, but I thought that since they were actually meeting, unlike the thousands of sportswriters with actual ballots that they mail in, there’d be some deliberation…. kind of like a jury. “Yeah, we don’t see Howsam, Hodges and Pierce getting enough votes, let’s set them aside. Who else can we eliminate from consideration?” That would have been the way they could have succeeded. I don’t know if the process wouldn’t allow for that, or whether they just didn’t think of it. If the latter, then they need a good facilitator to help them work out the problems they faced. I hope they didn’t just get together for lunch, then ask for a show of hands. That’s what it came across as. Joe is quite correct that not being able to vote in at least 2-3 players from this list is a failure, but the committee failed, not just the process.

      • BTW: if I was facilitating this exercise, I would have assigned each voter five dots and had them stick them on five players names they would choose. I would have then taken the Top 5 vote getters, then assigned the voters four stickies and repeated the exercise. If we still weren’t at a 75% level, I would have taken the Top 3, and gave them three votes with the option of not using all of them. Either 3 would have been voted in, or we’d have to drop 1 more and try again. All of that would have taken an hour, more or less, with conversations & commentary. Then vote for real, but understanding that really only the Top 2 or 3 were getting in and understanding that if there was any vote switching, the committee would fail to elect those 2 or 3. Ultimately you should get three in, or two at the fewest unless you have some real fools on the committee. If you have a committee who’s main purpose is to vote in some guys who were missed, then you need to have a process that votes in some guys who were missed. Otherwise, it’s all a pointless waste of time and just makes the HOF look foolish.

  6. Dark Side of the Mood says:

    Joe you should track down Katie the Prefect and get her to do a couple of video recommendations for places you like to eat.

  7. Tom G says:

    You mean the same people who spent 100 years thinking batting average was a better measure of hitting ability than on-base percentage don’t understand fractions and percentages?

  8. Just get rid of it. I’m tired of the Veterans Committee. While I can see the case for some of the players on this ballot, the Hall isn’t exactly screaming for them. And they almost elected Maury Wills. Let it go. The VC has long passed the point of doing more harm than good. Have some other body consider managers and old players.

  9. […] Here is what Joe Posnanski wrote tonight with respect to what happened today, but it calls to mind the Vote of 10, the 75% rule, 15 years then 10 years, and so on. So very much has been written since the most recent ballot was released, the backlog of worthy candidates based on the factual stats now in the historical record, how Craig Biggio needs two votes but now there are 10 as worthy but 8.5 were on PEDs and maybe he will only get the 1.99 votes this year to close the gap and again fall short, and if this ramble hasn’t proven the point I will state it clearly: a process should not determine whether a person’s career is worth of enshrinement. […]

  10. edfromyumaaz says:

    Why limit each voter to 4 votes? if a well qualified voter thinks 6 or 8 are hall of famers, let that person vote for 6 or 8. It’s not like these players are running for office, where only one can serve at a time. Sometimes people set up systems doomed to fail because they don’t think things through.

  11. ZelmoOfTroy says:

    The biggest problem with Ron Santo as a candidate is that he was pretty much Ken Boyer. Now Santo is in … and Ken Boyer isn’t Ron Santo. Is Ken Boyer even Ken Boyer?

    • Throw in Graig Nettles and you have the Holy Trinity of borderline HOF thirdbasemen. I like to, just for fun, throw in Gary Gaetti…. just because he’s not that far off from them and is obviously not a HOFer.

      • johnq11 says:

        Ron Santo is one of the top 6 or 7 3b in MLB history, he was a embarrassing omission in the HOF. Nettles and Boyer are in the top 12 3b of all time and really should be in the HOF in the system worked properly.

        Gary Gaetti? There’s a huge difference between Gaetti and Nettles & Boyer? Gaetti is in the top 40-50 third basemen of all time.

        The big problem with HOF third basemen is that they just don’t elect 3b to the HOF. It’s the least represented of all the positions.

        They’ve only elected 11 third basemen and three of the selections were terrible: Pie Traynor, George Kell and Freddie Lindstrom. Then there was Jimmy Collins who was about equal to Ron Cey, Robin Ventura and Toby Harrah. So that leaves you with 7 HOF Third Base out of the top 15 in MLB history. That’s the worst representation out of any position in baseball.

        G. Nettles, K. Boyer, S. Bando, and B. Bell should really be in the HOF.

        • kehnn13 says:

          Nettles is the one I saw the most- I definitely feel like he should be in there. That guy was a vacuum cleaner at 3rd and had some pop in his bat.

          • johnq11 says:

            Yeah, there’s not a big difference between Nettles and B. Robinson. B. Robinson has some more career value, that’s about it. And Nettles was kind of screwed with the gold glove because he was in the same league as B. Robinson. And Nettles should have been the 1976 AL MVP.

        • I forgot to mention Cey and Bando. Bando is very underrated. Cey had an excellent career as well. Yes, somewhat joking about Gaetti, but I doubt people remember the numbers he put up. More HRs than all of the above.

          • johnq11 says:

            Yeah, Bando is really underrated. He played in that gigantic park in Oakland which surpassed his numbers. And then he was good a drawing walks and getting on base which wasn’t that big a deal back. Even with that he usually did quite well in MVP and his teams were always making the playoffs. You could make a case that he was one of the top 10 position players in baseball from ’69-78.

            Cey is another underrated player and in retrospect, the best player on those 70’s/early 80’s Dodger teams.

            In general third basemen are the most underrated players in baseball.

            Scott Rolen should be elected to the HOF but he’ll probably do poorly. Adrian Beltre is already one of the top 6-7 third basemen in MLB history but he’ll probably need to get to 3000 hits to be elected.

            Darrell Evans was another underrated third basemen. So were Stan Hack Bob Elliot and Matt Williams. I already mentioned Ventura and Harrah but they were also very underrated.

            Buddy Bell was extremely underrated, he should be in the HOF.

            Garry Gaetti was an odd player to figure out. He was an all time great fielder and had very good power but he didn’t hit for a high average and he didn’t draw walks so his lifetime on base percentage is only .308. And he was extremely slow. I think he’s 40th all time in Grounded Into Double Plays.

          • Don Maristch says:

            All good points. However, are any of the above mentioned third sackers close to the ballplayer Richie (Dick) Allen was ?? Numbers do not lie, not to mention the adverse conditions he faced.

        • Karyn says:

          The list of enshrined third basemen will grow soon, when Chipper comes on the ballot, and a few years later when Beltre does. Heck, if David Wright can put up a couple of 4-win seasons and a couple more 3-win seasons, his candidacy will have a lot of merit.

        • Your analysis is lacking any historical perspective. The position of 3rd base shifted dramatically on the defensive spectrum and as a result pretty much all HoF worthy 3rd basemen played in the past 50 years.
          Traynor was considered the best 3rd baseman in the pre-war 20th century.

          Boyer’s biggest problem was that he was the first of the great modern 3rd basemen. I think he belongs, but I also think he is a somewhat marginal candidate.

      • otistaylor89 says:

        Greg Nettles was helped playing half his games in Yankee Stadium and his BA for road games was .238 with OBP if .315. I don’t care how good a fielder he was I don’t think someone should get in with that type of record.

        • Bpdelia says:

          Except nettles was CRUSHED by the era he played in. You realize his first full season was 1968 right?

          And I assume you think Brooks Robinson is a hall of famer? Because his offensive record is substantially crappier than nettles.

          I just had a huge argument the other day that Robinson was better than nettles. But not by a huge margin where he’s a no freaking doubt guy and nettles is a loser.

          If Baltimore traded Robinson to Cincinnati or the dodgers in 1971 nettles rretires with like 15 gold gloves and this isn’t even a discussion

      • Bpdelia says:

        Oh i always thought Gaetti at least deserved to be considered and rejected.

        He was a very very good player and third base is so badly underrepresented.

        But gaetti IS definitely below those guys. As it stands now you have to have been a Mike Schmidt, type super dominant mvp type hitter. The greatest fielder ever or have played four hundred years ago.

        Someone needs to talk to every voter and committee member and explain that catcher and third base are positions.

        Important positions.

        Ones that take real skill to play well.

        That you can’t have a team without those positions.

        And make them vote in the best of them.

  12. Chip S. says:

    This is one of your greatest columns, I think. If I could only vote for 4, let’s see. There’s Katie the Prefect, of course. A mortal lock. The GOAT column. Then it’s a playoff among the various Buck O’Neils. Let’s say The Negro Leagues Museum wins that. Sorry about that, Buck’s All-Time Team. Two left.

    OK, how about process of elimination? None of that Cap Anson stuff. Or ‘roids. Pete Rose? Not in my Hall of Joe, thankewverrymuch. We shall tiptoe past JoePa. Sshhh!

    I’m giving one of the two remaining votes to No. 69, Sadaharu Oh, on the strength of this sentence: Sadaharu Oh’s father, Shifuku owned a noodle shop in Japan. Who can read that and not think immediately of this photo? The ur-sluggers of two baseball-loving nations linked in one simple sentence.

    One more. Gotta concentrate; I don’t know if “clutch” is real, but I’m taking no chances here.

    Oh wait, the answer is right in front of me. The 4th pick is The Veteran’s Committee and Bad Math, for so ably seeing the problem as a system-design failure rather than a voter failure. An analysis so good that it suggests the obvious and simple solution: no limitation on the number of “yes” votes by the VC. Extended to the Joe Hall, this would make room for lots more Buck O’Neil columns.

    Might want to extend it to the BBWAA ballot, as well. Maybe do a dry run first, to see how it goes.

    • Geoff Williams says:

      Entirely correct. Let the Veteran’s committee (or whatever) they are vote for as many people as they want. Let them elect hall of famers.

      As for the 4 best columns, – I would have to give a vote for “The Promise” as one of the best four. 209 comments at last count (not that comments are linked to merit).
      I would also vote the Willie Mays hall of fame post as my second.
      Katie the prefect
      and the fourth on the Mt Rushmore of Joe Blogs, I have no idea.

      • I don’t agree that this would solve the problem. You would still need to get 75% of the voters to agree on a few players, and that’s no slam dunk. Some would use more votes, some would not (as happened this time). You need to, with those in the room, figure out where they are leaning for the top vote getters (I suggested a process above). Then do the final vote. The current regular HOF process somewhat works like that. But it plays out over 15 years. Everyone can see who’s getting support and who’s not & can choose to jump on the bandwagon of players who are getting support. That’s not the best way to go about it, mainly because voters don’t have to be rational & can vote for Ken Singleton if they want, but at least the voters can see who actually has a shot at getting in. Apparently the VC, with only 16 people all in the same room, couldn’t figure out how to cull the herd enough to make it possible to vote someone in…. and maybe didn’t realize that they needed to do that. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. Most people don’t have the skillsets needed to solve fairly simple problems. Baseball players and writers aren’t exactly noted for their genius. Many players signed right out of High School. They know baseball, but math? Problem solving skills? Yeah, not so much.

        • Chip S. says:

          It solves the problem Joe described.

          If you choose to define “the problem” as the voters not agreeing with you, then the only solution is to give you sole authority.

          Math and stuff.

          • The problem I’m trying to solve is to get some players elected. I don’t care who they end up electing. The point is that if they can vote for whoever they want, unlimited, it will help some… but there is no guarantee they will vote for enough players to greatly change the result. When faced with a large number of options, the only proven way to get to a concensus, which is what you need to get to 75%, is to narrow the field first. There are several techniques for this, one of which I described above. Example: If you go to Friday’s and tell everyone to vote for their favorite menu items… and let them vote for as many as they like, guess what? They’ll probably vote for 5, or less items. You will never get to 75% agreement on any one item. People are assuming that if the voters have unlimited votes, they’ll likely vote for something near 10. That’s not how it usually goes. But if you used a technique to get the menu items down to the Top 5, you’d have a far better chance of getting 75% of the people to agree on 1-3. With 16 voters, you also have a small sample vote. It’s very hard to predict how 16 voters will go and how many votes they’ll cast.

    • Dark Side of the Mood says:

      We’re all in on Katie the Prefect. Derrick Goold at StlToday has an elegant solution, make the ballot binary, vote “yes” or “no” on each and every candidate. Why not?

    • Jeff says:

      Umm, wait. Didn’t you just vote for five columns?

      • Karyn says:

        I don’t think so:

        1) Katie the Prefect
        2) The Negro Leagues Museum
        3) No. 69, Sadaharu Oh
        4) The Veteran’s Committee and Bad Math

        but I cannot swear to it.

  13. […] Last time I posted, I wrote about the new Veterans Committee. Guess who got elected? Nobody. Joe Posnanski explains why. […]

  14. Dr. Baseball says:

    I was very disappointed that none of the candidates were elected. I really thought this was Minnie Minoso’s year.


    On another note – Jersey Mike’s is, hands down, the best sandwich place ever. I have enjoyed Jersey Mike’s for decades at Point Pleasant at the NJ Shore. It’s great to see this franchise blossom across the country.

    The only recently opened a restaurant in Northern NJ near my home. My family is thrilled!

  15. Richard says:

    I’d suggest they do it this way (which, as it happens, uses “Where do we go out to eat?” as an example):

    As applied to the HoF Committee ballots, it could work like this:

    Voters simply check off on their ballot those candidates that they think belong in the HoF. Yes or no. But you have to decide on EVERYONE on the ballot. Given the small number of candidates, and the small number of voters, there’s no reason you cannot do it this way.

    Total up the votes.

    Anyone who gets 12 or more “Yes” votes (75%) is in.

    And if this system works OK with the special committees, then you have absolutely no reason to do it with the regular ballot, too.

  16. Joe R. says:

    Stan Hack.

  17. Kris Marolt says:


    It is interesting that Kaat’s best year was the year before awards were AL/NL Cy Young awards, and Pierce’s best year was the year before Cy Young award. Do you believe the CY hardware would’ve made a difference in the voting totals for these 2 (if they would’ve won the awards)?

    Or was it just the 11 year cycle? 1955, 1966?

  18. Frog says:

    Interesting exercise. As someone who campaigned hard for Dick Allen, I was most disappointed that Bob Watson was replaced on the committee by Dave Dombrowski. Not sure why. Pretty confident Watson would have voted for Allen and probably Oliva, giving us two new members of the HOF.

  19. wogggs says:

    The best suggestion I have heard on this is to have each player on the ballot get an up or down vote. Hence, the ballot has each player’s name, and then a box for yes and a box for no. That way, each voter can vote for as many players as he or she thinks deserve to be in, and, each voter is forced to say yes or no to each player. Maybe even have a penalty for anyone not filling out the entire ballot (such as your entire ballot is thrown out, or if you don’t vote, you are not allowed to vote the next year).

  20. Scott P. says:

    “Players should be elected to the Hall while they are living.”

    See, here is where I disagree. I don’t think being alive should make a difference. In fact, I would get solidly behind a proposal that no living player should be eligible for election. Beyond that, I would support a proposal that no player who has been alive in the last 100 years should be eligible.

    Entry into the Hall is one-way. There is no expulsion (rightly). If the Hall is around for 10,000 years, that means we have 10,000 chances to correct an act of omission. But 0 chances to correct an act of commission. Waiting to next year isn’t a problem, as there are an infinite number of next years.

    • Marco. says:

      I think you’re taking it too seriously. It’s a nice recognition for a career well played. I’m willing to risk a couple mistakes to allow the people who actually played the career to enjoy that recognition.

      • Bpdelia says:

        Right? We aren’t making these guys supreme Court justices
        We are letting them be exhibited in a museum

        And for the pleasure of watching them play in willing to balance a couple of mistakes for letting they and their families enjoy an amazing moment.

        I also don’t understand the idea that a bad Hall of famer somehow debases the entire institution.

        We’ve had disastrously bad presidents but that doesn’t debase Lincoln any.

        If i go to a restaurant and everything is great except the egg salad i don’t say “welp restaurant is ruined don’t go there”

        I say “amazing place. Be leery of the egg salad.”

        Wings doesn’t ruin “she came in through the bathroom window.” And “let it be”.

        Godfather III didn’t suddenly make I and II less amazing works of art.

        Nothing is perfect and if you are going to let any shred of imperfection ruin things for you the universe is going to be an extremely disappointing place to hang out.

    • Patrick Bohn says:

      So you want people to vote on players who they never saw, for whom historical data (especially fielding) can be fuzzy, and who were playing a version of the sport that bears little resemblance to the one played today? That’s going to work out real well.

      An even larger issue with your proposal is that the Hall of Fame does not exist simply to honor baseball’s great players. It’s a museum, and while the plaque room is one small part of it, people paying to it visit are going to want to see faces they recognize, not players they’ve never heard of.

    • Chris H says:

      I’m going to entertain the possibility that this is sarcasm, since your 100 year proposal would result in us currently having a Hall of Nobody, which seems unlikely to attract visitors.

      But eventually, I guess, some people would be admitted, and we can safely predict their acceptance speeches will be shorter.

  21. […] has a really good column about the Veterans Committee process. You can read the entire thing here, but basically it points out how nearly impossible it is for any candidate to get 12 votes. I was […]

  22. Chip S. says:

    When faced with a large number of options, the only proven way to get to a concensus, which is what you need to get to 75%, is to narrow the field first.

    Sorry, this makes no sense. What you need to get 75% when there are no restrictions on the number of “yes” votes is a candidate strong enough to be deemed worthy by 75% of the voters.

    The “field” has already been narrowed, anyway, in the construction of the ballot.

    • Yes/no voting could work, but it presumes (wrongly) that voters will vote yes A LOT more often. It will sometimes, but not always, work, especially with a 75% threshold to achieve. Whereas, narrowing the field through multi voting, weighted matrix or some other tool will always get you to consensus on two or three.

  23. Marc says:

    Ignoring for a moment Bill James’ rewrite of HOF voting, he did have a moment of lucidity that should be clear to all of us:

    Most of the errors made in elections to the Hall of Fame have been made by the Veterans Committee(s), NOT by the writers.

    Personally, I think everyone is screaming that there are too many qualified candidates on the ballot, and no one has explained what to do about the PED scandals, but what Joe fails to note is that voters pay attention to what other voters do. So last year Biggio didn’t get in, and (if I were a voter) I didn’t vote for him, but I’m going to probably vote for him this year because 74% of the BBWAA can’t be wrong.

    Scrap the VC, let the voters do their job.

    • Blimey14 says:

      I hope they don.t change the voting system. If they do I can see 2 or 4 players voted in every 3 years. It’ll be just like the early seventies when the VC was voting in every candidate people built a case for. Do we really want the Baseball HOF to be like hockey, football and baseball where there are 5 to 7 players getting in every year. 2 players a year and maybe a manger or umpire or builder every 3 years. Scrap the VC.

  24. Patrick says:

    The Negro Leagues Committee in 2006 may have had the correct voting format. They had 39 candidates, and 12 voters, and held an up-down vote on each candidate. To get in, a candidate had to get 9 “yes” votes, and they put 16 qualified men (and one qualified woman) in.

    They took a first-round vote by secret ballot. Those who got 10 or more votes were in with no further discussion; those with 6 or fewer were eliminated from further consideration. They held a second round of discussion about each of the candidates who just barely made it, or just barely missed, and then held a second vote; those who made the threshold were in.

    There were a number of the 22 who didn’t get in for whom I fill I could still make a strong case, but I can say that those men were NOT kept out by bad math.

    Perhaps this committee could learn something from that.

    And perhaps they could find someone with a greater attachment to and background in baseball than David Glass.

    • Nick says:

      The process seems over-thought to me. Why not top 2 vote receivers elected every year?

      • Karyn says:

        I wonder if there’s ever been a HoF ballot where either of the top two vote receivers weren’t actually HoF quality guys.

        Would you (Nick) have a rule such as “75% or at least the top 2” or would it just be “top 2 every year”?

        • Dan Shea says:

          Depends how you define “actually HoF quality”.

          If guys in the HOF are “HoF quality”, then it is exceedingly rare for a non-quality guy to get top-2. Almost every year, the top 2 vote getters are either elected that year, or elected eventually. The only 2 years in the past 50 where a top-2 guy has not eventually been elected:

          Biggio and Morris, 2013.
          Larkin and Morris, 2012.

          Of course one might query whether some of the guys that got elected are actually HoF quality – Blyleven and Dawson were top 2 in 2010, Jim Rice in 2009, Cepeda, Catfish…

  25. MikeN says:

    Keep the rules as they are, but allow people to give multiple votes to the same person.
    Before you say this is ridiculous, note that Peyton Manning was both 1st and 2nd team AllPro in 2013.

  26. Bob Harris says:

    While the point about it being unlikely to elect someone is valid, the chances are higher than stated in this article.

    First, there’s a fallacy in the argument about what happens when all ten candidates are equally qualified. In that scenario, under the assumptions Joe presents, the chance of *at least one candidate* being elected is almost six percent (5.6%), not a half percent. The reason is that the events aren’t independent. For each candidate that fails to get enough votes, there are more votes going to the other candidates.

    In the other scenario presented, with 49 of the 64 votes spread among five equally worthy candidates, There’s a 71% chance that *at least one candidate* will be elected.

    What’s surprising from the published vote totals is that the votes were spread so evenly among those five candidates.

  27. rkent says:

    Cooperstown is about a 6 hour drive from Toronto. I’ve been there 3 times. Was absolutely thrilled the first time, progressively less so the next 2 times and now for several years I haven’t been there. It’s too stagnant. Nothing is new, challenging, or exciting. It is a time capsule. More seems to go into keeping it what is than growing it into what it could be, attracting new followers. Nothing shows this more than the election process. So, for me, the HOF is a pleasant memory I don’t take much interest in any more. But it was nice that first time.

  28. Allen Phillips says:


  29. Stephen Miller says:

    IMO, the best way to resolve the quagmire is to keep the 75% threshold but to allow a “Yes” or “No” on each person individually. The idea of this committee is to reconsider, not necessarily elect, those who MAY have been overlooked by the BBWAA or whose careers may now look better given the passage of time and the newer tools which have been developed to evaluate more objectively career production, not that WAR or its equivalent should be the sole measuring stick.. In this way, each individual would be considered on his merits and not be fenced in by ballot restrictions more onerous than what he faced when he was considered on the first go arounds. If nobody is selected fine; if 10 are elected, so be it as well. Bottom line is these are all decorated but borderline candidates, somewhat indistinguishable in accomplishment from each other, which if the present form is kept will usually lead to a similar result as occurred last week in the absence of some pressure to elect “someone.”

    FWIW: Have to disagree with Poz about Maury Wills. He was the offensive engine for the Dodger teams which won two WS and were close to winning two more in a five year period and was the precursor of the modern running game, epitomized by Campaneris, Brock, Ricky, Raines and Coleman from the 1960s-early 1990s. Tremendous historical impact which transcends any composite formula measuring his production.

  30. Carl says:

    Gee Joe, 10 players on the ballot, let’s let each voter have 10 votes. That way it can remind everyone of voting in the old Soviet Union.

    I am surprised and disappointed you would advocate for Dick Allen. 58.7 WAR? Less than Whitaker, Randolph, Nettles, and Grich. I’d expect your love of more advanced stats to lead you to leave Dr. Strangeglove off the ballot.

  31. […] we get to the snubs, though, let’s talk about that voting system. Others have criticized it more eloquently than I ever could, but in sum, the main systemic problem comes down to the fact […]

  32. Frog says:

    If anyone saw the MLB Networks Show MLB NOW with Brian Kenny and aired a few days prior to the vote, Dick Allen should have received all 16 votes if the video could have been played in the room where the voting took place. His 165 OPS+ over a 10 year period ranked him # 1 ahead of 17 future Hall of Famers. Including the like of Mays , Aaron, McCovey, Stargell, Bench, Frank Robinson and Ernie Banks, They then compared 11 of his seasons to Mike Trout’s 2014 MVP Season, and Dick Allen was right with him. Do you understand that. 11 SEASONS vs. 1 . The reaction of former players and media members on panel was that they were awestruck . Dick Allen is a NO BRAINER for the Hall of Fame. The fact that he isn’t in is one of the biggest injustices in all of sports. Dick Allen to this day is still well known for being called the Greatest Player NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME !!

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