A Brief Proposal for Hall of Fame Voting

Because I’m a baseball weblogger and because certain members of my family and community are aware that I’m a baseball weblogger, some of them have asked me — and others will likely ask me at some point this week — “Hey Carson Harrington Cistulli, what do you think about the Hall of Fame voting?”

Why they continue to refer to me by my full name remains a mystery. With regard to their question, however, my answer is generally something along the lines of “Hmph.” Not particularly satisfying, I recognize. So far as takes go, it is decidedly frigid.

As a member of the BBWAA, I’ll theoretically be invited to answer this question in an official capacity about eight years from now. (I don’t think that will actually happen, as all signs indicate that my admission to the Association was the product of a clerical error. For the moment, however, I’ll proceed as if it weren’t.) If and when I receive a ballot for the Hall of Fame, I’ll dedicate sufficiently careful scrutiny to such an endeavor.

Even then, though, the notion of baseball writers taking so active a role in the election of players to the Hall — and, worse, both forming and urgently sharing strong opinions about their ballots — will strike me as a curious exercise.

One finds, for example, that Barry Bonds is unlikely to enter the Hall of Fame again this year. What Bonds’s feelings are regarding that, specifically, I lack sufficient ambition to look up. It’s difficult to conceive of a scenario, however, in which Bonds dedicates the same sort of energy to the merits of his candidacy as a non-negligible portion of the working media. Barry Bonds is undoubtedly aware of the fact that he was excellent. He was compensated handsomely for his services and had the pleasure of playing on some strong teams. Also, like everyone else, he’s going to die someday and none of this will matter. The point is, either denouncing or championing Barry Bonds probably is less about aiding Barry Bonds and more about… I’m not sure, precisely. Maybe appealing to some abstract notion of capital-J Justice? Whatever the virtues of the cause, I’d argue that the volume of the outrage represents as much an attack on civility as the original offense.

And yet, there’s some virtue in the baseball community gathering to acknowledge formally both those qualities which make an exceptionally talented ballplayer and the individual ballplayers who embody those qualities.

For that reason, I would propose a methodology not unlike the following, which, while not eliminating altogether the possibility for handwringing and outrage among voters and the public, I think reduces the opportunities for moral grandstanding and shrill pronouncements.

To wit:

  1. Use JAWS or a JAWS-like system to determine a threshold for Hall of Fame admission.
  2. Players who’ve recorded a JAWS-type score above that produced by the average Hall of Famer at the relevant position receive provisional admission to the Hall of Fame.
  3. Members of the BBWAA with Hall of Fame voting privileges nominate other players whom they believe, for one reason or another, deserve consideration for voting. (Limit X nominations per writer, where X probably isn’t higher than five or so.)
  4. All members of the BBWAA with Hall of Fame voting privileges then receive a ballot with two kinds of player: those who’ve received provisional admission and those who’ve been nominated for consideration. Voting members are then given the opportunity to place two kinds of vote: a “No” vote for those players who’ve received provisional admission and a “Yes” vote for those who’ve been nominated for consideration.
  5. With regard to those players who’ve received provisional admission, if they receive “No” votes from 75% or more of the electorate, they are not admitted. With regard to those players who’ve been nominated for consideration, if they receive “Yes” votes from 75% or more of the electorate, they are admitted. In either case, players would retain eligibility for consideration for X years, where X is probably five to ten.

There are probably certain flaws to this proposal which I’ve failed to consider. There are a lot of things I’ve failed to do in my life, so this isn’t shocking. What this method would do, however, is to reduce the electorate more to a custodial role, where the only real decisions they make occur in such circumstances as a player has performed such heinous acts that his otherwise overwhelming argument for election must be rejected or, alternately, where a player has distinguished himself in such a way as is not immediately apprehended by the numbers.





Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Perry
Guest
Perry

I really like this idea…

Darkstone42
Member
Darkstone42

Agreed, and I almost never think things Cistulli does are good ideas…

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC

Kind of a dumb idea in my opinion. Here’s why: The total list of players who’d be affected by this proposal is as follows.

C: Mike Piazza
1B: Jeff Bagwell, Raphael Palmeiro
2B: Bobby Grich
3B: Greg Nettles (and if you want to throw in Edgar Martinez)
LF: Barry Bonds, Pete Rose, Tim Raines (soon to be Manny Ramirez)
RF: Larry Walker
SP: Roger Clemens, Jim McCormick, Curt Schilling Mike Mussina, Tommy Bond, Charlie Buffinton
RP: Nobody

Ok, so, there are four distinct classes of players here, as I see it. You’ve got your 19th Century pitchers (whom nobody is really clamoring to let in the Hall), you’ve got Bobby Grich and Greg Nettles (whom, again, nobody is really clamoring to let in the Hall), you’ve got your steroid players, and you’ve got your guys that people are currently struggling with but who will probably end up in the Hall eventually, either through the BBWAA or through the Veterans Committee (Mussina, Schilling, Raines, Walker).

So really, all this proposal is doing is putting the burden of proof against the majority of voters who’ve decided that steroids = not a HOF’er. That’s all this is.

And, in a word: no. The majority of voters have clearly come out and said that PED’s prevent you from becoming a Hall of Famer. The benefit of the doubt will be given to guys who have suspicions but no real solid proof (Piazza will probably make it next year, Bagwell soon), but guys who were blatant about PEDs are not being given entry into the Hall.

The ONLY thing this “proposal” would do is reverse that determination that the voters have made, and put the burden of proof against them. Bonds and Clemens would make the Hall; maybe Palmeiro and McGwire would, too, after voters see that the cause is lost. And that’s just silly. There’s a reason for the 75% voting threshold. This proposal just ignores that.

I get so tired of the “steroids aren’t that bad” crowd pointing to players using greenies and saying it’s the same thing as steroids and we shouldn’t be judging. As somebody who’s used both amphetamines and steroids as part of weight training, let me tell you: no, they’re not. At all. One’s basically like Red Bull. The other is cheating. If you’d used them yourself you’d be able to tell the difference.

Johnny Carson City
Guest
Johnny Carson City

Nice points re: who this affects in the end, and what exactly it does. Even if I would be happy to force the issue re: steroids and help to avoid what looks to be a prolonged voting crunch.

I don't care what anyone
Guest
I don't care what anyone

Steriods + amphetamines = one guy not to flip off on the Bronx Parkway

Cole
Guest
Cole

It’s interesting that you’ve used steriods. You must have felt entitled to do so.

I’m curious as to what you rationale is, and moreover, how you feel it might be different from a baseball player who (may have or probably or whatever) used for the purpose of a) remaining in their chosen profession or b) enhancing his ability to earn money.

Your whole argument, at any rate, would like to preserve a voter’s right to disqualify deserving candidates based on an opinion: This guy cheated.

Remembering Clemens and Palmeiro, most players used, and, you bet, they all deny. Most of that period of time, Steriods were not outlawed by baseball. De facto, they were encouraged.

So if someone wants to design a system limits the self-righteous moral revisionist’s ability further dilute the credibility of the Hall of Fame, so f’n be it.

BMac
Member
BMac

Steroids were outlawed in baseball since 1991. Although there was no formal testing for it until much later, it was outlawed, and following the rule is a matter of honor.

If you broke this rule, you lack honor, and should not be in the HoF. Moreover, you accumulated statistics with an unfair advantage, and those statistics are what is being compared with the HoF greats. Thus, you cannot really be compared to them, because you used a substance to help you get those statistics.

I have no problem with JimNYC using steroids if he did so as a private citizen, and not as an MLB player. With a prescription, they are not illegal.

Make mine a double
Guest
Make mine a double

Bowie Kuhn and Baseball’s First Drug Policy

“Baseball’s first written drug policy was announced by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn at the beginning of the 1971 season. At the time, the problem of drug abuse, especially the use
of marijuana, had gained national attention, and Congress had just enacted the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970.

While focusing on prevention and treatment in the first instance, baseball’s original drug policy provided for the possibility of discipline for failure to comply with federal and state drug laws. Just a year earlier, pitcher Jim Bouton had published his memoir, Ball Four, in which he alleged that there was widespread use of amphetamines by major league players. The 1971 drug policy memo stated that the “unprescribed possession or distribution of amphetamines or barbiturates (including ?greenies’)” was a violation of law that could be the basis for discipline.

The drug policy did not *expressly* address the use of anabolic steroids. It stated, however, that “baseball must insist its personnel comply with federal and state drug laws,” and the policy placed responsibility on the individual to become familiar with those laws. (Under federal law at the time, the use of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription was a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.) The drug policy advised trainers that anabolic steroids (and certain other substances) should not be dispensed without a physician’s guidance.”

The above was taken nearly verbatim from the intro to the Mitchell Report, and Kuhn’s memo was the basis of numerous drug-related suspensions, fines, and other disciplinary actions by both Kuhn and Commissioner Peter Ueberroth during the 1980’s. Some of the suspensions/fines were overturned in arbitration, some were reduced, and some were upheld fully intact.

dprat
Guest
dprat

My understanding is that the 1991 thing was a proposal by then-commissioner Vincent that needed to be negotiated with the players to be adopted. That never happened. The negotiation never occurred (in that time period anyway). And Vincent subsequently acknowledged that this was the case, I.e., that his proposal was just that, a proposal, and could not have actionable consequences. So, no, steroids were not “outlawed” in baseball in 1991, and we’re not until 2004.

dprat
Guest
dprat

* were, not we’re

dprat
Guest
dprat

And the 1971 Kuhn memo was all about the image of MLB in a time when there was some national with recreational drugs. The discipline administered via that memo revolved around that issue, and no one in MLB at any level made any organized attempt to apply these sanctions to PEDs.

dprat
Guest
dprat

* national concern…. dammit.

Mark L
Guest
Mark L

Screw “honour”. Comiskey, who treated his players like little better than slaves, is in the Hall; Klan members are in the Hall; all sorts of scumbags are in. So why is PED use worse than being in the KKK?

Biltmore
Guest
Biltmore

While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion, I can see at least logical coherence to the notion that PEDs are worse, with respect to the hall of fame, than personal behavior/beliefs. PEDs have to do directly with the topic of the hall, while “personal beliefs,” however ugly, don’t necessarily have much to do with the *baseball* hall of fame.

Things of course get less clear with someone like Comiskey or other owners, whose “personal beliefs” w/r/t their management may have harmed the game as it was played more than a given PED user. But, it’s somewhat apples to oranges to compare management to labor, and frankly no one much cares about management inductees.

Walter
Guest
Walter

I disagree that Bagwell’s eventual HOF entry has much certainty. He’s now half way through his eligibility and has been basically flat for 3 years. Maybe he had a bit of a better chance before the 15 year HOF lifetime was dropped to 10 years, when we might expect him to be able to wait out these crowded ballots and make it in after the backlog clears. As it stands, its probably going to take a couple years for him to even get above 60%. Not only does he have to go through this extended fight to get in, but Raines and Shilling made good gains this year, so they are likely to soaking up an increasing share of the spare votes.

Anyway, also about your more broad point: I don’t think this really just has to do with steroids. This also has to do with guys like Mussina or Raines, who’s greatness is less appreciated for one reason or another. Rather than just letting voters more or less ignore players because they don’t “feel like a HOFer” despite good career marks, they actually have to vote down a player with those career marks.

AynRand'ssocialsecurity#
Guest
AynRand'ssocialsecurity#

As a person who has used prescribed steroids on multiple occasions to get rid of poison ivy I can tell you one thing.

They really work well getting rid of poison ivy.

Sammy Sosa
Guest
Sammy Sosa

Tell me about it! That shit growing out there is not as cuddly as it looks.