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Thursday, April 17, 2003

Centennial Commission?

The short Dickey Pearce bio on the other thread inspired this.

Would you guys think it’d be reasonable to maybe open up 3 or 4 extra spots for guys that played primarily before the NA? I’m thinking guys like Creighton, Harry Wright, Dickey Pearce (are there any others?). These spots would not impact the other elections.

Obviously we can’t quantify them, and most of us are already pulling our hair out. But maybe if there’s a subset of this group that’s interested in doing the research, we could let them go out and pick 3 or 4 guys to add on to the list.

It’d be kind of our own Centennial Commission . . . but we make it short and quick and something on the side, and then we get rid of it, it won’t become a Veteran’s Committee.

Again, I’m think about guys that starred pre-NA and don’t have much else to offer. For the guys like Joe Start and George Wright, I think we still include them in the normal elections, but the Committee could give us some extra ‘guidance’ with regard to their pre-NA days. But for a Creighton, a Pearce or a Harry Wright (he was a great player too, right?) this would make a lot of sense. And the rest of us don’t have to deal with it.

If we do this, I’d initially say just 3 or 4 spots max, unless the Commission would come back and give convincing evidence that a few others are worthy.

Again, if we’re doing this, we may as well be complete, but if there isn’t any interest, that’s fine too.

Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: April 17, 2003 at 04:25 PM | 120 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. EricC Posted: January 28, 2004 at 12:18 AM (#512458)
From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player.

The mission of the Hall of Merit project is to select the greatest players in the history of baseball. To be true to its mission, I would favor option "B", making all players fully eligible. In fact, I would go further and say that non-North American baseball players ought to be fully eligible too. If some people won't vote for a pre-NA player, it is probably because they have considered the evidence and thought through the matter and concluded that the players involved were not worthy. Why is that any more of a problem than, for example, having people who have considered the evidence and decided not to vote for another AA player? Future evidence could always sway minds one way or the other. I think that this group is sufficiently open-minded that no worthy candidate will be denied a spot in the Hall, provided that all players are considered fully eligible.
   102. EricC Posted: January 28, 2004 at 12:20 AM (#512459)
From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player.

The mission of the Hall of Merit project is to select the greatest players in the history of baseball. To be true to its mission, I would favor option "B", making all players fully eligible. In fact, I would go further and say that non-North American baseball players ought to be fully eligible too. If some people won't vote for a pre-NA player, it is probably because they have considered the evidence and thought through the matter and concluded that the players involved were not worthy. Why is that any more of a problem than, for example, having people who have considered the evidence and decided not to vote for another AA player? Future evidence could always sway minds one way or the other. I think that this group is sufficiently open-minded that no worthy candidate will be denied a spot in the Hall, provided that all players are considered fully eligible.
   103. EricC Posted: January 28, 2004 at 12:22 AM (#512460)
From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player.

The mission of the Hall of Merit project is to select the greatest players in the history of baseball. To be true to its mission, I would favor option "B", making all players fully eligible. In fact, I would go further and say that non-North American baseball players ought to be fully eligible too. If some people won't vote for a pre-NA player, it is probably because they have considered the evidence and thought through the matter and concluded that the players involved were not worthy. Why is that any more of a problem than, for example, having people who have considered the evidence and decided not to vote for another AA player? Future evidence could always sway minds one way or the other. I think that this group is sufficiently open-minded that no worthy candidate will be denied a spot in the Hall, provided that all players are considered fully eligible.
   104. Sean Gilman Posted: January 28, 2004 at 02:38 AM (#512461)
I agree with Eric, all three times :).

Oh for HOM!
   105. Jeff M Posted: January 28, 2004 at 03:18 AM (#512462)
<i>From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player. <i>

See #117 and #120.
   106. Jeff M Posted: January 28, 2004 at 03:18 AM (#512463)
From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player.

See #117 and #120.
   107. Jeff M Posted: January 28, 2004 at 03:21 AM (#512464)
From those who don't support John's proposal, I'd like to hear the case for the status quo, the case for full eligibility, or the case for removal of eligibility without a best players list "consolation prize," on general principles, without respect to the merits of any particular player.

See #117 and #120.
   108. Chris Cobb Posted: January 28, 2004 at 04:53 AM (#512465)
Jeff, is it your impression that no voters have left players like Pearce and Wright out of consideration because they were outside the purview of the project?

I ask the question because that was the position that I took for the first 14 elections in which I voted. Maybe I'm the only one who read the constitution and concluded that the 1860s players weren'r really within the purview of the HoM and that one should wait for the Centennial Commission to address players from the 1860s. If I'm the only one out there who has taken such a position, and everyone else has been judging these players purely on their merits, then, in speaking up for John's proposal, I have mischaracterized the problem. But my impression is that others have viewed and may continue to view the 1860s players as outside the HoM project.
   109. Jeff M Posted: January 28, 2004 at 04:07 PM (#512466)
Jeff, is it your impression that no voters have left players like Pearce and Wright out of consideration because they were outside the purview of the project?

Some voters may have considered them outside the purview, but most of the arguments I saw were that (1) voters didn't have enough concrete evidence to vote for the players and/or (2) the level of competition was suspect. I saw very very few arguments -- and I've been here since the beginning -- that were based on those players being outside of the project.

To be honest, I didn't even know they were outside the purview of the project. I voted for Pearce a couple of times, but had him low on my ballot. I did not advocate these players' election primarily because of the competition argument. Some of the principal advocates of the centennial commission at the present time must not have been thinking the players were outside of the purview, because they voted for these players and made little mention if those votes were unconstitutional.

Maybe all of those who thought the players were outside the purview were silent about it, I don't know. But I'd be surprised if most people were waiting for a "centennial commission" since the centennial commission, in its various proposed forms, has been disfavored by a the majority of the voters since the beginning -- which is why the centennial commission has never actually been created. The discussion on this thread is only the tail-end of the centennial commission discussion. There was much more about this earlier in the process.

I've always objected to the "we couldn't elect them in the normal course of business so let's form a special group to elect them now" argument. That's just my opinion, of course.
   110. Jeff M Posted: January 28, 2004 at 04:37 PM (#512467)
I want to correct something in my post #139. It appears that most of the centennial commission discussion is reproduced in this thread, and I incorrectly said it was the tail-end. I just didn't read through these posts well enough, so I thought some arguments were missing. My error and I apologize.

I invite anyone considering the centennial commission to read this thread from the beginning. In the thread, there is no discussion of pre-NA players being ineligible under the Constitution. In fact, most of the arguments presume they are perpetually eligible.

I also looked back at the initial ballot discussions. No one posited that the pre-NA players were ineligible under the Constitution, though some argued they would not vote for them because of lack of evidence. Some of the pre-NA players appeared on the ballots of the electorate. I don't remember anyone saying they weren't eligible, and I can't find any posts in that regard.

Anyway, my point is that I believe these players were considered on the merits and didn't make it. Certainly there was a group that argued strongly for the pre-NA players, and made very good arguments for their election. John Murphy is the first one who comes to mind, because I recall him tirelessly providing us with information about Pearce.

We may be wrong as a group in our conclusions, but the process was straight-up.
   111. Yardape Posted: January 28, 2004 at 05:54 PM (#512468)
I tend to agree with JeffM here. I joined this project in 1906, I think, and I had never realised until this week that 1860s players were supposedly ineligible. That's why I would be opposed to John Murphy's suggestion; I don't think it's such a bad suggestion on its face, but I think it's too late now. If it had been done at the beginning of the project, and it had been made clear that 1860s players were not supposed to be considered on the regular ballot, that would be one thing. But after all the votes for Dickey Pearce in the last 20 some-odd years, and the election of Joe Start, it just doesn't seem right now. (And I disagree with the assertion that Start would not have been affected by this move; I, at least, would not have voted for Start had I known there was going to be an 1860s committee.) So I would support options A or, preferrably, B.
   112. Daryn Posted: January 29, 2004 at 09:10 PM (#512469)
Just to echo Jeff and Yardape, I got the distinct impression that everyone was considering the pre 1870 players on their merits and just didn't think there was enough info or good competition to rank them. More importantly, to echo MattB I think, this pre 1870 All Star list would be fine, as long as we do it in 2006 or 7, when we've caught up. Then we'll have a year, rather than two weeks, to debate this issue and the next batch of new eligibles (Rickey maybe) and the Grants, Pearces and Pikes will have had more than a 100 years to see if they make it in on their own.
   113. dan b Posted: January 29, 2004 at 10:58 PM (#512470)
Every era, decade or year will always have a "best player not in the HoM" whether it be Lip Pike in the 1870's, Addie Joss in the 1900's or Jeff Burroughs in 1974 :-). Echoing daryn's comment, let's deal with honoring those players when this project has run its course in 2007, not now.
   114. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 29, 2004 at 11:30 PM (#512471)
Echoing daryn's comment, let's deal with honoring those players when this project has run its course in 2007, not now.

That's perfectly fine with me. I never said it needed to be done now. It could be done after all of the wings that have been proposed for all I care. The main thing to me is that it would be done and when.
   115. DanG Posted: January 30, 2004 at 06:17 AM (#512474)
Back when we were arguing over the HoM rules, I expressed the opinion that we should not include Negro leaguers in the HoM, because this would be mixing apples and oranges--they could not be analyzed in the same way as the MLB players, so it was just fantasy and speculation to try to blend them into the rankings. Ultimately, this opinion did not prevail so here we are.

It has often been pointed out how the analysis of Negro leaguers and pre-NAers is similar. We have been told to make our best estimations of merit based on the statistical and anecdotal evidence at hand.

All this is trying to say is, if we exclude Pearce et al from the regular HoM balloting, giving them a separate wing, don't we then have to do the same for the Negro leaguers?
   116. Chris Cobb Posted: January 30, 2004 at 04:45 PM (#512476)
The Negro Leaguers situation is _similar_ to that of the pre-1871 players in that much of the evidence about their play is anecdotal because statistics are spotty or altogether absent, but it differs in several respects that, to my mind, justify treating the two groups differently.

1) Even though Negro-League players were excluded from the white leagues, major and minor, they nevertheless played against white major leaguers quite a bit and were frequently compared to contemporary white players. So we have documentary evidence of how they played when facing white-majors-level competition and we have a set of direct comparisons to players with full statistical records. This is less true for African-American players prior to 1910, but some evidence of both kinds does exist. No evidence of this kind does or could exist for 1860s players, who cannot be directly compared to players from the later professional leagues. The argument that no 1860s players were great in the way that post-1870 players were great cannot be refuted by the evidence of direct comparisons, as the argument that no Negro League players were great can be and has been. I think saying that no 1860s players were or could have been great is mistaken, but that argument can be neither proven nor disproven conclusively.

2) From the major Negro leagues, we have a considerable statistical record. It is less detailed and reliable than the statistical records from the white majors, but it does exist. The statistical record from the 1860s is _much_ sketchier.

3) The game as played in the Negro Leagues probably differed a bit from the game as played in the white majors, but differences were mostly stylistic: the rules were pretty much the same; the fields were the same; the strategies were similar. This game was quite similar to the contemporary professional game. These similarities, together with the evidence provided by direct comparisons, enables us to interpret the statistical record of the Negro Leagues to assess reliably the value of the players relative to one another and relative to the players of the white majors. The 1860s game was radically different from the contemporary game, so even where we have statistics, they don't match up well with the statistics whose relationship to player value we understand pretty well.

Because of these three significant differences between the nature of the records available for evaluating 1860s players and the nature of the records available for evaluating Negro League players in relation to players in the white majors, I believe that it would be better to evaluate the 1860s players separately. I don't think that comparisons between 1860s players and players from professional leagues -- white, Negro, or integrated -- are impossible, but I believe they are less reliable and more subject to prejudices of various kinds than the other comparisons we are making.

I'm not strongly against the position that the 1860s players be fully eligible and sink or swim in the annual voting -- I think EricC's articulation of this position is admirable. In my view, we may not be up to making the comparison of 1860s players to later players well and fairly, whatever our intention may be. I think we would be likely to do a better job by treating pre-1870 players separately. I have no similar concern with respect to the Negro League players, whom I think we will compare well and fairly to their white major league contemporaries.
   117. DanG Posted: January 30, 2004 at 05:55 PM (#512477)
Thanks, Chris C., that's just the response I was hoping for. I think you outline the differences fairly well and I agree with points 2 and 3.

To your first point I have to take minor exception. You said that for 1860's players we have no "documentary evidence of how they played when facing white-majors-level competition and we have [no] set of direct comparisons to players with full statistical records... No evidence of this kind does or could exist for 1860s players, who cannot be directly compared to players from the later professional leagues."

Similar to some of the later Negro league players, many 1860's player's careers can be placed on the same continuum as MLB players, because they played the latter part of their career in MLB. 1860's stars like Start, Spalding, G.Wright, Pike, Ferguson, Pearce, McBride, Zettlein, Cummings, Leonard and Malone played hundreds of games after 1870. IMO, it is significant that they could excel in both eras. The fact that many top 1860's players could still excel in MLB in their declining years is direct proof of greatness when in their primes.

Of course, it becomes more difficult to justify greatness for 1860's stars who played little or not at all after 1870 (guys like Creighton, Reach, Brainard and Chapman). This isn't terribly important because we can safely say that none of these will ever garner much support in the regular HOM voting.
   118. Chris Cobb Posted: January 30, 2004 at 07:10 PM (#512478)
And I have to disagree when you say we can compare Negro league players "well and fairly to their white major league contemporaries." With most voters, it will come down to quotas.

You may be proven right, Dan, but I still anticipate that we will see quite a difference in the way the electorate responds to post-1900 Negro League players and the way they have responded to Grant, especially if the group makes an effort to bring available statistical information to the attention of the group. _Grant's_ situation, and Sol White's, is much closer to that of the players whose careers ended around 1870.

Of course, even this sort of response won't mean that quotas will not be part of voters' considerations. Many voters take some sense of represenational balance into account quotas in considering representation by era in the HoM.

Re: lack of comparison data -- you are right to qualify my point by stressing playing records from the 1870s, though a significant minority of voters place little enough value on NA performance that the data from the 1870s doesn't always receive the weight that it should. When Pop Lloyd is compared to Honus Wagner, or Rube Foster beats Rube Waddell, that establishes a relation of the Negro League players to a standard of value that is universally accepted by the electorate. Saying that a player whose career started in the 1860s excelled in the 1870s also is taken by some as an indication that baseball in the 1870s wasn't so hot, either.
   119. DanG Posted: January 30, 2004 at 07:46 PM (#512479)
Just to be a little nit-picky and to clarify a previous point.

When Pop Lloyd is compared to Honus Wagner, or Rube Foster beats Rube Waddell, that establishes a relation of the Negro League players to a standard of value that is universally accepted by the electorate.

Was Lloyd as good as Wagner? Does Foster beat Waddell? What direct evidence do we have? Any?

AFAIK, those comparisons are mainly based on personal testimony, some of which carry some authority. However, as always, we'll have to examine who is saying this and what are their biases. I guess we can hold off doing that for awhile.

And I should hardly have to remind you there is very little that is "universally accepted" by this electorate. When I referred to quotas earlier, it's because, right now, I don't see that direct comparisons between Negro leaguers and MLBers can reliably tell us much. Until we have something like MLE's for the Negro players, which the Integrated Nines site has attempted, we don't have much else to go on.

What most voters will end up doing is deciding how many of the NLers should be elected, rank them amongst themselves, and draw a line. This is basically what Bill James does in the NHBA in his top 100 rankings. As time passes, they'll adjust "their guys" up the ballot to get them into election position.

I think it'll be kind of a mess. Voters whose quota is in the 30 range will end up casting ballots with ten Negro leaguers, election after election. Voters whose quota is in the 15 range will stop voting for them altogether much sooner. This will lead to extremely fragmented elections, maybe even to electees with <50% support in some "elect 3" years. More and more I think we should go to listing 20 players per ballot after our 40th election in 1937.
   120. Chris Cobb Posted: January 30, 2004 at 09:33 PM (#512480)
Dan,

We are discussing small differences of interpretation and I think we are in considerable agreement about the challenges of assessing Negro League and pre-1870 players, but I'm going to niggle a bit in response to your nit-picking because I hope that our discussion will lead people to think more about how they are going to handle the Negro League players, and I think we are agreed that the simple sort of quota approach that you have described would be far from "best practices" ballot construction and be less likely to produce valid results in our elections.

For myself, I don't plan on setting up a quota for the Negro Leagues. I intend, as I've done with Grant, to work out, as best I can, a ranking for each Negro League player relative to his contemporaries in the Negro Leagues and in the white majors. I think many people have done this for Grant, and I think more people will do this when they have more statistical and anecdotal evidence to work with. I also believe that, as voters who are less informed watch voters who are more informed work out a ranking, they will think about what they see. People aren't going to say, "well, I don't know anything, so I'll just take the top players off four expert lists and slot them in." They're going to get engaged with the process of figuring out conversions, studying comparisons. The Negro League players, I expect, will be the center of discussion a year from now. Trying to place them will be where the excitement of the project is, and I think few voters will be disengaged from that.

With Grant and the pre-1870 folks, there's little enough information that the more skeptically-inclined minds in the group have reason enough to disregard the speculative constructions of value that others have developed. With the later players, we will have enough to work with that I don't think even the skeptical will be inclined to be dismissive. Grant is making 2/3 of ballots, and many who leave him off are indicating that they will treat later Negro League players differently.

I wrote: When Pop Lloyd is compared to Honus Wagner, or Rube Foster beats Rube Waddell, that establishes a relation of the Negro League players to a standard of value that is universally accepted by the electorate.

Dan wrote: Was Lloyd as good as Wagner? Does Foster beat Waddell? What direct evidence do we have? Any?

AFAIK, those comparisons are mainly based on personal testimony, some of which carry some authority. However, as always, we'll have to examine who is saying this and what are their biases. I guess we can hold off doing that for awhile.

And I should hardly have to remind you there is very little that is "universally accepted" by this electorate.


What I mean by a "universally accepted standard" is that the electorate agrees that the white major league stars of 1900-1950 were great players. The electorate does not agree that the stars of the 1870s were necessarily great players, so comparing 1860s stars to the 1870s stars they actually played against doesn't impress a meaningful percentage of voters. That Honus Wagner is one of the ten greatest players of all time is pretty close to universally accepted by the electorate. We may not know or be able to determine _exactly_ how Pop Lloyd's value compares to Wagner's, but at least we're comparing Lloyd's value to that of a player upon whose value we do agree. The fact that Lloyd was compared to Wagner not just a couple of times by random sportswriters (I think that's about the evidentiary base for Grant as "the Black Dunlap") but multiple times by people whose judgment of baseball talent we can study means that we'll have to take that comparison seriously, and that narrows the range of possible values for Pop Lloyd considerably. Lloyd may not be the best hypothetical example, since I think he'll be a first-ballot HoMer, but the principle applies more generally.

Rube Foster got his nickname by beating Rube Waddell in an exhibition game, so we know that in that instance Foster and his team were better than Waddell and his. One game is not definitive evidence, but a large body of results of exhibition games can help us to peg the quality of Negro League play in relation to play in the white majors. And we won't have to invent the wheel in making this attempt. I think we'll find good work and use it.
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