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Hall of Merit
— A Look at Baseball's All-Time Best
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
The HoM Half Time Show!
DanG sent this to Joe and I a while back. Now seems like a good time to present it to the whole group:
Joe and John,
How about if the Hall of Merit takes a halftime break?
As things stand now, we will catch up to the present day in July 2007. The 2007 election will be our 110th and will bring the HOM total to 231 players. This means the 1952 election marks the halfway point, the 55th election. After that election we will have a total of 99 HoMers.
I think it would be good if we took a week at that point to poll every voter for their top 100 all-time among eligible players. Why? Well, for one, I think it would be fun, to have our expert electorate rank the stars retired 1946 and before. Another thing it would accomplish is to encourage newer voters to go back and consider every candidate since the project began. Older voters would likewise be forced to reassess every player, perhaps taking a fresh look at how long-time candidates rank versus newer ones. It would result in highlighting overlooked players. There would be a few HoMers being voted out of the top 100 and I would be interested in seeing just who that would be; it would give voters some indication as to which HoMers establish our minimum standards.
A point I want to stress: Our focus must always remain on the whole of baseball history. Any voter who says he’s done with the 19th century or he waited to join until we had dealt with that era…well, that voter is out of place here. Likewise, extreme time lining, a la Bill James, should not be used. Dead ball and 19th century players should not be obscured by the shadows of guys that loom large only because there’s a living memory of them. We are not the HOF veterans committee; players should not fade from our memories. Take Welch and Browning. Are they so much worse than Caruthers and Thompson that they shouldn’t challenge for election on a weak ballot? They’re not and they should. What about Griffith, Van Haltren, Jennings, Beckley, Duffy, Childs, Ryan. Have we been fair with the 1890’s? Why are there more HoMers from the 1880’s? I don’t think that makes sense.
In the half time election I think we would want to limit the electorate, allowing ballots only from voters who have participated in the HoM project. This could include non-voting contributors like Paul Wendt.
I think we would only need to delay our normal elections for one week. Discussion for the half time show could take place concurrent with the 1952 ballot week. Then one week for top 100 ballots.
The Half Time Show may even be something we would want to publicize beyond our usual channels. Would SABR be willing to publish an article about the HTS that also explains what the HoM is all about? Maybe Neyer would be interested?
Does anyone think this idea has “merit”?
Another reason for the HTS exercise:
One of the benefits of the Hall of Merit project is that it reveals the best players that the Cooperstown hall has missed. There are now 25 players in the HoM that the HOF has not elected. Which ones are at the top of this group? If one wanted to campaign for a couple players who best meet that other hall’s criteria, who would they be?
Given its current procedures, there is zero chance the HOF will elect anyone retired more than 60 years ago. The VC voters favor their cronies; even worse, the few old-timers who make the final ballot (Mays, Ferrell, Wood, Meusel, K.Williams) are not the best candidates.
To get a long-retired player into the Coop is like supporting a candidate for canonization to the Catholic Church; it takes many years and you have to prove miracles were performed. You need to make the case with sabermetric stats, with traditional stats, with non-statistical achievements, and with anecdotes and testimonials. You have to persistently push your case to the people running the Hall, to the voters, to the media, to MLB and to the ball clubs.
So, the more important reason for going through this half time exercise is towards prioritizing the candidates for the Cooperstown hall. One of the aims of the HoM project is to be able to show them who ought to be in their Hall. This blog stands as a testament to a rigorous process of analysis at a high level of scholarship. But I don’t think it gets us anywhere to just hand them a list a list of 25 guys; it has to be prioritized. The HTS not only ranks the non-HOFers, it shows where they stand among the current members of the HOF.
Clearly, what the HOF needs is a committee charged with electing old-time players, similar to the one in existence from 1995-2001. But it should be for really old-time players, players retired at least 120 years. If we can do it here, the HOF should have no trouble assembling a panel with the requisite historical and statistical knowledge to elect the right players. Have them elect one player every four years, gradually moving forward in time.
When the HoM reaches the present day, membership in it should almost be a prerequisite for any player the HOF elects. When petitioning for a player’s election to the HOF, membership in the HoM should be a strong point in their favor.
However, remember that their focus is different than ours. We’re only looking at players’ contributions to the pennant quest. They consider players’ total sum of contributions: managing, innovations, advancement of the game, promoting the spread of the game, as well as their “fame”, demeanor, behavior, etc.
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