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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Neyer: Defending the “small Hall” ... in 1960 (when it was still small)

I’d FEAR! Sam Rice before Jim Rice.

In 1960, Washington Post columnist and Hall of Fame voter Bob Addie asked Senators great Sam Rice a simple question: “Suppose you were Bob Addie. Would you vote Sam Rice into the Hall of Fame?”

Rice’s response: “No. I think Rice fell too short. He could hit maybe, but there were a lot of other things he couldn’t do. I wouldn’t have voted for him.”

More nuggets from Rice:

  How come Joe Cronin and Hank Greenberg are in the Hall of Fame? Greenberg hit the long ball, but that’s all. He couldn’t field and he couldn’t run, either.

  Cronin, now, wasn’t as good as a number of shortstops I could mention. And yet he was voted in. I will say this about Joe—He was the greatest shortstop I ever saw for one year…

  But one year doesn’t make a Hall of Famer. I say a man has to keep it up for several years. Maybe there should be a minimum of ten years before a man is elected to the Hall of Fame. Maybe it should be less, I don’t know. I don’t run the voting and I wouldn’t want to. I’m just talking out loud.

  A fellow like Dizzy Dean has no business being in the Hall. You take a man like Walter Johnson. He knew everything there was to know about pitching—and he did it. That’s my idea of a man who belongs in the Hall of Fame.

...So Povich lost that battle. Which is actually sort of a shame. Still, that doesn’t mean anybody as good as Jesse Haines should in the Hall of Fame. The standard is no longer Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, but that doesn’t mean it’s now Lefty Gomez and Travis Jackson. I believe a good guideline is this: A worthy candidate doesn’t lower the standards of the Hall; that is, he’s at least as good as the median. Another reasonable guideline (at this point): A worthy candidate ranks among the 10 best players at his position. Both standards are tough, but would allow for the election of many of the players currently on the ballot, or joining the ballot in the next few years.

Repoz Posted: December 01, 2012 at 11:39 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Darren Posted: December 01, 2012 at 12:20 PM (#4314022)
But one year doesn’t make a Hall of Famer. I say a man has to keep it up for several years. Maybe there should be a minimum of ten years before a man is elected to the Hall of Fame. Maybe it should be less, I don’t know. I don’t run the voting and I wouldn’t want to. I’m just talking out loud.


No, you're thinking out loud.

Cronin's a weird target. He was shortstop who hit .300 eight times, knocked in 100 runs eight times. How is that only one good year, even by the standards of 1960? Dizzy Dean seems like a much better choice, in that he had a very short career. But holding up Walter Johnson as the standard seems a bit extreme. If you've got to be Walter Johnson to get in, you're setting yourself for a Broom Closet of Fame.


   2. valuearbitrageur Posted: December 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM (#4314025)
If only Jim Rice had the self awareness of Sam Rice.
   3. Darren Posted: December 01, 2012 at 12:30 PM (#4314026)
A worthy candidate doesn't lower the standards of the Hall; that is, he's at least as good as the median.


This is an interesting idea, but I'd like to see it fleshed out further. On a certain level, it seems to assume that previous Hall of Fame voting has been flawed: if any current player who is below median doesn't belong, then surely past inductees below the median also don't. I don't happen to agree with that, but even if you do, you've got another issue to contend with: after a few years using this pattern, the median is going to rise, and keep on rising until you're almost never putting anyone in.

For my part, I like the Hall as a celebration of great players and have no worries at all about too many players getting enshrined. Generally speaking, I think the amount of players going into the Hall is about right.
   4. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 01, 2012 at 01:15 PM (#4314043)
There are two things a Hall of Fame needs to do to maintain its ability to honor and its relevancy:

1. Be selective in who you honor; don't honor a huge number of people. (The NFL HOF has this problem.)

2. Actually honor almost all of the people worthy of honor.

The Baseball HOF does well enough with 1.

It is about to fail 2 due to the steroids problem.
   5. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 01, 2012 at 01:25 PM (#4314048)
...So Povich lost that battle.

Here Neyer is talking about Addie's fellow Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich's advocacy of a Small Hall, which he quotes in his column. But the irony is that Shirley Povich was the leading crusader for Sam Rice's Hall of Fame candidacy, even though Rice himself didn't think that he was Hallworthy. Funny that Neyer doesn't mention this.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 01, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4314051)
1. Be selective in who you honor; don't honor a huge number of people. (The NFL HOF has this problem.)...

The Baseball HOF does well enough with 1.


Professional baseball has been around for about 140 years, has 9 positions on the field to fill, and has elected 297 members to the Hall of Fame.

Pro football has been with us for about 90 years, has mostly had 24 positions on the field to fill, and has elected 267 members. That doesn't strike me as being particularly disproportional.
   7. Depressoteric feels Royally blue these days Posted: December 01, 2012 at 01:38 PM (#4314053)

1. Be selective in who you honor; don't honor a huge number of people. (The NFL HOF has this problem.)

2. Actually honor almost all of the people worthy of honor.

The Baseball HOF does well enough with 1.

It is about to fail 2 due to the steroids problem.
You mean it's about to vindicate #2 by blocking the steroid-users from admission, of course.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: December 01, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4314054)
On a certain level, it seems to assume that previous Hall of Fame voting has been flawed:

Maybe a nitpick but ...

While I agree the "median" HoFer (not easy to define) is probably too high a minimum standard, the general assumption is that the VC selection process has been flawed. The BBWAA voting process has not made many mistakes of inclusion (although they have made a number of questionable decisions over the last 20-25 years ... time flies!) and probably as many mistakes of exclusion. The various VCs (19th c and Negro League players aside in a separate category) were presumably intended only to clean up obvious writer mistakes but have also inducted a lot of questionable candidates (esp the Frisch years).

Anyway, the "median" HoFer of today seems to be roughly the borderline for BBWAA voting. (For lack of a better uber-stat), the median position player WAR is 56 and the median pitcher WAR is also 56 (wow). The median ERA+ is about 120. That would include some of the manager inductees. Recent sub-median pitching inductees are Hunter and the closers. A number of recent sub-median position player inductees -- Perez. Puckett, Rice, Aparicio, Brock.
   9. The District Attorney Posted: December 01, 2012 at 02:10 PM (#4314075)
Another reasonable guideline (at this point): A worthy candidate ranks among the 10 best players at his position.
I'm sure Rob doesn't mean this overly literally, but this might well result in e.g. Wally Berger being in and Rafael Palmeiro being out. (And if you respond to that by changing it to "arguably the worst 10", then it's pretty much the current standard IMO.)

Also, as I think Rob is acknowledging there, the number couldn't stay at 10 forever as time goes on. (And the arguments over "should we move it to 11 now?" would set new records for obscure philosophical meandering...)
   10. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: December 01, 2012 at 02:24 PM (#4314081)
If only Jim Rice had the self awareness of Sam Rice.


What would you say the overall level of self-awareness is, in the world? Are we 30% self-aware? 50%?
   11. The District Attorney Posted: December 01, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4314082)
What would you say the overall level of self-awareness is, in the world?
"I used to think that the brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized 'Look who's telling me that.'"
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: December 01, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4314093)
A worthy candidate doesn't lower the standards of the Hall; that is, he's at least as good as the median.


This is an interesting idea, but I'd like to see it fleshed out further. On a certain level, it seems to assume that previous Hall of Fame voting has been flawed: if any current player who is below median doesn't belong, then surely past inductees below the median also don't. I don't happen to agree with that, but even if you do, you've got another issue to contend with: after a few years using this pattern, the median is going to rise, and keep on rising until you're almost never putting anyone in.


I like to look at it, 1. Is this guy going to lower the median, if not then he's a slam dunk. 2. Is he the(obvious) best guy eligible at his position who is not in(even if it lowers the median)? Then again, he should go in easily.

It's not really saying that the previous voting is flawed. As the game has evolved the level of play has improved, the level of competition has improved and the level of health has improved, so what would be an arguable hof career in the 1910's -1940's is now an arguable hall of very good player.
   13. cardsfanboy Posted: December 01, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4314097)
I'm sure Rob doesn't mean this overly literally, but this might well result in e.g. Wally Berger being in and Rafael Palmeiro being out. (And if you respond to that by changing it to "arguably the worst 10", then it's pretty much the current standard IMO.)

Also, as I think Rob is acknowledging there, the number couldn't stay at 10 forever as time goes on. (And the arguments over "should we move it to 11 now?" would set new records for obscure philosophical meandering...)


I wouldn't go with a hard and fast rule on the numbers of course, and you will always have guys like Yount, Biggio or Musial who don't really fit into any single position. Ultimately though, if a guy has an argument for top 10 of all time at his position, then he should be a slam dunk choice. That would apply to even catchers and first baseman(but not DH--compare them to firstbaseman or left fielders and see how they fare)

I know that some like to argue that each position is equal, but I find that to be an absurd position. If you look around it's clear that in most era's first baseman and outfielders provide more seasonal value on average than other positions. (one of the potential/arguable minor flaws with war is the assumption that every position is equal in value...there is no reason to assume that is the case.)
   14. BDC Posted: December 01, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4314101)
As if anybody gives a ####, my PHoF would be about the size of the BBWAA electees – plus a proportional number of managers and Negro Leaguers and such – IOW something about half the size of the actual current HOF. I have sometimes thought about identifying those 150 or so people, but it's a pretty uninteresting task, oddly enough. You'd get to 80 or 90 without thinking hard, and then the debates you'd have with yourself would be on the order of whether Bobby Doerr was better than Joe Gordon or something, which is a fine question but paradoxically not as much fun as arguing which players actually out should replace which players actually in (Tim Raines vs. Jim Rice, that sort of thing). Virtually everyone in my PHoF would already be in the HOF and the HOM both.
   15. GregD Posted: December 01, 2012 at 03:52 PM (#4314108)
I like to look at it, 1. Is this guy going to lower the median, if not then he's a slam dunk. 2. Is he the(obvious) best guy eligible at his position who is not in(even if it lowers the median)? Then again, he should go in easily.
Doesn't #2 become a death spiral? Once you put in the best remaining third baseman, then someone else becomes the best remaining third baseman almost ad inifinitum, no?
   16. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 01, 2012 at 04:52 PM (#4314129)
Somewhere, Tim Wallach is doing a happy dance.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: December 01, 2012 at 04:54 PM (#4314131)
As the game has evolved the level of play has improved, the level of competition has improved and the level of health has improved, so what would be an arguable hof career in the 1910's -1940's is now an arguable hall of very good player.

This is mainly just a call for assessing relative to era which, if anything, is probably overly done at the moment. I agree with you that somebody like Posada looks pretty good compared to pre-war HoF Cs but borderline if you compare to modern HoF Cs and that he should probably be compared to modern Cs. But what the actual voters haven't done yet is make any (obvious) adjustment for expansion which has had the biggest impact on comparing across eras. Assuming the labor pool has kept pace with expansion (not necessarily a safe assumption)* we should see about twice as many (BBWAA-worthy) HoF careers starting today as we saw in the 20s. I don't think the voters have kept pace.

*While I'm reasonably confident that pop growth and foreign markets has been enough to offset expansion, there are many more options for top athletes these days so I can believe that the talent available today (per team) is a little less than it was. But there's no doubt the labor market today is larger than that of the 20s and even the post-integration 60s so there must be more "great" players.
   18. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: December 01, 2012 at 05:12 PM (#4314141)
While I'm reasonably confident that pop growth and foreign markets has been enough to offset expansion, there are many more options for top athletes these days so I can believe that the talent available today (per team) is a little less than it was. But there's no doubt the labor market today is larger than that of the 20s and even the post-integration 60s so there must be more "great" players.

Ever since the SEC and old SWC conferences fully integrated nearly 40 years ago, the football and basketball options have always been there for potential multi-sport athletes. Since then, not only has our own population exploded, but all teams now scout internationally, rather than just a handful of teams like the Giants and the Twins. I may be just letting my eyes deceive me (wouldn't be the first time), but from what I can see on the field, there most definitely are more great players, more good players, and fewer downright stiffs than there were in the day when baseball was in more of a monopoly position wrt to homegrown talent.
   19. Walt Davis Posted: December 01, 2012 at 07:23 PM (#4314196)
there most definitely are more great players, more good players, and fewer downright stiffs

Of course it's only the first group we are concerned with when it comes to the HoF (or the border between great and good).

But let me clarify. I am sure that the labor pool has expanded overall therefore, yes, there are more great players. What I meant was that it's not clear that ratio is 30/16 compared to earlier times. If it's, say, 24/16 then, with constant "adjusted standards", we should see 1.5 modern HoFers for every older HoFer.
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: December 01, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4314199)
You mean it's about to vindicate #2 by blocking the steroid-users from admission, of course.


Do you think that players who enhanced their performance with amps deserve to be inducted?

I'm just trying to figure out your level of seriousness before I engage you further.
   21. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: December 01, 2012 at 11:26 PM (#4314323)
"I used to think that the brain was the most fascinating part of the body. Then I realized 'Look who's telling me that.'"


Anyone who can quote Emo Phillips is OK in my book.
   22. base ball chick Posted: December 01, 2012 at 11:56 PM (#4314353)
ray

you oughtta know by now that you floggin a dead horse. the people who think that steroids are teh EVULL simply don't and won't believe that amphetamines enhance performance. let alone cause anyone to break The Sacred Home Run Record.

i wouldn't be surprised if they think it is silly that they are banned at all now, except that they are also schedule 2 illegal drugs. nothing to do with performance.

besides, we all know that the saintly hall of famers wouldn't nevah have let their dainty little fingers touch drugs for any reason
   23. John Northey Posted: December 02, 2012 at 01:22 AM (#4314402)
Might be best to follow a rule like the Hall of Merit does - a certain number gets in each year period. Lets say they went with 2 per year. How would that have changed voting? Same indicates same results as reality, brackets if real is different
2000: same: Fisk/Perez
2001: same: Winfield/Puckett
2002: Ozzie Smith/Gary Carter (Ozzie Smith)
2003: Eddie Murray/Bruce Sutter (Murray/Carter)
2004: same: Molitor/Eckersley
2005: Same: Boggs/Sandberg
2006: Rice/Gossage (Sutter)
2007: same: Ripken/Gwynn
2008: Dawson/Blyleven (Gossage)
2009: Rickey Henderson/Lee Smith (Henderson/Rice)
2010: Alomar/Morris (Dawson)
2011: Larkin/Bagwell (Larkin/Blyleven)
2012: Raines/Trammell (Larkin)

Wow does that change things. We'd get a few duds (Morris, Lee Smith) and the generally accepted recent errors but we'd also have Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, and Jeff Bagwell in there. A better system IMO.
   24. John Northey Posted: December 02, 2012 at 03:08 AM (#4314429)
Thinking about that 2 per year idea...
2013: top 5 returning would be Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Larry Walker, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly
So likely top 2...
2013: Bonds, Clemens or Biggio/Schilling depending on steroid accusing
2014: Maddux, Glavine most likely with Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent sticking around
2015: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez - hard to imagine anyone beating them, maybe Thomas over Martinez due to short career
2016: Griffey Jr plus Frank Thomas or Pedro
2017: I-Rod and ??? next best that year is Man-Ram and Vladmir Guerrero. Whoever didn't make it in 2013 would have a shot now.

So 2 per year would guarantee someone gets in, would have left a smaller backlog, while still allowing writers to 'punish' the steroid guys for quite awhile.
   25. John Northey Posted: December 02, 2012 at 03:22 AM (#4314431)
Hmm... what about 3 per year as the HOM does?
2000: Fisk/Perez/Rice
2001: Winfield/Puckett/Carter
2002: Ozzie/Sutter/Dawson
2003: Eddie Murray/Sandberg/Lee Smith
2004: Molitor/Eckersley/Gossage
2005: Boggs/Blyleven/Morris (Morris had just 33.3% in real life)
2006: Tommy John/Steve Garvey/Trammell
2007: Ripken/Gwynn/McGwire
2008: Raines (first ballot)/David Concepcion/Mattingly
2009: Rickey Henderson/Dave Parker/Dale Murphy
2010: Alomar/Larkin/Edgar Martinez
2011: Bagwell/Walker/McGriff
2012: Rafael Palmeiro/Bernie Williams/Juan Gonzalez (didn't get 5% and was cut from the ballot)
2013: Who knows? Steroids would've been accepted by now though with McGwire and Palmeiro in there so Clemens/Bonds/Piazza probably.
2014: Maddux/Thomas/Glavine
2015: Johnson/Martinez/Smoltz
2016: Griffey Jr/Schilling/Biggio
2017: I-Rod/Mussina/ManRam or Sosa ?

So with 3 we'd have a lot of very poor choices early in the century (non-HOF'ers Smith/Morris/John/Garvey/Concepcion/Parker/Murphy/Mattingly for example) but from 2013 on it would be a crowded ballot still with lots of very qualified guys getting in.

Yeah, that is probably what would happen - the HOF either making it a 2 or 3 per year no matter what if the ballot gets too messy after this winter. Perhaps (seeing the issues above) a 2 per year with 3 or more allowed if they all get 75% or more.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: December 02, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4314567)
Doesn't #2 become a death spiral? Once you put in the best remaining third baseman, then someone else becomes the best remaining third baseman almost ad inifinitum, no?


I don't see a problem with that. As long as it's the consensual best remainining, then it shouldn't be a problem. The pace at which people get put into the hof who got passed over isn't so fast that you have to worry about it changing every year.
   27. tfbg9 Posted: December 02, 2012 at 03:03 PM (#4314618)
Me? I miss the higher proportion of stiffs. Comic relief is underrated.

Speaking of overrated/underrated, and the brain, I believe it was Woody Allen who said "The brain is an overrated organ".
   28. Morty Causa Posted: December 02, 2012 at 08:31 PM (#4314754)
Only in that it is his second favorite organ.

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