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Friday, December 21, 2012

Phil Pepe, Bill Madden and the blank HOF ballots of 1988

Since it’s HOF season…a pre-pre Primer fave.

Phil Pepe of the New York Daily News, one of nine voters who returned blank ballots in baseball’s Hall of Fame election, said Wednesday that he was protesting what he believes are reduced standards for election.

...“Maybe my standards are higher than most people,” Pepe said. “But I think the Hall of Fame is too crowded. When you vote on people you’ve seen play, you see the warts. I never saw Babe Ruth pop up with the bases loaded, although I’m sure he did. The people on the ballot now are people I’ve seen fail.

“I think to go in alongside Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, Aaron, Cy Young, you have to be the cream of the cream. The more you erode the standards, the more the standards will be eroded.”

Pepe said he did not want his vote to be considered an abstention. “If I wanted to abstain, I would have thrown the ballot away,” he said. “If I throw it away, it’s a non-vote.

“I voted. My vote was nobody on the ballot deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. My preference was that nobody get in. To get in, they would need three votes to cancel mine.”

...Another of the blank ballots belonged to Bill Madden, also of the New York Daily News.

“I felt nobody on that ballot represented true greatness,” Madden said. “A lot of players represented pretty good or very good, not great. Willie Stargell (the only player elected) was very good. The Hall of Fame is for great.”

Repoz Posted: December 21, 2012 at 09:46 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, hof

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: December 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM (#4330682)
so those quotes are 24 years old, not 2 days old, then.

headline implies it, but the excerpt could have been read differently - especially with Madden still going strong



   2. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM (#4330689)
The 1988 ballot was fairly weak. Stargell got in with 84% on his first try. Other than him, there were only four future HOFers. There were only three players with 60 or more WAR. Only one player is in both of those groups, and he just got in this year via the VC.
   3. VoodooR Posted: December 21, 2012 at 10:39 PM (#4330690)
Yeah, that's how I read it until I got to the Stargell part.
   4. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:17 PM (#4330707)
I'm almost rooting for this to happen this season. If they feel the threat of a series of years with no Induction Weekends, it might force the HoF to review the voting procedures and fix some of the glaring problems.
   5. Bruce Markusen Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:49 PM (#4330720)
The idea that Willie Stargell is not a Hall of Famer is almost preposterous. He had nine seasons with an OPS of better than .900, slugged .529 for his career, and had a .360 on-base percentage. Those numbers alone make him a Hall of Famer; his leadership skills and his intangibles only enhance what he did.
   6. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: December 21, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4330723)
If they feel the threat of a series of years with no Induction Weekends, it might force the HoF to review the voting procedures and fix some of the glaring problems.

I may be getting more cynical as I get older, but do you trust them to fix the procedures properly? I don't. They won't want to tick off the BBWAA, so they'll leave that alone. They'll do something to get more inductees, but it will likely by the Jack Morris-type candidates, not the Ron Santo-type.
   7. Bob Tufts Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:15 AM (#4330731)
Have any sportswriters ever turned in a blank ballot for the Spink Award?
   8. Bob Tufts Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:15 AM (#4330732)
Have any sportswriters ever turned in a blank ballot for the Spink Award?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: December 22, 2012 at 01:09 AM (#4330762)
If they feel the threat of a series of years with no Induction Weekends, it might force the HoF to review the voting procedures and fix some of the glaring problems.

And again, there is zero chance that they will have a series of years of no inductions.

Maddux, Glavine, Thomas and Mussina hit the ballot in 2014. You really think they're holding out Maddux? You think they'll ding Glavine for steroids? (there's also Kent)

Johnson, Pedro and Smoltz hit the ballot in 2015. You think they're not voting in the Unit and Pedro? You think Smoltz will have a hard time of it? (there's also Sheffield

Griffey comes on in 2016. Ever hear any roids rumors about Griffey?

2017 is a bit of a "down" year as it's just Pudge and Vlad (and Manny). Gives them a chance to push a couple of the other guys through.

2018 will bring Chipper and maybe Thome. Rivera will follow the next year and maybe Jeter the year after that.

Far from a lack of inductees, I expect Maddux, Johnson, Griffey and Jeter to post some of the highest vote percentages ever. Maybe not Griffey given the petering out of his career. They may not get anybody through this year but they'll have a solid 15 inductees minimum over the 8 years after that.

Far from some drought, this may be the greatest run of HoF inductees of the last 60-70 years.



   10. baudib Posted: December 22, 2012 at 01:48 AM (#4330780)
It's obviously been said before, but this idea that the Hall of Fame is for "Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, Aaron, Cy Young" is total BS. That level of Hall of Fame lasted for maybe 5 years. In 1939, the BBWAA voted for Willie Keeler and George Sisler, who are decidedly NOT Ruth, DiMaggio, Williams, et al. In the mid-40s, the VC put in scores of players, probably a 1/3 of whom you could comfortably remove without anyone causing a fuss.

If you don't include the VC guys, the BBWAA does obviously have pretty high standards, but there are still clunkers every few years: 1948 had Pie Traynor and Herb Pennock go in alongside Ruth, Cobb, Speaker, Johnson; 1954 had Maranville and Bill Terry. In 1955, Joe DiMaggio got in...along with Dazzy Vance and Ted Lyons.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: December 22, 2012 at 02:02 AM (#4330788)
Sisler was accurately recognized as a superstar in the first half of his career, before the sinusitis, and to this day voters love players who are awesome in their 20s and don't notice if they just pad their stats in their 30s.

Keeler had a great "Hit 'em where they ain't" narrative and guady hit totals. Pie Traynor inaccurately was perceived as the greatest 3B ever when he got anointed, thanks to the stellar-looking AVG (.320).

The "high level" standard lasted longer than you say, in terms of their perceptions of the electees at least. More like 15+ years. The voters then thought their picks were better players than 1980s voters thought Stargell was.

Even Rabbit Maranville was a beloved figure who had just died, iirc, which is a dumb reason but it's not "eh, this guy was pretty good." Bill Terry hit .401 once, and nobody else did that anymore except Ted. They weren't voting for guys they thought were not legends in various ways.





   12. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 22, 2012 at 02:22 AM (#4330794)
I looked at the Hall of Fame (and Hall of Merit) using my Player won-lost records (constructed from Retrosheet play-by-play data; the basic process is described here) and actually found that Willie Stargell was the closest player to an average Hall-of-Famer. The article's here if anybody's interested.
   13. baudib Posted: December 22, 2012 at 02:29 AM (#4330795)
I'm not saying they didn't think those guys were good. Obviously they got votes. But other than Sisler, I'm really certain that no one ever thought that group of players was in the same class as Babe Ruth, Ted Williams. Willie Stargell won 2 MVP awards, including one (co-MVP) based almost entirely on clutch performance/narrative/intangibles that voters like to hang their hat on. Bill Terry never won one, never really came close, and it took him 13 years to get elected. That's not someone who is perceived as an inner-circle type; it's pretty much the very definition of "very good, not great."


If you hold to the Babe Ruth/Ty Cobb/Williams/Mays-level of HOF, you'd probably end up putting a guy in every 5-10 years, and it's pretty clear that that has never been the pattern.

   14. SoSH U at work Posted: December 22, 2012 at 03:00 AM (#4330801)
Willie Stargell won 2 MVP awards,


The co-MVP award with Keith Hernandez was Pops' only MVP.

Though I'm sympathetic to your larger point (the standard isn't the absolute inner circle guys), I've never subscribed to the idea that the baseline (or even 25th percentile) Hall of Famer is what all current voters should be following. The BBWAA's Hall choices were built by getting past an electorate with disparate views on what constitutes a Hall of Famer. If you get through an electorate that includes both small and large Hall voters, you've earned your place. I see no reason why today's Hall of Fame electorate shouldn't include all kinds of voters, thereby requiring the next generation of BBWAA inductees to pass the same test as the other writer enshrinees. The problem is that today's BBWAA, as a whole, seems to have tighter standards, except involving relief pitchers, than previous incarnations of the BBWAA.
   15. McCoy Posted: December 22, 2012 at 03:58 AM (#4330810)
I believe Pennock got a death/dying push as well.

The writers for a very long time had a very high standard for the Hall. The VC pretty much killed that standard and then newer generations started using the VC picks to justify voting for players that preceding generations of voters wouldn't have picked. Though it also has to do with the fact that the whole era of clubs had died down by the 80's and 90's.
   16. Sunday silence Posted: December 22, 2012 at 05:04 AM (#4330816)
They weren't voting for guys they thought were not legends in various ways.


not sure what you're saying here, you have to admit: it's an awkward sentence.
   17. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 22, 2012 at 08:32 AM (#4330824)
Griffey comes on in 2016. Ever hear any roids rumors about Griffey?

None, and certainly not during that alleged 1998 off-season secret steroids summit where Barry Bonds supposedly told Griffey, "I'm so jealous of Mark McGwire that I, Barry Lamar Bonds, hereby announce my intention to start a-takin' more steroids than any man who ever lived"? And Griffey just flashed his winning smile and wore his cap backwards because, for the purposes of the media, this unverified conversation only reflected upon on the character of 50% of its participants.

Bonds (as quoted): "I've got three or four good seasons left, and I wanna get paid. I'm just gonna start using some hardcore stuff, and hopefully it won't hurt my body. Then I'll get out of the game and be done with it."
Griffey (speculated): "I'm going to go see "A Bug's Life" next week!"
   18. michaelplank has knowledgeable eyes Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:07 PM (#4330879)
I never saw Babe Ruth pop up with the bases loaded, although I’m sure he did. The people on the ballot now are people I’ve seen fail.


This quote is fascinating because, at first glance, it seems really stupid, then there's a brief moment where it might actually seem insightful, but then ultimately, once you get what he's saying and how he's using it to justify his non-vote, it is revealed as one of the stupidest things ever said. At least that was my reaction.
   19. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4330882)
The Ruth part is stupid-soudning, but he's just using it to set up the next sentence. His justification for his non-vote is that he watched these guys play and judged them to fall short of HOF level because he's "seen them fail" (and since he acknowledges that even Ruth must have sometimes failed, this presumably means that he's seen them fail a bit too often).
   20. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM (#4330883)
Double post -- weird error message.
   21. alilisd Posted: December 22, 2012 at 04:15 PM (#4330963)
@ 5: Keep in mind this was 1988. It's doubtful more than a handful, if any, voters looked at Slugging let alone OBP. Also, Stargell is clearly a borderline HOF by most any measure. He was amongst the best position players, by WAR, just three times in his career. Low black and grey ink totals. If you look at his career WAR ranking, you see him surrounded by borderline guys and players who received little to no consideration. He was also a @ LF/1B, very high offense required. He was obviously no Williams, Gehrig, Foxx or Musial. He wasn't any better than Dick Allen in some respects and he was pretty clearly behind contemporaries McCovey and Killebrew by the standards of the day.
   22. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 22, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4330975)
It's doubtful more than a handful, if any, voters looked at Slugging let alone OBP. Also, Stargell is clearly a borderline HOF by most any measure. He was amongst the best position players, by WAR, just three times in his career.


These two sentences seem contradictory. We have to judge Stargell's worthiness based on stats that contemporary writers would use but we can downgrade him because of low WAR totals? Stargell was a 7-time All-Star, and was also top 10 in MVP voting 7 times (not the same 7 seasons - he had 10 seasons where he did one or the other or both). You can build a Hall-of-Fame that doesn't include him, but it's essentially half the size of the real one.
   23. alilisd Posted: December 22, 2012 at 06:46 PM (#4331042)
No, you don't have to judge his worthiness as contemporary voters would, but it's pretty obvious, IMO, why contemporary voters might have viewed him as borderline. I'm not saying you should build a HOF lke that, but I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Pepe was saying. One can agree or not, small Hall or big Hall.
   24. LargeBill Posted: December 23, 2012 at 07:41 PM (#4331631)
8. Bob Tufts Posted: December 22, 2012 at 12:15 AM (#4330732)
Have any sportswriters ever turned in a blank ballot for the Spink Award?


Great question. I guarantee you there have been years with only good writers no great ones on the ballot.
   25. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: December 23, 2012 at 07:53 PM (#4331641)
The "elect one" policy for sportswriters and announcers (but not players) is self-serving, to say the least. Many of them have careers of 30 or 40 years. Are there 35 historically great sportswriters and 35 historically great announcers that are active in any given year?

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