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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, March 06, 2003
Veterans Committee Post-Mortem
A look back at the Veterans Committee’s 2003 shutout.
What does the 2003 Veteran?s Committee (VC) vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame suggest for the future?
First, as Dan Greenia pointed out to me some months ago, the inaugural vote by the new VC establishes a pecking order for future elections. Three candidates on the players ballot?Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva and Ron Santo?polled more than 50 percent of the vote, while no other candidate polled as much as 40 or even 36 percent. Only one other candidate polled as much as 30 percent of the vote. So we should expect that Hodges, Oliva and Santo will be elected to the Hall of Fame by the VC over the next four to six years. So far, so good.
But what then?
Second, the voting also suggests a pattern for the longer term. Having written two articles about the new VC for baseballprimer before the election, I examined a variety of sorts of the 26 candidates on the players ballot?by WS, by TPR, by HoF Monitor and Standards, and so on. Now, reviewing the actual vote against those sorts, there is one of them that appears to have had some predictive value. You?ll be surprised, I think.
This new VC was going to be the player?s voice, after all. Fifty-eight of the 82 electors are former players, and they make up more than 70 percent of the body. They can pretty much elect whomever they please with the help of just a few of those lonely Democrats, er, I mean, writers.
Didn?t happen. The writers appear to have voted the same way they did the first time they reviewed the players on the ballot, and the living HoF players followed along with the established, conventional wisdom. Consider:
? Four players on the ballot received 40 percent or more of the BBWAA votes at their peak. Three of those received more than 50 percent on the VC ballot.
? Nine players had received 20 to 40 percent of the BBWAA vote at their peak, and seven of those nine did the same (with rounding) on the VC ballot.
? Thirteen players had failed ever to receive as much as 20 percent of the BBWAA vote, and eleven of those players failed to do so again on the VC ballot.
In other words, only five of the 26 players on the inaugural VC ballot performed any differently than before. Ken Boyer, Elston Howard and Roger Maris lost ground, and Vada Pinson and Carl Mays gained. No apparent Yankee bias here, but perhaps a Big Red Machine bias?
Here are the complete results compared to each player?s peak result during BBWAA eligibility.
There was also some movement within categories, but along with the three leaders (Hodges, Oliva, Santo) and the two gainers (Pinson, Mays) only Joe Torre and Wes Ferrell picked up as much an additional ten percent of the vote that they had received from the BBWAA.
Along with the big losers (Maris, Boyer, Howard), only Marion and Reynolds lost as much as ten percent of the vote.
Along with the three leaders, Torre seems likely to be selected someday, as a manager if not a player, perhaps as soon as he announces his retirement. All of those with under 30 percent of the vote can hardly be encouraged, especially those who lost ground—Gordon, Minoso and Allen, along with Maris, Boyer and Howard. Maury Wills is the only player who lost ground but who remains on what may or may not turn out to be a bubble. For the others, the bubble has burst.
Yet, even for the gainers, momentum must be maintained in the 2005 vote for them to have any chance.
More likely, the new VC, as long as it remains in effect, will only elect Hodges, Oliva, Santo and Torre. Its other selections will be players not on the 2003 ballot. This means primarily players not yet eligible, but potentially a few old timers. Following is a list of all players who ever have finished in the top ten BBWAA voting but are not members of the HoF today.
The first group, above, was eligible but did not make the 2003 ballot. They might be worth a try. Kaat and Tiant will be eligible for the VC ballot in 2005, and will almost surely find a place on it. Of course, neither achieved the perhaps magic 40 percent level on the BBWAA ballot, and so seem to be unlikely first ballot choices of the VC, or ever.
Among the near-term eligibles, only Garvey and Sutter have achieved the magic 40 percent of the BBWAA vote, which suggests that they would become serious candidates beginning in 2009. Of course, Sutter, unlike Garvey, has steadily increased his support through 2003, and could still be elected by the BBWAA. Ditto Jim Rice, who otherwise would be the next VC candidate from this list in 2011.
As for other players who will become eligible in the near term, prospects are very poor. Bobby Murcer and Reggie Smith head the class of new eligibles in 2005 who were not on recent BBWAA ballots. Each received three votes (0.07 percent) at his peak. Bobby Grich becomes eligible in 2009 with a track record of 11 votes (2.6 percent) at his peak. If the VC continues to vote according to past BBWAA voting, statheads will achieve new levels of frustration six years hence.
The VC will start from scratch two years hence, constructing a 200 player ballot and then a final 25 to 30 player ballot again. Here is a suggestion that instead of adopting the BBWAA?s 5 percent rule it adopt a 10 percent rule or even a 20 percent rule?that is, boot all players who failed to earn 10 or 20 percent of the vote off the next ballot, though not necessarily all future ballots. In the case of the BBWAA, the presence of players on the ballot despite low levels of support (greater than 5 percent) does not prevent any other eligible player from getting his turn in the spotlight. Every eligible player makes the BBWAA ballot. In the case of the VC, there are literally hundreds of players as good as some of those already enshrined and some on the 2003 VC ballot. Make room and give some of those other guys a chance.
So, finally, for those who just can?t wait two to four to six years to find out what the legacy of the new VC will be, here are its future player selections to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
2005 - Gil Hodges
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