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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.

Voting

 

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.

 

Player       VC Votes     %  BBWAA     %
Gil Hodges         50   61.7     242   47.5
Tony Oliva         48   59.3     202   47.2
Ron Santo         46   56.8     204   43.0
Joe Torre         29   35.8     105   22.2
Maury Wills       24   29.6     166   38.4
Vada Pinson       21   25.9     67   15.7
Joe Gordon         19   23.5     97   28.5
Roger Maris       18   22.2     184   43.0
Marty Marion       17   21.0     127   33.4
Carl Mays         16   19.8     6   2.2
Minnie Minoso       16   19.8     90   21.0
Allie Reynolds     16   19.8     110   30.6
Dick Allen         13   16.0     89   18.9
Mickey Lolich       12   14.8     109   16.0
Wes Ferrell       12   14.8     8   3.0
Ken Boyer         11   13.6     109   25.5
Don Newcombe       11   13.6     59   15.3
Curt Flood         10   12.3     71   15.1
Ken Williams       8   9.9     1   0.03
Rocky Colavito       7   8.6     2   0.05
Elston Howard       6   7.4     83   20.6
Bob Meusel         6   7.4     10   3.7
Bobby Bonds         5   6.2     45   10.6
Ted Kluszewski       4   4.9     58   13.4
Thurman Munson       4   4.9     40   9.4
Mike Marshall       3   3.7     6   1.4

 

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.

Player       VC Votes     %  Peak Year
Herman Long       16   20.3   1936
Hank Gowdy         90   35.7   1955
Mel Harder         52   17.8   1967
Bucky Walters       67   23.6   1968
Johnny Vander Meer   98   27.2   1971
Phil Cavaretta     129   35.5   1975
Lew Burdette       97   24.0   1984
Harvey Kuenn       169   39.3   1988
Luis Tiant       132   30.8   1988
Steve Garvey       196   41.6   1995
Dave Parker       116   24.5   1998
Dale Murphy       116   23.2   2000
Jim Kaat         139   27.0   2001
Jim Rice         298   57.9   2001
Tommy John       146   28.4   2001
Don Mattingly     145   28.2   2001
Bruce Sutter       266   53.6   2003
Goose Gossage     209   42.1   2003
Andre Dawson       248   50.0   2003
Bert Blyleven     145   29.2   2003
Ryne Sandberg     244   49.2   2003
Lee Smith         210   42.3   2003

     

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

2007 - Joe Torre

2009 - Tony Oliva, Ron Santo

2011 - Bruce Sutter

2013 - Jim Rice

 

You heard it here first.

 

Marc Hugunin Posted: March 06, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 13 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Brian Posted: March 06, 2003 at 02:37 AM (#609204)
Hodges on 2005? Why do we need a VC for guys who were considered for 15 years on the regular ballot and 20+ years by the old VC ? Why don't we just let everyone in? Be like the NFL and enshrine 7 at a time.
The Baseball Hall of Fame was once considered an elite place; now it's like Grand Central Station, if you don't get on one train wait a lttle and you'll surely get on the next. Count me out.
   2. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: March 06, 2003 at 02:37 AM (#609206)
Brian, you obviously don't understand the differences between baseball and football. There are 22 positions not including specialists, coaches, and front office personnel. Therefore, electing 4 to 7 candidates per year is not watering down the Hall. Also, they elect a veteran/old-timer every year.
   3. PhillyBooster Posted: March 06, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#609218)
It seems to me that there has to be some mechanism for slowing down the flow of entrants into the HOF. I mean, at some point someone decided that the top 2% (or whatever) of the regulars are Hallworthy. That's great. But now, time passes and leagues expand, and suddenly there are 200+ players and people start to think, "Hey, at this rate there's going to be 100s of more players in a few decades and how elite will we feel being one of 700 hall of famers instead of 1 of 100?

The HOF was created in a certain era for that era, and now there's an established "floor" that's been created. That's fine, but now people are thinking, "Hey, the floor's too low. It worked well before, but now it's getting too crowded. Let's raise the floor." Except doing that's about as hard as kicking out a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The new guy's better than a dozen or so people already inducted. How can you exclude him? Because there used to be 10 guys like that guy on the floor, and now there are 100. Things change. People start throwing in new rules. Was he the best on his team? Was he the best at his position? In his era? Rules that weren't needed before, but now, well, just because we let a guy just like you in in 1950 doesn't mean we've got to let you in now, now does it? Otherwise we'll be swarming with you all.

I don't know. Seems like there's got to be a way to switch mid-stream.
   4. Marc Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#609241)
The whole point of my two pre-election articles was that, yes, the VC ballot is by definition made up of marginal candidates. That is why the VC couldn't elect anybody. But marginal is not the same as unworthy, IMHO. If the HoF is not "elite" enough, it will not be because of Gil Hodges or Ron Santo. It was dumbed down more than 50 years ago. The point is not to elect everybody who is as good as Rube Marquard or Earl Combs, who today would not even be considered marginal, but the point is that it is fair for players from every era to have comparable representation. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the past and enshrine, say, Vince Coleman. Let's get the right players. But there is no reason why approximately the same number of players from the 1970s or 1980s as from the 1920s and 1930s should not be enshrined eventually. On the other hand, it is not a scandal that Gil Hodges should wait for 40 years after retirement to be enshrined. Plenty of old-timers experienced an analogous fate.
   5. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#609255)
What Gerry said.

I don't think it dumbs down the Hall at all, to let the one best candidate the BBWAA passed over in each year.

I think the best way to make the Veteran's Committee work would be to take the current process, but instead of making the final requirement 75%, change the ballot to an MVP style ballot where people have to vote for the top 10, in order. The one that wins the ballot gets in that year.

The cream will automatically rise to the top and every year one guy like Santo or Torre or Hodges will get in. If it's a weak year, maybe a deserving old timer like Carl Mays or Deacon White gets in.

By making it one per year, and the one best player per year, you avoid idiosyncratic selections like Mazeroski, the Frisch clan, etc.

Also, as we expand, the population pool grows, etc. we SHOULD have more Hall of Famers. There are twice as many teams as there used to be, and we are drawing from more than twice as many people, so we should have at least twice as many Hall of Famers. I think the BBWAA should elect the 2 top vote getters and anyone else over 75%, and the Vets Committee should elect the 1 top vote getter each year. 3-4 electees is perfectly reasonable, and if they are the right ones, it won't water down the Hall one bit.

The biggest problem with the current BBWAA ballot is that half of the good candidates (Whitaker, Grich, the Evans's, Nettles, Simmons and others) have been dropped and guys like Trammell don't get close.
   6. jimd Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#609261)
Just pointing out an error in the table above:

Gil Hodges peaked at 63.2% of the BBWAA vote in 1983, his last year of eligibility, not 47.5%. In 9 of the preceding 10 years, he had received over 50%, including 56.0% in the year he got 242 votes.

I spotchecked the other 40% guys, and their numbers are correct, so the error isn't a big deal. If anything, it reinforces the conclusion that most players did about as well with the VC as they did with the BBWAA.
   7. Marc Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609286)
jimd, "thanks" for catching my error on Gil Hodges. A pretty egregious error at one level, actually, though thank goodness it didn't negate my conclusion. Yeah right, thanks a lot ;-)

My main source of BBWAA voting results is TB, though I'm sitting here with the 7th Ed. which covers through 2000. The more recent elections, I forget how far back, maybe three-four years (?) are available on the Baseball Hall of Fame web site.
   8. jimd Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609288)
I have the Lahman database installed. It's available from The Baseball Archive and contains just about everything you'd expect from a baseball encyclopedia in text files that you can import into a database or a spreadsheet. One of the tables contains HOF voting results.
   9. jimd Posted: March 07, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609293)
The important numbers for Hank Gowdy are .545/.687/1.273.

This is his performance in the 1914 World Series when he and his
teammates put the icing on the biggest comeback/upset story in MLB
history (at least up to 1955, when that vote took place).

What people do not always realize is that the HOF did not have to
evolve into a place which honors only players with long distinguished
careers. Some of the players which are now villified for having
poor credentials were inducted using alternative criteria such as
innovations. Bresnahan is in for allegedly inventing shinguards and
McCarthy for allegedly inventing signals (or so I read when I was a kid).

So, an absolutely incredible World Series performance in one of the biggest baseball stories of all time? Why not? He WAS famous. We can just be glad it didn't happen because Gowdy would now be misused in arguments for many another catcher.
   10. Marc Posted: March 08, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609303)
From what I've heard about Gowdy Andrew's explanation is probably the correct one as opposed to jimd's, though it is plausible of course that the two things were both influential with the voters. Judge Landis was said to be very favorable to Gowdy for the reasons Andrew mentioned.
   11. Marc Posted: March 08, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609309)
One of the really weird sidebars to all of this, BTW, is the juxtaposition of Rocky Colavito and Harvey Kuenn, two sides of one of the most famous trades ever. Colavito got 2 votes from the BBWAA at his peak (0.05%) and 7 votes in his first (and last?) year on the VC ballot (8.6%). Meanwhile, note that Harvey Kuenn got 169 votes (39.3%) from the BBWAA in 1988, predicting him as one of the better potential VC selections based on the admittedly small sample of one VC vote.

When that trade was announced in 1960, nobody, I mean nobody thought Kuenn was better than Colavito, and after the trade Kuenn played about 775 games with a 98 OPS+ (career 108) while Colavito played 1300 more games at about 124 OPS+ (career 132). Now, granted, Kuenn had already played 1050 games including 748 at SS at 112, and Rocky had only played about 440 games but at 144. Howinell can the HoF vote be explained?

I know, I know, he died of cancer in February of 1988...but, jeez, this does not look good on the BBWAA's record.
   12. DanG Posted: March 09, 2003 at 02:39 AM (#609318)
Hodges is not the only error for maximum vote precentage. According to my self-compiled data, the following corrections are in order:

Hodges 1983 237/374 63.4%
Wills 1981 163/401 40.6%
Marion 1970 120/300 40.0%
Reynolds 1968 95/283 33.6%
Lolich 1988 109/427 25.5%
Kluszewski 1977 55/383 14.4%
Munson 1981 62/401 15.5%

I didn't check old timers Mays, Ferrell, Meusel, K. Williams and H. Long. Also, from the second list:

Harder 1964 51/201 25.4%
VanderMeer 1967 87/292 29.8%
Garvey 1995 196/460 42.6%
Kaat 1993 125/423 29.6%
Gossage 2001 228/515 44.3%

Most of the problems seem to be an assumption that a player's year with the most votes was also his best percentage. Not always true, given differing number of ballots cast.

I find a total of six players receiving at least 40% from the BBWAA who are now VC candidates.

Also, regarding Kuenn's extraordinary support in the 1988 voting: that was an interesting year to study. Overall quality of candidates had kind of bottomed out after five years of lesser newcomers to the ballot. You find a lot of players who, like Kuenn, received their highest support that year. The next ballot saw the arrivals of Bench, Yaz, Perry, Jenkins and Kaat, so nearly all the holdovers saw their support plummet.

Which points out one of my criticisms of the voting process. The ten player limit creates an artificial competition for votes. IMO, players should be judged by Hall of fame standards, and not by who happens to be on the ballot contemporaneously. Raise the ceiling to 20 players.
   13. jimd Posted: March 10, 2003 at 02:40 AM (#609358)
I'm sure everything mentioned played some part in Gowdy's voting surge.

A few more items. 1954 was the 40th anniversary of the Miracle Braves. Teammate SS Rabbit Maranville was elected to the HOF in the 1954 BBWAA election, probably also receiving some sympathy votes (he died between the election and induction if the schedule was similar to today's).

The NY Giants pulled off a stunning "upset" in the 1954 World Series over the 111-win Cleveland Indians, reminiscent of the Miracle 1914 Series. Dusty Rhodes brought back echoes of Gowdy's role, posting a .667/.714/1.667 line in limited action in that Series.

All of this attention would have also brought Gowdy's other recommedations to the fore. He had been receiving a handful of votes every election since 1937 (though only 1 in 1947). The support moved above 10% in 1951 (which may also have evoked some comparisons between 1914 and the Giant's miracle comeback), peaked in 1955 at 36%, and then ebbed away.

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