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Monday, April 16, 2012

Nine (Year) Men Out:  Free El Duque!

Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”), out of MLB for five years now, is up for election to the Hall of Fame in the next BBWAA election in 2013. Or rather, he should be. But the HOF does not consider his playing time sufficiently long to be eligible, despite a career spanning from 1987 to 2010. Huh? Unfortunately, Hernandez only played in nine seasons in MLB, one short of the ten years required to be considered for the ballot. We’ll explore the Hall’s 10-year rule and explain why it ought to be set aside.

First, consider Orlando Hernandez. Most baseball fans of the past 15 years are familiar with the famed El Duque. Trapped in communist Cuba for a decade, he became the ace of their national team. This status did not prevent him from being suspended in 1996, shortly after his brother Livan defected to the USA. After more than a year of inaction he escaped from Cuba and was signed by the Yankees in the spring of 1998.

Almost immediately El Duque became the stalwart anchorman of the Yankees’ champion pitching staffs, gaining particular renown for his postseason exploits. During Joe Torre’s tenure as manager (1996-2007) these were the Yankees’ leading postseason pitchers:


1996-2007              GS     W-L      ERA       IP    GSc
Orlando Hernandez      14     9-3     2.65    102.0     61
David Wells            10     7-2     3.33     67.2     58
Roger Clemens          18     7-4     3.43    102.1     56
David Cone             10     5-1     3.67     61.1     55
Mike Mussina           15     5-7     3.80     97.0     54
Andy Pettitte          30    13-8     3.87    186.0     52
    and one non-Yankee
Jack Morris            13     7-4     3.80     92.1     55
The last column is average Game Score, the old Bill James stat.

El Duque shows as the postseason ace of a dynasty, even better than Jack Morris. That’s impressive, a nice notch in a Hall of Fame résumé, but it’s not enough.

Unfortunately, Orlando Hernandez was rather fragile. His career in MLB lacks the numbers normally seen in a serious HOF candidate: only 90 wins, a 110 ERA+ and 21.1 Pitching WAR. (I will often refer to WAR from BB-Ref in this article. This is not to imply it is the final word on player value; but it is easy to access and order, while being a very good shorthand to describe value.) If El Duque had a peak like Koufax you might think about him, but he never even had a 4-WAR season. He never led the league in anything and he never received any Cy Young or MVP votes.

However, Hernandez was 32 years old when he debuted in MLB, after spending most of his prime years pitching in Cuba’s top league and in international tournaments. As it turns out, 21 WAR from age 32-on is a typical mark for a HOF pitcher. Of the 52 starting pitchers in the Hall who played primarily under the modern pitching distance (since 1893), 27 have more pitching WAR, 25 have fewer at age 32+. Some of the HOF pitchers with less value than El Duque at the same ages are: Christy Mathewson, Bob Feller, Jim Palmer, Robin Roberts, Kid Nichols, Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, Rube Waddell and Don Drysdale.

We know that Orlando Hernandez was a high-quality pitcher during the decade he played in Cuba (1987-1996). It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine him compiling 35 to 40 more WAR if he had been allowed to compete in MLB in those years. That would put him in the 60-WAR range for his career, a level that indicates a Hall of Famer in the vast majority of cases.

There is, of course, precedent for inferring players’ value outside of MLB when judging their HOF worthiness. More than two dozen players from the Negro leagues have been enshrined in the HOF. El Duque deserves the same sort of consideration. As Bill James wrote in 2007:

“At the time that Satchel Paige left the majors in 1953, based on his career won-lost record of 28-31, most people would have assumed that there was absolutely no chance that he would ever be in the Hall of Fame. As time passed the way that people thought about the Negro leagues changed, and Satchel went into the Hall in 1971. El Duque could emerge as a Hall of Fame candidate if there is a similar change in the way that people think about his Cuban career and/or his dramatic life story.”

No doubt there are some people who don’t care about the circumstances. They only want to consider Hernandez’ performance in MLB. That’s fine, but even if you take that limited view El Duque still deserves to be on the HOF ballot. Nearly every year there are worse pitchers allowed on by the screening committee.

Compare Hernandez to these pitchers who’ve appeared on the BBWAA ballot in the past decade:


Year    Pitcher                   WAR    ERA+     W - L
2013    Orlando Hernandez        20.9     110     90-65
2012    Terry Mulholland          7.3      94    124-142
2011    Kirk Rueter              11.5      98    130-92
2010    Shane Reynolds           15.4     103    114-96
2009    Dan Plesac               15.4     118     65-71
2008    Rod Beck                 11.7     124     38-45
2007    Bobby Witt               13.1      91    142-157
2005    Jim Abbott               17.2     100     87-108
2004    Bob Tewksbury            18.9     104    110-102
2003    Mark Davis                6.5      89     51-84
2003    Mitch Williams            7.1     111     45-58
2003    Danny Jackson            14.5     100    112-131
2003    Todd Worrell             11.6     123     50-52

Clearly the established standard is that pitchers of the quality of Orlando Hernandez deserve to appear on the HOF ballot. I would vote for him before any of those other twelve candidates. It’s time the Hall set aside the 10-years rule for good.

History of the Rule

The BBWAA adopted the 10-years rule for the 1958 election. At that time, candidates were eligible up to 30 years after retirement. The five-year retirement rule had been adopted four years earlier, so players last active in the years 1928-1952 were on the ballot in 1958. Assuming they listed everyone who played 10+ years and retired in those years, the ballot would have listed 405 candidates.

The immediate result was huge numbers of players received votes and nobody got elected (elections were being held bi-yearly at this time):

1958: 154 received votes / 0 elected
1960: 134 received votes / 0 elected
1962: 79 received votes / Feller and Robinson elected

After that last election, the BBWAA made a move to reduce the size of the ballot. They decided that candidates would only be eligible up to 20 years after retirement rather than 30. That cleared off a ton of deadwood and opened the path for the election of Appling, Ruffing and Medwick by the BBWAA. (It also threw many 1920’s and ‘30’s favorites over to the jurisdiction of the Veterans Committee, who spent the next twenty years electing the leftovers from that ballot.)

Apparently that didn’t result in enough trimming. After three more elections had passed, the BBWAA instituted the ballot screening committee for the 1968 election to weed out the weaker first-year candidates. This new committee rendered the 10-years played rule wholly unnecessary as a screening mechanism, since they would now have people looking at players’ entire resumes to determine eligibility. (In theory, anyway; there is little indication that the screeners employ rigorous analysis in their determinations.)

But the BBWAA screening committee kept the 10-year rule. In those days Who’s Who In Baseball included a list of active 10-years-plus players who weren’t on any team’s roster at press time. Well, ten years seemed to be the order of the day - just go with it. It made the screeners job pretty easy, since they didn’t have to think about flameouts like Herb Score, who only played eight years.

Stop for a minute and think about how they might have decided to screen players for the ballot 45 or 55 years ago. The sabermetric field was decades away and someone who might have wanted to devise an amalgamation of the available stats or establish multiple benchmarks would have found this a hard sell. So let’s assume they were looking to rely on one stat. Why would they use Years played as the sole criterion? If the thinking was that Playing Time = Worthiness, then clearly Games is a better indicator of career bulk than Years.

The bottom line is that they blew it. Do they seriously want Sherry Robertson, Al Evans and Mickey Livingston on the ballot but not Ferris Fain? Really? They should have said, “1000 Games played or 1000 Innings Pitched gets you on the ballot.” They wouldn’t want to use BA or Hits or Wins or ERA because these can vary greatly with the level of offense and the game’s evolution. But Games and IP are almost constants. (The 154-game season had been in place since 1904.) A career of 1000 games still takes a minimum of seven years to reach, the same as it did many decades ago. It allows almost as many candidates as the 10-year rule.

It sounds ridiculous, but apparently they couldn’t conceive of anyone playing less than ten years and being worthy of HOF consideration. However, looking at the first nine seasons of many of the all-time greats it should be obvious that they had their place in Cooperstown sewed up before they stepped onto the field for their tenth year. Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Kid Nichols and Walter Johnson compiled more than 70 WAR in their first nine years. In addition, before 1958 candidates with less than ten years played had always received HOF votes. Look at Dickey Kerr, George Selkirk, George Earnshaw…and Addie Joss.

Joss was one of the AL’s best pitchers in its first decade of operation. He was the ace of the Cleveland staff from 1905 to 1909, averaging 21 wins per year. Joss went down with a sore elbow in mid-1910, his ninth season. He then died suddenly from tuberculosis in April 1911, as he was rehabbing for an expected May return.

In early HOF voting Joss averaged 8.8% support in six elections. He was then barred from the BBWAA ballot after 1946, when the 30-years-after-retirement limit was adopted. He passed to the jurisdiction of the VC, but that seems to have ended upon the enactment of the 10-years rule in 1958.

After languishing for a dozen years, Joss’ candidacy was revived upon the publishing of the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia in 1969. In the process of researching for the book, they had calculated ERA’s for early pitchers for the first time. (The stat Earned Run Average was not officially compiled by the AL until 1913, after Joss had passed on, so no one ever knew where he stood.) The Big Mac showed Joss’ ERA as an eye-popping 1.88 with a bold “2nd” underneath it! Only long-time hall of famer Ed Walsh had a lower career ERA than Addie Joss. This started a drumbeat to set aside the 10-years rule and put Joss in the Hall of Fame, which they did inside of a decade (1978).

Some may say, “Yeah, but Orlando Hernandez is no Addie Joss; El Duque has barely half as many WAR as Joss.” But wait. Joss is another one of those HOF pitchers with less WAR than Hernandez at age 32+. Addie was deceased at 31, before the age when El Duque made his debut in MLB. We can’t say for sure that Joss’ dead-ball era pitching was better than El Duque’s toiling in Cuba.

So given that players can be deserving of a place in the Hall and the committee can arbitrarily waive the rule anyway, why is the 10-year rule still in place? Surely, the existence of the ballot screen committee eliminated any need for such a rule to exist. Back 30 or 40 years ago perhaps one could have made the argument that the rule was necessary given the difficulties of poring through reference books to research candidates and their qualifications. Now, in the digital age, there is no logical reason for retaining the 10-years rule. Pulling up detailed statistical profiles and comparisons of hundreds of players is easily done.

Other Men Out

Along with Orlando Hernandez, many other nine-year players in recent years have been worthy of being on the HOF ballot, including these:

- Don Wilson averaged 14 wins, 226 IP from 1968-73 and was a genuine ace in 1971-72. After compiling 30.2 pitching WAR he was found dead in his garage at age 29. The ballot screening committee was not used for the 1980 election, so Wilson had more WAR than 30-some players on the ballot, including five who received votes.

- Alvin Davis was one of the AL’s top ten hitters of the 1980’s. He set a record by reaching base in each of the first 47 games of his career. Davis never quite repeated his all-star / ROY season of 1984, although 1989 comes close. Career WAR 19.4.

- Teddy Higuera had a peak from 1986-88 that Jack Morris can only dream of. ROY runner-up in 1985, then CYA runner-up in 1986. His 28.3 career WAR is more than five of the first-year candidates on the 2000 ballot.

- Chris Sabo was ROY in 1988 and starred for the Reds 1990 champions. He was a three-time all-star at his peak, but battled injuries in the other years. One of 13 third basemen in history with 110 HR and 110 SB. Career WAR 13.3.

- Rusty Greer batted .305 in his career. From 1996-99 he hit third in the lineup, averaging 106 runs, 99 RBI, 63 XBH and .315/.398/.502 as Texas won three division crowns. Career WAR 19.8.

- Shane Mack compiled a 130 OPS+ for the Twins 1990-94. He then chose to leave MLB during the strike, playing two prime years in Japan. His 19.8 career WAR is more than six of the first-year candidates on the 2004 ballot.

- Corey Koskie was one the AL’s premier 3B at his peak 2001-03 (only Eric Chavez was better). His 23.7 career WAR is more than eight of the first-year candidates on the 2012 ballot.

- Mark Mulder was one of the A’s “Moneyball” aces, with a CYA runner-up in 2001 and all-star appearances in 2003-04. His career WAR was above 19 before negative years finished him up with 16.3. He deserves a spot on the 2014 ballot.

Along with El Duque that makes “nine men out,” worthy players who were never considered by the BBWAA ballot screening committee. They were dismissed for a reason that is scarcely related to the quality of their play: they failed to step onto the field once in their 10th MLB season. Some other nine-year men I considered were Richard Hidalgo, Ben McDonald, Bryan Harvey, Wes Parker, Tom Tresh, Pete Ward, Floyd Robinson, Jim Gentile and Tony Kubek. Of course, none of these has a personal narrative like El Duque’s so you can’t really make a HOF case for them. The point is they deserved to have their name on the HOF ballot.

The 10-year rule is a relic from another age that serves no purpose today. The HOF didn’t need the rule for its first 22 years and it’s not needed now. At this point, the 10-year rule is simply a bad habit that should be stopped. Its only effect is to prevent the voters from considering all deserving candidates. Imagine if Albert Pujols had died after playing nine years. Would they have waived the 10-years rule for him? Heck, yeah, just like they did for Joss, despite the fact his career was “too short” to be considered. Well, why have a rule if it can be ignore so easily. It tends to diminish respect for the whole process. It’s another sign of a system in need of reform.

OK, suppose the HOF decides to eliminate the 10-year rule. How should they decide who gets on the ballot? Here are several options:

- Make it a nine-year rule. - While this would help, it avoids the central issue. Namely, that years played is a poor indicator of value. I think that if you advocate for a years-played rule it can’t be any greater than five years; some players have compiled more than 50 WAR in that span.

- Leave it to the present ballot committee. - The problem with this committee is its lack of transparency. No explanation has ever accompanied the results of their work. What are their criteria for deciding who makes it? Why was Tony Womack (1.2 career WAR) on the 2012 ballot but not Edgardo Alfonzo (28.4 WAR)? Who even knows who is on this committee?

- Let the fans vote. - This would be fun. Put a 30-man ballot of 2007 retirees on the internet and ask each voter to vote for their top ten. The winners of a ballot spot would be those named on a certain percentage of ballots (say, 20%). Or alternatively, establish a set number of ballot slots for first-year candidates (in the past decade the screeners have let through an average of 14.3 newbies per year.)

- Establish objective criteria. - Let any new retiree on the ballot who meets at least one of these criteria: 1500 Games / 2000 IP / 750 G pitched / Top 5 MVP finish / Top 3 CYA finish. Extra playing time could be credited for players whose careers were shortened by military service, racial barriers, international restrictions (e.g., El Duque) or strikes/lockouts.

- Finally, consider Japanese players. Like El Duque they were denied the opportunity to play in MLB for most of their prime years. Hideki Matsui has played nine years. Suppose his career ended in 2011. A glance at Matsui’s record in MLB shows he doesn’t quite look like a hall of famer. But he was nearly 29 years old when he debuted in MLB after being a star player for many years.

Compare Matsui at ages 29-37 with some of the corner outfielders in the Hall:


Player            WAR    OPS+    RC      PA      Age     HR    RBI      BA     OBP     SLG
Hideki Matsui    16.9    120    753    4963    29-37    173    753    .285    .363    .467
Ralph Kiner       9.2    129    368    2332    29-32    112    330    .266    .380    .492
Chuck Klein       9.7    112    488    3432    29-37    109    471    .279    .345    .450
Joe Kelley       11.7    117    372    3107    29-36     13    326    .284    .358    .386
Joe Medwick      13.7    118    393    2820    29-36     43    424    .305    .347    .429
Hugh Duffy       14.7    106    404    3083    29-37     33    533    .303    .363    .408
Jim Rice         16.0    120    635    4565    29-36    169    720    .291    .351    .470
Heinie Manush    17.1    113    624    4105    29-37     44    555    .320    .365    .454
Elmer Flick      17.9    149    308    2286    29-34      9    208    .298    .371    .419
Willie Keeler    20.1    115    554    5049    29-37     12    287    .305    .352    .357
Monte Irvin      20.5    125    455    2892    30-37     99    443    .293    .383    .475
Hack Wilson      20.8    144    575    3023    29-34    146    618    .307    .399    .549
Andre Dawson     21.9    121    728    5219    29-37    234    842    .277    .322    .486

Like Matsui, the line for Monte Irvin shows his entire MLB career, after the color line was broken. Is Matsui so much worse than hall of famer Irvin that he shouldn’t even appear on the ballot? Like Irvin, he deserves to have his entire career considered by the voters, including the years he was barred from MLB.

Orlando Hernandez should likewise have his entire career under consideration. He played nine years in MLB…plus ten years in Cuba…plus another year being banned from Cuban play (1997)…plus two years when he earned more then $11 million but only played in the minors rehabbing injuries (2003 and 2008)…then finishing with two years in the minors trying to get back to the Show (2009-10). An epic 24-year career.

Free El Duque! Allow his case to be tried in the court of the BBWAA. Let the voters decide on the hall of fame claims of Orlando Hernandez by allowing him to be a candidate on the 2013 BBWAA ballot. And don’t just break the HOF rules, change them so that years played is no longer an issue.

Daniel Greenia Posted: April 16, 2012 at 04:45 PM | 67 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. The District Attorney Posted: April 16, 2012 at 09:10 PM (#4108462)
I don't think one can argue that it is already the practice to consider non-MLB accomplishments when electing MLB Hall of Famers. Irvin was elected as a Negro Leaguer, not a MLBer. I think everyone else with Negro League experience would be in based solely on what they did in MLB. I don't think there are any clear cases of war credit, either. Although you could make a case for Phil Rizzuto based heavily on war credit, I think the case that actually was made for him had more to do with championship rings and post-retirement contributions. And Ichiro is also not likely to give you what you want, as he will have done enough (in the writers' opinion, anyway) to be elected based solely on his MLB run.

So it's not as easy as saying that Duque should be a candidate based on established precedent. Explicitly considering his Cuban career as part of his MLB Hall of Fame candidacy would be breaking new ground, IMO. But I do agree that things should be as you described. I hope Duque and Godzilla get due consideration. (I have no idea whether I'd vote for them -- evaluating their careers is obviously more difficult than career MLBers -- but I'd like to see them considered.)

You do realize, though, that it's not very plausible to say that you'll consider a guy's entire non-MLB career if he plays one game in MLB, but not if he plays zero. The more logical thing would be to potentially open the entire HOF to everyone in an organized league, as basketball does. Again, I think this would be good, but it'd be a significant change.

BTW, even if we're just talking about MLB players, I don't know why a 10-year rule is necessary. We already have a (as you point out, highly mysterious) committee screening out guys whose careers weren't good enough. Why do we need a 10-year requirement on top of that? As you mention, there already is a Hall of Famer with fewer than 10 seasons played in Joss, and at least one Hall of Meriter, Ross Barnes. HOFer Ross Youngs played only seven games in one of his ten "seasons." It's a rare bird for sure who would be a plausible candidate with fewer than 10 seasons, but if there is one, I don't see why people can't vote on him.
   2. Banta Posted: April 17, 2012 at 08:59 AM (#4108697)
Just wanted to say this is a very good article.
   3. DanG Posted: April 17, 2012 at 09:59 AM (#4108721)
I don't think anything I suggest in the article constitutes a drastic change in HOF procedures. Setting aside the 10-year rule would not noticeably alter the voting in the foreseeable future. Like my article last year concerning JT Snow's HOF eligibility, I'm addressing what is, to date, a minor flaw in the election rules and eliminating the potential for a major controversy.

My articles are also in the direction of "let the voters vote." The steroid guys are being put on the ballot and that's good. They should've done the same thing with Rose and let the voters decide to reject him 15 times; or not. I've often advocated for eliminating the screening committee and the 5% rule and the 20-years-after-retirement restriction. Let the voters consider the entire field of players, eliminating most constraints on eligibility.

Of course, it ain't gonna happen overnight. It takes time to overcome inertia, tradition, the status quo, sacred cows, and entrenched positions. Reform starts with identifying a problem and thinking about improvements.
   4. DanG Posted: April 17, 2012 at 10:04 AM (#4108723)
Just wanted to say this is a very good article.
Thanks. Tell that to the Hall of Fame.
   5. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4108736)
People want the Hall of Fame to be something it isn't.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: April 17, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4108747)
My articles are also in the direction of "let the voters vote." The steroid guys are being put on the ballot and that's good. They should've done the same thing with Rose and let the voters decide to reject him 15 times; or not. I've often advocated for eliminating the screening committee and the 5% rule and the 20-years-after-retirement restriction. Let the voters consider the entire field of players, eliminating most constraints on eligibility.


I still think the end result of all of these suggestions, were they adopted, is fewer guys getting elected, which doesn't seem to jibe with your position on the Hall of Fame overall.

   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4108761)
However, Hernandez was 32 years old when he debuted in MLB, after spending most of his prime years pitching in Cuba’s top league and in international tournaments. As it turns out, 21 WAR from age 32-on is a typical mark for a HOF pitcher. Of the 52 starting pitchers in the Hall who played primarily under the modern pitching distance (since 1893), 27 have more pitching WAR, 25 have fewer at age 32+.


If I've done it right, there are 41 pitchers with 20 or more WAR from ages 32 on who are not in the Hall of Fame and have little chance of getting there.

In arriving at the number 41 I've removed Clemens, Johnson, Schilling, Maddux, Rivera, Glavine, Mussina, Smoltz, and Halladay.

We know that Orlando Hernandez was a high-quality pitcher during the decade he played in Cuba (1987-1996). It isn’t much of a stretch to imagine him compiling 35 to 40 more WAR if he had been allowed to compete in MLB in those years. That would put him in the 60-WAR range for his career, a level that indicates a Hall of Famer in the vast majority of cases.


The exact same thing can be said about guys like Cone and Finley.

   8. villageidiom Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:05 AM (#4108763)
The exact same thing can be said about guys like Cone and Finley.
...We know they were high-quality pitchers in Cuba?
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:10 AM (#4108770)
Is the point here that El Duque is a deserving Hall of Famer? Or is it simply that he should be on the ballot but isn't? If the former, I disagree, and if the latter, I fail to see the point. And none of the "nine men out" that Dan mentions -- Alvin Davis, Rusty Greer, Shane Mack, Corey Koskie, etc. -- are deserving either.

By removing the 10 year rule, what do we hope to accomplish? Having everyone and their mother on the ballot? This would seem to lead to fewer players getting voted in, which seems contra to Dan's goals. Or are we still going to allow a screening committe? If we are, then the screening committee is unlikely to keep a deserving candidate from appearing on the ballot.

I just don't find arguing over whether a non-deserving player should appear on the ballot to be all that interesting.

It seems that the overall goal here is to just start considering players from all over the world, whether they played in MLB or not. That's something very different from what the Hall is or has ever been.
   10. DanG Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:20 AM (#4108778)
I still think the end result of all of these suggestions, were they adopted, is fewer guys getting elected, which doesn't seem to jibe with your position on the Hall of Fame overall.
Perhaps in the short run; the tweaks I suggest are just to get the ball rolling towards reform.

You're right that I would like to see more guys being elected to the HOF; the ideal is for the HOF to reform in that direction. Not tons more guys, but an increase from the two annually for the past 20 years to three for the next 20 years.

For that to happen a new mindset needs to develop, an understanding of what standards have evolved for inclusion and a realization that there are dozens of overlooked players who qualify under those established standards. From that realization would flow reforms to institute a more equitable system. As I said, we're still a long way from that point.
   11. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM (#4108787)
Dan - The problem is not that the system is not equitable it's that the people voting are making bad choices. Adding Teddy Higuera to the ballot isn't going to help someone figure out that Kevin Brown was a better pitcher than Jack Morris. What it's more likely to do is create a ballot too crowded to be fairly evaluated and perception and flawed memories will rule the day.
   12. Loren F. Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:54 AM (#4108813)
Even if the HoF starts to vote in players based largely on their accomplishments playing in Cuba, for this argument to hold any water we would need to see El Duque's Cuban playing statistics and then have an ability to translate them in to the equivalent of major-league stats. Otherwise, we are going on some pretty big assumptions.

It's true that Negro League players were voted into the HoF before any similar stats with MLEs were assembled. But those voted into the HoF, at least initially, were the NeL players who everyone knew had surpassed the bar for a Major League-quality HoF career without having to nail it down to 50 WAR or 60 WAR or 70 WAR (Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, Monte Irvin, Cool Papa Bell, etc.). Even back in the 1970s, before people calculated MLEs for these players, we had lots of firsthand accounts and games against MLB players to help gauge the talent of these NeL stars.

As far as I know, we don't have anything like the current quality of records/stats for Cuban baseball, nor the reliable firsthand accounts and MLB exhibition games. So, while El Duque's actual MLB performance suggests that he would have been an MLB-quality pitcher at some time before age 32, we don't know if he would have been Ervin Santana (making him not a HoFer) or Mike Mussina (making him a very possible HoFer) in the eight or nine years before he debuted with Yankees. As a Yankee fan and an El Duque fan, even I would say that his MLB years, with just two seasons where he pitched more than 146 innings, leave a lot to be desired -- although they conceivably make for a very nice decline phase for a HoF-level pitcher. So his case would have to rest mostly on showing that he was as at least as good as, say, Dan Haren, during his Cuban years.
   13. PhillyBooster Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:55 AM (#4108816)
If I've done it right, there are 41 pitchers with 20 or more WAR from ages 32 on who are not in the Hall of Fame and have little chance of getting there.

Can you list the players? Or maybe give the five best and the five worst?

If it's a bunch of late bloomers, then that's one piece of evidence against El Duque. ("Maybe, like these guys, he justwasn't as good as Jim Palmer in his 20s") If it's a bunch of guys who didn't debut until age 30, then that's a point in his favor.
   14. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 11:59 AM (#4108823)
It's true that Negro League players were voted into the HoF before any similar stats with MLEs were assembled. But those voted into the HoF, at least initially, were the NeL players who everyone knew had surpassed the bar for a Major League-quality HoF career


The other difference is that black players were being discriminated against in this country, including by the major leagues. The US generally, and the major leagues specifically, had direct blame in the situation; it was they who had treated the black players despicably.

Not so for the Cuba situation. Once El Duque came here, he played here.
   15. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM (#4108834)
re-posted in #16 with code-tag formatting.
   16. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 12:06 PM (#4108836)
Can you list the players? Or maybe give the five best and the five worst?


Here's the list, if I've formatted it right. I've revised it to start it from 1918 on (which dropped off a couple of players). And I'm keeping the Clemenses and Johnsons in.

Thus, this is a list of most pitching WAR in the retrosheet era for ages 32 and up for non-HOFers:

Rk                 Player  WAR From   To   Age
1           Randy Johnson 65.3 1996 2009 32
-45
2           Roger Clemens 63.1 1995 2007 32
-44
3          Curt Schilling 42.2 1999 2007 32
-40
4             Jamie Moyer 39.3 1995 2012 32
-49
5             David Wells 38.8 1995 2007 32
-44
6         Dennis Martinez 38.2 1987 1998 32
-43
7              Jack Quinn 38.0 1918 1933 34
-49
8             Kevin Brown 36.6 1997 2005 32
-40
9             Greg Maddux 34.9 1998 2008 32
-42
10          Charlie Hough 34.2 1980 1994 32
-46
11         Mariano Rivera 33.6 2002 2012 32
-42
12           Kenny Rogers 31.5 1997 2008 32
-43
13            Tom Glavine 31.0 1998 2008 32
-42
14             Luis Tiant 30.6 1973 1982 32
-41
15           Mike Mussina 30.3 2001 2008 32
-39
16             Sal Maglie 30.0 1950 1958 33
-41
17             Dolf Luque 29.7 1923 1935 32
-44
18             Tommy John 29.4 1976 1989 33
-46
19          Dutch Leonard 28.4 1941 1953 32
-44
20          Jerry Koosman 28.2 1975 1985 32
-42
21          Virgil Trucks 27.8 1949 1958 32
-41
22          Murry Dickson 27.1 1949 1959 32
-42
23            John Smoltz 26.2 1999 2009 32
-42
24          Larry Jackson 26.2 1963 1968 32
-37
25           Ellis Kinder 25.8 1947 1957 32
-42
Rk                 Player  WAR From   To   Age
26           Preacher Roe 25.3 1948 1954 32
-38
27          Tom Candiotti 25.0 1990 1999 32
-41
28         Harry Brecheen 25.0 1947 1953 32
-38
29              Al Leiter 24.9 1998 2005 32
-39
30           Chuck Finley 24.5 1995 2002 32
-39
31             David Cone 24.1 1995 2003 32
-40
32             Rip Sewell 21.6 1939 1949 32
-42
33            Bobo Newsom 21.4 1940 1953 32
-45
34        Doyle Alexander 21.4 1983 1989 32
-38
35             Joe Niekro 21.3 1977 1988 32
-43
36           Roy Halladay 21.2 2009 2012 32
-35
37             Ray Kremer 21.2 1925 1933 32
-40
38      Orlando Hernandez 21.1 1998 2007 32
-41
39          Rick Reuschel 21.1 1981 1991 32
-42
40           Rube Walberg 21.1 1929 1937 32
-40
41               Jim Kaat 21.0 1971 1983 32
-44
42             Curt Davis 20.8 1936 1946 32
-42
43          Spud Chandler 20.7 1940 1947 32
-39
44          Tim Wakefield 20.4 1999 2011 32
-44
45           Charlie Root 20.3 1931 1941 32
-42
46          Urban Shocker 20.2 1923 1928 32
-37
47             Babe Adams 20.2 1918 1926 36
-44
48          Tommy Bridges 20.1 1939 1946 32
-39 

   17. The District Attorney Posted: April 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM (#4108844)
I don't think anything I suggest in the article constitutes a drastic change in HOF procedures. Setting aside the 10-year rule would not noticeably alter the voting in the foreseeable future.
I'm not saying the drastic change is changing 10 years to 9. I'm saying the drastic change is electing people as MLB Hall of Famers based in large part on what they did in leagues other than MLB. (Which, again, is a change I agree with making. But you can't say it's in line with what has already been done, IMO.)

I don't see the point in just changing 10 to 9 without addressing the non-MLB credit issue. Sure, it gets Duque eligible in this one particular case. Then what? He's not actually gonna get elected if his Cuban years are deemed irrelevant, right? And what if the next Duque-like player only has eight MLB seasons? You gotta address the underlying issue, which is that non-MLB performance should be considered.

Either that, or you do what was done with the Negro Leagues and create a new category, thus classifying Duque/Matsui not as "MLB" Hall of Famers, but as "international" ones.
   18. DanG Posted: April 17, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4108955)
The problem is not that the system is not equitable it's that the people voting are making bad choices. Adding Teddy Higuera to the ballot isn't going to help someone figure out that Kevin Brown was a better pitcher than Jack Morris. What it's more likely to do is create a ballot too crowded to be fairly evaluated and perception and flawed memories will rule the day.
No question this gets to the larger issue, which goes beyond the scope of this article. A series I wrote a couple years back, Fixing the Hall of Fame, explores issues like this.

And adding Higuera to the ballot might help someone to figure out that Morris was nothing special. Teddy, although obviously not a hall of famer, deserved the honor of being on the ballot, given what the standards are for that.
   19. flournoy Posted: April 17, 2012 at 02:35 PM (#4109010)
If the Hall of Fame wanted to waive the ten year requirement for players who played in foreign leagues before they came to America, I'd be fine with that. That said, Orlando Hernandez is no Hall of Famer, so I'm unlikely to get behind this cause.
   20. PhillyBooster Posted: April 17, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4109012)
Here's the list, if I've formatted it right.

Thanks. So a lot of guys with very long careers with not much of peak, or else a moderately long career, and a late peak so that a lot of their best years were after age 32.

He's clearly better than the late-starters like Ellis Kinder and Rip Sewell, but where's the evidence that he was better than David Cone or Chuck Finley (let alone Robin Roberts and Jim Palmer)?
   21. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4109014)
He's clearly better than the late-starters like Ellis Kinder and Rip Sewell, but where's the evidence that he was better than David Cone or Chuck Finley (let alone Robin Roberts and Jim Palmer)?


Yes, that's what I was getting at.

Even if we think El Duque could have been David Cone, Cone is not a HOFer. So what makes El Duque more deserving than Cone? It can't be that El Duque was born in Villa Clara and Cone was not.

Just because El Duque had a blank MLB slate until he was 32 does not mean we should project whatever we want to onto that slate. At that point, you're penalizing Cone for pitching in MLB and for having a performance record that you can't fudge.

   22. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 17, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4109015)
El Duque is a cool baseball story. He's a pitcher who got a chance to pitch here and did well. But that doesn't mean he's a Hall of Famer.

   23. PhillyBooster Posted: April 18, 2012 at 09:16 AM (#4109458)
Personally, if I'm looking for a Cuban who was improperly excluded from the Hall of Fame, I'd be advocating for Dolf Luque (which does not, I believe, rhyme with Duque.)

Despite what the racists would have you believe, "race" is not an all or nothing determination, and while Jackie Robinson may have been the first African American to play in the majors, he was not the first Negro Leaguer. As a Cuban of intermediate skin tone, Luque played for several years in the Negro Leagues (1911-1915) before dominating the American Association (1916-1918) and then become a regular for the Reds (1919-1934). While the old-time major leaguers promoted the white players, and the historians and Negro Leaguers (rightfully) promoted the excluded black players, there was no one to promote the racially indeterminate players who were not black, but got less of a shot than they would have had they been whiter.

Luque has a much higher post-32 WAR than Duque, plus 4+ years as an MLB regular with known stats before that, and still another 8 years when he was excluded from MLB by a somewhat lesser form of racism, but still has known stats that can converted in Major League Equivalents.

Luques before Duques!
   24. DanG Posted: April 18, 2012 at 10:14 AM (#4109513)
Luques before Duques
I agree with this. El Duque's pre-32 numbers are hard to discern and harder to make sense of. At this point, any HOF argument is highly speculative. Obviously.

The corollary is also true, that we don't have the numbers to firmly dismiss El Duque from the HOF discussion. And that's one of the points of the article, to show that Hernandez might be a hall of famer. And isn't that the purpose of the ballot screening committee, to put before the voters anyone who might be a HOFer?

Here is a list of 20 pitchers most similar to El Duque; starting pitchers in the past century within 5.1 pitching WAR, 9 points of ERA+ and 400 IP of Hernandez at age-32+:

Player               WAR ERA+     IP From   To   Age   W  L
Larry Jackson       26.2  112 1590.1 1963 1968 32
-37  93 97
Al Leiter           24.9  115 1502.1 1998 2005 32
-39 102 79
Chuck Finley        24.5  112 1564.0 1995 2002 32
-39 101 87
David Cone          24.1  118 1206.0 1995 2003 32
-40  83 56
Doyle Alexander     21.4  108 1553.2 1983 1989 32
-38  86 73
Ray Kremer          21.2  112 1695.1 1925 1933 32
-40 125 75
'Orlando Hernandez  21.1  110 1314.2 1998 2007 32-41  90 65'
Rick Reuschel       21.1  111 1457.0 1981 1991 32-42  89 77
Rube Walberg        21.1  106 1689.1 1929 1937 32
-40  98 85
Urban Shocker       20.2  118 1228.1 1923 1928 32
-37  85 54
Thornton Lee        19.0  119 1470.2 1939 1948 32
-41  80 85
Robin Roberts       19.0  101 1561.0 1959 1966 32
-39  80 89
Orel Hershiser      18.7  101 1648.0 1991 2000 32
-41 105 85
Danny Darwin        18.0  101 1580.2 1988 1998 32
-42  90 94
Allie Reynolds      17.9  118 1222.0 1949 1954 32
-37  96 45
Rick Reed           17.9  111 1279.1 1997 2003 32
-38  84 61
Geoff Zahn          17.8  111 1484.0 1978 1985 32
-39  93 81
Claude Passeau      17.2  113 1413.0 1941 1947 32
-38  91 72
Andy Pettitte       16.7  117 1262.2 2004 2010 32
-38  91 60
Bucky Walters       16.3  116 1567.1 1941 1950 32
-41 100 80
Bob Lemon           16.0  114 1154.1 1953 1958 32
-37  88 58 

These are quality pitchers, nearly all of whom appeared on the HOF ballot. We find Hall of Famers (Roberts, Lemon) plus Hall of Meriters (Cone, Reuschel). And near HOFers (Reynolds) and near HoMers (Walters). And future HOFers (Pettitte?).

As for the idea that voters should start to consider play outside of MLB, they're already free to do this and I'm sure that some do. In fact, Rule 5 of the BBWAA Election Rules infers that the voters ought to be considering it: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Nowhere do the rules say that MLB play should be the only play considered.
   25. Jim Wisinski Posted: April 18, 2012 at 01:32 PM (#4109740)
If the Hall of Fame wanted to waive the ten year requirement for players who played in foreign leagues before they came to America, I'd be fine with that.


This seems like a suitable solution. Even better I think would be if this mysterious committee was to have (and correctly apply) the authority to approve players with less than 10 years service if they felt there were special circumstances (for a different example, if a Nick Adenhart situation happened to a top player who had 8-9 years in the majors at the time). At least then the voters would have the chance to judge players who might receive foreign play credit or had their careers cut short by tragedy or other non-baseball circumstances.
   26. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 18, 2012 at 03:06 PM (#4109837)
Nowhere do the rules say that MLB play should be the only play considered.


They don't say not to consider NBA play, either, but a fair reading of the spirit of the rules sees that they assume MLB play:

3. Eligible Candidates -- Candidates to be eligible must meet the following requirements:

A. A baseball player must have been active as a player in the Major Leagues at some time during a period beginning twenty (20) years before and ending five (5) years prior to election.

B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A).

C. Player shall have ceased to be an active player in the Major Leagues at least five (5) calendar years preceding the election but may be otherwise connected with baseball.


If play in Cuba should be considered, what else? Minor league ball? College ball? Little League? I'm serious. I don't know where the line would be drawn.
   27. JPWF1313 Posted: April 18, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4109923)
As a Cuban of intermediate skin tone, Luque played for several years in the Negro Leagues (1911-1915) before dominating the American Association (1916-1918) and then become a regular for the Reds (1919-1934).


Luque was not of "intermediate skin tone," he was as white as I am (I'm 100% Irish), he had blue eyes for crissakes

he did not play in the US Negro leagues- rather he played in Cuba's winter leagues which were integrated, when he came here he did not play in the Negro leagues, he played in the "white" leagues like the IL, the AA and of course MLB.

In HOM sense does he deserve any "minor league credit?" Maybe a year or two tops*, but even giving him that I don't see a HOFer, a HOVGer yes- a notch above Jack Morris, a notch below Cone who's a notch (or two) below Kevin Brown...

*And while he was quite good in the IL and the AA, I wouldn't say that he was "dominating"
in fact while he was there he wasn't any betetr than this guy
who only got two cups of Joe in the bigs, and he wasn't quite as good there as this
guy who also had a pretty decent MLB career (2275 IP, 106 ERA+, not as good as Dolf of course, but a decent career...

I just don't see that Luque was screwed out of a HOF career by any racial or ethnic bias
   28. The District Attorney Posted: April 18, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4109927)
Even better I think would be if this mysterious committee was to have (and correctly apply) the authority to approve players with less than 10 years service if they felt there were special circumstances (for a different example, if a Nick Adenhart situation happened to a top player who had 8-9 years in the majors at the time).
I think that they do have that authority, and that if e.g. Albert Pujols had died during the 2009-10 offseason, they would use it. They (presumably) aren't going to use it on Duque because it hasn't been established that his non-MLB time is relevant to his candidacy as a MLB Hall of Famer. So again, we get back to that being the underlying issue here.
   29. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM (#4109987)
I don't have a problem with the 10 year rule in general - less than 10 years just doesn't seem Hall-worthy. Can't see changing the rule just so a few players receive votes comparable to some 10+ year players who never came close to election. However, there is a case for treating Cuban players somewhat similarly to the Negro League players. As bad as the Negro Leaguers were treated, they weren't thrown in jail or shot at if they went somewhere else to play. So in that sense, the Castro-era Cuban players had it worse, even if some were able to eventually defect. I wouldn't have a problem with considering combined MLB & Cuban experience, but that does present some practical difficulties, and so far there doesn't appear to be candidate for which it would make the difference.
   30. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: April 18, 2012 at 06:10 PM (#4110002)
If play in Cuba should be considered, what else? Minor league ball? College ball? Little League? I'm serious. I don't know where the line would be drawn.

Wasn't your position that the line should be drawn precisely in the spot that would give special consideration to someone who couldn't play in the majors because the laws of his native land forbid him from doing so? (thus considering Negro League players but not Japanese league players)

Which side of that line is a Cuban player on?
   31. DanG Posted: April 18, 2012 at 06:21 PM (#4110014)
less than 10 years just doesn't seem Hall-worthy
Yeah, none of these guys had a case for the Hall if they had decided to play pro golf or had suddenly been found dead like Don Wilson was:

Rk           Player WAR/pos OPS+   PA From   To   BA  OBP  SLG
1      Ted Williams    79.7  193 5761 1939 1950 .350 .486 .642
2     Albert Pujols    76.2  172 6082 2001 2009 .334 .427 .628
3     Mickey Mantle    72.1  172 5408 1951 1959 .311 .425 .569
4           Ty Cobb    68.0  181 4840 1905 1913 .368 .420 .515
5       Barry Bonds    67.2  157 5403 1986 1994 .285 .394 .537
6       Willie Mays    66.9  158 5301 1951 1960 .317 .390 .585
7        Hank Aaron    66.1  155 5868 1954 1962 .320 .373 .571
8       Stan Musial    65.6  171 5398 1941 1950 .346 .429 .580
9        Wade Boggs    63.3  146 6084 1982 1990 .346 .436 .472
10   Rogers Hornsby    63.2  174 4768 1915 1923 .351 .413 .545 

Rk           Player     WAR ERA+   W   L     IP From   To
1       Kid Nichols    80.6  147 276 132 3653.1 1890 1898
2          Cy Young    71.5  139 241 135 3353.0 1890 1898
3    Walter Johnson    68.7  176 206 128 2778.2 1907 1915
4        Tom Seaver    65.4  143 168  96 2447.2 1967 1975
5    Pete Alexander    61.8  145 208 100 2753.0 1911 1919 
   32. Rants Mulliniks Posted: April 19, 2012 at 08:59 AM (#4110360)
I don't see what opening the flood gates would do to improve the situation. In cases where an exceptional player (i.e. someone like Pujols) were to suffer a career-ending injury or die after 9 years of .325/.425/.600 and mulitple MVPs, an exception to the 10-year rule would probably be granted anyway. It was done for Addie Joss.

What is the point of being on the ballot if you have no hope of being elected?
   33. Chris Fluit Posted: April 19, 2012 at 09:44 AM (#4110390)
If the Hall of Fame wanted to waive the ten year requirement for players who played in foreign leagues before they came to America, I'd be fine with that. That said, Orlando Hernandez is no Hall of Famer, so I'm unlikely to get behind this cause.


I think that's the right solution. The North American players cited in the main article are irrelevant to Hall of Fame discussions; whether they were listed on one year's ballot before failing to qualify for a second is mostly immaterial. Yet it would be nice to see players with composite careers have the chance to be considered, whether they'd be elected or not. Waiving the ten-year requirement for players who crossed over from foreign leagues makes sense. That would get players onto the ballot such as Orlando Hernandez and Hideki Matsui (another 9 year player unless he signs with someone soon), while not crowding the ballot with a lot of extraneous names.


(One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that Orlando Hernandez would have qualified within the 10-year rule had he not missed the entire 2003 season).
   34. DanG Posted: April 19, 2012 at 09:50 AM (#4110401)
What is the point of being on the ballot if you have no hope of being elected?
Appearing on the HOF ballot is an honor that only 7% of major league players receive (72 of 1029 players who last played 2001 to 2005). It is the highest honor the Game has for most of them.
   35. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 19, 2012 at 10:22 AM (#4110427)
Appearing on the HOF ballot is an honor that only 7% of major league players receive (72 of 1029 players who last played 2001 to 2005). It is the highest honor the Game has for most of them.


You're hijacking the process. The purpose of the ballot is not to honor players; it's to serve as a mechanism for sending eligible candidates to the BBWAA for a vote to determine who will be elected.

Quoting from the eligibility rules:

1. Authorization: By authorization of the Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc., the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) is authorized to hold an election every year for the purpose of electing members to the National Baseball Hall of Fame from the ranks of retired baseball players.

...The duty of the Screening Committee shall be to prepare a ballot listing in alphabetical order eligible candidates who (1) received a vote on a minimum of five percent (5%) of the ballots cast in the preceding election or (2) are eligible for the first time and are nominated by any two of the six members of the BBWAA Screening Committee.
   36. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM (#4110446)
It is the highest honor the Game has for most of them.


And those players failed to reach that highest honor. Why not change the induction requirement from 75% to 66% so those players can get in?
   37. DanG Posted: April 19, 2012 at 01:29 PM (#4110605)
You're hijacking the process
Don't shoot the messenger. I'm just pointing out what has evolved.

If the HOF had always held to its original spirit and intent its membership would look quite different.
   38. DanG Posted: April 19, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4110616)
One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that Orlando Hernandez would have qualified within the 10-year rule had he not missed the entire 2003 season
The second from last paragraph in the article alludes to this.

For HOF eligibility, I think it should count as a year "played" if a player misses a year rehabbing an injury while still on a major league roster, like Hernandez did in 2003 and 2008. Of course, that means the screening committee might actually have to do a little research, so don't look for this change anytime soon.
   39. Rants Mulliniks Posted: April 19, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4110687)
If the HOF had always held to its original spirit and intent its membership would look quite different.


If anything, this would make for a smaller hall. Cy Young didn't get in on the first ballot, nor did Jimmie Foxx. That would be like Greg Maddux being forced to wait it out for a year.

Edit - I realize you know this, I'm just taking your statement at face value. If anything, getting into the HOF has become easier, not harder.
   40. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 19, 2012 at 03:28 PM (#4110765)
Don't shoot the messenger. I'm just pointing out what has evolved.


But it _hasn't_ evolved to the point where the purpose of the ballot per se is a mechanism for honoring non-deserving players. Or where non-MLB play is deemed so significant that the 10-year rule is removed. If it had, you wouldn't have written your column.
   41. DanG Posted: April 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM (#4110838)
the 10-year rule is removed
The point of removing the 10-year rule is it's arbitrary, unnecessary, a poor determiner of worthiness, is ignored when it's convenient, and has the potential for filtering out players who deserve a look by the voters - none of this is necessarily related to non-MLB play. The rule should be abolished; it would not lead to unnecessary ballot clutter because few sub-ten-years players are worthy of a ballot spot, much less a second look.

But it _hasn't_ evolved to the point where the purpose of the ballot per se is a mechanism for honoring non-deserving players.
Hasn't it? Look closely at the voting some time. Over 80% of first-year candidates are one and done. The vast majority of those players are not credible candidates and never should have been put on the ballot in the first place. (However, I don't trust the discernment of the screening committee, so I tend to favor casting a big net and allowing many new candidates. In any case, it does no harm and is a nice honor for the players.)
   42. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 19, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4110859)
has the potential for filtering out players who deserve a look by the voters


Only one player (Joss) has been inducted with less than ten years of MLB experience and frankly I don't see anyone who comes even remotely close to worthiness being excluded. Perhaps it should be abolished but I can't get too worked up over it being something that is worth fighting over.


I tend to favor casting a big net and allowing many new candidates. In any case, it does no harm


I strongly disagree that "it does no harm." I really think you underestimate the impact that adding candidates is going to have. I think the voters are going to be less inclined to pour over numbers if the ballot becomes 50, 75 or 100 players deep (based on this and other pieces you have written arguing in favor of removing the 5% rule would do).
   43. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 19, 2012 at 04:54 PM (#4110866)
#41, I read your column, and enjoyed it. However, by removing the 10 year rule you do open the process up to be manipulated. Right now the committee can only screen players who are eligible according to the rules, including the 10 year rule. If you remove the 10 year rule you basically allow anyone in the world to be considered. Indeed, the 10 year rule is precisely why El Duque is not eligible.

That is not what the Hall of Fame is. That's what the museum section of the Hall is. And El Duque can be there, along with Matsui and Rose and Geena Davis and anyone else.

Hasn't it? Look closely at the voting some time. Over 80% of first-year candidates are one and done.


That's because they want to cast a wide net so that they capture everyone who is eligible and possibly deserving, not because they are trying to honor players merely by virtue of being placed on the ballot. There is no ceremony for these players. They don't want to cut it so close that they leave out deserving candidates.
   44. The Yankee Clapper Posted: April 19, 2012 at 05:36 PM (#4110902)
re: #31, All those players with great 9-year stats played 10+ years. There is no need to change the rule for them, and just not enough of case for any 9-years or less players.
   45. PreservedFish Posted: April 19, 2012 at 06:13 PM (#4110926)
B. Player must have played in each of ten (10) Major League championship seasons, some part of which must have been within the period described in 3 (A).


Does 1994 count?
   46. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 19, 2012 at 06:20 PM (#4110929)
#45, there's been nothing in the rules making anything special about work stoppage years.
   47. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: April 19, 2012 at 06:36 PM (#4110935)
He's noting that 1994 wasn't a "championship" season. (Which means that Addie Joss only played EIGHT championship seasons.)
   48. Howie Menckel Posted: April 20, 2012 at 09:27 AM (#4111168)

Oh, how I remember the tumult when the BBWAA forgot to list Ken Caminiti as a candidate in his first year of eligibilty.

Wait, I don't remember that, because nobody really cared. They just stuck him on the ballot the following year, and the earth resumed spinning on its axis.

If the premise isn't "El Duque belongs in the Hall of Fame," then I'm not sure what the point is.
   49. DanG Posted: April 20, 2012 at 09:37 AM (#4111174)
If the premise isn't "El Duque belongs in the Hall of Fame," then I'm not sure what the point is.
Try this: "El Duque may belong in the Hall of Fame."

Wait, I don't remember that, because nobody really cared.
If you care about the hall of fame you should be concerned with this, that nobody cares what you do. And the few of us that do find you to be severely flawed.
   50. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 20, 2012 at 09:39 AM (#4111175)
Try this: "El Duque may belong in the Hall of Fame."


It's kind of funny that even you can't bring yourself to state that he should be in.

He should not be, and everyone knows it.
   51. DanG Posted: April 20, 2012 at 09:52 AM (#4111185)
It's kind of funny that even you can't bring yourself to state that he should be in.
I'm glad you're having a good time. Contrary to your impression, I never argued that El Duque should be in, merely that he deserved to be considered.

He should not be, and everyone knows it.
Fifty million Frenchmen can't be wrong.
   52. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 20, 2012 at 09:56 AM (#4111190)
Contrary to your impression, I never argued that El Duque should be in,


I know; that's the whole point.
   53. Greg Maddux School of Reflexive Profanity Posted: April 20, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4111200)
He's noting that 1994 wasn't a "championship" season. (Which means that Addie Joss only played EIGHT championship seasons.)

Only if you make up your own definition of "championship season," which, for the uninitiated, is fancy talk for the period of play preceding the postseason exhibition tournament.
   54. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 20, 2012 at 10:13 AM (#4111205)
Well, yeah, it should be obvious that a "championship season" is the regular season - regardless of whether the exhibitionseason was actually played that year.

And that's exactly how the Hall has treated it.

It may take a bazillion years, but one day everyone will see that I am right about everything.
   55. DanG Posted: April 20, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4111672)
I really think you underestimate the impact that adding candidates is going to have. I think the voters are going to be less inclined to pour over numbers if the ballot becomes 50, 75 or 100 players deep (based on this and other pieces you have written arguing in favor of removing the 5% rule would do).


We’re discussing the 10-year rule; removing it would not noticeably expand the BBWAA ballot. As you rightly point out, only rarely would this add a worthy candidate to the ballot. Regardless, I have already pointed out the ill effects of the 10-year rule. If someone still believes it is a benign thing to be ignored, so be it.

As for the 5% rule, this is truly an abomination that needs to be eliminated. Here are the players with the most career WAR who were one and done by the rule:

69.7 Lou Whitaker (#84 all-time)
67.6 Bobby Grich (#94)
65.3 Rick Reuschel (#112)
64.0 Kevin Brown (#121)
63.4 Reggie Smith (#127)

Hall of famer Ron Santo (66.4 WAR) would also be listed, but they wisely reinstated him after a few years. Another Hall of famer, Richie Ashburn (58.0 WAR), would have been one and done if the rule had been instituted eleven years earlier. These two players plus the five above are all members of the Hall of Merit. Other HoMers the BBWAA axed after one year are Cone, Saberhagen, W. Clark, Stieb, Randolph, Da. Evans, Simmons, Wynn, Freehan and Allen (who was reinstated).

Simply removing the 5% rule would expand the ballot, of course. I agree with you when you suggest that the BBWAA voters can’t be relied upon to conscientiously handle a ballot with 75 or 100 players on it. So we would look to replace the 5% rule with something more productive. Here is one suggestion:

The simplest way to avoid the ballot expanding beyond the electorate’s ability to handle it is to establish a constant size ballot. Let’s say 40 players. That’s a few more than it has now, but a lot smaller than it has been at other times.

Who gets to be on it?

--Each year, take the top 20 holdovers from the last election. This year that's Morris, Bagwell, Le.Smith, Raines, Trammell, E.Martinez, McGriff, Walker, McGwire, Mattingly, Murphy, Palmeiro, B.Williams, J.Gonzalez, Castilla, Salmon, Mueller, Radke, J.Lopez, and E.Young.
--Add 15 newly eligible players. This year welcomes Bonds, Clemens, Piazza, Sosa, Biggio, Schilling, Lofton, D.Wells, S.Finley, Ju.Franco, S.Green, R.Sanders, Klesko, Cirillo, and R.Hernandez.
--If the limit on newbies somehow leaves out a worthy candidate, he can be added in the final step: add 5 players, carefully chosen, from the era under consideration. That's players retiring in 1993-2007 for the next election.

Those five at-large selections are the most important aspect. Indeed, the Hall would do well to assimilate this step with the present election system, even if there are no other changes. I recommend that anyone who dropped off the ballot in the last election should be ineligible for at-large selection this year; let them lay fallow for a year.

With that, here is a list of 40 players still under BBWAA jurisdiction that could be added to the ballot:

Baines H  Davis Ch    Hershiser O Reardon J
Belle A   Fernandez T Hough C     Saberhagen B
Bonilla B Finley C    Key J       Stieb D
Brown K   Franco Jo   Langston M  Strawberry D
Burks E   Gaetti G    Martinez De Tanana F
Butler B  Galarraga A McGee W     Valenzuela F
Canseco J Gibson K    ONeill P    Ventura R
Carter J  Gooden D    Olerud J    Welch B
Clark W   Grace M     Parrish Ln  Whitaker L
Cone D    Hernandez O Phillips T  Williams Ma 


Who gets to decide which five make the ballot? Well, they could appoint a committee of BBWAA members or SABR members or something, but I suggest they let the fans vote. Set up a secure website and put up that 40-player list, vote for five. Heck, we may as well run that poll right here at BBTF, since there is little chance the HOF will actually move to do anything this year.

One last recommendation is that eligibility should be lengthened from the current 20 years after retiring to the old standard of 30 years. Why rush to get Jack Morris to the Cronies Committee? Let him and Lee Smith earn their wings with the Hall’s primary electorate on the BBWAA ballot. I’m sure players prefer going in the front door of the Hall rather than the doggy door.

So freeze the earliest retirement year at 1993 for the next ten BBWAA elections. The 40 player limit will keep the poor voters from being overwhelmed. The VC would have a decade to deal with the existing backlog (mainly 1963-92 retirees) without having any new players fall their way. Within a few years nearly all of the Hall’s top candidates would be displayed on the writers’ ballot.
   56. Howie Menckel Posted: April 22, 2012 at 10:30 AM (#4112910)

Eliminating the 5 pct rule seems like a much more worthy topic than the 10-year rule. In fact, you've pretty well proven it.

   57. SoSH U at work Posted: April 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4112961)
Eliminating the 5 pct rule seems like a much more worthy topic than the 10-year rule. In fact, you've pretty well proven it.


It depends on what your aims are. I still believe, without other changes (none of which are the type proposed by Dan), the only meaningful result of eliminating the 5 percent rule (to those who think the ballot's sole purpose is to elect people to the Hall of Fame, and that appearance on the ballot isn't a goal unto itself) is to make it harder for players to get elected to the Hall of Fame.
   58. DanG Posted: April 23, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4113581)
Eliminating the 5 pct rule seems like a much more worthy topic than the 10-year rule. In fact, you've pretty well proven it.
I agree that the 5% rule is a bigger issue than the 10-year rule. The timeliness of making the argument for El Duque's inclusion on the next BBWAA ballot was the reason for focusing on the 10-year rule, since the screening committee is due to meet soon.

A couple years ago I did a treatment of the 5% rule in my Fixing the Hall of Fame series, in parts 2 and 3. I will probably focus on it for my next Primate Studies feature.
   59. DanG Posted: April 24, 2012 at 10:39 AM (#4114601)
It depends on what your aims are. I still believe, without other changes ... the only meaningful result of eliminating the 5 percent rule ... is to make it harder for players to get elected to the Hall of Fame.
Again, the aim of the article is “the 10-year rule sucks”, not “a comprehensive reform plan for the Hall”. Dropping the 10-year rule would not make it harder to elect players, but it might get the ballot screeners to perform their task with a bit more discipline (assuming that committee isn‘t abolished).

Yes, another ideal is to make it easier for players to get elected to the Hall of Fame. You’re right in pointing out that dropping the 5% rule and doing nothing else runs counter to this; the old Law of Unintended Consequences. This is why I always look to carefully reform the system, and not simply to eviscerate parts that are diseased.

Unfortunately, in recent years the Hall has already gotten more restrictive. In the past five years the number of names per ballot in the BBWAA election has sunken to 5.5, with an all-time low of 5.1 in 2012. At the same time, the Veterans Committee accomplished almost nothing. Despite the Game’s expansion of the past few decades and the corresponding increase in players who meet the Hall’s statistical standards, there are fewer players being inducted. Here are the number of players from MLB elected to the HOF in the past 44 years:

BW+VC = Tot
16 + 24 = 40: 1969-1979
20 + 11 = 31: 1980-1990
17 + 12 = 29: 1991-2001
17 + 2 = 19: 2002-2012

The baseball writers are electing players at virtually the same rate now as they were when they were considering the players from 16-team MLB. At one time the Veterans Committee was ready to scoop up the BBWAA leftovers, but the botched reformation has resulted in no HOFer retiring after 1974 being chosen by the VC.

So the HOF is falling behind on all fronts:

--The BBWAA should be electing more players as the game expands. With the number of teams expanding, as well as the game’s advancement over time, we should expect to see more players from the 70s-90s in the Hall than from the 20s-40s. This is a long way from happening.
--The VC has considered and rejected all players retiring 1975-89. This includes HoMers Grich, R.Smith, Nettles, Allen, Wynn, Da.Evans, Torre, Minoso, Simmons, Freehan and other popular favorites like Tiant, John, Bo.Bonds, Kaat, Oliva, Concepcion and Munson.
--Phasing out the VC and similar secondary reviews is a goal to shoot for, but it can’t happen if the BBWAA doesn’t pick up some of the slack, inducting more players closer to the Hall’s margins.
--Throughout its history, the Hall has elected 19th century players haphazardly and sporadically. A scholarly approach to honoring the Games’ first stars is long overdue.
--The stampede of negro leaguers elected in 2006 left a few deserving players in the dust. The books should not be closed on these players, as the Hall seems to want to do.

There are other ways to show the HOF should be electing more players, but I’ll let that suffice for now. The easiest way to accomplish this aim is for the HOF to simply decide how many players it wants to elect each year, rather than leave it to chance. The obstacle to this approach is the 75% rule. The 75% threshold used by the Hall is onerously high. However, my impression is the rule is now so entrenched in tradition it seems improbable it would ever be dislodged. So plausible suggestions to improve the election process must take 75% as a given.

The other thing to recognize is that we’re in the minority, I think. Those of us that want to see the Hall elect more players are running contrary to the general consensus. Most people are satisfied with the rate the HOF is electing guys because 1) they’ve never studied the issue and 2) it doesn’t really matter, it‘s only the freakin‘ Coop.
   60. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 24, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4114611)
Again, the aim of the article is “the 10-year rule sucks”, not “a comprehensive reform plan for the Hall”. Dropping the 10-year rule would not make it harder to elect players, but it might get the ballot screeners to perform their task with a bit more discipline (assuming that committee isn‘t abolished).


But, as far as I can tell, you haven't pointed to a single deserving Hall of Famer who was screened off the ballot.
   61. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: April 24, 2012 at 10:49 AM (#4114614)
Dan - The problem with the various reforms you suggest is they don't address the primary issue; the inability of the voters to get it right. I agree that given the size of the league that it makes sense for more players to get in, the problem is that the players that would get voted in would not be an improvement. Jack Morris over Kevin Brown, Jason Varitek over Ted Simmons, I think these are the types of votes you would be seeing.

And I just don't know a good way to fix that. Simply making it easier to get in would not improve the Hall. I'm a small Hall guy though and given the choice of Blyleven and Morris in or Blyleven and Morris out I'd take "out" as my preference.
   62. SoSH U at work Posted: April 24, 2012 at 11:07 AM (#4114634)
The easiest way to accomplish this aim is for the HOF to simply decide how many players it wants to elect each year, rather than leave it to chance. The obstacle to this approach is the 75% rule. The 75% threshold used by the Hall is onerously high. However, my impression is the rule is now so entrenched in tradition it seems improbable it would ever be dislodged. So plausible suggestions to improve the election process must take 75% as a given.


And with that 75 percent as a given, I think most of the suggestions I've seen you outline would have the result of crowding the ballot with more arguably Hall of Fame-worthy players. And that result, if anything, would make it more difficult for players to get through.

Lou Whitaker* got screwed when he was one and doned. No question about it. There's also no question that he would be extraordinarily unlikely to ever get elected to the Hall of Fame by the baseball writers based on his starting point, no matter what kind of Lederian campaign some enterprising Detroiter might have engaged in. Giving him an eternity to sit on the ballot and grab votes that may go to some guy who is equally worthy but, for whatever capricious reason, is also far more electable isn't going to help fix the chief problem (as most Hall of Meriters like yourself argue) - that today's Hall of Fame is not electing enough players.

There are fixes that need to be made with the Hall of Fame process, no question about it. But, other than the immovable 75 percent line, the ballot rules right now are not an impediment to getting more players elected.

* (Or Bobby Grich, or Dwight Evans or Ted Simmons, etc.)

   63. DanG Posted: April 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4114658)
The problem with the various reforms you suggest is they don't address the primary issue; the inability of the voters to get it right
OK, here's an excerpt from the link in [18]:

Part 4d – Improving the Electorate


Getting more players on the ballot is only a first step towards fixing the Hall. Efforts aimed solely at devising a fool-proof system ultimately breed a more resistant strain of fools.

Becoming a voter for the hall of fame is a privilege granted to a very few persons. (The last four elections have seen an average of 542 ballots cast.) There is no test that anyone can take before joining the electorate. There is no application. Spending a lifetime studying baseball history or winning prestigious awards for authoring books on baseball do not qualify a person to even be considered to be allowed to vote. The game’s most astute GM’s and scouts can’t vote.

So who are these guys? Basically, college journalism majors who were fortunate enough to be hired to write about baseball for a living. Doing this for ten years earns one the privilege of deciding who gets to be in the Hall of fame. What?!? Clearly, these criteria for enfranchising voters are anachronistic and no longer serve any useful purpose. The task of correctly identifying worthy player for the hall of fame requires specialized knowledge that few among the current electorate possess: A strong knowledge of 142 years of professional baseball history; statistical acumen to interpret the findings from studies of the last 30 years; and a thorough knowledge of the players who are already in the Hall - who are the average hall of famers? Who are the mistakes?

We’re looking to cultivate an electorate of great baseball minds. And because great minds think alike, consensus will converge around the best choices for the Hall.

Where to start?

1. Invite more voters from outside of the BBWAA to join in with the writers’ vote: authors, bloggers and others with the requisite expertise.
2. Devise a simple survey for the current voters, to gauge which ones are truly interested in, and qualified for, electing players to the HOF.
3. Limit the electorate size, reserving 400 ballots each year for the best of the “BBWAA” voters.
4. Weed out voters with consistently low consensus score ballots.
5. Make a test: The BAT – Baseball Aptitude Test. Decide in what areas you’d like your voters to possess expert understanding and test for it. Put it online. Make it a really long, really tough, timed test. Two hundred questions, randomly distributed, pulled from a database containing thousands of questions: 50 history related, 50 stats related, 50 hall of fame related, 50 miscellaneous. Include a short essay: Why I’m qualified to be an elector for the HOF. You can take the test only one time each year. The top 200 scores each year get to be HOF voters for two years, together with the 400 established voters. Each year add another 200 voters. After their two-year term, voters may reapply by testing again.
   64. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: April 24, 2012 at 12:52 PM (#4114724)
@ DanG/63:

statistical acumen to interpret the findings from studies of the last 30 years


The big problem I have with this is the emphasis on "stats" and the obvious desire to get a more sabermetrically-inclined electorate. While I absolutely agree that there's a place in the HOF electorate for Bill James/Tom Tango/Rob Neyer, my big problem here is your emphasis on testing.

Stats testing, in 1991, would have required serious adherence to range factor as a measure of defensive ability. Baseball knowledge testing in 2001, assuming it was grounded in sabermetric orthodoxy, would have asserted that defensive prowess had little effect on the game; "Does a team suffer for playing Jeremy Giambi at shortstop?"

I think it's absolutely a good idea to expand the electorate, but I am very, very cautious of testing potential electors, particularly on the basis of a still-fuzzy field. The BBWAA has *generally* gotten their votes right. Most of the "mistake" Hall of Famers come from the Veteran's Committee. Frankly, this plan strikes me as a thinly veiled attempt at remodeling the HoF into a HoM, and I think that's *entirely* wrong.

   65. Loren F. Posted: April 24, 2012 at 02:12 PM (#4114825)
I agree that there is too much Murray Chass and not enough Rob Neyer in the BBWAA -- and heck, Chass isn't even the worst of the voters, given how many writers still have votes even though they don't actively follow MLB anymore or they care so little that they forget to put an eligible name like Rickey Henderson on their ballot, etc.

I don't know what the answer to that is -- well, unless we assume that the sabremetric movement will result in a different and (we hope) more thoughtful BBWAA populace in 2032. (Of course, by then the stat field will have developed further, so the HoF voters will be criticized for adherence to old concepts such as WAR, WARP2, and DIPS, and not having enough of a grasp of Wins Above Clubhouse Chemistry, Weighted Umpire Effects, or whatever cutting-edge ideas BBTF will be debating 20 years from now).

But I do know that standardized testing is not the answer. The idea that one could EASILY come up with a "fair" standardized test on baseball aptitude is ridiculous. This would open up multiple sets of cans of worms inside other cans of worms. Who would write the test each year? Who would appoint the people who would write the test each year? How would the Hall or the BBWAA decide that the test isn't unwittingly biased against certain demographics or certain approaches to baseball analysis ("Hey, this test short-changes Win Shares!")? And then who's going to "grade" these exams? At each juncture of generating or assessing such a test, there is the possibility of undue influence and/or gaming the system. Think of the debate that has for years surrounded standardized tests in the U.S. such as the SAT -- and now imagine if everyone who had an opinion on the SAT also had a regular published column. That's what BBWAA testing would be like, but worse and with poorer grammar.

As posters have already stated, the real problem with the Hall of Fame voting is that even if there were 100 names on each ballot every year, too many voters would still say that Jim Rice is more worthy of Cooperstown than Alan Trammell or Lou Whitaker. You're not going to change that by getting rid of the 10-year rule or by asking potential HoF voters questions about ballpark effect and On Base Pct.
   66. DanG Posted: May 09, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4127258)
Here's an addendum to the comparison of Matsui to corner outfielders in the HOF. McCarthy and Hafey are added, as well as the WAR update.

Player           WAR/pos OPS+  RC   PA   Age  HR RBI   BA  OBP  SLG
Hideki Matsui       20.1  120 753 4963 29
-37 173 753 .285 .363 .467
Tommy McCarthy       4.8  101 298 2107 29
-32  23 357 .313 .394 .411
Chick Hafey          8.4  125 269 1837 29
-34  37 215 .301 .359 .452
Ralph Kiner          9.3  129 368 2332 29
-32 112 330 .266 .380 .492
Chuck Klein         10.1  112 488 3433 29
-37 109 471 .279 .345 .450
Joe Kelley          10.1  117 372 3107 29
-36  13 326 .284 .358 .386
Hugh Duffy          11.2  106 404 3083 29
-37  33 533 .303 .363 .408
Joe Medwick         12.2  118 393 2820 29
-36  43 424 .305 .347 .429
Heinie Manush       15.7  113 624 4105 29
-37  44 555 .320 .365 .454
Willie Keeler       15.9  115 554 5049 29
-37  12 287 .305 .352 .357
Elmer Flick         17.0  149 308 2286 29
-34   9 208 .298 .371 .419
Jim Rice            17.0  120 635 4565 29
-36 169 720 .291 .351 .470
Hack Wilson         19.7  144 575 3023 29
-34 146 618 .307 .399 .549
Monte Irvin         20.1  125 455 2892 30
-37  99 443 .293 .383 .475
Andre Dawson        23.2  121 728 5219 29
-37 234 842 .277 .322 .486 

Even if Matsui is brought up by the Rays, as seems likely, it doesn't change the general point, that he deserves to be on the BBWAA ballot before playing in ten MLB seasons.
   67. DanG Posted: May 09, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4127264)
I contacted the HOF at the link in [#4]. Just a short note asking them to consider El Duque and sending a link to the article.

I received a quick reply:

Thank you for the note.

Please understand that the Hall of Fame is not -- and never has been --
involved in electing candidates for enshrinement.
It goes on to explain the Hall's elective bodies and linking me to the election rules. He talks about what a great honor being elected to the HOF is and concludes with:

Thank you for your interest in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Sincerely,
This led me to send this reply:

Thanks for the explanation, but it's not quite true to say: "the Hall of Fame is not -- and never has been --involved in electing candidates for enshrinement." Yes, the Hall has assigned the actual electing to the BBWAA. However, the RULES that govern those elections are set by you folks at the HOF. Here is Rule #9 of the BBWAA Election rules:

"9. Amendments: The Board of Directors of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc. reserves the right to revoke, alter or amend these rules at any time."

The topic I am addressing is a rules issue. That is, elimination or modification of the 10-years played requirement. The BBWAA can only follow the rules set by the HOF in this and other requirements.

Thus, the Hall cannot pass the buck to the BBWAA. If El Duque is to appear on the 2013 ballot, it is up to the Hall of Fame Board of Directors to modify the rules or to allow an exception.

The article I wrote argues for elimination of the 10-year rule and proposes four alternatives. In short, those are:

1) Make it a nine-years played rule to be eligible for the ballot.
2) Leave it to the present ballot committee to consider all retired players.
3) Let the fans vote to determine which newly eligible players make the ballot.
4) Establish objective criteria, statistical thresholds other than years played.

I suppose a fifth alternative would be to credit players with years played in foreign leagues, provided they played at least (say) five years in MLB.

I am hoping you would bring this issue to the attention of the Hall's Board and I encourage you to read the article at Baseball Think Factory, "Nine (Year) Men Out: Free El Duque!" The 10-year rule has the potential to cause controversy and embarrassment for the Hall and it would behoove the Board to consider a change in the rules before that occurs.
That was a week ago. I have heard nothing from them since then.

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