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Should the Hall of Fame lower its voting standards?

Feb 21, 2011, 10:54 AM EDT


Friends of HBT Bill and The Common Man — proprietors of the Platoon Advantage blog — are writing over at ESPN’s Sweet Spot today.  Their big conversation starter of the day: a proposal for the Hall of Fame to lower the bar.  This, Bill and TCM argue, will help alleve the giant backlog that many have identified as a major problem with future Hall of Fame ballots:

So, to combat the problem, we propose a simple solution: The Hall of Fame should lower the voting threshold needed to elect a candidate from three-fourths of BBWAA voters to two-thirds.

Before you go screaming about this, know this tidbit that Bill and TCM point out: almost everyone who has ever gotten two-thirds of the vote has eventually gotten in anyway. As such, rather than lowering the actual quality of Hall of Fame inductees, it would merely lower the amount of time it would take to get the current quality of players inducted. Rather than let in the unworthy, it would merely eliminate that last year or two in which players who are destined for induction anyway are pushed over the current 75% threshold.  Think of it as eliminating one of those  years everyone spent arguing for Bert Blyleven. Think of it as cutting off the small cadre of dead enders who penalized Roberto Alomar last year from exacting their moral price.

I’m struggling to think of any real problems with this apart from that of perception, but perception would be a huge problem.  It would certainly be spun as the Hall of cheapening its standards, even if no one who wouldn’t have otherwise gotten in gets in now.  Unfortunately I think this perception problem would be enough to render the proposal dead on arrival.

Really, the practical way to deal with this is to reform the voting pool, not the voting standards.  The actual working baseball writers — the ones who vote on awards and follow the game closely — tend to do a damn fine job when it comes to this sort of thing.  The problems, it seems, tend to come from guys who last  covered baseball during the Ford administration and hold on to their Hall of Fame voting privileges despite the fact that they now do the senior beat at the Southeast Valley Suburban Advertiser or whatever.

Food for thought, though.

  1. JBerardi - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Another idea that’s far too good to try.

  2. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    I didn’t realize some in the voting pool were that far off the map.

  3. BC - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    I say do it!
    Otis Nixon for the Hall Of Fame!

  4. aronmantoo - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    The Rock and Roll HOF lowered it’s standards by letting hip hoppers in so I would never go there.To me the HOF is a shrine and only the best of the best should be there, Unfortantly when the first admittef “juicer” is inducted? The HOF automatilly lowered it’s standards. A juicer who enhanced his stats and cheated the game can get in but Pete Rose who didn’t cheat the game can”t? To be honest I don’t like Pete rose the man, But Pete Rose the player? He should be in there

    • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:13 AM

      This is a joke, right. “Letting in the hip hoppers?” Sweet googly-moogly.

      No admitted juicers have been let in the Hall, although there are plenty of admitted amphetamine users already enshrined. And we have nothing besides Rose’s word that he didn’t cheat the game. Given how much he’s lied in the past, how much is that word worth?

      Finally, as we point out in the piece, and Craig reiterates above, this proposal would do nothing to change the pool of players elected to the Hall, since everyone who gets 2/3 of the votes already gets in anyway.

      • aronmantoo - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM

        My reference to Hip Hoppers in the Rock and Roll hall of fame was just a comparison of HOF’S

      • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:41 AM

        A ridiculous comparison. Your preference for other kinds of music doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is watered down, any more than my lack of enthusiasm for the Bee-Gees makes it less relevant. God forbid you should be exposed to “Hip Hoppers!” That’s like a Red Sox fan saying they’d never go to Cooperstown because of all the damn Yankees there.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:33 PM

        “Letting in the hip hoppers?” Sweet googly-moogly.”

        LMAO!!! never ever use quotes from you children’s television shows if you want to be taken seriously…. What’s that from??? It has to be from Oswald, that wierd octopus thing that walks a hot dog dog in a bun, around right.?

      • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:42 PM

        I have no idea, Jonny. I picked it up somewhere.

      • Jonny 5 - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        The beast in “Maggie and the ferocious beast” I knew I’d figure it out.

      • Panda Claus - Feb 21, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        I’m pretty sure the Grady character from the Sanford and Son TV series used that “googly-moogly” term frequently.

      • cur68 - Feb 21, 2011 at 5:04 PM

        ‘googly moogly’ enjoys a steady income on Frank Cho’s excellent comic strip Liberty Meadows. I want someone to resurrect “jumping jehosaphat” because I think that’s what all those old time sport writers will say when someone reads Craig’s post to them. That and “over my dead body, dadgummit!”

  5. largebill - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    It is bad enough that some feel there is a difference between a first ballot guy and a guy elected on his eight time on the ballot. Also, while the thought is that it wouldn’t necessarily lower the standards because of past voting showing players getting X% always eventually clear 75% that fails to account for the effect of some players leaving the ballot sooner. Someone with time on their hands could go back and attempt to calculate how players X, Y, & Z being elected a year or two earlier may have affected the candidacy of players S, T, & U. Current example would show how if Blyleven had been elected two years earlier then Morris may have gotten a boost from those who would look at his win total and mistakenly believe he was the best pitcher on the ballot.

    The upcoming glut of greats players entering the ballot in a couple seasons will bring a big push to make changes to the system. I hope they don’t make the mistake of making a permanent change to fix a temporary problem. If the concern is ensuring the right players are enshrined then the concern should be on those who fall off the ballot without a proper review. Bonds, Clemens, Johnson, Glavine, Piazza, Thomas, etc, etc, etc, all showing in a short span could knock players off the ballot prematurely. I’d suggest some players may need to be restored to the ballot after the glut is cleared.

  6. okobojicat - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:17 AM

    The best solution I’ve heard so far, was if a player got 90% of the vote, and you didn’t vote for them, you lose your vote.

    Perception is everything, and this would give the perception that players after Year X had it easier to get into the HoF. Which is a bad thing.

  7. paperlions - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    In addition to the writers that haven’t covered baseball in decades, there are a lot of voters that have NEVER covered baseball (i.e. sport page editors, some of which aren’t even sports fans). There is an incredible amount of voters that really have no idea what they are doing.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:26 AM

      Why on earth is that?

      • paperlions - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:31 AM

        You’d have to ask the BBWAA.

    • largebill - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:45 PM


      Believe you’re misinformed on that issue. There are no voters who NEVER covered baseball. You have to be a regular beat writer covering a team to gain admission to BBWAA. Any sports page editors who have votes got admitted to the BBWAA before being promoted to the editor’s desk. You have to be a member of the BBWAA for ten years before you can vote for HoF. By then some have moved to covering other sports or supervisory positions. However, as long as you continue to pay dues you continue to be a member in good standing. Biggest problem I see with the voting pool is the exclusivity to BBWAA members. When the process started radio was young, TV hadn’t been invented and no one could even dream of internet. We are long past the day to include guys like Vin Scully, Bill James, etc. Larger the voting pool the less likely a mistake.

      • paperlions - Feb 21, 2011 at 4:46 PM

        No, you don’t. Editors of sports pages also are awarded ballots, and once awarded they are NEVER taken away, even decades after the editors move on to edit non-sports content.

  8. usuomojinga - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    It seems extremely unlikely that it would not increase the number of people inducted. To take the 2011 ballot, 28% of all votes cast were for Blyleven and Alomar. If they had gotten in the year before, doesn’t it seem likely that those votes would have gone (in some part, at least) to other players, thereby increasing their chances of election?

    • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:54 AM

      Not necessarily. Most writers do not use all ten spaces on their ballots anyway, and will already only vote for a candidate or two they find worthy, with a random mercy vote for BJ Surhoff every now and again.

    • usuomojinga - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      Just to give an example, Alomar had 90% this year while Morris had 53.5%. That means at least 35.5% of the electorate voted for Alomar and not Morris. If Alomar is not on the ballot, what are the chances that 13.2%, or roughly a third of those who only voted for Alomar, decide, hey, I need to vote for somebody, and vote for Morris. Suddenly, your system has created a Hall of Famer that otherwise might not have made it (and one who embodies many people’s idea of what the Hall should not be).

      • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM

        That means no such thing. Some voters may have voted for Morris, but not Alomar. In fact, I guarantee that some numbskull did that. Historically, the thing that you’re suggesting has never happened.

      • usuomojinga - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

        The fact that there were voters who only voted for Morris, which I agree is likely to have happened, only increases the possibility that Alomar voters would have added Morris to their ballots if Alomar wasn’t there.

        There reason what I’m suggesting has never happened is because your system has never been in place. Just think of the answers to these questions:
        1. What are the odds Morris will get in under the current system?
        2. What are the odds Morris would have gotten in this year at a 2/3 threshold if Alomar and Blyleven were not on the ballot?

      • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:28 PM

        I don’t see how that necessarily increases the odds that those writers will vote for Morris. Certainly, there is a general upward trend to HOF candidates who get a high number of votes, but writers are free to decide to vote for as many or as few candidates as they like. It doesn’t necessarily hold that they’d change their minds on Morris just because Blyleven wasn’t around anymore. Morris doesn’t look any better by comparison now that Bert’s in, does he? He still looks like a far more inferior pitcher from where I sit.

  9. diamondduq - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    A better idea would be to increase the floor needed to stay on the ballot to 50% and decrease the amount of time on the ballot to 5 years. Expedite the process a little bit. For example, it’s apparent McGwire isn’t getting in so get him off the ballot. Honestly, if you’re not even a 50/50 HOFer you have no business being in the conversation and if in 5 years 2 yes voters can’t convince one of 2 no voters that someone is a HOFer then they probably weren’t. Everyone wants to lower the standards to be more inclusive rather than having a hard line to maintain quality and while I understand the point being made in this post and don’t consider that necessarily lowering the bar, although it’s fairly sketchy, certain guys who have gotten in recently and far too many who have been put into the HOF by the veterans committee have diluted the quality of the HOF. In another 20 years we should rename the HOF the “Hall of Guys We Got Tired of Hearing the B!tching About”.

    • billtpa - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

      This would be a good idea after the drastic improvement in the voting pool Craig talks about. In a world where an obvious Hall of Famer like Lou Whitaker can’t even get 5%, relying on half of these idiots to get it right on the first try is exceptionally foolish.

    • The Common Man/ - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:02 PM

      How about “The Hall of Players Who We Were Totally Wrong About For 10 Years and Are Just Now Pulling Our Heads Out of Our Asses For”? That rings a little truer to me.

  10. Panda Claus - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:58 AM

    Wait! Are you suggesting there are actually voting standards in place already? If not, how else could they be lowered to begin with?

    I thought HoF voting was done entirely by the “dipping the big toe in the water” method employed individually by the approximately 500 or so voters. It seems to be done 100% by whatever touch ‘n feel methods the voters choose to use.

    Documented standards. Now that’s a idea to start with.

  11. Charles Gates - Feb 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    There’s the Hall of Fame Museum, which is really interesting. Then there’s the boring marble hallway with some faces stuck to the wall.
    Decide who gets a somewhat funny looking bust however you want. I don’t think I much care. The process is political, self-aggrandizing and driven by self motivation- tangential at best- to the cherishment of the game.
    Bill and The Common Man (I sincerely hope his real name is Ted) seem to have a pretty well thought out argument. But, without looking at the math, to what degree of moot does it become if we fix the pool of voters in the first place?

  12. hardjudge - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Let it be a Hall of Fame for Baseball Performance and if they want a HOF for moral uprightness they can have a separate one. Without Pete Rose the HOF is a joke.

    • Panda Claus - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      I agree with your assessment on the Hall without Pete. The Hall of Great Players for Sustained Periods of Time doesn’t exist. That’s what some writers will try to convince us the Hall is, but not having Pete and probably not Roger, Mark, Barry and a few others makes the Hall lacking.

      Did those last three guys jack up bigger numbers because of supplements or drugs they took? Probably so. So then throw out their records. But you’ll have a hard time convincing me there were four more Famous or deserving players than those guys.

      But maybe that’s just my tangent. Back to the main topic.

  13. Jonny 5 - Feb 21, 2011 at 12:46 PM

    It’s not a bad idea. I’d much rather see much more coordinated discussion leading up to voting.
    Such as an open forum for discussion on HOF voting that year, like a blog, newsletter, or whatever. You have to take the stats, and whatever other bs standards there are, and discuss them with the other voters. There will be arguing, there will be name calling, but what it will do is give the voters who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about when it comes to baseball some real tangible info to make their decision. Let’s face it. Many of these voters probably need this stuff spelled out for them. I don’t know if going from 75% to 66.666666666666666666666% will help much, unless Lucifer was in the running… It would “speed things along”, where “making it better” would be the best.

  14. simplicitymadecomplex - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:17 PM

    Maybe, just maybe, the use of the verb “to lower” is part of “our” concerns ? The better verb to use would be “to change” said standards. However, given that there are no [NONE] defined “standards” including what it really means “to be human and play baseball for one’s daily bread” then maybe there is nothing to change.

    In fact to continue to vote for baseball HoFers on the “perception” of their achievements is just asking for major cockups. Then again any cockup helps any “bread & circus” environment. Then again this entire mess does help re-enforce the real, true STANDARD which is everything is connected.

    James Hall.

  15. schrutebeetfarms - Feb 21, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    What backlog? They only voted in two people this year. Did they mean the NFL hall of fame because there’s no backlog in baseball.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 21, 2011 at 3:40 PM

      No, they are talking about future ballots, hence the comment by Craig “will help alleve the giant backlog that many have identified as a major problem with future Hall of Fame ballots“. That link sends you to a Rob Neyer piece where he estimates that in 2014 we could have as many as 21 worthy HoFers on the ballot.

      • yb8gc - Feb 22, 2011 at 5:39 PM

        So there’s a backlog, big deal. The most worthy will still get in on the first ballot and the rest will just have to wait a few years, there’s no shame in that (except for the voters who use a first-ballot no-vote to send a message, the message being that they have no business deciding who is worthy of the hall, or blank ballot voters who fear a unanimous selection, but that’s another matter). There’s bound to be a slowdown at some point over the next 15 years, so it’s not like anyone who had a chance will just fall off without getting any consideration (though that doesn’t mean that worthy players won’t still drop off after their first year like they have in the past). The only impact is on the lesser borderline players who manage around 20% when there are few players to choose from; in 2014, they will be fighting to just get 5% because voters with any sense will be using their 10 slots more wisely. I would rather see the top end spend more time in the pool (and have to solidify their HoF cases) than spend years arguing which good-but-not-great player should be honored when there’s nobody compelling on the ballot (even if that means letting guys like Blyleven take their chances with the Veterans Committee).

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