This essay mainly discusses the election of players eligible for Hall of Fame membership as Veterans in 2008. In other words, the players have been retired for at least 23 years and are no longer under the voting jurisdiction of the Baseball Writers having the initial selection responsibilities.
After the debacle resulting from the 2006 voting on Hall of Fame Veterans (again no players inducted), important procedural changes were adopted. These most recent changes became effective for the first time this year regarding players (last year for managers/umpires and executives/pioneers). The pressures for change probably arose because post-2000 procedural revisions did not produce any inductions in 2002, 2004 or 2006.
Essentially, in the process for Veterans, separate voting categories have been established for players (two groups); umpires and managers; executives and pioneers. Starting this year, players whose careers began in 1942 or earlier will be evaluated every five years. The Historical Overview Committee of the Baseball Writers’ Association identified 10 candidates from that time frame. Another committee of 12 makes the final decisions regarding the 10 finalists. This committee consists of appointed Hall of Fame members, media members and historians. Electors may vote for zero to four candidates and successful candidates require 75% voting support.
The procedures are somewhat different for players whose careers began in 1943 or later. The Historical Overview Committee and a separate Hall of Fame screening committee create a ballot of 20 – 25 candidates. Each living member of the Hall casts a ballot ranking 10 of the candidates in order of preference. Thereafter, the members cast final ballots for zero to four of the 10 finalists, with 75% required for induction.
Voting results in both categories will be announced in December and inductions of successful Veterans, if any, will take place in July, 2009.
Last year, under the new procedures, two managers and two executives gained induction. Perhaps these “new new” changes may benefit deserving players as well.
The finalists in each of the player categories were announced recently. The pre-1943 and post-1942 groups are discussed separately.
The Pre-1943 Finalists
The 10 finalists are listed by primary position and chronologically
|Carl Mays (SP)||(1915-29)|
|Wes Ferrell (SP)||(1927-41)|
|Bucky Walters (SP)||(1934-48, 50)|
|Allie Reynolds (SP)||(1942-54)|
|Mickey Vernon (1B)||(1939-43, 46-60)|
|Joe Gordon (2B)||(1938-43, 46-50)|
|Bill Dahlen (SS)||(1891-1911)|
|Vern Stephens (SS)||(1941-55)|
|Deacon White (3B)||(1871-90)|
|Sherry Magee (OF)||(1904-19)|
If you read my book or visited my website, you probably know that my top 25 Veterans from the 1901-1972 time period included 10 players from pre-1943. Six of my top 10 did not qualify as finalists this year.
- Allie Reynolds – SP
- Joe Gordon – 2B
- *Stan Hack – 3B (1932-47)
- *Bob Johnson – OF (1933-45)
- Vern Stephens – SS
- Wes Ferrell – SP
- *Firpo Marberry – RP (1923-36)
- *Bob Elliott – 3B (1939-53)
- *Dom DiMaggio – OF (1940-42; 46-53)
- *Marty Marion – SS (1940-53)
- (*indicates non-finalists for 2008)
I like the idea of establishing the two relevant time frames for Veterans. A player’s stature among contemporaries or near-contemporaries is one of my most important evaluation areas and shortening the time frames permits more focused consideration.
However, this group should be evaluated more frequently than every five years, particularly if no one is inducted in a particular election. I would favor the same frequency as for other Veterans, but at least every three years. Note that managers/umpires and executives/pioneers continue to be evaluated every two years. Why provide such limited consideration only for this group of players?
As an aside, the list of pre-1943 finalists provides more evidence as to the lack of strong institutional consensus regarding Hall of Fame qualifications. (See later discussion regarding post-1942 list.) Under the post-2000 procedures, and until this year, similar committees (probably including most or many of the same members) – have been nominating leading Veterans from among all eligible players. Prior to this year, the nominations involved all retiring in the late 1970’s or early to mid-1980’s. This year, separate nomination lists have been created for pre-1943 and post-1942 players.
All the pre-1943 candidates were eligible and identifiable in 2002 and thereafter. Performances were completed long ago. One would expect that a pre-1943 player found qualified to be included among the top 25 Veterans then eligible in 2002, 2004 and/or 2006 also would qualify now as a top 10 among pre-1943 players. (Since 2002, the lists of the top 25 Veterans have never included more than 10 pre-1943 players.) One would also expect that pre-1943 players now ranked top 10 for that time frame would have been nominated at least once before among the top 25 of all Veterans.
Mays, Ferrell and Gordon all were nominated in 2002, 2004 and 2006. Reynolds and Vernon were nominated once previously. Walters, Dahlen, Stephens, White and Magee appear now for the first time. Marty Marion was nominated in 2002, 2004 and 2006, but is not on the present list of finalists.
The people formulating these lists are “experts” and among the most informed people on earth regarding Hall of Fame qualifications. They have my utmost respect and deserve high esteem for their work products. The fact that their lists have so many players coming in and out each year, reflects not the lack of skilled evaluations, but more on the lack of institutional consensus regarding HOF standards. Also, I consider my evaluations to be thoughtful and well considered. In addition to Vern Stephens, my top 10 from this time period includes four others never previously nominated.
Hall of Fame standards really shouldn’t be so mysterious. Leading candidates should be easier to identify according to well established principles. Within narrow ranges of discretion, those who go to the trouble of doing the necessary research ought to be able to identify the leaders with high degrees of consistency. As much as reaching conclusions about the individuals under consideration, we ought to be able to state specific reasons why some are ahead and others behind. Whether you agree to disagree with my lists, be assured, I can provide such specifics.
My book mainly concerned players performing mainly during some portion of the eras from 1901-1972. Thus, Bill Dahlen received only limited attention because so many of his best seasons were before 1901. Deacon White wasn’t discussed at all because he played from 1871 – 1890.
I could devote an entire essay to Bill Dahlen. Many prominent evaluators strongly advocate his cause, and I respect their opinions. But, the Hall already includes five shortstops who were Dahlen’s contemporaries or near contemporaries. The 1890-1909 timeframe is well represented and I find little indication that Dahlen meets standards of “highly select” or “historical”, at least not nearly to the same extent as others who rank top 10. My conclusions about Deacon White are similar. Outstanding players? Yes! Extremely qualified for this Hall of Fame? Probably not.
Naturally, I am particularly pleased by the inclusions of Allie Reynolds and Vern Stephens among the top 10. Reynolds was a nominee among all Veterans in 2002, but was dropped for 2004 and 2006. Stephens never before gained listing among the top Veterans.
I also commend the inclusion of Sherry Magee. Upon further consideration, I believe my original rankings under-value Magee. Because he ranks among the two or three leading National League batters of the “Dead Ball Era”, his credentials deserve more attention.
Pre-1943 Eligible Veterans
History as Finalists In Recent Elections
(By Position and Chronologically)
Positions as Election Finalists
1 – 2004
4 – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008
4 – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008
1 – 2008
2 – 2002, 2008
2 – 2006, 2008
4 – 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008
1 – 2008
1 – 2006
3 – 2002, 2004, 2006
1 – 2008
1 – 2008
1 – 2008
1 – 2002
1 – 2002
The Post-1942 Finalists and Others Considered
The 10 finalists from post-1942 include seven players in my top 10. I rank Steve Garvey, Ken Boyer and Roger Maris ahead of Luis Tiant, Vada Pinson and Al Oliver. These three additions all ranked among the top 21 nominees who survived the initial screening process before the reduction to 10 finalists.
My lists have been adjusted to reflect the effects of the new procedures in establishing two performance groups. Also, several candidates were eligible in 2006, but not considered in my book which evaluated players performing mainly from 1901 through 1972. They and some newly eligible candidates have been evaluated for this year.
My leaders remain unchanged: Ron Santo, Maury Wills and Gil Hodges. Jim Kaat moves up to fourth because Allie Reynolds, Joe Gordon and Stan Hack are now in the pre-1943 group.I continue to believe Joe Torre should be certain to gain induction because of his combined achievements as player and manager. My rankings are based on playing only, and I believe Torre is HOF qualified much more for managing than as a player. Considering both facets, he ranks first or second.
Roger Maris presents very thin mainstream features, but is strong in historical. If you aren’t big on history as a major basis for HOF induction, add Al Oliver to top 10.
Leading Players for Hall of Fame Consideration as Veterans —
Careers Beginning In or After 1943
|Finalists for 2008 Election||Other Candidates om Top 21|
|(Listed by Position and Chronologically)||(Listed by Position and Chronologically)|
|SP||Jim Kaat||Mickey Lolich|
|Luis Tiant||Mike Cuellar|
|C||Joe Torre||Thurman Munson|
|1B||Gil Hodges||Ted Kluszewski|
|Dick Allen||Lee May|
|SS||Maury Wills||Bert Campaneris|
|3B||Ron Santo||Ken Boyer|
|OF||Vada Pinson||Minnie Minoso|
|Tony Oliva||Rocky Colavito|
|Al Oliver||Roger Maris|
|Top 10||Second Ten|
|(In Order)||(By Position and Chronologically)|
|1.||Ron Santo – 3B||SP –||xDon Newcombe|
|2.||Maury Wills – SS||Mickey Lolich|
|3.||Gil Hodges – 1B||Luis Tiant|
|4.||Jim Kaat – SP||C -||Thurman Munson|
|5.||**Steve Garvey – 1B||1B –|
|6.||Tony Oliva – OF||2B –|
|7.||**Ken Boyer – 3B||SS –|
|8.||Joe Torre - C||3B -||xAl Rosen|
|9.||Dick Allen – 1B||OF -||xDel Ennis|
|10.||**Roger Maris – OF||Minnie Minoso|
** - Indicates not included among HOF finalists, but included in top 21
x - Indicates not included in HOF top 21
The Search for Specific HOF Standards
The HOF processes would benefit from more specificity and consensus as to standards. Voters should be able to articulate, at least to themselves, exactly why they approve or reject particular candidates and exactly why such candidates rank ahead of or behind others.
Veterans have been considered and rejected by the Writers; almost all have been evaluated and rejected as Veterans more than once. Why should they be inducted now? One justification for continuing review is that I believe the baseball family still needs more consensus regarding HOF standards and, once such consensus is firmly established, all eligibles deserve reasonable consideration under those standards.
Without going into depth, let me review some of my basics. The HOF represents the games highest honor. The Hall should be viewed as a “highly select” honorary society. This conclusion is supported by the vigorous induction procedures (e.g., 75% voting requirements; ballot limits) and most of the precedent. Most of the exceptions to “highly-select” precedents involve inductions at second stage regarding Old Timers and Veterans. It is neither necessary nor wise to perpetuate erroneous or marginal judgments. Thus, it should never be sufficient for induction merely that a candidate seemingly compares favorably to a member, particularly a member at the lower ends of the HOF hierarchy.
Most HOF members present specific all-star type features of “enormous” quality raising them far above most outstanding players and linking them to other Hall of Famers, particularly members at or near the higher end of the HOF hierarchy. Members considered to be among the top 100 players of the past century or similar in quality present highly relevant measuring standards. Some candidates who might not qualify as all stars, still may warrant consideration for features of “high historical importance”. It is also necessary to consider both positive and negative features. Many candidacies are and should be damaged severely by weaknesses or deficiencies.
So we come to it: determine the 10 finalists in each group; then decide which, if any, are qualified. There may not be 10 viable candidates in each of these two groups. There should be some, but not nearly the maximum. Yet, by identifying the 10 leaders, important progress is made. I believe that quality evaluations are hindered by the existence of so many candidates with “mentionable” credentials who fall clearly short of “highly select”. If a Veteran can’t rank top 10 now, when, if ever, can he ever rank top 10? He can’t receive votes without such ranking. Thus, those who do not receive top 10 ranking or at least present features arguably supporting such ranking can be excluded from consideration.
There are important differences in identifying finalists and in determining whether any finalists deserve induction. The questions are different. Who among the eligibles should be considered to be among the 10 most qualified? Regardless of the perceived degrees of qualifications presented by each candidate, by rule, a fixed number of finalists must be identified. Once, the finalists are identified, the issues focus on qualifications for the game’s highest honor. In any given election, several may be deemed qualified and deserving of induction; none may be worthy. Which finalists, if any, are worthy of highest honor?
Here is another good example of the lack of consensus regarding HOF standards. Often there are other good reasons for changes in the post-1943 lists. New candidates become eligible in each election and may be favored ahead of previous finalists. However, the most recent results regarding post-1942 players confirm my concerns about vagueness. For the second time, one of the two screening committees ranked a candidate among the top five, and the other committee didn’t include that player in its top 20. A similar situation occurred in 2002.
There is another value in this process which I may discuss further in a future book. The process creates a form of official HOF “under-class”: players falling short of “ultra-elite” HOF standards, but deserving permanent remembrance as players of high career distinction.
ConclusionAs always, I welcome comments or suggestions. I hope this discussion stimulates thought and response.