The Circle of Greats: A Proposal

The prospect of an upcoming Hall of Fame voting process that may now be preoccupied for years by PEDs issues rather than more sporting matters, provokes me to suggest the creation of an alternative “all-timer” voting process for High Heat Stats (HHS) readers.  My proposal is that readers vote every few weeks, in response to a series of posts, to elect one MLB player to an HHS “Circle of Greats” until we have reached a number inducted that is equal to the number of players that the BBWAA has elected to the official Hall of Fame over the years.  As of today, that’s 112 players.  Specifics of the proposal are after the jump.

Here’s my proposal as to how the voting would work.  I welcome proposed revisions.

Each vote would include as eligible for induction all the players born in a particular calendar year, as long as they meet the Hall of Fame’s minimum criteria that they played at least 10 seasons in the major leagues.  We would start with a first vote that would include players born in calendar year 1968 (players who have turned or will turn 44 years old in 2012).  Subsequent voting rounds would proceed backwards in time, adding a new year with each round of voting, so that in the second voting round, players born in 1967 would become eligible, the third round would bring in players born in 1966, and so on.

Each voter (and anyone registered to comment here at HHS could vote) would be allowed, and required, to put three players on his or her ballot.  Ballots with fewer than, or more than, three eligible players would not be counted as valid ballots.  During each round of voting, the one player who is named on the most ballots would be inducted into the Circle of Greats.  All players who are named on at least 20% of all valid ballots cast, but fail to win the election, would have their eligibility carried over to the next voting round.  All players named on at least 50% of ballots in any round, without getting elected, would receive an automatic eligibility extension of four voting rounds (unless of course they win an election in the meantime).  These eligibility extensions would be cumulative, so that a player who appears on 50% of the ballots in the “born-in-1968” round of voting without winning induction and then does the same in the “born-in-1967” round, would hold an eligibility extension that would keep him  eligible all the way through the born-in-1960 round.

Proposed guidelines for voting would be as follows.  The goal is to include the “greatest” players in the major leagues since the late 19th century. The absence of provision for Negro League players is not intended to condone in any way the many years of apartheid engaged in by organized baseball; it’s only to acknowledge the fact that the Hall of Fame itself has been recognizing the top players of the Negro Leagues, and I, personally at least, don’t feel like I have anything useful to add to that effort.  I also suggest that we limit our criteria to just a player’s contributions as a player, not as a manager, coach, executive, announcer, journalist, etc..  Aside from those general guidelines, it would be up to each voter to determine his or her own criteria for a player’s “greatness”.

To give an example of how the voting would work, here are alphabetical lists of the players who would be eligible in the first round of voting (born in 1968, played at least ten seasons in the majors):

Position Players:
Roberto Alomar
Carlos Baerga
Jeff Bagwell
Derek Bell
Chad Curtis
Tom Goodwin
Dave Hansen
Jeff Kent
Chuck Knoblauch
Randy Knorr
Derrick May
Brett Mayne
Jose Offerman
John Olerud
Keith Osik
Dean Palmer
Eddie Perez
Mike Piazza
Curtis Pride
Tim Salmon
Gary Sheffield
J.T. Snow
Sammy Sosa
Matt Stairs
Ed Taubensee
Frank Thomas
Jose Vizcaino
Bernie Williams

Pitchers:
Pedro Astacio
Rod Beck
Brain Bohanon
Giovanni Carrara
Mark Clark
Scott Erickson
Chris Haney
Pat Hentgen
Todd Jones
Darryl Kile
Curt Leskanic
Al Levine
Ramon Martinez
Kent Mercker
Davew Mlicki
Mike Mussina
Denny Neagle
Hideo Nomo
Paul Qunatrill
Scott Radinsky
Shane Reynolds
Rudy Seanez
Brian Shouse
Russ Springer
Rick White
Mike Williams

Choosing the three guys on your ballot out of this group would be an interesting problem.  Bagwell, Alomar, the Big Hurt, Piazza, Sheffield, Kent and Sosa, Olerud perhaps  — all may well have their serious partisans for the three-man ballot.  On the pitching side, Mussina looks like the class of the group, to me anyway.  But for now, I’m not asking  for debate on who should be elected or included on ballots from this group — I’m just using this class as an example of how the process would work.  If, let’s say, Frank Thomas appears on the most ballots, he would be elected as the first member of our Circle of Greats. If, let’s say, Alomar loses to Thomas but is named on at least half of the three-man ballots, he will continue to be eligible during at least the next four votes, and perhaps more if he continues to be mentioned on a significant number of of ballots in future votes.  If, let’s say, Mussina and Sheffield each are included on just enough ballots to make the 20% threshold  each would continue to be eligible in the next round, but would drop off thereafter unless they again make it over 20%.  In that next vote all the guys born in 1967 with ten seasons in the majors (e.g., Smoltz, Lofton, Vizquel…) would also become eligible.

Once every certain number of voting rounds we may want to have a special re-eligibility vote in which guys no longer eligible could be nominated for re-eligibility, and the player named on the most ballots would go back into the eligibility mix.  If there is a tie in the highest number of votes in any round, there would be a run-off round of voting requiring a head-to-head choice between the tied players to see who gets inducted.

The main goal is to provoke some lively thinking and discussion requiring evaluation of the comparative “greatness” among groups of guys who are not necessarily subjects of frequent direct competitive comparison.  Note that the three-men-on-a-ballot approach, and the mandate of one and only one elected player per round,  requires somewhat more competitive evaluation than the BBWAA’s more open-ended form of balloting.

Suggestions for tweaks to this proposal, or wholesale changes, or just plain vicious attacks on the whole idea, are welcome.

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63 Comments on "The Circle of Greats: A Proposal"

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Adam Darowski
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Oh god, I don’t know how to pick only three. I’d be so afraid somebody good would fall off. I think this approach makes it way too easy.

Two problems I have with the current voting process is:
– Limit to how many players you can vote for
– Ten year maximum

This retains both, which makes me a bit sad.

mosc
Guest

I agree, the 10 year minimum is unneeded and 3 people on a ballot is way too small.

Ed
Guest
I don’t have a problem with the 10 year minimum. There were nearly 200 players born in 1968. Seeing as how most of them have 0 chance of election, what’s the point of including them on the ballot? I also don’t have a problem with only voting for three candidates. Though if only one person is being elected at a time, I suggest we rank order our choices. My other suggestion is that we specify a number of players to be carried over to the next vote, rather than basing it on a percentage of the vote. Otherwise, you could… Read more »
Nick Pain
Guest

You beat me to it in regards to the minimum Ed. I blame Internet Explorer.

Ed
Guest

No worries Nick. I think we’ve all done it from time to time.

Anyway, Doug’s #4 reinforces my final point above. There are some weak birth years and unless we have procedures in place to guarantee that players get carried over, a non-preferred candidate from a weak birth year may make it in over a preferred candidate from a strong birth year.

Nick Pain
Guest

The reason I see a limit as being necessary is if the player list will be pre-populated. Without some sort of threshhold, the list of players could prove to be unwieldy. For example, there were 185 players born in 1968 who played in the majors. The above list is more manageable.

Not necessarily advocating a minimum, but pointing out the potential need for one.

I would like more than three votes, however.

Dr. Doom
Guest

I don’t have a problem with the 3-player limit… BUT only if we insist on electing 3 players every round, regardless of their percentage (or at least 2 players). If we’re hoping for 75% agreement to get inducted, unless you’re Willie Mays or Hank Aaron, you ain’t gettin’ voted in. I honestly can’t imagine ever having more than 20-25 players IN TOTAL, once all rounds are complete. So I agree with y’all.

Ed
Guest

There’s no 75% requirement in Birtelcom’s proposal. It’s whoever has the most votes. Also, if we elect 3 players every round that means we’re only getting back to players born in about 1931 before our hall is full.

PP
Guest

I believe the Hall of Merit carries everyone eligible (and not elected) forward, which seems too much as many players continue to linger on the list without any chance of ever being elected, though 3 here seems too little. Maybe top 10?

Mike G.
Guest
First, let me say I love this idea and I’ll be voting no matter what the process is. As to the process, I don’t have a problem with the 10-year minimum. We’re only talking about the top 112 players. The top 112 players by WAR end at 62. If Addie Joss (43 WAR) is the highest 9-or-less player, I’m fine with a 10-year limit. I agree, though, that having a limit on the number of players to vote for would be a problem for me. If there were four candidates on the list I wanted to vote for, I’d have… Read more »
Brendan Bingham
Guest
I would like to second Mike’s idea about establishing a set number of “hangovers” from one ballot to the next, and 10 seems about right to me, although a large number, 15 perhaps, also works. In birth years with multiple deserving candidates, there will be room for several to go forward to the next ballot. Years with no deserving candidates (see Doug’s list below) will be shut out. I don’t think it matters much how many players a voter votes for. If the rule is that in each year’s election one player gets elected and 10 others advance to the… Read more »
Ed
Guest

I think Brendan raises a fair point re: starting in ’68 and working backwards means that at least 9 players born in the 60s will get elected.

An alternative would be simply to select years at random. You’d have to ensure that the first few years selected had multiple strong candidates but otherwise I think randomly selecting the years would work fine.

Mike G.
Guest
I tried simulating a draft, simply based on picking the player with the highest WAR each year, and seeing how to get the top 112 players (all-time). As of 1931, 38 players were elected, but 58 had WARs in the top 112, meaning we’d need. The bottom 16 of those — Larkin@67.1 through Nettles@62.8 — are lower than all of those elected by ’31, but then start filling in gaps starting in 1925. From 1925 down to 1904, I had 13 of those 16 get elected. Here’s another few ideas: The votes proceed as normal through 1896. Then, start putting… Read more »
Bryan O'Connor
Editor

Noodles Hahn agrees with Adam.

Adam Darowski
Guest

And Nap Rucker!

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Topical:
Regarding the newest Hall of Famer Deacon White.

I wondered how the writers could quantify the meaning of the career of someone who did his best work in the 1870’s. Turns out there’s a well-documented narrative of his place in history:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Deacon_White
_____________

I also find it notable that in 1879 he was the 6th Oldest player in the league – at age 32.

Mike L
Guest

Voomo-life expectancy for white males in 1870 (born after the civil war) was about 44+ years.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Well, Deacon was an outlier.
Was still playing ball (Elmira of the NYPL) at age 43
And he lived to 91 (while reportedly believing that the Earth was flat).

Adam Darowski
Guest

This is an excellent article, too. http://sabr.org/research/deacon-white-overlooked-19th-century-legend

I wrote a bit from a saber-perspective, too: http://www.hallofstats.com/player/whitede01

Doug
Editor
Currently, only Barry Larkin (1964) and Roberto Alomar (1968) are HOFers born in 1961 or later. The following birth years prior to 1961 currently have no HOFers represented. – 1957, 1952, 1950, 1948, 1941, 1933, 1932, 1930, 1924 – 1885, 1883, 1882, 1877, 1870, 1865, 1861-63, 1859, 1851-57, 1848-49, 1846 and earlier The newest HOFer, Deacon White, is also the earliest, born in 1847. Notable that depression years (1880s, 1930s) are prominent among the missing birth years. Tough times really are tough, in every way. Most represented years have 3 or fewer HOFers, so a ballot with 3 players per… Read more »
Timmy Pea
Guest
I mentioned it before, but why is Jeff Bagwell going to get into the HoF but not Sammy Sosa? Both have had PED rumors swirl around them, but both deny it. Bagwell looks like a PED user and Sammy sure does as well. Seems to me the reason Sosa gets so much scorn is because he put up monster numbers. Bagwell put up really good numbers so he gets a pass. I’m all for keeping admitted PED users out of the HoF, or those charged with a crime related to PED use, or those that tested positive, but Sosa is… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

Sosa’s name was released from the supposedly sealed 2003 testing. But Sosa’s name, like A-Rod’s, leaked as a positive test. Bagwell rumors have been invented by the writers and have no other source. There was never a rumor about Bagwell until he was retired and ready to go into the Hall, as far as I know.

Timmy Pea
Guest

I’m not against Bagwell getting in, I’m just confused as to some peoples criteria for the HoF. If rumors only, don’t keep Bagwell out of the HoF, then why Sosa? It seems like since Bagwell is a darling of the newstat crowd he gets a pass. Forgive me for not knowing about Sosa’s name being leaked and if that’s true that would be obviously more than just a rumor.

Ed
Guest

I think Sosa’s problems actually began with the Congressional hearing where he reportedly refused to speak and had his lawyer do all the talking. His lawyer choose his words very carefully, stating that he had never done “illegal performance enhancing drugs” and had never broken the laws of the US or the Dominican Republic. Since steroids are legal in the DR, it left open the possibility that he had used steroids there.

Ed
Guest
One other point re: Sosa vs. Bagwell. Sosa had 3 seasons of 60+ home runs. Bagwell never even cracked 50. Which one looks more suspicious? And Sosa’s breakout seasons for homeruns (1998) came the same year as McGwire’s a guy we know was using PEDs. Sure, it’s guilt by association but if one of them broke the HR record via using steroids, doesn’t it make sense that the other was also using steroids? And that season in which Sosa and McGwire broke the HR record…Bagwell hit a middling 34 homeruns, about half of Sosa’s total of 66. (Bagwell’s most suspicious… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Bagwell wasn’t even leading the league in home runs in 1994. Matt Williams had 43 HR to Bagwell’s 39. Also, Bags broke his hand and was done for the season before the strike kicked in, so he wouldn’t have increased his HR total that year anyway.

Timmy Pea
Guest

@30 Ed – I agree with you about Sosa doing things that had never been done before being a huge red flag. But it’s almost like since Bagwell did not do as well as Sosa and Bonds, he get’s in. It’s screwed up logic for sure and you have to convince yourself that all three did take steroids. Bagwell get’s in because although he took steroids, he didn’t rewrite the record books. I had forgotten about Sosa’s congressional testimony and obeying the laws of the DR. Damning for sure.

Hartvig
Guest
One other thing about Sosa & Bagwell’s late career power surges: Bagwell moved from the Astrodome to Enron Field (as it was then known) and he still hit only 4 more homers than he had in any previous season. His OPS+numbers declined in a fairly predictable fashion. Sosa, on the other hand, had 6 full seasons at Wrigley under his belt including his age 27 & 28 seasons before his home run total suddenly skyrocketed by 26 over his previous high and his 5 season average jumped from 34 to almost 58 & 1/2. His OPS+ numbers jumped by an… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Timmy P @39 – Oh I agree 100%. It’s why I said months ago that I think we should just put them all in. We’ll never know everyone who cheated and right now we’re just making blind guesses, often based on circumstantial evidence. And it’s the Hall of Fame. It’s a nice honor but in the long run, it really doesn’t mean much. We’re not electing the President of the US so let’s stop with all the hand wringing over who might have done what.

brp
Guest
The fact that Sosa got caught with a corked bat probably led people to think that if he was willing to “cheat” there that he might have cheated in terms of PEDs, too. Not that bat corking is a real advantage anyway. Regardless, the whole PEDs thing is silly. We know backup middle infielders used, we know starting pitchers and LOOGYs used, we know a large percentage used, but we’ll never know how many players used or for how long. So Bonds and McGwire were on drugs; but who knows how many pitchers they faced were, too? How do you… Read more »
mosc
Guest

I agree with this post entirely. I would add though that some correction for these factors goes on. McGuire is a guy I would not vote for because I think that number inflation was his only real HOF case. Bond’s HR total could be half of what it was and he’d still deserve to be a first ballot HOFer. There’s also a difference for guys who actually tested positive like Palmero. That’s a known. Rules changed, you didn’t, good DAY sir!

bstar
Guest

I agree about Bonds deserving to be a first ballot guy, but don’t we have to exclude Barry also under your criteria? Bonds freely admitted to taking the Cream and the Clear; his only defense was he “didn’t know they were steroids”. So Bonds taking steroids is a known also.

Timmy Pea
Guest

I am sure there are cheaters in the HoF, but being an admitted cheater with steroid enhanced numbers disqualifies you from the HoF. This stupid argument that because everybody does it, it’s OK is not only wrong, but immoral. Try that argument next time your in traffic court. Try killing your girlfriend and telling the judge that since OJ got off, you’d like the charges dropped.

Doug
Guest
If I understand correctly, each ballot must have 3 names, but only one player per birth year will be elected. Thus, we won’t be done until we get back to the 1850s. I’m concerned being hidebound to one player per birth year maybe too rigid and lead to distortions in the final selections. Here are my proposed changes to smooth things out. – include rolling three years on every ballot – all players not selected would appear in the next ballot, and then the one after that. So, three strikes and you’re out. -to keep the ballot manageable, have a… Read more »
Ed
Guest

Why not just make it:

1) All current Hall of Famers

2) Anyone with WAR greater than 40.

That’s going to give you over 300 players and it’s hard to imagine that anyone who fails those two criteria is going to have a chance of even coming close to making it in.

Ed
Guest

Something I was thinking about…isn’t this going to take 1-3 years to finish? Assuming 112 rounds of voting and I assume each round would need to last something like 3-7 days. Just seems like an awful long time.

Adam Darowski
Guest

Sorry… can’t reply directly from mobile, but I wanted to address he question of who in the Top 120 or so would qualify with fewer than ten seasons. I only have one name, but I would certainly put him in a top 100: Al Spalding. He’s in the Hall as an executive, but he produced over 60 WAR in a six-year peak (and eight-year career). He should be in the Hall as a player, short career or not.

Ed
Guest
I’m just going to throw this out there though I don’t expect my idea to get adopted. What I would prefer is something like this: 1) Start with a long list of candidates (say everyone above 40 WAR and all current HOFers). 2) Everyone votes for their top 112. 3) Any candidate that reaches a certain threshold (say 75% of the vote), gets in. 4) Any candidate who gets even a single vote is carried over to the following ballot. 5) Next round you vote for 112 minus however many people are already in. 6) Rinse and repeat. So let’s… Read more »
Dan McCloskey
Editor
I have one more consideration for you, Birtelcom. Well, at least for now I do. 🙂 Based on this… Each voter (and anyone registered to comment here at HHS could vote) would be allowed, and required, to put three players on his or her ballot. …I assume the voting will be in the comments of posts rather than via poll? Does this mean you’re going to manually count the votes? Forgive me if I don’t know you well enough to say this, but from my experience, this is the kind of thing that you’d be all gung-ho to do initially,… Read more »
Chris
Guest

How do we register to comment here so we can vote?
Thank you

birtelcom
Guest

Well, given that you are comment #62, it looks like you succeeded.

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