A Hall of Fame experiment

So, here’s what I did — I put together two surveys. Both surveys had the exact same 10 names — 10 player who I think (as players) are well-qualified hall of Famers. They are, in alphabetical order:

1. Jeff Bagwell 2. Craig Biggio 3. Barry Bonds 4. Roger Clemens 5. Shoeless Joe Jackson 6. Randy Johnson 7. Pedro Martinez 8. Mike Piazza 9. Pete Rose 10. Curt Schilling

Of the 10, two will get elected this year — Johnson and Martinez. Two have a pretty good shot getting elected this year or next — Biggio and Piazza. I’m not quite sure what to make of Bagwell, but I suspect he will eventually get elected. Bonds and Clemens are obviously their own case. Jackson and Rose are ineligible. And, on this list, only Schilling has an uphill climb because some don’t think he was a good enough player. I wanted to make this list as stacked as possible and I think I made a mistake with it — I should have included John Smoltz. I didn’t because I think Schilling (and Mike Mussina, for that matter) is a better Hall of Fame candidate, but based on what I’m hearing in the voting (and what I should have suspected) most people disagree with me. If I had included Smoltz and Mussina on here, the results might have been slightly different … but we can’t go back.

The test was simple:

— In the first survey, I told voters they could choose up to four players for the Hall of Fame, no more. This is exactly the voting procedure the Veteran’s Committee used this year for the Golden Age ballot.

— In the second survey, I allowed voters to vote thumbs up or down on each player individually.

Several thousand people voted — thank you for that — and I suspect many of the same people voted in both surveys.

Here are the results:

Bagwell

In yes-or-no survey: 82% In max-4 survey: 12.9%

Brief comment: Right away, we see the issue. More than four out of five voters believe that Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer. However, when restricted — the way the Veteran’s Committee was restricted in the Golden Age ballot this year — barely one out of eight voted for him. The reasoning is clear (Bagwell is not one of the four best players on the ballot) but this is the issue with ballot limits. Let’s keep going.

Biggio

In yes-or-no survey: 86.4% In max-4 survey: 17.3%

Brief comment: Similar to Bagwell — overwhelming majority believes he’s a Hall of Famer, less than one out of five voted for him on restricted ballot.

Bonds

In yes-or-no survey: 77.5% In max-4 survey: 64%

Brief comment: Bonds and Clemens are the two most interesting characters for me in this experiment. As you can see, Bonds just barely got the 75% necessary — I would say, nationally, somewhere between 20 and 60% (depending on who you are polling) of the people believe Barry Bonds does not belong in the Hall of Fame. I suspect these voters tend to be significantly less outraged by steroid use before testing than an average group of baseball fans (or an average group of Hall of Fame voters).

That said — people who believe Bonds DOES belong in the Hall of Fame believe it deeply. Barry Bonds the player (and Roger Clemens the pitcher) are slam dunk, no doubt, all-time Hall of Famers. So while only three quarters of these voters believe Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame, a vast, vast majority of them believe it completely — putting him above Bagwell and Biggio and Piazza and others.

Clemens

In yes-or-no survey: 78.7% In max-4 survey: 57.5%

Brief comment: A few more people think Clemens should be in the Hall of Fame, but a few less people voted for Clemens on the restricted ballot. I have this theory that PEDs aside, people fail to appreciate that Roger Clemens might have been the greatest pitcher in baseball history. Greg Maddux is my all-time favorite pitcher. Roger Clemens was better. Randy Johnson has an argument as the greatest lefty ever — there with Lefty Grove and Warren Spahn and Sandy Koufax and whoever else you want to throw in. Roger Clemens was better. Pedro Martinez had the greatest peak in baseball history, in my view. Roger Clemens was better.

I disliked Roger Clemens so much I invented the word Clemenate because of him. But if you take him over a whole career, he’s the best pitcher I ever saw, and I’m pretty sure he’s the greatest pitcher who ever lived.

Shoeless Joe Jackson

In yes-or-no survey: 66.3% In max-4 survey: 21.1%

Brief comment: Even in a straight yes-no vote, Jackson can’t get 75%. I seriously have to wonder about the 21.1% who voted him on the four-man restricted ballot.

Randy Johnson

In yes-or-no survey: 98.6% In max-4 survey: 77.4%

Brief comment: This one comes closest to explaining the bad math point I was trying to make about the Golden Era ballot. Here you have a guy that basically EVERYONE thinks should be in the Hall of Fame. But if you put a stacked ballot, he jut barely clears the 75% line. If I had put Smoltz and Mussina on the ballot it’s possible that Johnson would not have gotten 75%. If the Hall of Fame is going to continue doing these nutty veteran’s committee ballots they MUST change basic structure of the voting because the way they vote now is just a mathematical mousetrap.

Pedro Martinez

In yes-or-no survey: 95.8% In max-4 survey: 80.7%

Brief comment: I’m not sure why Pedro did a little better than Unit in the max-4 and a little worse in the yes-or-no. Statistical noise, I’m guessing. Maybe more people from Boston voted in the max-4.

Mike Piazza

In yes-or-no survey: 83.5% In max-4 survey: 17.8%

Brief comment: Another example of the restricted ballot crushing the percentages of a player most people consider a Hall of Famer.

Pete Rose

In yes-or-no survey: 65.1% In max-4 survey: 35.2%

Brief comment: I keep saying this — Pete Rose will never go to the Hall of Fame. Even if he should ever get his name on a ballot (which I don’t think will happen anytime soon), there just isn’t 75% for him anywhere. I think it’s a shame. I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I think if the Hall of Fame had put him on the ballot in the early 1990s and publicly said to consider only Pete Rose the baseball player, he might have gotten elected. But obviously that did not happen, did not come close to happening, and anyway that’s not the way the Hall of Fame views itself.

Curt Schilling

In yes-or-no survey: 64.1% In max-4 survey: 7.8%

Brief comment: I’ll have a lot more to say about Schilling, Mussina and Smoltz in upcoming Hall of Fame stories.

There are many things to take from this — and I’ll be filling the blog with Hall of Fame words over the next couple of weeks — but mostly I take that the Veteran’s Committee MUST change the way they vote. As I wrote before, they have created a math mousetrap where even guys like Randy Johnson will BARELY get to 75%, and anyone who is not quite Randy Johnson will not get elected.