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Vetted Hall to Induce New (Tommy) McCarthyism?
2005-03-03 00:25
by Mike Carminati

Today the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee vote was released and—surprise!—no one garnered enough votes to gain admittance to the hallowed Hall. Or as MLB would spin it:

Proving once again to be rigid guardians of the gate to Cooperstown, the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee did not elect any of the 25 candidates on its 2005 ballot.

Gee, it almost makes gridlock sound ennobling. "Honey, it took me three hours to get home today thanks to the rigid guardians of traffic flow. God bless them."

I guess how else can they sell the catastrophe that is the new Vets Committee? Anything less would be admitting defeat, which is something that they'll have to do soon.

But before I go into that, here is a look at the how the players on the ballot fared in their last election. I also listed their previous high in any election:

NamePCTYr PrevVoted ByPCTDiffPrev High
Gil Hodges65.00%2003Veterans61.73%3.2763.37%
Ron Santo65.00%2003Veterans56.79%8.2156.79%
Tony Oliva56.25%2003Veterans59.26%-3.0159.26%
Jim Kaat53.75%2003BBWAA26.21%27.5429.55%
Joe Torre45.00%2003Veterans35.80%9.2035.80%
Maury Wills32.50%2003Veterans29.63%2.8740.65%
Vada Pinson28.75%2003Veterans25.93%2.8225.93%
Luis Tiant25.00%2002BBWAA18.01%6.9930.91%
Roger Maris23.75%2003Veterans22.22%1.5343.09%
Marty Marion20.00%2003Veterans20.99%-0.9940.00%
Ken Boyer18.75%2003Veterans13.58%5.1725.53%
Joe Gordon17.50%2003Veterans23.46%-5.9628.53%
Carl Mays15.00%2003Veterans19.75%-4.7519.75%
Dick Allen15.00%2003Veterans16.05%-1.0518.94%
Minnie Minoso15.00%2003Veterans19.75%-4.7521.08%
Curt Flood12.50%2003Veterans12.35%0.1515.11%
Mickey Lolich11.25%2003Veterans16.05%-4.8025.53%
Wes Ferrell11.25%2003Veterans14.81%-3.5614.81%
Don Newcombe10.00%2003Veterans13.58%-3.5815.32%
Sparky Lyle8.75%1991BBWAA3.39%5.3613.11%
Elston Howard7.50%2003Veterans7.41%0.0920.70%
Bobby Bonds5.00%2003Veterans6.17%-1.1710.64%
Rocky Colavito5.00%2003Veterans8.64%-3.648.64%
Thurman Munson2.50%2003Veterans4.94%-2.4418.01%
Joe Wood2.50%1951BBWAA2.21%0.2915.46%

You may notice that nothing has changed very dramatically since the last Vets Committee vote. Kaat had a 27% bump, but that was after he fell off the Baseball Writers ballot. The largest increase from the last election was by Joe Torre, who is of course active as a manager, which helps, and still only received 45% of the vote.

By the way, I also have a full rundown of the candidates here.

As for the Veterans Committee, no one has been inducted into the Hall by that august body since Bill Mazeroski and Hilton Smith in 2001. Now we'll have to wait another two years, barring a procedure change, for another Vets Committee inductee. That'll be at least a six-year gap.

The baseball writers had a six-year gap between picking new Hall-of-Famers from 1956 to 1962. It also had five-year gap from 1942 to 1947.

In response the Veterans Committee of the Forties inducted a flotilla of substandard players forever lowering the standards of the Hall in the first place. They inducted 10 in 1945 and 11 in 1946. Included among them were Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance, probably the worst player in the Hall (Tommy McCarthy), and possibly O'Brien-to-Ryan-to-Goldberg. I'm not sure. And what damage was left undone by the Veterans Committee of the Forties, was taken up by the Vets in the early Sixties.

So what will this austere period in the Veterans Committee reap in future elections? How about Juan Gone into the Hall? The caretakers of Cooperstown will not stand idly by with empty election classes. There will be a reckoning.

It reminds me of the BBWAA elections in the Forties. Most of the more obvious choices had already gone into the Hall even though there were a number of qualified candidates. However, no one percolated to the top when left to an open vote. This year four candidates received at least 50% of the vote, something that has guaranteed eventual admittance in the past.

What can and should be done to right the Veterans Committee's course? They could get the list down to a more manageable size, say, ten candidates. They could have a runoff, in which the top five or ten vote-getters go through an addition round to help them amass the necessary votes (something that was imposed on the BBWAA system in both the Forties and Sixties). They could guarantee that the top-voter gets in automatically (also done in the Forties).

Whatever they do, the Hall's history tells us that something will have to give. If it's not a minor tweak like the ones I itemized above, a major backlash, like the Vets Committee open-door policy in the Forties and Sixties, will await us as the qualified candidates well up and the number admitted slows from a trickle to nil.

Something's got to give.

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