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Can the Veterans Committee Be Fixed?
2007-03-14 10:07
by Mike Carminati

The Cooperstown caretakers, the Clark family, are concerned. We haven't seen a new Hall of Famer selected by the Veterans Committee since Bill Mazerowski was tabbed by the then Ted Williams-led committee just prior to wholesale renovations to its structure and procedures.

After the last non-selection board chair Jane Forbes Clark had this to say:

"We are disappointed that no one has been elected after three cycles of voting. We said we would go through three cycles before we would discuss possible changes in the process. We're not abandoning the effort. Maybe it needs a little bit of change."

Actually, she's understating the issue. There have been five separate votes during this span, three for veteran players and two for veteran executives, managers, and umpires (the "composite" ballot), in the intervening seven years. Consider that the next election will not occur until 2009, so at best we can expect an eight-year gap between Maz and the next Vet selection (Can I get a Santo?).

"So what?" you say. Well, consider that the longest previous gap between Veteran selections was five years, and that came as the actual Hall was still being established and the body was known as the Committee on Old Timers, from 1939-44. Since the inception of the Veterans Committee in 1953 through Maz's selection in 2001 there was never a wait longer than two years between Veteran selections. We would have that if the committee picked someone each election.

Between the Centenial (1937-38), Old Timers (1939-49), and the Veterans Committees, an average of slightly under twelve players per decade have gone into the Hall (with 22 selected in the Seventies and 21 in the Forties). As for non-players, an average of seven per decade were picked with a high of 15 in the 1990s.

You may still say "So what?", but you have to acknowledge that it's not par for the Veteran course. That may not be a problem for most, but I'm sure Doug Harvey's and Dick Williams' family aren't thrilled.

Anyway, the board met yesterday, but apparently the situation is not yet dire enough to force any changes:

"The Board had full and engaging preliminary discussions on the Veterans Committee procedures. The Board feels strongly that we need to take our time out of respect for this important process, and we plan to meet again in the upcoming months to continue these discussions."

Remember that Joe Morgan is on the board, and he likes the ex-players having control, at least as far as which players will join them in the Hall. As for the executives, it appears that Joe is ready to abdicate control: "The most difficult thing for me is to look at executives and know how much of a contribution they made to the game." Their most glaring oversight might be not inducting the clearly qualified Marvin Miller given that many were active during his tenure with the union. This shows the players general contempt for the idea of allowing non-players in the Hall. The same goes for Doug Harvey, who according to all reports is one of the greatest umps ever to call a game.

Anyway, that won't help Ron Santo gain admission to the hallowed Hall. They will discuss narrowing the field. They have had between 25 and 27 players on each of the three Veteran ballots so far. Maybe limiting that to 12 or 15 will help the voters concentrate but as long as the Mike Schmidts of the world keep submitting a blank ballot, thing's aren't going to change much—there will just be fewer candidates to disappoint.

Let's take a look at previous baseball writers elections to determine whether a short ballot helped produce more Hall of Famers. Here are the shortest:

YrVoted byBallotsNeeded#PlayersInducted%

Those percentages are pretty good especially when you compare them to the results for the longest ballots:

YrVoted byBallotsNeeded#PlayersInducted%

So is there a real trend or does it just appear to be the case? There is a correlation between the two, ballot size and induction percentage, albeit not a string one (-0.551 coefficient).

This begs the question as to whether some other change would make a larger impact. What about the number of ballots? The old Vets Committees consisted in a small group of individuals who could more easily come to a consensus. So far the new Vets Committee has had between 80 and 82 ballots. Let's take a look at the BBWAA votes with the fewest ballots:

YrVoted byBallotsNeeded#PlayersInducted%

Now the most:

YrVoted byBallotsNeeded#PlayersInducted%

Actually, here more ballots seem to help, not hinder, Hall admittance. I ran the numbers and there is a slight correlation (0.361) between the two.

Hmm..,maybe the problem is that we are not considering the talent level of the players involved. I split the players up by Hall grade based on career Win Shares: Grade A for 400 or more Win Shares, B for 301 to 399, C for 225 to 299, and D for 150 to 224.

I ran the numbers are the correlations don't get any stronger:

correl to #playerscorrel to ballots
Grade AGrade A
Grade BGrade B
Grade CGrade C
Grade DGrade D

Here are the overall numbers per grade:

Overall# Grade AInducted%# Grade BInducted%# Grade CInducted%# Grade DInducted%

OK, maybe limiting the number of players on the ballot helps slightly, but what about the Mike Schmidt-blank ballot issue? I took a look at the elections with the most votes cast per candidate.

YrVoted byBallotsVotesVotes per Ballot#Playersvotes per player per ballotPlayer per BallotInducted%
1945BBWAA2472496 10.11 89 0.11 0.36 00%
1942BBWAA2332328 9.99 68 0.15 0.29 11%
1939BBWAA2742710 9.89 102 0.10 0.37 33%
1936BBWAA2262209 9.77 49 0.20 0.22 510%
1947BBWAA1611559 9.68 38 0.25 0.24 411%
1946BBWAA2021948 9.64 74 0.13 0.37 00%
1937BBWAA2011919 9.55 108 0.09 0.54 33%
1951BBWAA2262147 9.50 77 0.12 0.34 23%
1953BBWAA2642487 9.42 75 0.13 0.28 23%
1938BBWAA2622464 9.40 113 0.08 0.43 11%

Not much help there. The number of players varies wildly throughout. How about if we look at the votes per player per ballot?

YrVoted byBallotsVotesVotes per Ballot#Playersvotes per player per ballotPlayer per BallotInducted%
2003Vets Composite79335 4.24 15 0.28 0.19 00%
2007Vets Composite81338 4.17 15 0.28 0.19 00%
1984BBWAA4032904 7.21 27 0.27 0.07 311%
1947BBWAA1611559 9.68 38 0.25 0.24 411%
1998BBWAA4732085 4.41 18 0.24 0.04 16%
1999BBWAA4973348 6.74 28 0.24 0.06 311%
1976BBWAA3882937 7.57 32 0.24 0.08 26%
1987BBWAA4132730 6.61 28 0.24 0.07 27%
2005BBWAA5163263 6.32 27 0.23 0.05 27%
2005Veterans80458 5.73 25 0.23 0.31 00%
1977BBWAA3832939 7.67 34 0.23 0.09 13%
2007Veterans82489 5.96 27 0.22 0.33 00%
1975BBWAA3622870 7.93 37 0.21 0.10 13%
2002BBWAA4722810 5.95 28 0.21 0.06 14%
1978BBWAA3792948 7.78 37 0.21 0.10 13%
1997BBWAA4732372 5.01 24 0.21 0.05 14%
2003Veterans81433 5.35 26 0.21 0.32 00%
2007BBWAA5453584 6.58 32 0.21 0.06 26%

Wow, all five the new veterans committee ballots are on there. So it's not as if they are submitting blank ballots (except for Schmidt). They are voting for players. They are just not reaching a consensus.

My theory is that there are a number of viable candidates, but no one candidate that demands inclusion. It's sort of the limbo that certain players (Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, etc.) have reached on the writers ballot. They get enough votes to stay on the ballot from year to year but not enough to go into the Hall.

Here are the top players on the past Veterans Committee ballot based on career Win Shares. Only Allen is above the Hall average of 337 Win Shares, but any of the top fifteen would be a reasonable Hall selection:

NameWin SharesGrade
Dick Allen342B
Ron Santo324B
Vada Pinson321B
Joe Torre315B
Al Oliver305B
Bobby Bonds302B
Mickey Vernon296C
Minnie Minoso283C
Ken Boyer279C
Rocky Colavito273C
Jim Kaat268C
Gil Hodges263C
Carl Mays256C
Luis Tiant256C
Maury Wills253C

Consider that 22 men on the ballot have more career Win Shares than the last man selected, Bill Mazerowski. The problem is just going to get worse as more players from the expansion become eligible more quickly and with fewer men going into the Hall.

Can we fix the Veterans Committee? Well, we could go back to the old system: let Joe Morgan pick a few of his buddies with whom he will meet on a yearly basis in order to select a couple of their old cronies. Of course, toward the end of the Williams era, Teddy Ballgame was promulgating old teammate and famous baseball brother, Dom DiMaggio, for the Hall.

Put Joe in that spot and what will we get? Davey Concepcion, Hall of Famer! God bless us everyone!

2007-03-14 10:23:33
1.   rbj
In exchange for Joe giving up Sunday Night Baseball?

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