WGOM H-BH Supplemental: On Banned Players

In 1877 there were basically 2 good team: Boston and Louisville. Starting in August, Louisville went on an 8 game losing streak, and finished the season 7 games behind Boston. Louisville's team president, Charles Chase, investigated his own team, and 4 players - including Jim Devlin - confessed to taking bribes to throw the games. Chase took the step of suspending his players, and the League made permanent their suspensions at the winter meetings.

1877 was the second year of the National League. From its very first, Major League Baseball has had lifelong bans for players involved in gambling or throwing games. Whether a sign was posted in the locker room or not, this has always been the way. Look back 2 years earlier, and you can see some of the reasons why.

The National Association is credited as the start of Major League Baseball, but the National Association folded in 1875, after being founded in 1871. It's too simplistic to say that gambling was the reason for the league's failure, but it had been a big part of it. Gambling was prevalent throughout the sport and in the stands, and many teams weren't able to garner enough support. That is, there were too few fans. So what marked the difference between the National Association folding in 1875 and the National League surviving in 1876? Central authority. The League was able to do something to enforce the rules - both on teams (the NL disbanded two teams after 1876 for failing to meet their obligations) - and on individuals who put their own interests ahead of the league (see Louisville 1877). The National League was able to prove to fans that it put the game above all else, and that baseball was a legitimate athletic competition.

The history of gambling in baseball undoubtedly deserves more attention than it'll be given here. Of course there was the Black Sox scandal. Of course there was the lead up to that (indeed, it's now considered almost certain that the Cubbies threw the Series in 1918, and that there was plenty of other cheating going on before that. 1919 was peak, not isolated incident). Of course there was Pete Rose. But what might deserve some attention - more than gambling itself - is the place baseball fits in the national identity.

I've tried tracking down attendance numbers (ha!) to back some of this up, but I haven't been successful, so I'll just quote Leonard Koppett:

For all its growing glamour in the early years of the century, baseball activity was still a minority interest before World War I. The wider public was only beginning to be aware of it during the 1910's, saturated with "national pastime" propaganda, absorbing its culture from first-generation children of immigrants. The war and especially the immediate postwar period intensified both cultural unity and news (including fads) readership. The baseball scene, through 1919 and into September of 1920 [when the Black Sox scandal became public] got unprecedented publicity throughout the general population of nonfans. To them, the shock [of throwing games] was complete and unique.

In short, in order to preserve its then still-young grip on public attention, baseball needed to re-establish its legitimacy after the Black Sox scandal. Part of why so many love baseball is because of its historical importance and its cultural significance, and all that would have been lost if baseball weren't seen as legitimate. The national moments baseball has provided - Jackie Robinson stepping on the field for the first time, Lou Gehrig's speech, Yankee stadium after 9/11, the HR chases of Mantle/Maris and Sosa/McGwire - wouldn't exist if gambling were treated like other things.

And yes, there's a reason Sosa/McGwire gets mentioned here. Because gambling is different than cheating, and that contrast is important. When a player cheats - takes steroids, uses a corked bat, pretends they were hit by a pitch when they weren't - they're doing so because they're trying to succeed. Part of why many feel more disgust at steroids than pretending to be hit by the ball is because people think it tends to put the individual ahead of the team. I don't know that it's an accurate assessment, but I think it is true that people feel this way. To the extent that it is true, however, it makes sense. The team wins or loses, not the players. When you go to the stadium you'll see 50 different players' names on jerseys, but the name on the front is always the same. And so we often applaud the gamesmanship of a player trying to get to first pretending to be hit by the ball, while we boo the guy who wants to be the HR king for his own glory.

So be it. The fact of the matter is that both are trying to succeed, and that sets both - indeed all - types of cheaters apart from those who fix games.

The succinct way of putting it is probably best: you can't make yourself win a game, but you can make yourself lose one. And when someone isn't trying to win then the competition itself isn't really a legitimate competition. More than that though is the team aspect of the game. For one player, or one group of players, to agree to throw a game - they're taking that legitimacy away from everyone else involved - their teammates and coaches and owners, the opposition, the fans, the nation watching their games. Jim Devlin was one of 4 players who took away the only competitive challenge to Boston in 1877. 4 players nearly killed the sport. Not a team. Not even a guy for each team in the league. Throwing a game is a near-fatal blow that an individual can deal to a team, and even to a league.

And to me, if you're not willing to respect the legitimacy of the sport - the very nature of competition - then you weren't really playing baseball in the first place. A lifetime ban from real baseball is precisely what you've asked for, because you've denied that what is baseball really exists.

Anyway, that's my take on it. Thanks for reading if you did. I'm not gonna chime in on any conversation below, since I've said plenty. But I do hope we respect the game enough to exclude such players from the WGOM Hall - not just on our own ballots - but as a group. I know, what we're doing is pretty much a lark here. But I know I'm gonna give an effort to my ballots (and if and when I make joak votes, they too will smack with effort!), and I suspect plenty of others will too.

97 thoughts on “WGOM H-BH Supplemental: On Banned Players”

  1. I was, in fact, swayed by this. I don't know if I was swayed enough to say that they shouldn't be on the ballot at all, though.

  2. Hey, man, I've seen Eight Men Out. Shoeless Joe got jobbed!!!!1111one1111!!!

    but yea, ban their asses.

    Also, "McGwire".

    McGuire played for the Knicks.

    1. McGwire = A's and Cardinals player Mark
      Maguire = Jerry, as played by Tom Cruise
      McGuire = me

        1. Actually as I understand things, MacGyver is just a different Anglicization of MagUighir. So if be related, however distantly, to any MacGyver.

  3. Your argument is sound and I appreciate the sentiment. Here's a question. What if through research Scot finds that it's likely that, say, Ty Cobb or Three Finger Brown took money on one game in 1907? Do we ban them? If it's likely the Cubs threw the 1918 series, why allow any of these players on the ballot? Because it wasn't proven beyond doubt by Landis?

    I think gambling on games is a huge strike against a player, but I'm worried about a slippery slope if we do an automatic ban ahead of time. Granted, it may only be Rose and the Black Sox (and Devlin), but I am really curious how the citizens approach each player when their names come up . Plus, I would still like to talk about these players regardless of whether they get voted for.

    1. And that's why I don't think that they should be banned from the ballot to begin with. More conversation is always better.

      I will say, though, that I had planned on voting for Shoeless and maaaaybe Cicotte, and can say with a fair bit of certainty that I won't be doing so now.

      1. I suppose MLB has some interest in letting sleeping dogs lie as far as pre-1919 game fixing goes. I understand the point you're pointing forward, Beau, but I would need a pretty solid dossier of evidence to convict someone of cheating nearly a century after the fact. And there's no reason that, should a baseball historian publish such evidence, that the offender(s) couldn't be ejected from the WGOM HoF.

        What I'm saying is, I think the slippery slope actually lies in treating every player from an era as a suspect because of the possibility that a undiscovered offender is honored. Some offenders may get through the cracks, but if the league's authorities didn't act because they lacked evidence of fixing or evidence of conspiracy, then I think we have to pect their judgments of the situation absent overwhelming new evidence. If the authorities didn't act because they were weak or somehow complicit, that is probably an occasion to revisit an issue.

    2. I said I wouldn't chime in, but I did want to answer this question. For our purposes, I think "proven beyond a doubt" should be the relevant standard. It's a fairly convenient standard, given the actual history we've got, but I'll take it. When it's just suspicion of fixing games, sure, people can weigh that however they want. But where it's proven (admitted in almost every case, I believe), I still think the ban is appropriate.

      And, of course, there's nothing to prevent us from talking about the player still, even if we've got a ban.

  4. My feeling is to include them. People can certainly choose not to vote for them, and if they get few or no votes they won't go in. But I'd give each voter the option rather than banning them.

  5. Does the fact that the National Association had rampant gambling affect your desire to vote any players in?

    1. the fact that the National Association (and early NL) played such a different game) affects my desire to vote any player in.

      1. Touché. Though despite the different rules, equipment, etc., there were still winners and losers, great players and poor ones.

  6. Very well argued, Philos. I've made variations of the same argument to friends who want to see Pete Rose inducted, to varying degrees of success. I think it's a pretty sound argument.

    With regard to cheats, I do tend to make a mental distinction between those who altered their equipment and those who altered their physical beings. I just don't think throwing a spitter is morally equivalent to using PEDs, though I recognize them both as cheating.

    1. I agree with your last point. Spitting on the ball or scuffing it has a clear, measurable, obvious advantage for the pitcher. Taking drugs is less easily measurable, and can actually harm the player as well, making him worse, if not now, then later. I don't know whether or not it'll impact by opinion on Gaylord Perry's case, but I found what he did more deplorable (to the game of baseball, not life) than what Mark McGwire did.

      1. I actually look at it the other way. If Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford doctor the ball, other pitchers may also doctor the ball in an effort to become more successful. If enough pitchers are doctoring the ball, those who aren't may feel pressure to do so in order to remain competitive or keep their jobs. Same with Norm Cash and doctored bats.

        If Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens take PEDs, other players may do steroids in order to become more successful. When enough players are doing PEDs, those who aren't will feel the pressure to take PEDs in order to remain competitive or keep their jobs. A competitive culture that coerces players to take unregulated drugs (with what consequences for their or their children's health?) to warp their bodies in an effort to keep their jobs is far worse in my view than one that coerces players to doctor their equipment to do the same. One violates individual sovereignty much more intimately than the other.

        1. What is your position on athletes who willingly take large amounts of anti-inflammatory drugs and pain killers in order to get on the playing field when injured? Regulated, yes, but known to lead to serious health problems. There's a helluva lot of pressure (#playyousisses!) on guys to get out there when the better course for them would be to heal. Should they do what's inarguably best for their bodies, or should they get out there? If they take the drugs that put their health at risk, aren't they pressuring others to do the same?

          1. Most of the time I don't think it's in a player's best interest to force themselves to play through more than mild injuries. I don't think any player should feel coerced to play when hurt, or to undergo treatment – drug, PT, or surgical – that allows them to play before they've actually recovered. As more recent events in the game suggest – the 7-day concussion DL, the ban on home plate collisions – I think baseball is coming around to addressing part of that coercive #playyousissies culture. Dinosaurs like Reusse will likely eventually give way to mammals.

            I agree that coercion plays a role in both scenarios we've outlined, but that said, there's still an awfully big difference between taking drugs while under a doctor's supervision and taking illicit drugs pushed by some guy in a nondescript office park clinic in Miami or San Francisco.

          2. Another relevant facet of the scenario you outline is the difference between a player trying to play to the best of his natural ability, and a layer trying to augment his natural ability. A player trying to return from an injury to full strength using prescribed painkillers, cortisone, or what have you is trying to recover his natural ability. A player who takes PEDs is trying to alter his natural ability.

            Most players (except those playing for the Twins?) are likely to have access to top-tier medical treatment from their training staff and team doctors, and all players have access to unaffiliated specialists like Dr. James Andrews. Unless teams begin subsidizing players who decide to take PEDs, access to PEDs will be determined by a player's informal networks and ability to pay. Players who are less likely to keep their jobs in a PED-rich environment – players who aren't stars and therefore aren't making star-level money – seem more likely to visit drug dealers who have inferior products or are willing to sell even more dangerous substances to marginal players looking for an additional edge. Unless PEDs are formally incorporated into the game, I think there is less of an equivalence between the two scenarios than you're suggesting.

            1. A player who takes PEDs is trying to alter his natural ability.

              so, what about off-season training? Nutrition? Micronutrient supplements? Sports massages?

              I am mildly sympathetic on the PEDs thing, but "the line" is very vague.

              It also seems to me that we've seen quite a few PED suspensions for minor leaguers, so that ability to pay isn't much of a constraint.

              1. When clubs made greenies readily available in the clubhouse, was that a formal or informal incorporation into the game? Did the individual players feel more or less coerced by the fact that clubs tacitly sanctioned their use? What about ritalin use? Tons of guys are all of a sudden suffering from ADD. If their motives aren't so pure, is that cheating? Are ritalin and adderal PEDs, or is using these drugs just a way to play up to their natural ability. They have a note from their doctors!

                1. exactly. What about coffee? Artificial stimulant!!!111one111!!!

                  The IOC and the various national and international sports federations are wallowing in a quagmire of very difficult hair-splitting, precisely because in part because the line between "natural" and "unnatural" is not easy to make bright.

                2. Ritalin and adderal are actually how I arrived at thinking about this issue as one of ethics, not one of mere legalities. At some point as an undergrad, I became aware of fellow students who were buying ritalin and adderal on the black market for use as study and exam aids. Some of these were people I would find myself competing with for spots in grad school.

                  When I overheard students talking about using ritalin or adderal as a teacher, I knew that, unlike students who brought crib sheets to exams or plagiarized papers, there was very little I could do to about their type of cheating. In a way, their drug abuse made their cheating seem even more unethical than a student I might bust for plagiarism.

                  1. And if it were banned, you'd be leaving students who legitimately need it out.
                    So then it would ride on who gets the most compliant doctors.

                    1. If the adderall or ritalin is prescribed by a licensed doctor, I think one should take the situation in good faith, even if recent studies suggest that your good faith may be exploited.

                      Presumably MLB is a bit pickier about granting waivers for these types drugs prescribed by outside because it's an employer with exceptionally generous health care and a history of drug problems in the workplace, but even then, I hope good faith is the foundational principle.

              2. what about off-season training? Nutrition? Micronutrient supplements? Sports massages?

                Seriously? Does a reasonable discussion of this issue have to account for the what constitutes "natural ability" by explicating the difference between a player who commits himself to physical conditioning (whether it's weights, Pilates, ballet, marathoning, etc.), or a player who adheres to a carefully tailored diet, with one who injects or ingests a synthesized illegal substance created in a laboratory by someone else?

                1. Yes, we do. Anabolic steroids were not added to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act until the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990.. Prior to that point, it wasn't illegal to use them in sports applications, as far as I know. So they were on the same level with caffeine and certain other OTC stimulants, less illegal than speed and other street drugs sometimes used to "enhance" performance.

                  what about Androstenedione and similar drugs? Legal over the counter. Not banned by the IOC until 1997. Clearly, the line for what is banned is a moving target.

                  1. Why? Why can't we simply recognize that people who are attempting to artificially augment their ability are cheating?

                    Why is it fair to hold Ryan Braun to a different standard than Mark McGwire? Simply because the legal system governing baseball hadn't caught up to the technology McGwire was using? Both were trying to cheat.

                    That'd be like saying the student using a cell phone to receive exam answers isn't cheating in 2003, but the one busted for the same thing in 2013 is a cheater because in the interim the university adopted an academic integrity policy explicitly including cell phones.

                    From an ethical standpoint, both students and both players were attempting to augment their own natural ability through artificial means developed/delivered by someone else.

                    If some doctor or pharmacist comes up with a new treatment tomorrow that can't be tested for and isn't yet named as a PED, is any player who uses it not cheating? If a student uses a new technology to provide themselves with answers on an exam or content in a paper, is that not cheating?

                    1. Logical points for sure. But some of the lines ARE fuzzy. What if MLB had come out and said andro was okay?

                    2. CH has been fighting the good fight all day here, and I really want to chime in and support him.

                      Beau isn't wrong that some of the lines are a bit fuzzy. Indeed, pretty much all of the objections to CH's arguments have been, in some form or other, "here's a fuzzy line!" But I think that tends to prove the validity of the point. The fact that an ethical line isn't easily drawn doesn't mean it's the wrong line - rarely are ethical lines drawn easily. But the fact that few, if any, legitimate alternatives have been posed bespeaks volumes.

                      What, after all, are the alternatives? It seems to me they can be summed up as:
                      1) All is permitted (steroids and bionic implants for all!)
                      2) Nothing is permitted (no aspirin for anyone!)
                      3) Draw an arbitrary line somewhere on the permissive side (Yes to HGH or things we don't have tests for, but no to more traditional steroids)
                      4) Draw an arbitrary line somewhere on the restrictive side (no to reasonable accommodations for ritalin, but yes to painkillers).

                      None of those has the merit of drawing the line at artificial augmentation.

                      Is it an easy line to draw? No. But it's still the strongest ground to be standing on ethically.

                    3. I think the fair line to draw is to let the league decide what is legal. This does not necessarily mean having a list of every possible banned substance. They could go the other way and list allowed substances. What I'd probably do is have a list of banned substances, then also ban anything that's a controlled substance or a derivative of a banned substance. I'd give the league the ability to ban (or unban) substances at any time, just so long as players are notified that it's happening and told they must stop using the substance immediately. I don't think it's fair to a player to not list a substance as banned and then punish him for using it.

                    4. I'll agree that punishment might not be fair if a substance isn't listed as banned. But that's a different question than the way we set what is permitted and what isn't. And for that matter it's different from how we might judge a player for being on one side of that line or the other. Say for example that mechanical enhancements were permitted... I would feel differently about a player who purposely had his legs cut off and replaced with mechanical replacements that enhanced his speed than I would about someone who lost their legs in an accident using those same replacements. I think most people would. Why? Because the two things are on different sides of the "artificial augmentation/restore to natural ability" line.

                    5. What if a player uses Ritalin just in the offseason to help them stay focused and not lapse in their training?

              3. Are the suspensions we're seeing from minor leaguers indicative of their ability to pay for PEDs, or their inability to pay for the good stuff that can't currently be detected, which pushes them toward less advanced, more detectable drugs/regimens?

                I ask because I'm not sure we know enough to presume either way.

            2. For me, it's more about leagues trying to create an environment that mitigates risks to the players while still enabling them to perform at a world class level. Trying to determine what is within a particular players ability to determine whether or not he's cheating seems difficult and arbitrary. There are many things that are harmful to a person that don't involve putting illegal substances into the body. Blood doping is an obvious example of something extremely dangerous, but it only involves one's own blood. An NFL player can cause brain damage through the many sub-concussive hits he takes during practice, so a player might be endangering himself simply by practicing more than another player. Likewise, a world class marathoner can cause permanent damage to the heart by overtraining. And, of course, there's the issue of thousands of supplements that are untested or undertested. (what's the difference between a drug and a supplement, anyway?)

              I'm certainly in favor of player safety, but I think it's the league's job to determine what risks are okay and what are not. If the league doesn't take a stand on a particular supplement, then I'd say it's okay for a player to use it. Once the league says it's not okay, then that player needs to stop using it. You obviously can't fault the player for using something that's legal.

              When it comes to players who took PEDs near the turn of the millenium, I feel like I take a softer stance than most people. While some PEDs might have been technically illegal, I don't think MLB made any effort to enforce this policy. I'm not sure if they out and out told players it was okay, but I think all players knew it was okay to use them.

  7. I'm going to vote for the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of the Best Players Ever or the Hall of Saints. I completely understand (and expect) disagreement on my stance.

    1. Actually I'm not going to vote for any of these players prior to 1890. Too many rule changes, questions about statistics, quality of opposition, etc. I completely understand (and expect) disagreement on my stance.

      If you want to have a wing in the Hall honoring pre-modern game players and the game they played. I'd be happy to support that.

      1. for what it's worth, the Veteran's Committee of year's past agrees with you. They elected only one player from this list (based on his career as a player) and that was Deacon White)

      2. I'm with free. I just don't know how to judge these guys, especially since I haven't even heard of most. I'm certainly willing to entertain arguments if someone thinks a particular player shouldn't be painted with such a broad brush. I'm also too lazy to do the research.

  8. What if they only bet on their team to win!1!!1

    I'm still against blanket bans; I think strong arguments could be made for "cheaters" and other unlikable characters to be included in the WG_HOF because baseball and therefore I'd like to hear those arguments. This post was a pleasure to read even if you and I don't agree, and that is what I want out of this whole process.

  9. This is a pretty good argument for not putting someone on your ballot, but it didn't seem sufficient to keep them off the ballot entirely.

    I'm off the opinion that there are too many varying feelings on this that we can't keep these guys of the ballot without potentially denying a voter the opportunity to vote for someone. Even if the majority still decline to put someone on the ballot and it's clear the electorate doesn't want them in the Hall, at least we haven't denied a minority a chance to express themselves via their vote.

    1. It seems like a lot of people have been posting similar things to this, and I'm in the same camp. I like the discussion and I might even try to make ridiculous points in favor of certain players just because I can.

  10. I'm still gonna vote "Maybe" on most of them.
    I won't hold things against them as the world was different then. Was the concept of "professional athlete" (perhaps other than boxer) even meaningful?
    They made next to nothing and had little they could do to change their status in the game short of quitting the sport.
    Sure things would have sucked if they hadn't been banned, but that's hindsight.

    1. Phil sent me a private response, challenging this. I'll put my reply here.

      I'm just not for preemptively banning players. Put them all up to a vote. State your case against them if you need to.
      Management screwed the guys over. Or could. Like the Black Sox. I don't have the time to develop my thoughts more fully, but I doubt I'll be persuadable.

      Games were just that, games for entertainment and for people to gamble upon.
      How did they know they would not become the WWF or something like that with no sacrosanct.

      Get your coin now and don't be a doofus out there sacrificing yourself for little gain when everyone else is getting a piece of this B.S. pie.

      1. I should clarify my "ban their asses" comment. I'm with AMR. Put anyone with a case on the ballot. Let's have this discussion about merits and vote.

        Me, I'm not voting to put Rose or Devlin or (most of) the Black Sox in the WGOM Hall. I have mixed feelings on Shoeless Joe. As for Gaylord Perry, meh. I'm actually sympathetic to the charms of roguish behavior on the field. It ain't cheatin' if it don't get called. As for the steroid dudes, double meh. I'm voting based on the records of performance, nothing else. A-Rod, Bonds and Clemens get in easy. McGwire is borderline at best. Rafe Palmeiro is borderline.

      2. And I guess I'll respond here too, because what was supposed to be an off-site exchange got moved on-site.

        How did they know it would not become the WWF or something? Because that was the announced intent - to change the culture, to create a stable, professional league. Professional teams in the league still played exhibition games against non-league teams, but when it came to the League, there were rules put in place - negotiated, agreed to, and announced - to prevent it from becoming the "the WWF or something..." That's exactly what the players signed up for. The National Association was a failed effort to not be the WWF. It failed largely because of gambling. The National League was the next effort. It succeeded largely because it dealt with this problem. That meant the agreement of the players, and anyone who didn't agreed was justifiably banned.

        The argument that players made too little, and using that to justify subversion of the game is just as silly as saying today's game has so much money at stake that we might as well rig it to give the most fans the result they want (NY vs. LA, all the time! WOO!). The players agreed to their contracts. They agreed to the rules. And relative poverty compared to today's players doesn't justify taking a bribe to throw a game.

          1. Well they didn't have to play ball...

            At different points in the history of the sport this is going to mean different things. But yes, I think players did have a choice. Especially relevant to this conversation about the early days is the fact that pre-1876, absolutely they had a choice. Contracts didn't even have to cover full seasons, and players routinely got bought of of them mid-season by other teams, or just quit and joined different teams. The fact that players had all the choice in the world before the National League was part of the problem baseball had in getting established.

  11. The way I see it, if a guy has hall worthy performance, then he has hall worthy performance. The only way to throw a game is to purposefully play like crap, so the stats that make a guy hall worthy are legitimate.

    1. It should be noted that it's widely believed that Shoeless Jackson played very well in the games the White Sox were supposed to win, and played poorly in the games they were supposed to throw, until the Sox were so far behind that it didn't matter. So it's not just as simple as looking at a stat line. That said, without proof (for other players), it is conjecture and all we have is often the stat lines.

      1. Shoeless Joe had almost 5700 plate appearances in his career and had a 170 OPS+, so while I don't disagree that some of that could have come in "garbage time" due to the game fixing, that's still plenty of plate appearances to say that he was pretty good with a pretty much insignificant part of it involving the gambling.

        1. Some would contest that throwing any game, especially a World Series game, is not insignificant. I don't know how I'll treat it come 1921.

          1. Of course, if we are going to ban guys for betting, we should consider banning everyone on the management side (pre-Messersmith/Flood, at least) for being assholes in restraint of trade. 😉

            1. Unless they're on the record as pushing the league otherwise, I'm okay with not inducting any ownership/front office people prior to integration.

          2. Insignificant in regards to judging their skill as a ballplayer. It may be morally significant, but I'm trying not to include that sort of thing in my decision making process.

            1. I can see the distinction made between gambling and other sins, but Ty Cobb is an example of a guy who should not be included in any group with a morality clause.

  12. Also, whatever we decide, kudos to Beau for launching this Hot Stove League discussion. Obviously, it is a popular one.

    1. Well said bS - thanks for the work Beau and thanks for the 'food-for-thought' Philo! I haven't had this much fun thinking about 19th Century Baseball since I received the Burns documentary!

  13. My thought is this project (and the real Hall to a certain degree) isn't about the players. I don't care one way or another if Pete Rose has his day or not, if Shoeless Joe will ever have a plaque so his descendants can enjoy. Irrelevant. What I care about as an amateur historian is how good the players were and what they contributed on the field. I don't see the benefit of punishing players by pretending they didn't do what they did on the field. To me, a list of the greatest players of all time is incomplete without a Pete Rose, a Shoeless Joe, a Barry Bonds.

    1. large Hall? small Hall? What's your (rough) threshold?

      I'm thinking somewhere along the lines of the top 5 pct of players in each era. I guess that probably gets me to "large Hall".

        1. but what, quantitatively, does that mean? Top 2.5 pct? Top 1 pct? Top 0.1 pct?

          there have been ~18,000 major leaguers in history (ignoring Negro Leaguers who never appeared in the Majors and if this answer is to be believed).
          5 pct would get a Hall of roughly 900
          2.5 pct --> 450
          1 pct --> 180
          0.1 pct --> 18

          900 spread over 12 decades (back to the 1990s) is about 75 per decade, on average. Of course, there are many more teams in the post-1960 era than there were for most of the 20th century. So, assuming that average career length has been roughly the same over time (!!!), the data would be skewed heavily toward the last 50 years. And if elections are to be proportional to era, so would they be skewed.

          1. The actual Hall is at about 237. I think that 1% is about right. I do like the idea of JAWS -- that future HOFers should improve the quality of the Hall. But, only because there are unworthy members now. If you started right now and got the top 1%, you could pretty much use their performance as a baseline.

              1. At 5 percent, that would basically mean if you looked at any given roster in any year, you'd see at least one hall of famer.

                We need some big hall guys around. Otherwise Canseco may get shut out

            1. I think about 2 per year is a good number, which is about the current size. 7.5 per year, yikes!

  14. Guys, just wait until we get to players active in the last decade and I do a crossover HBHOF/FMD post "On Band Players" defending Bronson Arroyo and Bernie Williams.

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