No Automatic Elections

by Keith Glab,
January 12, 2007

"[O]ne dimensional players who achieve milestones which few others have achieved do in fact belong in the Hall of Fame. It would be silly to argue that getting 3,000 hits should automatically put you into the Top 100; it is not silly to say the same about the Hall. Similarly, if a guy retires as the all time leader in a major baseball category, it is not silly to put him into the Hall either."

--Asher B. Chancey, April 22, 2006

With our 2007 ballots due in next week, it is high time to address this issue spewed forth by my friend and colleague.  Asher's main criticism of my voting tendencies involves the treatment of player value versus player milestones.  If you weren't a very valuable player, I won't put you in the Hall of Fame.  That's not a policy that I'm likely to ever change.

Asher's sentiment has not fallen on completely deaf ears, however.  There should indeed be a greater weight placed on career milestones, seasonal awards, and player character for our Hall of Fame evaluations than for our player rankings.  In particular, I intend to weigh such things more heavily with those players whose career value make them borderline Hall of Famers.

478 career saves does mean something 

Case and point: Lee Smith versus Dan Quisenberry.  I voted them both a "1" last year, believing them both to have similar career values.  I also wanted to see how the current crop of relievers who currently appear better than those two (Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Billy Wagner at least) finished out their careers.

But while Dan Quisenberry remains buried on the all time saves list, Lee Smith can say that he held the record for career saves for more than a dozen seasons.  That distinction alone should not get him into the Hall, but given that his overall value is already comparable to a Quisenberry or a Wagner, Smith should vault over them and attain enshrinement.

In a way, the voting has been appropriate.  Our first balloters should be those players whose career value is so high that the require nothing else to separate them from the pack.  Those players that require further examination ought to get in on the subsequent ballots.  Like it or not, there is a certain prestige for a player being elected in his first year of eligibility.  In our voting system, getting elected with 6 votes is also considerably more prestigious than getting elected with five.   

Even though I will be evaluating players differently this year with career milestones and seasonal accolades in mind, I must caution against weighing them too heavily.  It is still silly to argue that 3,000 hits or 300 wins should automatically gain a player entrance into the Hall of Fame:

"Automatic Elections No automatic elections based on performances such as a batting average of .400 or more for one (1) year, pitching a perfect game or similar outstanding achievement shall be permitted"

--National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.

Not only is it intuitively inane to automatically elect a baseball player based on a single statistic without the context needed to understand it, but it is explicitly forbidden by Cooperstown's Rules for Election.

Of course, that Automatic Elections section is a little vague on whether or not such automatic elections are permissible for career achievements as opposed to seasonal ones.  And we know that the Baseball Writers' Association of America does automatically elect players who have attained certain milestones.  How else do we explain how Mickey Welch and Early Wynn are in Cooperstown while Bert Blyleven and Tony Mullane are out?  The two that are in each barely have 300 career wins, while the two that aren't just missed.

But doesn't it make sense to use some number as a cutoff point, even though the number itself is quite arbitrary?  Not really.  Tony Mullane retired 16 wins shy of 300 at the age of 35, more than 40 years before the National Baseball Hall of Fame was founded.  Might he not have dallied around for two more seasons had he known that 300 wins would magically immortalize his name?  And the fact that Early Wynn notched 13 more career victories over Bert Blyleven is supposed to trump Blyleven's significant edges in IP, ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP?

The whole point of our voting on our own Baseball Evolution Hall of Fame is to correct the mistakes made by the voters for the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  If we take the same lazy attitude of electing players based on just one statistic taken out of context, then what's the point of voting at all?  Thankfully, we did get it right with those four pitchers.  I only hope that we continue to champion player value over gaudy statistics.         


Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at