Solution to the 10-vote HOF ballot problem

Jim McIsaac

If I were a BBWAA writer with a Hall of Fame ballot, I would be in a terrible fix right now because because there are more than 10 players on the upcoming HOF ballot who I think deserve to get in to the HOF. The list of eligible players is absurd. I am pretty certain there are actual HOF voters in the same fix.

While some players will just have to wait their turn, the real problem is that players who fall below 5% vote totals go off the ballot forever. Last year, Kevin Brown (73.5 career fWAR) and Kenny Lofton (62.2 career fWAR) did not receive enough votes to be on this year's ballot despite having careers that typically get you in or put you very close. Both will have to wait until either BBWAA changes the eligibility rules or whenever the veterans committee gets around to them in 15 years or so to get a second chance.

Were I a voter, I would want to ensure that travesties like this do not ever happen again. Even if you personally think those guys shouldn't make the cut, they are at minimum the kinds of players who deserve to be in discussion for years in order to get the same chance that say, Jim Rice got.

At the same time, I would also want to make sure that the no-doubters who are eligible this year get in, in part because they deserve it and in part to avoid the ballot getting even more impossibly clogged in future years. With ~600 ballots being sent out, it will take 30 votes to ensure a player remains on the ballot.

I have the solution. It requires teamwork. Other like-minded HOF voters. I present


Here are the rules:

HOF voters can help fill out my ballot. In order to join my pool and partially control my votes, you have to do the following: 1) Submit a list of all eligible players, unlimited in number, whom you feel deserve to be in the HOF 2) Select 2 of the players from your list not named Maddux, Mussina, Schilling, or Thomas as especially deserving of getting into the HOF 3) Commit to filling out your own ballot according to the same method I fill out mine, regardless of personal preferences regarding the players that result

I (hypothetical HOF voter who starts the pool) commit to fill out my ballot in the following way:

1) Greg Maddux

2) Mike Mussina

3) Curt Schilling

4) Frank Thomas

5) Next Responder's Selection #1

6) Next Responder's Selection #2

7-10) Pool Selections

where #5 & #6 are the two players the next person responding highlighted as especially deserving, (and I will inform each respondent as to the two players the next voter has highighted)

The pool selections will happen in the following way:

I will keep a list of all players who have any joining voter merit him as deserving. Being on a voter's list is worth 1 point. Being mentioned as especially deserving merits another point (for 2 total). I will post the current standings on the internet and update them daily, along with the total number of voters who have committed to the pool, the number of votes each player has been guaranteed, and the number of votes he would get if no further voters join. If and when a player reaches 30 points, his position in the standings is locked and cannot subsequently rise or fall (although he can get additional guaranteed votes from being chosen as especially deserving). The voting is first-come, first-serve as voters join the pool. The pool will close when 90 voters have joined or 10 days before ballots are due, whichever comes first.

Every voter who joins will be told where in line they stand when they join (starting with me at #1). When the pool closes, they will fill out the last 4 places on their ballot with the highest-ranked player not already on their ballot (from to the subsequent voter's selections) who is not already guaranteed 30 votes. The last guy in line will fill out his last 6 votes from the pool. The standings would need to include brackets as to which voters (by number) would need to vote for a particular player, but that would be easy to maintain

This system would have several advantages

1) Every joining voter still gets to control/ensure 2 votes in exchange for sacrificing control over the rest of their ballot

2) Joining will not deprive the no-doubters of votes, and no one with PED suspicions (deserved or not) is included in the no-doubters. If you are thinking "What about Fra-" I just cut you off and you can shut up and go home

3) The pool votes will be distributed in a way that makes it hard for any pool player to accumulate a large number of votes from the pool, so any voter with PED qualms can sleep easy knowing their ballot will merely keep a possible juicer on the ballot in future years rather than putting them in the HOF

4) The first-come, first-serve nature of voting encourages sympathetic writers to join early rather than wait-and-see

5) As the pool expands, the number of guaranteed-stayers rises. If the pool gets to 60 voters (~10% of the total vote), then at minimum 8 players besides the no-doubters are guaranteed to remain, and a ninth probably would as well.

6) A natural limit size of the pool would likely occur- as the number of concern-cases shrinks the incentive for further voters to join would shrink with it and the ones that do can use their special-deserving highlights to nudge things to completion

7) Because of #5, the publicly-known nature of the pool, and the fact that it closes 10 days before ballots are due, voters who didn't join can still use the pool standings for purposes of filling out their own ballot. If players they are concerned about have already been guaranteed to remain, they can safely vote their ballot purely on their preferences

8) By capping the pool at 90 voters (~15% of the total), even if it fills up it will not make it prohibitively difficult for the non no-doubters to get elected. A player receiving 88% of the vote from non-pool voters would still get in with no guaranteed votes from the pool. A player getting 30 guaranteed votes from the pool would need to get only 82% of the non-pool voters to make it in (.85 *.825 + .05 = .751). The super-deserving of the pool players can get more than 30 votes if more than 30 pool voters single them out as especially deserving, making it even easier on them. The existence of the pool voters raises the bar for everyone, but only modestly.

9) Because of 8, voters can join the pool without feeling they are preventing any deserving player from getting in by doing so

10) Even if you have quibbles about Schilling and Mussina (which you shouldn't have in the first place, but whatever), the pool will still only get them to at most 15% of the overall

Now, is any HOF voter willing to do and operate this? Not that I matter here or that I'd be particularly good at it, but I'll volunteer to be their unpaid assistant to manage the standings

*Note: I included no Astros here solely in order to be taken seriously as a non-homer. If the world was fair, Bagwell would join the no-doubters, but alas it is not

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