The Hall of Fame Expansion Era Ballot

As part of the increasingly complicated Hall of Fame selection process, there are five players on the expansion era ballot-Davey Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker and Dan Quisenberry. There is an additional candidate, Joe Torre who is on the ballot as both a manager and a player. Torre stands out from the rest of these players because in addition to having a borderline Hall of Fame Career as a player, Torre also has four World Series victories as the manager of the New York Yankees from 1996-2000. It is therefore very likely that Torre will be elected, deservedly, based on his his performance as a player and a manager.

The other five are very interesting cases. From the period from roughly 1970-1985, they were all excellent players and frequent All Stars who played in a lot of post-seasons. There is also a strong narrative for each of these players. John was a solid pitcher for a long time who had a surgery named for him. Concepcion was one of the best shortstops of his era, a stalwart on the Big Red Machine and a great defender who had some value at the plate. Garvey was, during his active years, broadly seen as a future Hall of Famer. He was a productive hitter with good power, perceived as an excellent defender and the face of a franchise that between 1974 and 1981 won four pennants and one World Series. Parker was a dominant player from roughly 1977-1979, who later became a solid DH after a few years in between where substance abuse and weight problems sidetracked his career. Quisenberry was an outstanding beloved fireman who was part of the last generation of pre-closer relievers.

Ultimately, however, all of these players are among the dozens of very good players, Will Clark, Keith Hernandez, Vada Pinson, Luis Tiant and Mark Grace come to mind, who have a loyal base of advocates in one city or another, but who are not quite good enough for the Hall of Fame. Electing any of the players on the expansion ballot, other than Torre, would not be a terrible thing as they would certainly not be the worst player at there position in the Hall of Fame, but it would be kind of pointless and set a strange precedent. Electing Parker, Concepcion or Garvey would only make the omission of superior, but very similar players like Dwight Evans, Alan Trammell or the aforementioned Will Clark more glaring.

All five of these players have been on the ballot relatively recently. They are not forgotten players from the past who deserve another look from the Hall of Fame voters, but players who, for the most part, were very recently rejected by the Hall of Fame, making it unclear why these players specifically deserve another chance so soon. Another strange thing about these particular players, and this process, is that it seeks to address a problem that does not exist, while failing to address the bigger problems that will soon begin to plague Hall of Fame selections. The Hall of Fame does not suffer from not having enough solid, but unspectacular first baseman, or slugging, but not historically great, outfielders from the 1970s. Tony Perez, Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are already in the Hall of Fame.

The bigger problem facing the Hall of Fame is that due to the backlog on the ballot, as well as the increased numbers of team, players and thus, eligible candidates, the players from the 1990s and later will be severely underrepresented over time. Finding a way for one of these players to get in will only make the lack of players from the 1990s and later more striking. If Parker gets into the Hall of Fame only a few years after getting rejected by the voters, the cases for more recent corner outfielders like Lance Berkman, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield, Vladimir Guerrero and others who were better hitters, but with shorter careers like Bobby Abreu and Brian Giles will be much stronger. Similarly, the logic of letting Garvey in, while, as is likely to happen, keeping John Olerud, Jason Giambi and Fred McGriff out, is tough to follow. Garvey or Dave Parker would not be the worst Hall of Fame selections, but perhaps the most puzzling.

Voting in Parker, Garvey or Concepcion only a few months after rejecting Trammell, Tim Raines, Walker and McGriff, not to mention many players with better numbers but suspected, or confirmed steroid use, would be inconsistent and bizarre. There are always going to be deserving players for whom a good Hall of Fame argument can be made, but constantly culling baseball's past to award those players is, inevitably going to lower the Hall of Fame's overall standards thus making it even more noticeable when few, if any deserving players on the regular ballots make it in.