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McGwire, 21 others elected to VEB Hall of Fame

VEB has set an unusually high standard for how good you have to be to get into the Hall of Fame.

2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Through four rounds of voting, VEB has voted on 130 potential Hall of Famers. I have indicated as such in the comments, but VEB is a harsh judge. They have whittled that list down to just 22 players. In the first wave of historical voting for the VEB Hall of Fame - and third group of inductees overall - 22 players have been deemed worthy of the Hall of Fame. Nearly all of them could best be described as “no doubt Hall of Famers.” It’s possible a second round of voting would produce less difficult standards, but for now, those are the standards.

On the first ballot, just four players were selected to the Hall. It was a fairly deep ballot, at least compared to the three that followed, with 16 players getting 20% of the vote or more than 12 players getting at least 50% of the vote. Actual Hall of Famers left off the ballot were Goose Goslin, Joe Cronin, Dave Winfield, Bill Dickey, Goose Gossage, Jim Kaat, Red Schoendienst, Zack Wheat, Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown and Bobby Doer. Goslin fell just short with 73.9% of the vote and Cronin and Winfield weren’t far behind with 71%. Dickey and non-Hall of Famer Reggie Smith got 66.7%, followed closely behind by Gossage with 65%. Brown rounds out the list of those with more than half the people voting for him with 58%.

Who was voted in? Only the man who broke the color barrier, the catcher with the 2nd highest WAR ever, the stolen base record holder, and the only pitcher with 200+ wins and 150+ saves. That’s Jackie Robinson, Gary Carter, Rickey Henderson, and John Smoltz. Jackie received the highest with 98.6% of the vote (in fact that’s the highest of any of the first four rounds), followed by Henderson with 97.1%, then Carter and Smoltz both with 89.9%.

Gene Tenace and Jerry Koosman both received a shade over 20%. You can find the rest of the players here, but they all received less than 10%. In the future, there may be “second chance” ballots, and I haven’t decided what percentage will be on future ballots, but I can guarantee less than 10% are officially eliminated.


The second ballot was a bit more inclusive. It probably helps that this ballot wasn’t as deep of a group. Just nine players received over 50% of the vote and just 12 players received over 20%. Players in the actual Hall of Fame who did not make it are Dazzy Vance, Joe McGinnity, Sam Rice, Harry Hooper, and Rabbit Maranville. In fact the latter two received 8.4% and 7.2% of the vote. They will not be on a future ballot. Sam Rice, with 18.1%, may very well not be on a future ballot either, though that’s less certain. Joe McGinnity received just 37.3%. Vance has a shot at making it on a second ballot, with 67.5%.

The most interesting result was probably Roberto Alomar and Bobby Grich. There is a weird popular perception thing going on. Because players with Alomar’s career WAR total are not getting in. Reggie Smith didn’t make it. Joe Cronin didn’t make it. Zack Wheat didn’t make it. And Bobby Grich, who in my mind is a clearly superior candidate, didn’t make it either. Grich got 67.5% of the vote. Alomar, somehow, escaped those players fates. And he skated in too! He got 84.3%. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve to go in, I just have no idea what it is about Alomar that makes him separate from similar players. Any guesses? I’m lost.

Another player with a similar WAR total who got in via the vote, but who has a totally rational explanation for why is... Mark McGwire! He made it. Barely. He got 75.9% of the vote. Fun fact: he was actually dead on at 75% of the vote, I noticed a voter used one too many votes, and to my great regret, I deleted the ballot, thinking this would cost him a vote. But that voter did not vote for McGwire. Weirdly there has been exactly one ballot in each round that has used one too many votes. It did not affect anybody getting in, though this was the closest.

The other Hall of Famers are “no doubt” Hall of Famers. You have the greatest third baseman of all time, Mike Schmidt (97.6%). Another player with 500 home runs in Mel Ott (90.4%), back when that was more impressive. One of the greatest catchers ever in Carlton Fisk (89.2%), certainly the greatest 40+ year old catcher. 3,000 hit club members Paul Molitor (91.6%) and Al Kaline (92.6%) also skated in.

One telling result in my opinion is Mel Ott. Yes, he got in easily. But his percentage seems to represent a tax given to players who played before any of us were born. Which makes sense. But any even remotely borderline player who isn’t a Cardinals player has virtually no shot at making it if they played before 1950 I think. (Goslin, Cronin, Vance and Dickey are good examples of this). This may change if they get another chance, but for now, seems to be a good rule.

Other players with greater than 20% include Will Clark (34.9%) and Sherry Magee (31.3%), who stand a good chance of going on another ballot. Vada Pinson with 14.5% is pretty unlikely but not impossible and I doubt Mort Cooper with 10.8% will be on another ballot. The rest got under 10%, which you can find here.

On ballot #3, we do have three players who challenge my claim that players with around 60-65 WAR are not making it, however I’m not sure the three players contradict me. You have Yogi Berra (90.4%), who is a catcher, which I think is like having 70 WAR as a position player. You have Pee Wee Reese (86.7%), who would have 70+ if he didn’t miss three years to WAR. And you have Willie McCovey (92.8%), who has 500+ homers and is just one of those players I’ve always known is a Hall of Famer somehow. Whenever whatever baseball video game I played had a team of old stars or whatever, he was on it.

Gehringer, however very much supports my point that players who played before 1950 are going to have a tough time. With over 80 career bWAR and nearly 80 career fWAR, Gehringer got just 79.5% of the vote. Who is not voting for this guy??? I confess I did not include Berra or Bench in my original article (they were on the ballot, just nothing written) which a few people said made them not vote for them, not realizing they were on the ballot as they voted as they read their stats. It did not affect Berra, and it didn’t affect Bench either, with 92.8% of the vote. Rounding out the list is Gaylord Perry, with 90.4% of the vote.

Falling just short, even with what I suspect is a St. Louis bump, is George Sisler, with 71.1%. I suspect he may make it given another shot. Curt Flood didn’t make it either, with 65.1% of the vote. Rick Reuschel and Robin Ventura both suffer from being way better than people assumed while they played. If they retire and you don’t even register them as Hall of Fame candidates, it’s difficult to change that view. Reuschel got 55%, but Ventura got a measly 16.9%. I’m not saying Ventura needs to be a Hall of Famer - I just find insane he got that few of votes when he has a legitimate case.

Actual Hall of Famers who did not make the cut were the aforementioned Sisler, Richie Ashburn (57.8%), Red Ruffing (55%), Waite Hoyt (19.3%), and Phil Rizzuto (10.8%). Don Newcombe (with 28.9%) and Vida Blue (with 21.7%) were the only other players to get above 20%. Kevin Appier, Jack Quinn, and Jack Chesbro all got between 10 and 12% of the vote. Everyone else got below 10%. You can find the rest of the players here.

Lastly, we have the most recent ballot. Unlike the previous three, this had 34 players. However this did not seem to really affect the numbers. On this ballot, six current Hall of Famers were not elected by this group. The closest, Ralph Kiner, had 71% of the vote. I think a second ballot would put him in. Tony Perez (45.8%) and Stan Covelski (41.7%) would have a more difficult percentage to make up. And Jim Bottomley (26.4%), Joe Tinker (25%), and Elmer Flick seem like they have no real shot.

Despite the increased ballot, just five Hall of Famers were selected. All of them are no doubt in this writer’s opinion. Accounting for era of course, you have the greatest shortstop ever (Honus Wagner with 97.2%), at his peak possibly the greatest pitcher ever (Sandy Koufax), the greatest second baseman to play past 1950 (Joe Morgan), 17-time All-Star Warren Spahn, and 500 HR member Frank Thomas.

Not coming all that close, but getting significant votes are the underrated Willie Randolph (50%) and Sal Bando (47.2%). The same thing that causes voters to ignore them in real life seems to affect the voters here as well, though not to the extreme of real life. (Disclaimer: I voted for Bando, not for Randolph). Three other players had over 20% besides the names mentioned: Marty Marion and Urban Shocker (both with 22.2%) and Bill Freehan (with 20.8%). Dave Parker, Wilbur Wood, and ex-Cardinals Darrell Porter and Harry Breechen received over 10%. Everybody else, including Brian Giles, has under 10% and are for sure eliminated from a second round.

So that’s the list. The VEB Hall of Fame elects catchers Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Yogi Berra; first basemen Frank Thomas, Willie McCovey and Mark McGwire; second basemen Jackie Robinson, Joe Morgan, Roberto Alomar and Charlie Gehringer; third basemen Mike Schmidt and Paul Molitor; shortstops Honus Wagner and Pee Wee Reese; outfielders Mel Ott, Rickey Henderson, and Al Kaline; and pitchers Sandy Koufax, Warren Spahn, Gaylord Perry, and John Smoltz.

We have set a pretty high bar. I consider myself a small Hall guy and even I think the standards shouldn’t be this high. Granted, it’s possible standards will lower if you remove the obvious guys from the equation. We will not know the answer to that until I do a second chance ballot.

Looking at the list, honestly, I’m still confused about Alomar to be honest. Nothing against him. I voted for him. He is a Hall of Famer and should be. But like... he clearly stands out to me. 13 players had 70+ WAR on at least one site. Three players without that mark were reasonably close and also catchers. Both McGwire and McCovey hit 500+ home runs and also McGwire is a Cardinal. Both Reese and Jackie didn’t reach 70 WAR specifically for events out of their control, not being able to play in seasons where they would have easily gotten to 70 WAR if they did play. And while he didn’t last long, I haven’t checked, but I’m pretty sure Koufax has the greatest four years of any pitcher ever (and has another two really, really good years that are more human). And then Alomar, who was a worse player than Bobby Grich.

He and Giles, who I didn’t vote for but was shocked at his low vote count, were my two biggest surprises. And McGwire - some people are going to hate this - but a steroid user has officially been inducted into this Hall. To maintain consistency, you kind of have to vote in other steroid users now. McGwire would be a really strange exception to the no steroid users thing voters have had in the two modern ballots. To be fair, the modern ballots have a lot more voters. So the “historical” group of voters may very well have voted in the steroid users of the past if I gave them the shot.

As for the future, I am taking a brief break from the Hall of Fame. On Thursday and next week, I will have posts unrelated to the Hall of Fame. Two weeks from now, we continue voting. I’ll do three rounds instead of four of voting. After that, it’s up to events not in my control. Basically, it’s good news if I can’t do more rounds of voting. If the season starts when it’s supposed to, we’ll have to wait until after the 2022 season to vote again. If the season gets delayed, I may do more rounds of voting around when Opening Day is supposed to start. If either the Cardinals miss the playoffs or they get knocked out right away, there’s a good chance the next few rounds will happen in late October. So you know, let’s root for the next three rounds to be the last for a while.