Is Goose Gossage paving the way for mediocrity

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Thursday January 10, 2008.

Yes, I understand that the Hall of Fame is arguably already very mediocre, but bear with me. I just (like, last night) completed reading the main book part of Freakonomics. Since I started reading it, I’ve been thinking about things that should be looked at a little differently. Considering how I feel about baseball, the recent announcement of who made the Hall of Fame piqued my interest in looking at the way people are elected. So I have an idea.

Goose Gossage made the hall after being denied entry for eight years. Eight years! So for eight years he was eligible but not deemed worthy of being voted in by the aggregate of baseball writers, yet in 2008 he’ll be the only inductee. This situation raises a lot of questions, starting with whether he was voted in simply because he was the best available player on the ballot. The evidence seems to point in that direction.

One thing I think should be considered is that it’s perceived that when a certain player is inducted, the numbers that player carries with him become a kind of precedent for future votes. Having spent his career as a relief pitcher, Gossage has a different set of statistics than just about all the other pitchers in the Hall. He doesn’t have 300 wins (considered an automatic “in”), he doesn’t have 2,000 strikeouts (3,000 is the almost automatic “in”), and he has less saves than decent, but certainly not even in the conversation for the Hall of Fame, relief pitchers. He does have a lot of innings pitched, though, which separates him from just about all relievers.

I don’t care about whether he was worthy of being inducted here—I care about the effects his induction will have on future votes.

Here is what I’m thinking: since Gossage could easily be said to not be worthy of being in the Hall of Fame (based on his eight denials), and his induction presumably sets a precedent for future inductions (especially as we get further from his career high point—the guy was only a marginal reliever for the entirety of my baseball consciousness), can we reasonably expect more relievers with questionable credentials to make their way to the Hall in the next decade or so?

The answer to that will probably always be “yes,” but what I’m searching for here is some sort of data that tells me whether similar inductions in the past—inductions that could be called questionable based on things like previous denials, have led to similar players statistically being inducted in subsequent votes. I think it’s an interesting question and one that could yield some very interesting results. I just wish I could figure out a way to pull everything together.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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