The same passionate arguments are made this time every year -- for Pete Rose, for Jim Rice, for Bert Blyleven, and many others. And year after year, the same players are denied entrance into baseball's most exclusive fraternity, the Baseball Hall of Fame. They're either snubbed, banned, discounted or forgotten.
But do they really belong in Cooperstown? And are they any better than some of the players whose faces are already emblazoned in bronze within the Hall's inner sanctum?
Here's one way to find out: Assemble the best team of players not in the Hall of Fame (called the "Mortals") and pit it against a team of Hall of Famers (called the "Immortals"). Just for fun, ESPN.com put together two 25-man rosters (15 position players, 10 pitchers) and, relying on the simulation expertise of Diamond Mind Baseball, manufactured a mythical Hall of Fame Series.
Players on the non-Hall of Fame team met at least one of the following criteria:
• They received 25 percent of the vote at least once when they appeared on the writers' ballot.
• They are on baseball's ineligible list.
• They are first-time eligible players who aren't considered locks to be voted into the Hall this year.
Based on those eligibility requirements, Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson were awarded roster spots on the non-HOF team, along with several players on this year's ballot -- Rice, Blyleven, Goose Gossage, Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly, Jack Morris, Lee Smith and Mark McGwire.
The only requirement for inclusion on the Hall of Fame team was that each player had to be voted into Cooperstown by the writers, not by the Veterans Committee. Otherwise, to be fair, an effort was made to keep the most elite Hall of Famers off the team -- players like Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, Mickey Mantle, and so on.
To determine the champion of this mythical Hall of Fame Series, the two teams played a seven-game series, using a four-man rotation (going in the same order -- righty, lefty, righty, lefty). The only other guideline was that the position players serving as backups for one game had to be in the starting lineup for the next game.
Using career-based ratings for each player, Diamond Mind simulated the series 1,000 times -- with the non-Hall of Fame team winning 529 times. The outcomes were distributed as follows:
Hall of Fame team ("Immortals") wins:
• Four games: 74
• Five games: 96
• Six games: 154
• Seven games: 147
Non-Hall of Fame team ("Mortals") wins:
• Four games: 74
• Five games: 178
• Six games: 153
• Seven games: 124
To further reflect the closeness of the matchup, there were a total of 5,701 games played. The Hall of Fame team won 2,740 games (.481 winning percentage), while the non-Hall of Famers won 2,961 games (.519).
There's probably a strong statistical reason why the most common outcome was a non-Hall of Fame series victory in five games, but we decided to choose a non-Hall of Fame win in seven games as the representative series, along with its box scores and final stats.
Following are the rosters for the two teams: