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Saturday, January 05, 2013

Evan Weiner: Flawed Business of Selecting Baseball Hall of Famers

Warning! Retired political cartoonists with BBWAA votes have begun edging their compressed charcoal chunks in freaky unison!

Perhaps one day Cooperstown area businesses will start the process of demanding that the area’s star attraction get rid of the 19th century mode of transportation for voting, the Baseball Writers Association of America and get real baseball experts who don’t have to stoop to new lows on a daily basis (just watch ESPN’s First Take or Around the Horn and see just far silly the sports journalism business has gotten as it tries to pander to 12-18 year old boys with the dialogue driven by the likes of Skip Bayless, Rob Parker, Stephen A. Smith, Woody Paige and others who will never be mistaken for Jim Murray, Shirley Povich or Red Smith).

The baseball scribes will be interviewed and their importance or perhaps impotence will be exposed again with the latest Baseball hall of Fame vote. The National Baseball Hall of Fame is very important to other businesses in an economically crippled part of the United States that needs players to be inducted annually without the banal offerings of voters who believe they need to explain their vote. Perhaps it is time for those who live in central New York to flex their muscle and get the Hall of Fame to oust the writers and get some real experts to judge players instead.

After all their livelihoods may be at stake.

Repoz Posted: January 05, 2013 at 02:31 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: business, history, hof

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: January 05, 2013 at 07:09 PM (#4339799)
Yes, it's the antique shops of Cooperstown that hold all the power here.

I understand there are many reasons to visit the lovely Cooperstown area but the HoF is the 800-pound gorilla. The HoF may change the voting system for its own economic benefit but the idea that the "those who live in central NY" can "flex their muscle" to force the HoF into such action -- it's one of the silliest things yet linked to.

The over-reaction here is way over the top. Voting is always an irrational process. Out of 600 ballots cast, of course there are going to be silly ones. Human beings are never consistent -- from year-to-year or even from player-to-player within the same ballot. The notion that "experts" will be any more consistent is silly.

Many folks here have bemoaned that Bill James doesn't have a ballot. Well, Bill James just said he wouldn't vote for Bonds, at least now. He didn't put McGwire, Palmeiro or Sosa on his ballot either. The non-listing of McGwire makes me wonder how long Bonds is going to wait for James' vote. Nor did he put Walker but that's between him and me (maybe he wasn't asked). He did put McGriff on. And it wasn't clear he was limiting himself to 10.

Jim Murray, Shirley Povich, Red Smith? I'm guessing they all had votes during the 60s when they were electing almost nobody and then half the time in a run-off. Would these guys have been voting when Yogi Berra was made to wait a year? Did they vote for Catfish?

I'm fine with them dumping the BBWAA but I have no idea what body of experts they're going to replace them with. Look at our own HoM. A large number of their candidates are elected only because they force inductions. Bret Saberhagen was elected by being listed on only 17 of 50 ballots (15 spots, weighted, but no 5% rule). The different systems can't be directly compared but in his first year of HoM eligibility Edgar was listed in the top 10 on 19 of 41 ballots or 46%; he got 36% of the BBWAA vote -- not a massive difference.

So the BBWAA are in general agreement with Bill James regarding Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro and Sosa. They were in general agreement with the HoM on Edgar and several other borderline candidates. The BBWAA are being very silly with Jack Morris but the HoM already contains Reuschel and Saberhagen while the HoF still doesn't have Morris (who is starting to look like a VC induction) so I'm not sure which "institution" currently looks more silly in that regard. If the HoM applied HoF voting rules, I'm not sure we'd have more than 150 guys inducted.

This has always been going on and always will be going on. The overreaction this year reminds me of the mainstream media's overreaction to the first statnerd CYA votes when our guy threw a vote to Javy Vazquez in 2009. They reacted like this was the craziest thing they'd ever seen -- as if Dice-K and his 167 IP and 5 BB/9 hadn't finished 4th and Ervin Santana received some votes just the year before when no statnerds voted.

Anyway, for those who think the big concern here is guaranteeing that there is at least one recent player inducted every year, the way to achieve that has nothing to do with the voting body (which guarantees nothing) but to change the rules to induct at least the top vote getter or to drop the percentage to 65 (or whatever) or to require a minimum of 5 votes per ballot or a weighted scheme. Potentially they could go back to the old run-off system although that wouldn't seem to fit well in today's media environment.
   2. The District Attorney Posted: January 05, 2013 at 07:37 PM (#4339804)
Unless you're referring to something other than his recent "Clubhouse Confidential" appearance, James wasn't asked about Palmeiro and McGwire, so we can't say he "omitted" them.

I don't disagree with what I take to be your larger point, though -- that the fact that different voters approach the problem differently isn't a bug, but a feature. One could very well argue that that is, in fact, largely the point of "voting" as a decision mechanism. I do think that it's silly that the voting group is overwhelmingly made up of newspaper beat writers. But no matter who constitutes the group, the individuals within it are going to interpret the standards differently from each other. (And if the group got larger rather than smaller, which is what I'd recommend, that'd only be more true.)
   3. Walt Davis Posted: January 05, 2013 at 08:55 PM (#4339821)
Fair enough on James -- you don't expect to actually read the article or watch the video do you?

I wouldn't call it a feature but, as you note, it's not necessarily a bug (depending on what you're trying to achieve). My point is that it's unavoidable once you have human beings involved and it doesn't matter a lot whether they're "experts" or not.

And that's before we get to the political process of deciding which experts to appoint. There would be a wail of protest if "traditionalists" aren't properly represented; there'd be a wail if statnerds aren't properly represented; there'd be a wail if 'real baseball men' aren't represented. Almost certainly you'd have to have at least some of Costas, Will, LaSorda, Mitchell, Gillick, Torre, etc. on the panel to give it "legitimacy."

I can certainly see it making a lot of sense for all concerned (from a PR aspect) of broadening the pool to include broadcasters, HoF players, "real baseball men" and eventually internet types. I mean the BBWAA as it's currently constituted seems a very weak organization -- print media is ailing anyway and these guys are not major players in that industry -- and it's hard for me to see it surviving the next 20 years without some radical reorganization. So the HoF should be prepping for the future. But that future will still have plenty of bad ballots with specious reasoning no matter the rules or the body of voters.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: January 05, 2013 at 09:04 PM (#4339825)
And that's before we get to the political process of deciding which experts to appoint.


I agree. The BBWAA makes a certain amount of sense, even now, just because it's a fixed group with a reasonable barrier to entry (or there's supposed to be), plus a further barrier to HoF voting. Expanding that pool is desirable, but will not be easy (and, perhaps, more work than the Hall board is willing to give itself). How does one ID the experts*? And while broadcasters are an obvious possibility, but come with their own concern (since most are team employees, the Hall might not like the idea that team owners could pressured these guys about voting for the local star). I'd love to see the pool improved, but it won't be that easy to pull off.

* Can you imagine the neverending whine from Keith Olberman if he were bypassed as an Expert?
   5. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: January 05, 2013 at 09:27 PM (#4339832)
By how much would broadcasters increase the electorate? I don't imagine that there would be more than 250 broadcasters out there, of whom many wouldn't have enough tenure to vote (assuming a similar tenure-based voting barrier), and who knows what participation rates would be. Seems like to increase the electorate by only 25% at most. And I'm not convinced their reasoning would be saner than the writers'.
   6. J.R. Wolf Posted: January 05, 2013 at 09:44 PM (#4339838)
SABR should select HOF members.
   7. beer on a stick Posted: January 05, 2013 at 10:10 PM (#4339845)
How about the way the LPGA does it? Reach set performance levels (3000H, 500HR, etc.), and you're in...no muss no fuss. Takes the writers, and well, everybody except the players themselves out of the equation.
   8. Misirlou's been working for the drug squad Posted: January 05, 2013 at 11:31 PM (#4339868)
How about the way the LPGA does it? Reach set performance levels (3000H, 500HR, etc.), and you're in...no muss no fuss. Takes the writers, and well, everybody except the players themselves out of the equation.


Such a system would likely elect Harold Baines and leave out someone like Ryne Sandberg.
   9. beer on a stick Posted: January 06, 2013 at 12:12 AM (#4339875)
Really? Surely Sandberg would meet some historical criteria that would admit him?

I'm not advocating this; it's just something I though of offhand.




   10. Bob from Indiana Posted: January 06, 2013 at 01:21 AM (#4339883)
Need to be stats that adjust for park/league/era/position. If so, I would be for it.
   11. Bhaakon Posted: January 06, 2013 at 01:28 AM (#4339887)
Remember the old Elias free agent compensation ranking? Yeah, pass on setting standard on traditional stat benchmarks.

Even if you use new-fangled stats, it's not like they're complete and authoritative, especially for pre-play-by-play data players, and obviously provide absolutely zero guidance on moral issues. There will always be arguments.

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