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Monday, December 31, 2012

Leitch: Fun and Games

Don’t see any Hall of Fame votes for players who normally went by the first name “Cliff”.  Fiscal Clifford Earl Torgeson got 0.7% of the vote, and Fiscal Clifford Carlton Cravath peaked at 1.2%.

Hall of Fame voting, and the subsequent discussion, is becoming something that’s grueling to witness. It’s becoming not fun anymore. Everybody loves a good sports debate—and by “debate,” I mean “ a meaningful exchange of considered, reasoned ideas,” and it’s sort of sad that “First Take” has required me to remind people what “debate” means—but what’s happening with the Hall of Fame voters isn’t a debate: It’s people making intractable stands and then yelling about how the other side is not only wrong, but peppering them with personal invective. This is happening on both sides. Those who think sabermetrics should be the center (if not only) tenet in evaluating players believe the BBWAA voters who don’t use advanced stats are unworthy of a vote, and the BBWAA voters who insist on the value of their own eyes claim their detractors are just haters who wish they got to vote. No matter which side you agree with—or, you know, if you’re a normal human being who sees values in both sides, a.k.a., “probably not a person who writes about sports for a living”—you find yourself leaving all “discussions” wishing for a pox on both houses. People are screaming past each other, and not paying the least bit attention to the readers, the fans … the people they ostensibly write columns for.

It’s becoming impossible to deal with. It’s turning something as fun and meaningless—and talk all you want about the sacred nature of the Hall of Fame, let us not forget that it’s just a building in upstate New York with weird-looking bronzes of people who used to run around and swing pieces of wood for a living but now do awkward local commercials and put their name on car dealerships—as deciding who’s a legendary ballplayer and who isn’t, and it’s turning into an endless political debate between two parties who have no interest in taking the slightest step forward toward the other. I no longer believe any side in the debate anymore. They’re either trying to advance an agenda (the BBWAA still matters! Old sportswriters are terrible!) or they’re holding some time-worn grudge against someone who was mean to them in the clubhouse, or they’re just blindly throwing in the top 10 guys in WAR to prove a point, or whatever. It’s not fun to read about, it’s not fun to write about it and it’s not fun to talk about.

That’s a serious problem. This is the Hall of Fame. This is the ultimate sports debate. This is how we’ve always classified guys, how we’ve organized the world of baseball for years. We’ve never thought of the Hall of Fame as “just a building” because it was supposed to mean so much more. It was supposed to be fun. But not now. The discussions about the Hall of Fame, and the actual ballots, are turning into the fiscal cliff debate, with people operating in bad faith, abusing their power, making decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with how good of a baseball player a certain guy was. It’s like watching politicians. And sports should never, ever be like watching politicians.

I’m not sure how this gets turned around. But I’ve never enjoyed the Hall of Fame discussions less than I have this year. And it’s just going to get worse. This is not helping anybody. If you take the fun out of the Hall of Fame, you just have a dusty old building. That’s to say: You have nothing.

The District Attorney Posted: December 31, 2012 at 08:47 PM | 11 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, sports on earth

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   1. TomH Posted: January 01, 2013 at 12:10 PM (#4335845)
The writer makes a good point about HoF debate and society debate in general.

Which means some of you will now take my children away....
   2. GGC don't think it can get longer than a novella Posted: January 01, 2013 at 12:24 PM (#4335853)
EDITED

No one wants to read my grousing and I probably should make a New Year's Resolution to stop it.
   3. GregD Posted: January 01, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4335856)
The writer makes a good point about HoF debate and society debate in general.
I'm curious if it was ever not so? More people have platforms to get their opinions out there, and that changes what we know about the range of opinions, but are we so sure that debates were so much more rational even in the consensus eras? We have had eras when party breakdowns didn't predict ideological breakdowns--in the period between the 1930s and 1980s, generally--and that has interesting consequences, but the debates over the Civil Rights Act weren't exactly from Plato's dialogues even so.

Conflict is. It doesn't demand an external explanation for its existence.
   4. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: January 01, 2013 at 12:38 PM (#4335858)
I’m not sure how this gets turned around. But I’ve never enjoyed the Hall of Fame discussions less than I have this year. And it’s just going to get worse. This is not helping anybody. If you take the fun out of the Hall of Fame, you just have a dusty old building. That’s to say: You have nothing.


Burn it to the ground and start again. Barry Bonds should be the third inductee.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: January 01, 2013 at 06:28 PM (#4336250)
you just have a dusty old building

No way! The cleaning staff at the HoF have 74 JAR.

(Janitors above replacement)
   6. villageidiom Posted: January 01, 2013 at 08:18 PM (#4336373)
No way! The cleaning staff at the HoF have 74 JAR.
Get out of your mother's broom closet and watch them some time. Sheesh.
   7. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: January 01, 2013 at 08:32 PM (#4336393)
Shorter Leitch: I enjoyed voting for the HOF back when people who disagreed with me didn't have a platform to express their views.
   8. TomH Posted: January 01, 2013 at 11:14 PM (#4336564)
What I was saying, and maybe (I only speculate) what the writer was feeling was that the internet had spawned a method of dialogue which is harsher and less helpful overall. I mean, BBTF is actually light-years BETTER than reading comments on most of the news sources. 80% of those people just scream their personal biased views at each other and little "light" ever emerges. But even here, and at other places, people sit behind their screens and type things that to them appear self-evident truths, but there sure is a lot of myopia around. As for #7s suggestion, maybe the writer is not so much pining for less openness for others to express views, but a better dialogue.
   9. boteman Posted: January 02, 2013 at 08:35 AM (#4336686)
In the 70s and/or 80s was televised an hour-long debate of sorts hosted by Arthur Miller (the lawyer, not the dancer). It would never see the light of day against all the reality garbage filing most channels today.
   10. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 02, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4336718)
As for #7s suggestion, maybe the writer is not so much pining for less openness for others to express views, but a better dialogue.
Better dialogue is of course good - that's what "better" means.

My problem with Leitch is that he seems to be pining for a past that never existed. There's little evidence that the world used to be a place where people solved problems without yelling. In sportswriting and the Hall in particular, greater interest from fans has led to more discussions, and the development of better tools for analyzing baseball has led to greater specificity in these discussions. More discussions, and more discussions with people with more knowledge, will also mean more people being jerks. But then the problem is that you want to improve the future, so that there will be fewer jerks. You don't want to return to the past when people didn't understand baseball as well, and you can't physically return to the past when people lacked the technology to discuss baseball as much.
   11. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 02, 2013 at 09:46 AM (#4336720)
it’s turning into an endless political debate between two parties who have no interest in taking the slightest step forward toward the other.
Also, the nihilism. The debate has produced some number of immovable objects, but the large majority of voters appear to be almost comically mobile in their views. The progression of players from 30% to 80% has continued just as it always did. The steroid-tarred superstars are heading for 40-50%, which will almost certainly increase over the next few years and should lead to their induction before 2020. I see no evidence whatsoever that the actual process of inducting players to the Hall of Fame has gotten worse - it seems to me it's gotten marginally better as overlooked greats benefit from campaigns to raise recognition and informed fans have a better platform to make and refine their arguments.

The voting process has perhaps become more difficult for voters because they're expected to make arguments and defend positions. That again seems like a plus.

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