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Monday, January 21, 2019

Opinion | Bill James Has the Required Numbers - The New York Times

Hundreds of SABR members will cry out in horror at this description.

James did not invent analytics — other students of the game formed the Society for Advanced Baseball Research years before he began his studies. But his lively, provocative writing helped him elevate the field at just the right time. The new network ESPN integrated stats into its programming. Players of the new pastime, fantasy baseball, hungered for stats. Agents and general managers alike gobbled up stats to justify free-agent contracts. Numbers enriched the whole show.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 21, 2019 at 06:14 AM | 78 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 09:18 AM (#5807246)
I was about to submit this article, but Jim beat me to it. I'd say James not only deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, but that he's arguably one of the ten most influential people in the history of baseball.
   2. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:14 AM (#5807267)
There might be something poetic about how I strongly suspect things are going to go down: Bill James, like Pete Rose, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame within two years after his death, but not before.

I hope I'm wrong in both cases. In James' because I hope he gets inducted while he's still alive and sound to enjoy it, in Rose's because I hope he never gets to walk into the building without a ticket.
   3. The Anthony Kennedy of BBTF (Scott) Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:16 AM (#5807268)
Seconding #2. I hadn't really thought about a Bill James HOF case before, but he absolutely deserves it.
   4. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:20 AM (#5807271)
A man who wrote a book critical of the Hall and of the process is not going in.

I also don't know if he deserves to go in either.
   5. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:42 AM (#5807276)
Top of my head:

Ruth, Robinson, Landis, Rickey, Veeck, Henderson, Ban Johnson, Ted Williams, Aaron, Miller

Hard to see who he knocks out among these or four or five others to make it into the top ten.
   6. SoSH U at work Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:48 AM (#5807280)
I support Bill for the Hall, though as part of a "contributors" category that encompasses those people who don't fit easily into existing categories but have enhanced the development of the game in a meaningful way - Left O'Doul, Buck O'Neil, James and Sean Foreman are four that jump to mind.
   7. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:05 AM (#5807285)
Top of my head:

Ruth, Robinson, Landis, Rickey, Veeck, Henderson, Ban Johnson, Ted Williams, Aaron, Miller

Hard to see who he knocks out among these or four or five others to make it into the top ten.


In chronological order, and restricting it to the 20th century for the simple reason I don't know jack about the 19th:

John McGraw – Created and perfected the art of “scientific baseball”

Jacob Ruppert – Used his fortune to bring out the full market potential of New York

Babe Ruth – Revolutionized the game and was its first mega-attraction

Kenesaw Mountain Landis – Restored public confidence after the Black Sox scandal

Branch Rickey – Created the farm system and integrated the game

J. G. Taylor Spink – Gave the game a focal point for all diamond related discussions. In its prime, The Sporting News was the equivalent of ESPN and BB-Reference combined.

Jackie Robinson – Brought baseball into the 20th century

Walter O’Malley – Made baseball into a truly national sport

Marvin Miller – Introduced real world economics to a feudal system of employment

Bill James – Began asking the questions that previously hadn’t been asked

Henderson, Williams and Aaron are inner circle HoFers, but none of them were particular influential in any groundbreaking way, certainly not in the ways that Ruth and Robinson were.

Ban Johnson would be close, and Veeck would be, too, although it should be pointed out that for all the zillions of corporate-sponsored promotions that MLB has staged since the first Bat Day, none of them have ever followed Veeck in terms of spontaneity or originality. He's my favorite owner ever, but his influence was pretty limited.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5807290)
Henderson, Williams and Aaron are inner circle HoFers, but none of them were particular influential in any groundbreaking way, certainly not in the ways that Ruth and Robinson were.


The Science of Hitting and his Hall speech might not elevate him into Ruth and Jackie status, but both were pretty significant.
   9. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:13 AM (#5807294)
Henderson, Williams and Aaron are inner circle HoFers, but none of them were particular influential in any groundbreaking way, certainly not in the ways that Ruth and Robinson were.

I can see Aaron being a stretch. Williams and Henderson, less so.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5807295)
Are we talking about Rickey Henderson? if so, what groundbreaking impact did he have? Talking in the third person?


I would put Clemente ahead of either of those three as far as legacy and impact goes.
   11. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:23 AM (#5807296)
Are we talking about Rickey Henderson? if so, what groundbreaking impact did he have?

Leadoff hitting, speed. Maybe it wasn't lasting, maybe it's generational. -shrug-
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5807298)
Leadoff hitting, speed. Maybe it wasn't lasting, maybe it's generational. -shrug-


Wasn't he just more or less a better version of Lou Brock? I'm not really seeing anything impactful there.
   13. Count Vorror Rairol Mencoon (CoB) Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5807302)
Yeah, I'm just not seeing Henderson and I love him as a player and persona.

Did he have cultural impact? Did he change the game?

I don't think he'd warrant being on that list before Dimaggio, for example.

(and I don't think Dimaggio makes the list, either)
   14. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:44 AM (#5807305)
Leadoff hitting, speed. Maybe it wasn't lasting, maybe it's generational. -shrug-


Wasn't he just more or less a better version of Lou Brock? I'm not really seeing anything impactful there.

If you're talking about influence combined with value, Ty Cobb beats Henderson hands down. But even Cobb never had the same impact on the long range future of baseball as Ruth or Robinson. There's a distinction between "influential" and "great".
   15. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:52 AM (#5807310)
Ty Cobb helped make the AL legitimate and shepherded the game into the roaring 20’s. Without Cobb the game would have been in much worse shape before Ruth came along. Cobb also embodied and ennobled the scrappy fighter outlook and approach that most ballplayers would carry on for decades after he left the game.
   16. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:53 AM (#5807312)
Yeah, I'm just not seeing Henderson and I love him as a player and persona.

Did he have cultural impact? Did he change the game?

I don't think he'd warrant being on that list before Dimaggio, for example.

(and I don't think Dimaggio makes the list, either)


Dimaggio was the first Italian-American player to become a true superstar and a national figure, but only Robinson's "first" was anything more than an incremental evolution of the "every boy can grow up to be..." myth.

And Clemente's stature is more seen in hindsight than it was at the time. Minnie Minoso preceded him as the first Afro-Latin star, and for most of his career he was seen more as an NL counterpart to Al Kaline** than anything else. It took the 1971 World Series and his martyrdom the next year to elevate his reputation to a much higher level.

** A right fielder with a rifle arm, along with a higher BA and not as much power.
   17. Mefisto Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5807314)
That "scrappy" -- more like "thuggish" -- attitude pre-dated Cobb. It was the Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s who brought that to the game. Cobb did bring it to the AL, for better or worse, though the AL remained less affected by it than the NL.
   18. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5807315)
Minnie Minoso preceded him as the first Afro-Latin star, and for most of his career he was seen more as an NL counterpart to Al Kaline** than anything else. It took the 1971 World Series and his martyrdom the next year to elevate his reputation to a much higher level.


Agree, but it is that after death legacy that elevates him.
   19. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:55 AM (#5807316)
Ty Cobb helped make the AL legitimate and shepherded the game into the roaring 20’s. Without Cobb the game would have been in much worse shape before Ruth came along. Cobb also embodied and ennobled the scrappy fighter outlook and approach that most ballplayers would carry on for decades after he left the game.

I can't see Cobb as displacing any of the ones I listed above, but he'd be very close, and for the reasons you mention. But as for that scrappy fighter bit, McGraw and the Baltimore Orioles beat him to it by a full decade.

(EDIT: coke to Mefisto)
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:58 AM (#5807318)
Minnie Minoso preceded [Clemente] as the first Afro-Latin star, and for most of his career he was seen more as an NL counterpart to Al Kaline** than anything else. It took the 1971 World Series and his martyrdom the next year to elevate his reputation to a much higher level.

Agree, but it is that after death legacy that elevates him.


It does, but when I think of "influential", I'm thinking of how influential a player/exec/other figure was at the time, not in retrospect. That post-career evaluation might get him into the top 20, but that top 10 is a hard nut to crack.


   21. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 12:13 PM (#5807323)
It does, but when I think of "influential", I'm thinking of how influential a player/exec/other figure was at the time, not in retrospect. That post-career evaluation might get him into the top 20, but that top 10 is a hard nut to crack.


I don't think it matters when his influence takes hold. But to each their own. Clemente's lasting influence on latino players, and how he died has made charity work that the players do become a major part of their job description. Yes I know they did that even before Clemente, but it now feels like it's almost a requirement, pretty much every team has dozens of active players heading up a charity, and I think that Clemente's death is a big part of that(and the large sums of money they make and that their salaries are public)


I probably don't put Clemente top ten either, but I never said I would, I said he had more impact/legacy than Williams, Aaron or Henderson.
   22. Ithaca2323 Posted: January 21, 2019 at 12:36 PM (#5807325)
Rickey believed in full playoff shares. Rickey was the best
   23. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 12:43 PM (#5807327)
I don't think it matters when his influence takes hold. But to each their own. Clemente's lasting influence on latino players, and how he died has made charity work that the players do become a major part of their job description. Yes I know they did that even before Clemente, but it now feels like it's almost a requirement, pretty much every team has dozens of active players heading up a charity, and I think that Clemente's death is a big part of that(and the large sums of money they make and that their salaries are public)

I probably don't put Clemente top ten either, but I never said I would, I said he had more impact/legacy than Williams, Aaron or Henderson.


I don't disagree with that last assessment. I'd probably put him somewhere in the 11-20 tier.

Another candidate for top 11-20 might be Paige, not for his ML career but for the impression he left among the many MLB players he played against in his prime, who testified in great part because of him that blacks were fully capable of competing in the Majors. It's hard to quantify, but the testimony is there, from players ranging from Dean to Dimaggio.
   24. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 21, 2019 at 12:56 PM (#5807331)
Ty Cobb helped make the AL legitimate


I think Nap Lajoie would be more deserving of that role than Cobb. Lajoie and Cy Young were the biggest NL stars to defect to the AL, and Lajoie was the superstar of the league for several years before Cobb arrived, and helped to give it legitimacy in the public eye.
   25. Lassus Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:01 PM (#5807334)
Well, to get back to the original point, am I the only one who feels that James does not (yet?) cross the top-ten most-influential-in-baseball history list?
   26. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:16 PM (#5807342)
Bill James – Began asking the questions that previously hadn’t been asked


This brings to mind something we have forgotten to our shame. When he sought data and information from the gatekeepers of baseball information and data, monopolies who jealously guarded it for their self-interest, such as the Elias Bureau, it and they refused him assess and stonewalled even engaging in limited disclosure. So he did his own crude information studies (which we all now chortled smugly on reflection) and encouraged others on a large scale to do the same, forcing Elias and others to open up. This was a radical and welcome departure. The impact of this is overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.
   27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:28 PM (#5807348)
i don't see James having sufficient connection to MLB to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unlike some other sports, baseball's Hall of Fame doesn't include all aspects of the sport, just the highest professional leagues. James may have popularized sabermetric analysis, but he didn't invent the subject. The Hall should be about the players, with a very high standard for those whose contributions were off the field.
   28. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5807353)
Ty Cobb helped make the AL legitimate


I think Nap Lajoie would be more deserving of that role than Cobb. Lajoie and Cy Young were the biggest NL stars to defect to the AL, and Lajoie was the superstar of the league for several years before Cobb arrived, and helped to give it legitimacy in the public eye.

Yes, a lot of people forget that the AL began as a minor league, and that its acceptance as a Major League was aided in great part by raiding the NL. And Lajoie was the first important star to make the switch.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Well, to get back to the original point, am I the only one who feels that James does not (yet?) cross the top-ten most-influential-in-baseball history list?

I'm not sure that anyone other than me has said he does belong among the top ten, although nearly all of us would probably say he belongs in the Hall of Fame. (Clapper's conception of the Hall of Fame seems extremely limited, but YMMV.)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bill James – Began asking the questions that previously hadn’t been asked

This brings to mind something we have forgotten to our shame. When he sought data and information from the gatekeepers of baseball information and data, monopolies who jealously guarded it for their self-interest, such as the Elias Bureau, it and they refused him assess and stonewalled even engaging in limited disclosure. So he did his own crude information studies (which we all now chortled smugly on reflection) and encouraged others on a large scale to do the same, forcing Elias and others to open up. This was a radical and welcome departure. The impact of this is overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.


That's another very good point, part of baseball's forgotten history.
   29. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:44 PM (#5807354)
Henderson, Williams and Aaron are inner circle HoFers, but none of them were particular influential in any groundbreaking way, certainly not in the ways that Ruth and Robinson were.


I demur wrt Williams. His influence was over a long period so it is rather subtle, but it should not be subject to a paltering dismissal. It has been overwhelming (literally—and MLB’s problems with length and pace of games owes a lot to do with the downside of everyone becoming little TWs).

He radically changed the approach to hitting. With him, a consciously strategic attitude—a philosophy—came to the forefront. Ruth had been the precursor in this regard, but because Ruth was such an outlier in his time, especially the early years, he was more or less forced to adapt (and he did). But with Williams it became a consciously studied line of attack, almost a Zen discipline, and he was the knight-errant as well as the philosopher-king who was also the best explainer of the approach before the Bill Jameses, et al.
   30. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:48 PM (#5807358)
If you're talking about influence combined with value, Ty Cobb beats Henderson hands down. But even Cobb never had the same impact on the long range future of baseball as Ruth or Robinson. There's a distinction between "influential" and "great".


Cobb didn't represent or embody a radical change or departure. What he was, was the paragon and epitome of a certain way of playing the game. Deadball era exemplar--just show a picture of Cobb.
   31. bobm Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:56 PM (#5807361)
i don't see James having sufficient connection to MLB to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unlike some other sports, baseball's Hall of Fame doesn't include all aspects of the sport, just the highest professional leagues. James may have popularized sabermetric analysis, but he didn't invent the subject. The Hall should be about the players, with a very high standard for those whose contributions were off the field

Alexander Cartwright and Henry Chadwick say hi.
   32. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:57 PM (#5807363)
Bill James was active in forcing baseball to enter the information age. His was a large and influential role, and he makes an apt figurehead for all those who ushered it in.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:14 PM (#5807369)
#29 -- did he? That many batters eventually adopted a (second-rate) version of the Ruth/Williams approach doesn't mean they were influenced by either of them. How many players read the science of hitting? How many hitting coaches? That it took nearly 40 years for Williams' ideas to take hold suggests they weren't particularly influential. Being "first" or even "inventing" something and being "influential" aren't the same thing. There's also no reason why there has to be one person who gets credit -- Williams may have been more influential than any other individual who contributed to this change but that doesn't mean his influence was strong enough to really matter. (And arguably Charlie Lau was, for good or ill, the most influential hitting coach ever.)

Unfotunately, again good or ill, Selig probably belongs in that top 10.
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:19 PM (#5807371)
Henderson, Williams and Aaron are inner circle HoFers, but none of them were particular influential in any groundbreaking way, certainly not in the ways that Ruth and Robinson were.

I demur wrt Williams. His influence was over a long period so it is rather subtle, but it should not be subject to a paltering dismissal.


It's not dismissal simply to say that he's not among the top 10 or 20 figures in baseball history. And as great and scientific a hitter as he was, I'm not sure how many disciples he really had. In fact I'm not even sure he had more hitting disciples than Charlie Lau or Walt Hriniak. (EDIT: coke to Walt.)

If you're talking about influence combined with value, Ty Cobb beats Henderson hands down. But even Cobb never had the same impact on the long range future of baseball as Ruth or Robinson. There's a distinction between "influential" and "great".

Cobb didn't represent or embody a radical change or departure. What he was, was the paragon and epitome of a certain way of playing the game. Deadball era exemplar--just show a picture of Cobb.


He was all of the above, but Ruth's influence over the game has lasted for an entire century, while Cobb's faded rather quickly after his retirement.

Bill James was active in forcing baseball to enter the information age. His was a large and influential role, and he makes an apt figurehead for all those who ushered it in.

Slightly off-topic, but what I also appreciate about James is the way he acknowledges the key roles played by those who went before him, stretching all the way back into the 19th century.
   35. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5807375)
Influence doesn't have to be direct to be felt and effective. Many batters through the years have attested to being influenced by him. And even if you get it second-hand, from an acolyte or through his progeny. Williams was instrumental in changing an attitude. Before him, hitters went after what pitchers threw. With him and after him that changed, quickly with some, gradually with others. Many didn't understand or appreciate his approach (Cobb and DiMaggio to name two prominent and vocal critics), but he persevered and prevailed. Now, I think baseball needs to find a way to short-circuit or get around that way of hitting.
   36. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5807376)
Unfotunately, again good or ill, Selig probably belongs in that top 10.

So who would your top 10 Influentials be? Or who on that list in #7 would you displace to make room for him?

Baseball's finances undoubtedly improved under Selig, but how much of that did he really cause, as opposed to how much of it was caused by the booming economy and the explosion of new media outlets?
   37. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:28 PM (#5807380)
Influence doesn't have to be direct to be felt and effective. Many batters through the years have attested to being influenced by him. And even if you get it second-hand, from an acolyte or through his progeny. Williams was instrumental in changing an attitude. Before him, hitters went after what pitchers threw.

FWIW, walks per 9 innings have declined since Williams' career ended.
   38. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:34 PM (#5807383)
I think Cobb is one of the 10 most fascinating baseball persons in history but not sure if he's one of the most influential. Heck I think Cobb is one of the 10 most interesting sports figures in history.
   39. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:39 PM (#5807387)
I think Cobb is one of the 10 most fascinating baseball persons in history but not sure if he's one of the most influential. Heck I think Cobb is one of the 10 most interesting sports figures in history.

Easily.
   40. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 02:57 PM (#5807392)
Bill James and his disciples helped bring us all to this website but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say he got baseball to open up when it comes to stats. There were a lot of guys in and out of baseball in the 70's that were working on playing around with baseball stats and several of them got high level jobs in the 80's and 90's while others became prominent baseball writers.
   41. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 03:19 PM (#5807402)
Bill James and his disciples helped bring us all to this website but I think it is a bit of a stretch to say he got baseball to open up when it comes to stats. There were a lot of guys in and out of baseball in the 70's that were working on playing around with baseball stats and several of them got high level jobs in the 80's and 90's while others became prominent baseball writers.

There were, and James knows this, but it wasn't until James came along and had his views spread by SI and Villard publishing that people started to pay attention. James was the first analyst to combine serious numbers crunching with a readable writing style, and that was what did it, above and beyond all the SABR Research Journal articles in the world that preceded him.
   42. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 03:41 PM (#5807412)
That’s what did it for us. As I said baseball had these guys inside the system and yes bill would influence some or possibly all of them but he didn’t roll the rock away from the cave entrance and let the bats out.
   43. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 21, 2019 at 04:12 PM (#5807416)
I like Bill, but he hit fewer home runs than Omar Vizquel.
   44. Howie Menckel Posted: January 21, 2019 at 04:16 PM (#5807418)
re AL vs NL (listing first full seasons unless otherwise indicated) and the Lajoie reference above

1901 - Lajoie, Young and fellow future HOFers Jimmy Collins, Clark Griffith, and Iron Joe McGinnity join AL while HOFer Eddie Plank MLB debuts in AL at age 25. Future HOM vote-getters Fielder Jones and Lave Cross also join the crossover party.

1902 - HOFer Ed Delahanty boards the AL train, as do Jesse Burkett, Elmer Flick, George Davis, Bobby Wallace, Rube Waddell (speaking of trains!), and Addie Joss. New ALer Jimmy Ryan would eventually get close to HOM election in the early years before a decades-long fade back into obscurity.

1903 - HOFers Sam Crawford - a huge get - and Jack Chesbro abandon NL ship, while Chief Bender MLB debuts in AL.

1904 - Wee Willie Keeler is the lone HOF crossover hitter. Ed Walsh MLB debuts in AL.

1905 and 1906 - The NL at least shuts off the HOFer spigot entirely.

1907 - Ty Cobb MLB debuts in AL.

1908 - Walter Johnson does same, while future HOM vote-getter Ed Cicotte has his first MLB season beyond a cup of coffee.

1909 - Home Run Baker's first full MLB season, and same for the legendary Smoky Joe Wood (who was interviewed at a 1981 Cape Cod League pitching matchup of Frank Viola vs Ron Darling by Roger Angell, who - 110 years after Smoky's arrival, is still writing about baseball).

   45. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 04:52 PM (#5807423)
1907 - Ty Cobb MLB debuts in AL.

1908 - Walter Johnson does same,


Nit-picking 101: Cobb's debut was in 1905, not 1907. And Johnson's was in 1907, not 1908. They faced each other in Johnson's first game. I'll let others make any other corrections, if necessary.
   46. Howie Menckel Posted: January 21, 2019 at 05:05 PM (#5807427)
re AL vs NL (listing first full seasons unless otherwise indicated) and the Lajoie reference above

but still, I guess I made it ambiguous at best with "debut"
   47. Mefisto Posted: January 21, 2019 at 05:07 PM (#5807428)
I like Bill, but he hit fewer home runs than Omar Vizquel.


He also admitted to being a lousy defender at SS.
   48. AndrewJ Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:01 PM (#5807460)
Just look at the famous portrait of the HOF inductees at the first Cooperstown ceremony in 1939 -- except for Honus Wagner and Pete Alexander, the living greats of the game from 1901-35 are wall-to-wall American Leaguers.
   49. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:06 PM (#5807461)
Wow, everyone seems to have completely overlooked Harold Baines in this discussion.
   50. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:06 PM (#5807462)
I'm not sure that anyone other than me has said he does belong among the top ten, although nearly all of us would probably say he belongs in the Hall of Fame. (Clapper's conception of the Hall of Fame seems extremely limited, but YMMV.)


Yep, being not top ten, doesn't mean he misses out, and even with Andy's list, I have to say that some of those names are guys who were just place holders (O'Malley if you aren't giving him Rickey/Robinson credit) Landis, McGraw etc... Really the inner circle guys for influence on the game is Ruth, Robinson, Branch Rickey and Marvin Miller... I think the rest of the guys that have been mentioned have a place in the discussion, but I don't think it's so clear their long term impact on the game. And I think that Bill James influence on the current game, cannot be overstated. Even if he didn't do all the work, he created/popularized the discussion of analytical analysis, and probably helped usher in a large amount of fans from casual to hardcore.


   51. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:09 PM (#5807464)
i don't see James having sufficient connection to MLB to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unlike some other sports, baseball's Hall of Fame doesn't include all aspects of the sport, just the highest professional leagues. James may have popularized sabermetric analysis, but he didn't invent the subject. The Hall should be about the players, with a very high standard for those whose contributions were off the field.


That doesn't seem to match up with the reality of the situation. James had a pretty direct influence on the Billy Beane A's, and they in turn had a pretty direct influence on the Red Sox and the Cubs. Every team in baseball has an analytical department now, whether you like it or not, James was the guy who popularized and made it acceptable for players to strike out, same with walks etc... instead of a few guys doing that, the game evolved to where it's at because of James influence and the guys who followed him.
   52. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:15 PM (#5807468)
James was the first analyst to combine serious numbers crunching with a readable writing style,


In your original list you listed J. G. Taylor Spink and I wasn't around for most of that, but I defer to you on that, and agree that the quality of writing, and the availability of it, and the accessibility of it, made a difference even if he wasn't technically the first or 10th to do it. And then of course the large mountain of work continuing after he gained an audience matters. Rob Neyer introduced me to Bill James, and probably others, but the fact that he effectively disappeared as a person of interest on this issue after 10-20 years, reduced his importance to the game. James was here before Neyer and is still here to a lesser degree, but he's still here.
   53. Morty Causa Posted: January 21, 2019 at 07:17 PM (#5807469)
In my mind, the point isn’t that James was first or most original or most penetrating in scholarship and intellect. It’s that once he became the most popular writer of the sort, Elias and the entrenched mainstream couldn’t ignore the young turks or what they putting forth. (We have many instances of this happening in other realms of human endeavor.) Elias and others, in a way, had lost its “folk” copyright. They no longer had information in their iron vise. It wasn’t any longer just between Ivy-Tower nerds and geeks arguing about Biblical arcane to the exclusion of the laity. In fact, Elias not only got on the bandwagon, it tried to cash in on the “craze”, blatantly imitating Bill’s annual abstract with its own version.

The Biblical note also reminds me that, in making the metrics issue the facts and “alternative facts” eminently un-ignorable, Bill James becomes the harbinger of a broader revolution, much like the way Richard Dawkins exploded the popular stage by making the ostensible case to the lay public mind that science and atheism (agnosticism, skepticism, nonbelievers, nones) could be seen as conjoined twins. Dawkins doesn’t have to settle deep philosophical and epistemological issues that never have been or will be settled. He may not be Epicurus, but many sympathetic to him would say, he doesn’t have to be. He just has to be good enough to make a different kind of Rock ‘n’ Roll hall of fame as a creator and promoter of an assortment of voracious, related memes that have taken over like some sort of invasion of pods. Same with Bill James in a smaller universe.

   54. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 09:19 PM (#5807523)
Anyone else keep thinking the header is a link to the Onion?
   55. McCoy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 09:21 PM (#5807524)
Teams had analytic guys and departments before the A's.

If anything it sounds like Sandy alderson should go into the Hall. Without Sandy do we get any of this?
   56. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 21, 2019 at 09:45 PM (#5807534)
I don't see James having sufficient connection to MLB to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unlike some other sports, baseball's Hall of Fame doesn't include all aspects of the sport, just the highest professional leagues. James may have popularized sabermetric analysis, but he didn't invent the subject. The Hall should be about the players, with a very high standard for those whose contributions were off the field.

That doesn't seem to match up with the reality of the situation. James had a pretty direct influence on the Billy Beane A's, and they in turn had a pretty direct influence on the Red Sox and the Cubs. Every team in baseball has an analytical department now, whether you like it or not, James was the guy who popularized and made it acceptable for players to strike out, same with walks etc... instead of a few guys doing that, the game evolved to where it's at because of James influence and the guys who followed him.

I don't think you can bootstrap James into the Hall by crediting him for Billy Beane's achievements, or those of the Red Sox, nor by rewarding him for "popularizing" other people's ideas. He was a fun read, and introduced a lot of fans to more advanced analytics, but I don't find that sufficient for a Hall of Fame that's supposed to be about those who played the game.
   57. Mefisto Posted: January 21, 2019 at 10:16 PM (#5807538)
Just look at the famous portrait of the HOF inductees at the first Cooperstown ceremony in 1939 -- except for Honus Wagner and Pete Alexander, the living greats of the game from 1901-35 are wall-to-wall American Leaguers.


Christy Mathewson and John McGraw had pretty good excuses for missing it. Cy Young split his career between NL/AL and most of the 19th C guys were NL.
   58. cardsfanboy Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:28 PM (#5807555)
If anything it sounds like Sandy alderson should go into the Hall. Without Sandy do we get any of this?


I have zero problem with that. Of course Alderson is a marine so I'm always going to support that guy. :)
   59. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 21, 2019 at 11:38 PM (#5807562)
I'm not sure that anyone other than me has said [James] does belong among the top ten, although nearly all of us would probably say he belongs in the Hall of Fame. (Clapper's conception of the Hall of Fame seems extremely limited, but YMMV.)

Yep, being not top ten, doesn't mean he misses out, and even with Andy's list, I have to say that some of those names are guys who were just place holders (O'Malley if you aren't giving him Rickey/Robinson credit) Landis, McGraw etc... Really the inner circle guys for influence on the game is Ruth, Robinson, Branch Rickey and Marvin Miller


My original list was alphabetical because otherwise it's too many apples vs. too many oranges and grapes. But I do think that Ruth, Robinson and Rickey were the three most influential of the group, and Miller has as good a case as any for being #4.

Just don't underrate Spink because TSN has gone into the tank. When I wrote that during his tenure as an editor (1914-1962) TSN was like ESPN and BB-Reference combined, I wasn't exaggerating one bit. He's easily the most underrated figure in baseball history, which is sad but not really all that surprising, probably in part because he was an editor/publisher rather than a stylistic writer---in fact most of his columns were ghostwritten. Hell, there are probably more people today who've heard of Ring Lardner and Damon Runyon than have heard of Spink, even though neither of them contributed 1/100th as much to baseball as Spink did.

And O'Malley belongs on that top 10 list because (1) he talked Stoneham into bringing the Giants out there with him; and (2) if he hadn't gotten to LA first with the Dodgers, the first LA team would've been owned by Gene Autry. O'Malley may have been a motherf*cker for deserting Brooklyn, but when he led two teams to California, he made sure that, at least from the POV of baseball's long range interest, he did it right.
   60. Howie Menckel Posted: January 22, 2019 at 01:08 AM (#5807576)
I would love to see the annual attendance figures for Jolly's HOF museum.
   61. bbmck Posted: January 22, 2019 at 07:27 AM (#5807578)
HoF inductees as MLB Pioneer/Executive who were born since 1870:

1881 - Branch Rickey
1881 - Will Harridge
1890 - Larry MacPhail
1894 - George Weiss
1894 - Ford Frick

1896 - Warren Giles
1898 - Happy Chandler
1903 - Walter O'Malley
1903 - Some racist prick who owned the Red Sox
1914 - Bill Veeck

1917 - Lee MacPhail
1926 - Bowie Kuhn
1934 - Bud Selig
1937 - Pat Gillick
1940 - John Schuerholz

Not inducted include:

1917 - Marvin Miller
1924 - Edgar Scherick
1925 - Frank Jobe
1927 - Vin Scully
1937 - David Neft

1938 - Pete Palmer
1942 - James Andrews
1949 - Bill James
1952 - Bob Costas
1955 - Robert Bowman
   62. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2019 at 09:41 AM (#5807596)
I would love to see the annual attendance figures for Jolly's HOF museum.

Not sure what your point is, if you even have one, unless you're thinking that my Hall of Fame is limited to 10 members.
   63. wjones Posted: January 22, 2019 at 10:00 AM (#5807608)
Guess Landis has to go in, but one can argue that he almost undid all of his positives by his tireless efforts to keep baseball segregated, though he contributed mightily to its eventual integration by having the decency to die.
   64. Morty Causa Posted: January 22, 2019 at 10:09 AM (#5807613)
As well as saving baseball from itself by his handling of the Black Sox scandal and its aftermath, Landis also kicked against Branch Rickey's turning the minor leagues into the Major League's fiefdom. He doesn't get enough credit for his good intentions and his attempts to modulate Rickey's system's deleterious effect. Too bad, Landis didn't get support on this issue from the owners. And it shows the limits of his power.
   65. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2019 at 11:13 AM (#5807643)
Even if he had the inclination, Landis didn't have the power to order baseball to integrate, especially since there was no formal policy that forbade it. Baseball remained segregated under Landis largely for four reasons:

1. Simple racism on the part of some owners (Yawkey, MacPhail, Briggs, etc.)

2. Paranoia about the reaction of southern players and their white fan base. See George Weiss's comments about Yankees fans from Westchester. This was mostly confirmation bias, as subsequent events showed.

3. The economic interest of some owners (Griffith, etc.) who made good money out of renting their stadiums to Negro League teams.

4. The overall racist culture of the larger society, especially but not exclusively in the southern and border states.

All of these factors remained after Landis's death, and if he'd died in 1934 instead of 1944 they still would have been enough to delay the inevitable. Even after Rickey signed Robinson, the other 15 owners were opposing him.
   66. McCoy Posted: January 22, 2019 at 01:03 PM (#5807693)
Landis also wrongly banned players from the game and helped maintain segregation in baseball. Throw in that he kept up the reserve system and you don't have a lot of good in the end.
   67. Morty Causa Posted: January 22, 2019 at 02:59 PM (#5807743)
Landis could have unilaterally ended the reserve system? Had he tried, the opposition response would have been immediate: here's your hat, there's the door.
   68. Walt Davis Posted: January 22, 2019 at 04:29 PM (#5807781)
So who would your top 10 Influentials be? Or who on that list in #7 would you displace to make room for him?

No particularly good idea on your first question and probably close to half of them in response to your 2nd. Walter O'Malley? Really? For the simple act of moving his team to LA, a move that was inevitably going to happen sometime in that decade?

Selig is sort of the antithesis to Marvin Miller (collusion, "collusion", PEDs, labor "peace", lux tax and eventually reducing the power of the MLBPA) and Ruppert (shifting power to smaller markets) and he oversaw a massive expansion of baseball's market, ushered it through the cable era and into the internet era. Of course we can't pick apart what was him individually, what was others in MLB, what was other forces outside of MLB and would have happened anyway -- issues that are at least as relevant for O'Malley, Ruppert, Spink, McGraw, Miller and Robinson. Even for Ruth, how much was Ruth and how much was a successful PR campaign? In nearly any field, being "influential" is a matter of having a good idea or two at the right time in the right place with the right press coverage.

It's only been a few years so it's possible (but unlikely) his influence will be short-lived but everything about the business of baseball and a good bit about the on-field game that we have discussed around here for the last 15-20 years have Selig's fingerprints on them.

Or shorter version: of the names in your list, I would only consider Ruth, Landis and Rickey to have been clearly more influential than Selig.

Again, for emphasis, that is not to way that his influence has been positive overall much less in every instance.
   69. Mike Webber Posted: January 22, 2019 at 05:21 PM (#5807800)
27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 21, 2019 at 01:28 PM (#5807348)
i don't see James having sufficient connection to MLB to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Unlike some other sports, baseball's Hall of Fame doesn't include all aspects of the sport, just the highest professional leagues. James may have popularized sabermetric analysis, but he didn't invent the subject. The Hall should be about the players, with a very high standard for those whose contributions were off the field.


Should it be only players? Opinions vary on this....
Put Big Stein in the Hall of Fame!


1. The Yankee Clapper Posted: December 10, 2018 at 12:34 PM (#5796031)
The Hall of Fame standards for owners are rather murky, but by impact on the game, Steinbrenner should be in. Same for Marvin Miller.
   70. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2019 at 05:54 PM (#5807819)
So who would your top 10 Influentials be? Or who on that list in #7 would you displace to make room for [Selig]?

No particularly good idea on your first question and probably close to half of them in response to your 2nd. Walter O'Malley? Really? For the simple act of moving his team to LA, a move that was inevitably going to happen sometime in that decade?


O'Malley didn't just move any old team to LA. He moved the most important and profitable team in the National League,** and persuaded Stoneham to take a companion team with him, cutting travel costs and freezing the AL out of a second prime city at the same time. By doing so, he set the way for NL expansion to New York and Houston and helped to cement NL dominance for a good decade or more. He also built (albeit through questionable political means) what for years was the best ballpark in the Majors, while keeping his ticket prices near or at the very bottom.

Selig is sort of the antithesis to Marvin Miller (collusion, "collusion", PEDs, labor "peace", lux tax and eventually reducing the power of the MLBPA) and Ruppert (shifting power to smaller markets) and he oversaw a massive expansion of baseball's market, ushered it through the cable era and into the internet era. Of course we can't pick apart what was him individually, what was others in MLB, what was other forces outside of MLB and would have happened anyway -- issues that are at least as relevant for O'Malley, Ruppert, Spink, McGraw, Miller and Robinson. Even for Ruth, how much was Ruth and how much was a successful PR campaign? In nearly any field, being "influential" is a matter of having a good idea or two at the right time in the right place with the right press coverage.

Were those 29 and then 54 and then 59 and then 60 home runs really just a product of "PR"? Surely you're joking. Ruth's personality was a part of the package, but as Dizzy Dean said, "It ain't braggin' if you can back it up".

As for the comparison between Selig and Miller: Miller took a principled stand when no other lawyer had. Without getting too melodramatic about it, he was effectively the Thurgood Marshall of baseball, if Curt Flood was the Linda Brown. He completely disrupted the game, and arguably for the better.

Selig, for whatever you may think about him good or bad, wasn't uniquely qualified for his position. And if you want to talk about "massive" expansion, under his watch there were 4 new teams, 2 of which have been poorly thought out disasters.

If you want to argue his case vs. McGraw or Ruppert, it might be a closer call, but I'd still give those two the edge. And clearly you have no idea of either who Spink was or what his role was in nationalizing baseball's popularity. But on that score your ignorance is nearly universal.

OTOH if you'd really place Selig above Jackie Robinson, I'm at a loss for words. Apparently you think that any old black player could've produced the results that Robinson did, not just in baseball but in the larger society. You need to study both the sporting press of the time, along with the African American press, if you're under any illusions that Robinson wasn't uniquely suited for his role.

Again, for emphasis, that is not to way that his influence has been positive overall much less in every instance.

I'm not taking that much into account, either, at least from a moral or subjective POV. I wish O'Malley's bluff had been called and he'd stayed in Brooklyn, but from the POV of baseball's long range development, what he did changed the entire face of the game.

** With the (very) temporary exception of Milwaukee, whose decline in attendance once the Dodgers left for LA mirrored the LA Dodgers' rise.
   71. Morty Causa Posted: January 22, 2019 at 09:40 PM (#5807990)
O'Malley didn't just move any old team to LA. He moved the most important and profitable team in the National League,** and persuaded Stoneham to take a companion team with him, cutting travel costs and freezing the AL out of a second prime city at the same time. By doing so, he set the way for NL expansion to New York and Houston and helped to cement NL dominance for a good decade or more. He also built (albeit through questionable political means) what for years was the best ballpark in the Majors, while keeping his ticket prices near or at the very bottom.

In this, O'Malley and the NL were aided and abetted by Fifth Columnists, the Yankee owners, who sold out the AL throughout the '50s by vetoing ALteam moves and prospective owners with plenty of money. See, for one, Bill Veeck, who much to your chagrin perhaps respected and admired one Tom Yawkey. Indeed, not only did the Yankee owners work counter to the interests of the AL, they ultimately sold out their own team.
   72. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2019 at 10:12 PM (#5808003)
Yes, we all know that Webb and Topping kiboshed Veeck, but he was moving the Browns to Baltimore, not the West Coast. And the Browns wound up in Baltimore a year later anyway, while 5 years after that Veeck got the White Sox. What other moves did the Yankees veto? Neither the Red Sox, nor the Tigers, nor the White Sox, nor the Indians were going anywhere, and the Senators had their eyes on Minnesota once Stoneham had switched his interest from Minneapolis to San Francisco.

The truth is that O'Malley held all the cards, in the form of two prestigious franchises and the promise of delivering both of them as an entry to California's two biggest cities. The first and last chance the AL had of beating the NL to California was when Pearl Harbor stopped the Browns from moving to Los Angeles. But even then, with but one underfinanced team that would've played havoc with scheduling, that would've been a move with little or no chance of achieving the sort of success that the Dodgers (and the Giants) eventually had.
   73. homerwannabee Posted: January 22, 2019 at 10:37 PM (#5808014)
A person that I doubt many people will name, but he was a player ahead of his time.
"Captain Video" Tony Gwynn. A person who did extensive study on the pitchers he faced. There is a reason he totally destroyed Maddox. He knew exactly what was coming. Yes, it wasn't exactly modern day sabermetrics, but he was one of the first hitters to do extensive homework on the pitchers he was about to face.
   74. Morty Causa Posted: January 22, 2019 at 10:46 PM (#5808016)
72:

I'm not going to rehash all that Veeck laid out in his book. I've done a number of times already. It wasn't about Veeck and the Browns, and if you know anything about all the accusations, you would that. Including and ending up with the Yankee owners working it out so their construction company's nest was feathered.
   75. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2019 at 11:25 PM (#5808026)
Veeck owned the Browns. Veeck thought he had permission to move them to Baltimore before the 1953 season. Webb and Topping kiboshed the move at the last minute, and Veeck wound up selling the Browns to another owner who then got permission to move to Baltimore the next year.

You don't have to convince me that the Yankees acted like dicks in sabotaging Veeck, but there was no AL team or owner who could've pulled off California like O'Malley (along with Stoneham) did. No other team or prospective owner had the will or the money to pull it off, and even if there had been, it would've been a one team move that wouldn't have worked out nearly as well as the Dodgers and Giants.
   76. Morty Causa Posted: January 23, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5808140)
Jolly Old, I love you, but you have a blind spot on this issue that is a mile wide and a mile deep because of your Yankee fandom and NL bias (because of race, I suspect). The Yankees nefariousness throughout the 50s in sabotaging not only Veeck but others is well-documented. Not only did they sabotage Veeck in the matter you referred to (it's your teat, you always put it forward and ignore the rest) and in playing a vital role in the AL getting the short end of the stick when it came to teams moving and expansion. There's also, for instance, (off the top of my head, like I said I've done this in depth a number of times, with you and others), the matter screwing up a move to Milwaukee (I think it was) and then the expansion into Houston. The Yankees didn't want a rival like Clint Murchinson (I think it was) or any big money man diluting its power in Baltimore or anywhere else. Re-read Veeck, for starters. The Yankees wanted to maintain its vassal states and the owners the conduits for its construction business.

And that played, directly and indirectly, in the Dodgers and NL getting the sweet deal they got.
   77. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 23, 2019 at 11:51 AM (#5808149)
"Captain Video" Tony Gwynn. A person who did extensive study on the pitchers he faced. There is a reason he totally destroyed Maddox. He knew exactly what was coming. Yes, it wasn't exactly modern day sabermetrics, but he was one of the first hitters to do extensive homework on the pitchers he was about to face.
"Lesson 1: It's MaddUX, dammit. Both Greg and Mike."
   78. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 23, 2019 at 11:58 AM (#5808152)
Jolly Old, I love you, but you have a blind spot on this issue that is a mile wide and a mile deep because of your Yankee fandom and NL bias (because of race, I suspect)

Morty, I've been an AL fan my entire life, including when the Yankees were as racist as any team this side of the Red Sox, Phillies and Tigers. And although you keep ignoring it, I've many times acknowledged the Yankees' hardball tactics in stifling all competition.

But none of that has anything to do with why O'Malley and Stoneham beat the AL to the West Coast. Baltimore is in Maryland, not California. If you want more evidence of the Yankees' nefariousness, you can try Kansas City. But alas, Kansas City is in Missouri.

The Dodgers and Giants got there first because O'Malley played Los Angeles against Brooklyn in a manner that served as a template for future extortionists,** and he won the biggest prize of them all: Chavez Ravine and a 3 year jump start over the AL's patchwork expansion Angels. By the time the AL finally got around to Los Angeles, it was Koufax and Drysdale and Maury Wills vs. Ken McBride, Albie Pearson and Eli Grba. The Yankees had nothing to do with that, even if in their evil hearts they might've wished for a midair crash between the Dodgers' and the Giants' charter planes.

** I've read both of Veeck's books. Have you read Neil Sullivan's The Dodgers Move West?

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