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Friday, January 10, 2014

Rethinking How Baseball’s ‘Greats’ Are Chosen

With this week’s announcement of the new inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame came renewed calls to change the way the Baseball Writers Association of America makes its selections. The discussion became more heated when it was revealed that a voter — Dan Le Batard — secretly turned over his vote to readers at Deadspin. Le Batard was promptly stripped of his vote.

Does the voting process need to change?
Responses by Christina Kahrl, Joe Posnanski, Ed Sherman, Rob Neyer, and Trent Rosecrans

GregD Posted: January 10, 2014 at 07:50 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, posnanski

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   1. T.J. Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:23 AM (#4636129)
Neat idea; just wish they'd given a little more space to each of the writers, especially the one defending the BBWAA.
   2. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:36 AM (#4636130)
Yeah the nature of the beast is that they run 300-400 word pieces in hopes people will read the whole set of them, and that may work, but it does limit the depth of any individual piece.
   3. Drexl Spivey Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:48 AM (#4636134)
From the Joe Poz contribution:

No, the overriding theme is baseball lost something -- something baseball never had but for a century convinced people it did: innocence.

This reminds me of the Stephen Colbert book: "America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't."

   4. EddieA Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:24 AM (#4636142)
The basic proposition even in the headline is the Hall of Fame membership is the list of the greats and now it's not and this is not a good thing.
The Hall of Fame was the screening of players that determined who got mini-biographies in books of facts and the like. It was fun trying to determine who would go in, which is why there is JAWS and hall-of-fame monitor on the baseball-reference site.
When broadcasters would say "he's a hall of famer" you knew they meant the guy has been a top player for an extended period of time or at least one of the very best players for several years. I might disagree with the assessment when applied to Omar Vizquel, but this was a good short-hand way to convey an idea of excellence.
One could make statements like "everyone with <insert achievement here> is in the Hall of Fame" without really having to cherry pick too deeply or pick a trivial stat. Pete Rose was the first chink in the armor of the Hall of Fame being the greats - but the exclusion of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, at least until RJ gets in next year, have made it over-the-top absurd. It's one thing to exclude Albert Belle from the hall of fame because the writers didn't like him, as Bill Madden promised in writing in 2001. It's another to exclude guys with GOAT arguments. And no kidding, this is because they don't like them and want to tweak their noses to get some sort of vengeance. I think this group of writer's emotional reaction and activism is appropriate to female dogs - and I think rationalizing it only makes it worse.
But that all goes back to I want the outstanding players of every baseball era and generation in the Hall of Fame to tell the story as described in Pos's little article. I don't like the revised definition of "Hall of Famer".
   5. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: January 11, 2014 at 09:22 AM (#4636180)
I love the Times. It can be a little stodgy, but what other paper runs this stuff?


The problem is that there are way, way too many excellent baseball minds who don't have the vote. I think it's absolutely absurd that there's a vote limit on each ballot. I get that it's supposed to be hard to make the HOF, but 75% is hard enough and sometimes (as now), there are more than 10 qualified players on the ballot. However, it's even more absurd that Roger Angell, Bob Costas, Keith Olbermann, Bill James, and I assume folks like Tangotiger, Sean Foreman, Pete Palmer, Nate Silver, Colin Wyers, and Will Carroll don't have the right to vote. The problem isn't that there are a few cranks in the voting body - that's weirdly healthy because you want to have cranks marginalized by the mainstream.

The BBWAA ought to add 100-200 new, utterly qualified members who are baseball historians, sabermetricians, and fans emeritus (there's considerable overlap between the bodies). Allow this new, bigger BBWAA to vote on the HOF and the seasonal awards (MVP, CYA, etc. and let's please put the Hank Aaron in their hands, too? It's meant to be a counterbalance to the CYA.) Make sure that vote vests immediately upon membership. Make them publish their ballots, however many they put on them. Require a very de minimus standard for membership: say one example (an article, a talk, a talking head segment, or even an explanation of their ballot published on either or the BBWAA's website) per annuum to show engagement with the sport. Do not revoke the vote except for cases of utter bad faith, such as giving it away (seeking out and taking advice, even to the letter, is another matter entirely.)

One important bit about this: the HOF seems to have decided to allow the PED issue to be settled by a community standard forged amongst the writers. The writers seem to be invoking the character/sportsmanship/integrity clause and settling on a preponderance standard (otherwise, no Steroid Era players would be in.) Let that community be a little bit bigger and a little more diverse, and it will at least allow some more air in that standard.

   6. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4636249)
Pos expandson the NYT thing and then offers a broader plan to remake the HOF voting process at his blog

I love the Times. It can be a little stodgy, but what other paper runs this stuff?
I am not perfectly objective on this issue, but I love the Room for Debate series (even though I get why it would be better if average submissions were say 750 words). It uses the extra web space to add stuff you can't fit in in the regular stories. Some of them work and some don't, but when they are good, they are actually quite illuminating.
   7. TJ Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4636402)
All the tweaks in the world will do nothing to address the main issue, which is that the HOF selection process is completely unprofessional. Unless that is addressed, everything else is just wrapping duct tape around a leaky hose...
   8. BDC Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:39 PM (#4636498)
the HOF selection process is completely unprofessional

As I've suggested before on these threads, I think the process involves 500+ serious, very professional voters (even if most of them do think Jack Morris is a HOFer :) and then a couple of dozen wingnuts whose votes or omissions get the Internet steamed up. As with so many things, it's the outliers that cause the outrage: the inevitable "lawmaker from Wherever" who believes that Biden is a gray alien, the HOF voter who submits only Morris, etc.
   9. PreservedFish Posted: January 11, 2014 at 08:51 PM (#4636667)
Speaking of the Times and of professional voters, I was just reading an article about the latest winner of a prestigious piano scholarship. They award it once every four years, and you cannot apply for it - the announcement is a total surprise. The voters will fly across the world to hear a potential winner in concert, and, if it seems prudent, they may even hide or disguise themselves. I don't know that it's necessarily the right approach for something like the Hall of Fame, but it's interesting to ponder how things would be different if the vote was granted to a highly selected and highly motivated team that must reach consensus, as opposed to it being a kind of emeritus award for the writers. Right now, a HOF vote is a privilege, but for these piano folks it seems to be treated as a responsibility.

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