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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Baseball Analysts: Lederer: Tear Down This Wall

Great cobblin’ Cobbledicks!  Somehow Rich Lederer has managed to gather all the BBWAA “brouhaha” threads in one swell foop!

Depending on which side of the wall one stands, change can be difficult. With this in mind, the Baseball Writers Association of America opened up its membership to web-based writers for the first time in its history when it admitted 16 new members last week. The news was met with reactions ranging from praise to disdain to questions over who is — and should be — included in this soon-to-be 100-year-old organization.

Rather than waiting for me to break the news, the BBWAA would have been well served to put out a press release — after all, it is a news organization, right? — to announce who, what, when, and why the change was taking place. Instead, the BBWAA and its officers chose to remain secretive (perhaps because it didn’t deem the change in policy to be newsworthy), failing to come forward until after I went public with it last Thursday night. The Baseball Think Factory linked to my story and the news spread faster than one could ask, “Why was Rob Neyer excluded?”

...The real story took a turn for the better when the President of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Bob Dutton, agreed to be interviewed by fellow Kansas City Star writer and member of the BBWAA Joe Posnanski (Talking with the Prez), as well as Maury Brown of The Biz of Baseball (Bob Dutton Addresses the BBWAA Inclusion Process).

To Dutton’s credit, he has knocked a few bricks off the wall. Like the Berlin Wall, it may take a few years for it to be knocked down completely. But it will come down. There’s just no denying that fact. You see, the democratization of information is a wonderful thing.

 

Repoz Posted: December 11, 2007 at 10:43 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: community, hall of fame, media, online, special topics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. amcg Posted: December 11, 2007 at 01:00 PM (#2641145)
That's an excellent summary. Cuts through a lot of the emotion contained in the various threads. It's also a good reminder that in the broader scheme of things the BBWAA's inclusion of the other 16 online writers is, above all, a good happening.
   2. I am Ted F'ing Williams Posted: December 11, 2007 at 03:01 PM (#2641243)
This whole thing seems stupid to me. Are they surpised that an organization they have often criticized turns them down? Neyer and Law don't need BBWAA credentials, so why do they want them? Does the credential make them look more impressive to potential book publishers? Is it a jealousy/manhood extension thing? The silliness in the mega-thread made it seem like more of the latter.

I'm just guessing here, but it seems like Neyer and Law need to go out and press the flesh of the BBWAA membership more if they want admittance. That's the way exclusive clubs usually work, especially those as old as the BBWAA. That's not news, nor is it scandal.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 11, 2007 at 03:09 PM (#2641261)
I'm just guessing here, but it seems like Neyer and Law need to go out and press the flesh of the BBWAA membership more if they want admittance.

Either that, or learn how to draw really neat Canadian cartoons.
   4. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 11, 2007 at 03:31 PM (#2641292)
Neyer and Law don't need BBWAA credentials, so why do they want them?


I think the crux of the issue is the difference in the perceived advantage of being in the BBWAA. From what I've read, it seems that Dutton and the BBWAA think the main advantage of BBWAA credentials is guaranteed access to the press box at MLB games. From the perspective of an outsider, it seems to me that the main advantages of BBWAA membership would be the MVP/Cy/RoY/Hall-of-Fame voting privileges that come with BBWAA membership.

If you divorced the voting requirements for these things from BBWAA membership, then (a) the BBWAA's standard of needing access to games to qualify for membership would be completely legitimate, and (b) nobody would care if Neyer and Law were in the BBWAA or not.
   5. BDC Posted: December 11, 2007 at 03:50 PM (#2641315)
the main advantages of BBWAA membership would be the MVP/Cy/RoY/Hall-of-Fame voting privileges

Actually, somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but the panels that vote on the annual awards are very small and geographically balanced – there's no chance that Law or Neyer would vote on them even if admitted. And HOF voting privileges would come only after ten years' membership. So one part of this is irrelevant and the other is eventual. I mean, obviously baseball historians and broadcasters and literary authors like Roger Angell would be just as good at Cooperstown voting as Canadian cartoonists and NBA beat writers, but no radical overhaul of the electorate has been proposed, and any minor impact on the HOF ballot is at least ten years away; that issue is a back-burner one at best.

My thought would go like this: writing for Web-only venues is no longer a bar to membership, but two of the most distinguished Web-only writers are still on the outside. Membership may be more of a club kind of thing than a true practical advantage, but: two excellent baseball journalists have been told that for now they can't belong to the premier baseball-journalism club, while lots and lots of people who are baseball journalists in no sense at all any more (or ever!) are members. It may be a point of pride, but it's meaningful enough.
   6. mwhawkins Posted: December 11, 2007 at 04:41 PM (#2641365)
Has anyone looked at the member lists? You can't tell me the Atlanta Journal Constitution needs 7 credentialed reporters, all of whom are supposedly attending 40 games per year? I seriously doubt Furman Bisher or Terrence Moore are really logging those kind of game hours. If they are, good for them. But their output of baseball journalism certainly doesn't match that level of physical coverage.

Now, do I think their membership should be revoked? Yes, Terrance Moore's should, but not because he doesn't attend enough games. Setting selectively enforced arbitrary benchmarks for the sole purpose of justifying exclusionary practices is no way to run a professional organization.
   7. Maury Brown Posted: December 11, 2007 at 04:50 PM (#2641377)
On the list... Of course, it is difficult to get anyone to say on record how many games they have, or have not attended given that it could possibly create issues with credentialing. I will say that the odds are significantly high that John Canzano of the Oregonian does not meet the criteria. Portland is 4 hours from Seattle, John has other sports he covers as a columnist, he does a daily radio show... doubt very seriously whether he makes 20 games a season, let alone Dutton's figure of 40. I bring up Camzano as Neyer, myself and John are all here in Portland.
   8. Mike Hampton's #1 Fan Posted: December 11, 2007 at 06:12 PM (#2641490)
Actually, somebody correct me if I'm wrong here, but the panels that vote on the annual awards are very small and geographically balanced – there's no chance that Law or Neyer would vote on them even if admitted.

I think (hope?) you mean "there's no guarantee that Law or Neyer would vote on them"? And, presuming you do, I'm actually fine with that. As long as they have an equal opportunity to get to vote on them as any other BBWAA member, it doesn't especially bother me if that means Rob's name doesn't get picked out of the hat every time around.

If you really meant there's no chance that they'd vote on them, I'm puzzled by that statement and don't mind admitting it.

And HOF voting privileges would come only after ten years' membership.

Well, I mean ... sure, but if you never start the race, you never finish. Just because it'll take me 40 years to save enough money for my retirement doesn't mean I shouldn't start saving as early as possible.

I mean, obviously baseball historians and broadcasters and literary authors like Roger Angell would be just as good at Cooperstown voting as Canadian cartoonists and NBA beat writers, but no radical overhaul of the electorate has been proposed

I thought Bill James' proposal in TPoG was an interesting one, but I'm presuming you mean "in the context of this discussion", and that's true. Would I like to see the voting process receive an overhaul? Absolutely, but baby steps.
   9. GotowarMissAgnes Posted: December 11, 2007 at 06:26 PM (#2641513)
Posted this over at Rich's site, too.

I do think Dutton deserves a lot of credit for standing up and answering questions, but no one has really focused good follow-up questions on responses by him and others.

1. Why does it appear that investigations into the "need" for credentials applied to only two of the applicants? Were the need of the other candidates investigated, too?

2. Why were those investigations conducted in such a haphazrd fashion using unnamed sources of information?

3. Why does the criterion focused on the number of games someone sees appear to be applied in a very uneven fashion within BBWAA?

Until Dutton and others answer those or similar questions, the BBWAA decision will appear to be a situation in much two guys who have rubbed some people the wrong people were singled out for investigation and denied credentials on the basis of an arbitrary and capricious process and application of criteria.
   10. BDC Posted: December 11, 2007 at 06:36 PM (#2641534)
I think (hope?) you mean "there's no guarantee that Law or Neyer would vote on them"?

Well, I did say, correct me if I'm wrong :) I was under the impression that the MVP and other award voters are invariably local beat writers, two from each team's press corps, and that national columnists don't vote on those awards. If there's some system whereby national columnists are rotated into the MVP voting panels, then they certainly would someday get a chance to vote.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: December 11, 2007 at 06:43 PM (#2641545)
Well, I did say, correct me if I'm wrong :) I was under the impression that the MVP and other award voters are invariably local beat writers, two from each team's press corps, and that national columnists don't vote on those awards. If there's some system whereby national columnists are rotated into the MVP voting panels, then they certainly would someday get a chance to vote.


That's how it's supposed to be, though I believe I read somewhere in the past few days that sometimes the BBWAA will call upon some of the national guys to vote if they don't have the proper representation in the smaller markets. Whether a once-admitted Neyer or Law would ever get that particular call, however, is another matter.
   12. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: December 11, 2007 at 09:38 PM (#2641739)
Does everyone on the Badge List have a HOF vote?
   13. Rich Lederer Posted: December 11, 2007 at 09:49 PM (#2641753)
Does everyone on the Badge List have a HOF vote?

No. In order to vote for the Hall of Fame, a writer must have been a member of the BBWAA for 10 years.
   14. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: December 11, 2007 at 09:54 PM (#2641760)
Rich,

Am I right in guessing people not on the list have a HoF vote? The number of BBWAA ballots greatly exceeds the number of guys who have been in for 10+ years. I guess retired and other members still get votes. (which makes sense frankly - better to have a guy who covered baseball in the 1960s through 1990s vote on the current candidates). For example, I didn't see Jerome Holztman, and I can't believe he wouldn't get a vote.
   15. jmp Posted: December 12, 2007 at 01:00 AM (#2641895)
Chris, in one of the recent threads about this, Repoz posted a message from Drew Olson, who covered the Brewers for over 10 years for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He was president of the BBWAA a couple of years ago, and recently left the paper to join onmilwaukee.com and also hosts a local sports talk show.

Anyway, because of his tenure in the BBWAA, when he left the paper he also had to leave the BBWAA, but was given a BBWAA gold card that allows him to retain his HoF vote, but he is not eligible to be one of the voters for the annual awards.

I don't know how many HoF voters like Olson exist, but there must be some number of HoF voters who are retired or now work in a capacity that doesn't grant them active membership.
   16. Snowboy Posted: December 12, 2007 at 01:36 AM (#2641937)
Dag Nabbit, the list posted on Maury Brown's site is the active BBWAA members, not the HOF voters list. MBrown has said Bob Dutton has declined to provide the HOF list, and there is grave doubt that Cooperstown will provide it either, so the official HOF voter list remains beyond our grasp for now.
   17. Repoz Posted: December 12, 2007 at 02:15 AM (#2641970)
MBrown has said Bob Dutton has declined to provide the HOF list, and there is grave doubt that Cooperstown will provide it either, so the official HOF voter list remains beyond our grasp for now.

I have one messed up listing of about 100 or so voters that I've been compiling during my yearly HOF ballot jazz.
   18. Maury Brown Posted: December 12, 2007 at 04:18 AM (#2642127)
FYI... For those that give a hoot and have XM...

I will be on Chuck Wilson's show (Hot Stove on XM 175) tomorrow at 12:45pm ET, 9:45am PT. The BBWAA will a key topic of discussion, as will the Mitchell Report.

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