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A new Hall of Fame voter considers his ballot

Dec 15, 2010, 11:03 AM EDT

hall of fame

Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe has been a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America for ten years now.  As a result, he just received his first-ever Hall of Fame ballot.  He has a column up today in which he talks about his approach.  He doesn’t name his picks yet — he’s still working on it — but he does lay out his criteria:

1. If a player is a Hall of Famer in my estimation, he’ll get my vote the first time he’s eligible. I see no point in having a waiting period. Nobody is getting any better or worse at this point.

2. It’s not my job to correct the mistakes of the past. Just because the Veterans Committee put Phil Rizzuto in doesn’t mean I need to vote for middle infielders who had a career OPS+ of 93.

3. I’ll be judicious in selecting players. The Hall of Fame should not be the Hall of Very Good. Cooperstown needs to be a special place.

4. I’ll solicit opinion and information from many sources when I have doubts or questions. If you feel strongly for or against somebody, feel free send me an e-mail with your reasons.

I get the sense that, if I had the vote, I’d be a bit more lenient than Pete — I think I’d be a “medium-sized Hall” guy as opposed to a small-hall guy — but I think he articulates a great way to approach it.

There’s no reason to withhold a first-year vote for someone you know to be a Hall of Famer simply because Babe Ruth or whoever wasn’t unanimous. If he’s worthy, vote him in.  Likewise, just because Frankie Frisch perverted the Veteran’s Committee into a way to reward his mediocre old buddies back in the day doesn’t mean that we must now elect mediocre players. And I love that Pete is soliciting reader opinions.  Even if someone in Pete’s position does know more about baseball than almost anyone, that doesn’t mean he has a monopoly on wisdom.

Good luck, Pete.  And make sure you include Blyleven and Raines!

  1. Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 11:28 AM

    ” It’s not my job to correct the mistakes of the past. Just because the Veterans Committee put Phil Rizzuto in doesn’t mean I need to vote for middle infielders who had a career OPS+ of 93.”

    Ah, an asshole masquerading as a gentleman of probity. I get it now. Is there some reason why a Boston sportswriter singles out a beloved Borg icon for special ridicule? Please. Another pure stats guy who thinks that baseball is played on a SuperCray and may the biggest numbers win.

    Sorry, but heart and spirit are as much a fabric of the game, of its performance, of its total experience as the numbers, and especially of what’s remembered about the players who played the game in terms of their excelled and/or failed moments, of the teams they were part of – why bother emphasizing that it’s a “team sport” all the time and then selecting out your exceptional players as if they performed in a vacuum? I don’t want to be drawn into a protracted defense of The Scooter, but he was an intrinsic element, the infield glue, of some of the greatest baseball teams that ever took the field. His performance demonstrably abetted the performances of those around him. Enough of that for the time being, though. “Fame” means widely recognized in the present and well remembered from the past. Why not just change the name of the place to The Hall of Fat Stats if you want to make OPS a decisive measure of a ballplayer’s contribution to the game? There’s more to it than that. Ten years of soaking in the media-manufactured bile of the Borg-Beanbag hundred years’ war seems to have hardened the arteries of this typical sportswriter’s heart and brain.

    • rddoyle75 - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM

      Sorry Gator, but you’re speaking out of school here. Up until a year ago, Pete Abraham was the Yankees beat reporter for and was generally viewed as one of the most even-keeled Yankees reporters. About a year ago, he was hired by the Boston Globe, a job no one blamed him for taking. He’s far from “an asshole masquerading as a gentleman of probity”. Also, the line “Ten years of soaking in the media-manufactured bile of the Borg-Beanbag hundred years’ war seems to have hardened the arteries of this typical sportswriter’s heart and brain.” show’s that you’re out of your element here. I’ve found that it’s best to speak about things that I know about and leave the rest to others that do, otherwise you end up sounding like a moron.

      • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:08 PM

        Didn’t know that, and you’re right to call me out on it. But I do find it amazing that only one year in Beanbag Town could make someone sound like an asshole who had been there for ten. And I still think his comments about Rizzuto are shallow and assinine and stink of sycophanty towards his current environment.

      • rddoyle75 - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM

        Yeah, it was nothing personal, just needed to clear it up.

        Regarding Scooter, even here in NYC, he was far from a unanimous choice for the HOF. There’s no discounting his contributions on the field, but the general consensus is that if he didn’t end up in the booth, he never would have been elected to the Hall.

      • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:40 PM

        That’s OK. When I call someone a moron, I don’t mean it personally either. I’m just assessing the magnitude of the universe versus the comparative size of their ego. Existential stuff. Thanks for being so poststructuralist about it.

      • ber - Dec 15, 2010 at 3:12 PM

        While Pete was the beat reporter for the Yankees till last year, he has been a Redsox fan all his life. I don’t know if that has any bearing on his feelings about Phil Rizzuto, but he may have been pandering to his new audience.

        He may have been viewed by many as “even-keeled”, but he was viewed by many as unbalanced, arrogant and a terrible analyst. His blog was hugely popular because it was the first place you could get Yankees new as soon as it happened. Towards the end though, he was deleting comments that criticized him or his viewpoint – not only rude and vulgar ones, but also comments which just proved him wrong.

        His paper’s blog was the biggest because he was the first beat writer to have a regularly updated blog, and not, I believe because of the quality of his writing. I will say though, that he was very good when he just reported on the actual news and stayed away from giving his opinion.

    • Detroit Michael - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:07 PM

      “Born-Beanbag?” Speak English please.

      “His performance demonstrably abetted the performances of those around him.” I would be much surprised if anyone could demonstrate that at all.

      The Politics of Glory by Bill James covers the Rizzuto Hall of Fame debate in much detail if anyone is interested in that. Rizzuto is a borderline call, not an easy decision to make in either direction. I wouldn’t use him as example of a poor selection, nor would I get huffy if someone else did so.

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:08 PM

        Sorry, should be “Borg-Beanbag”

    • yankeesfanlen - Dec 15, 2010 at 2:49 PM

      Actually Gator you have a few Pete Abraham surmises rather correct. He seems a fairly able reporter and is now more agressive with Sox management than what he was with the Universe.
      For some years he was tending the LoHud Yankees blog which was mainly attended by kindergarteners trying to punch each other with yo-yos while trading recipes for what they thought were the original Chili’s baby back ribs, so I can understand why when the Globe called he was ready for duty,
      I see no reason for his late shot on the scooter other than his new-found brown nosing for his current audience, or maybe Rizzuto shooed him out of the broadcast booth when he was a cub reporter.

  2. lampdwellr - Dec 15, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    I’m too young and too much of a Yankee hater to care much about Phil Rizzuto, but you really can’t ignore the guy’s defense (11.0 career dWAR) or the fact that he lost 3 young years to WWII (after a very good 1942 season). He might be sort of borderline, but he was one of the ten best players in the AL in six different seasons and probably had a little bit of “leadership value” as well. Pete Abraham, I applaud your desire to use stats, but don’t ignore the fact that when a defensive metric matches a guy’s defensive reputation, that’s got to be worth some points beyond a career OPS+ of 93. Career OPS+ is a dumb stat to use anyway, kind of like using the average income in a town to decide whether there’s a poverty problem.

    • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:42 PM

      My observation is that being a Borg-basher is a product of one’s ripened maturity. Once you’re old enough for life to have left you broken and embittered, the Borg will be there as a weltschmertz for you. That mindless hostility will blossom and comfort you in your declining years.

  3. tadthebad - Dec 15, 2010 at 11:52 AM

    Logic fail. This “team sport” is actually a series of one-on-one contests wherein value can be accurately applied to single player’s contributions. Would Rizzuto be the object of your affection had his teammates not supported him to the tune of several WS titles? Since when do you support the cronyism represented by Veterans Committee?

    • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:06 PM

      Bile fail. I specifically stated that context should be part of the decision, so his presence on those championship teams does count.

      Moreover, I didn’t view Rizzuto’s election in particular as a form of “cronyism,” but a recognition of the man’s overall legacy – not to mention that, inadvertently or not, he was also America’s greatest poet since Wallace Stevens. I just object to using stats as a conclusive value scale. As far as “cronyism,” hell, even those clowns could get it right once in a while. If, for example, the entire veteran’s committee threw themselves off the roof of the Woolworth Building (I wanted a structure whose name symbolically approximated the value of their usual run of decisions) and hit the pavement at the same time while accelerating at d2r/dt2 = d2(rT + r)/dt2 ≈ – G m1 rT/|rT|3, they would be correct despite the fact that they’re a bunch of clubby jackasses.

  4. Joe - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    Whether or not Rizzuto’s induction is a “error,” I read Abraham’s point to be that he’s not voting for a guy just because you can make a statistical argument that he’s as good as a borderline player who is already in the Hall. Which is quite different than saying that he’s going to use OPS+ as his benchmark for position players.

    • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 12:14 PM

      Which would have been only marginally superficial as an example if he didn’t throw in that nonsense about “correcting the mistakes of the past.” The value of having a veteran’s committee in the first place ought to be a recognition that sometimes things look different, and some relations or values become clearer, in longer hindsight – especially in an essentially mythological ethos like baseball history. That the committee in its various permutations falls flat on its face so often isn’t so much a condemnation of the principle as it is of the quality of thought as well as what someone above called “cronyism” that the committee members have expended on their task. Meanwhile I see absolutely nothing in Abraham’s statement that indicates he appreciates any factors beyond the statistical.

  5. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    I love Abraham and his Charles Foster Kane-ian “Declaration of Principles”, but I have to disagree with the notion of soliciting reader opinions. Vote for who YOU think should be in the Hall.

  6. tigerprez - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:01 PM

    Sounds like Gator is the answer to the question “What kind of person would think Jim Rice belongs in the Hall of Fame because he struck “teh fear” in pitchers?” Or “What kind of a guy would vote for Jack Morris because he was a ‘big game pitcher’ and ‘knew how to win'”? Now I know, and it explains a lot.

    Maybe there’s a place in the Hall for Mike Sweeney, too. After all, he’s fantastic in the clubhouse. You can’t measure his greatness in stats alone (in fact, they’ll be almost entirely silent on that point), only in how many journalists and teammates talk about what a great guy he is. He has been the glue holding together every team he has ever been on, and even a few he hasn’t. If that’s not a Hall of Famer, I don’t know what is.

    Down with stats! Up with people!!!

    • thinman61 - Dec 15, 2010 at 1:37 PM

      By that measure, we can some day look forward to seeing Frenchie’s name on a HOF ballot. We will now pause for Craig to recover from his apoplexy.

    • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 4:32 PM

      Again, we’re back to the issue of whether this is a Hall of Fame or a Hall of Fat Stats. Jim Rice is one of those marginal figures whose election to the Hall wouldn’t upset me a bit. Yeah, he did frighten pitchers and he did impact opponents’ strategies when he was in his prime. If you were an opponent’s fan and he came to bat at a critical moment it made you nervous but plenty. “Fame” derives from moments like that and in Rice’s case there were plenty of them.

      Plus, you’re constructing a straw man and then lighting it with your own match. I never said stats didn’t matter in a calculation of fame or significance. I said they shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all of the decision. If stats are all that matters, well, let’s just come up with a red line matrix of stats for hitters and pitchers and do away with the voters altogether. Five years after your retirement, if you put up those minimum numbers, you’re in. Let’s eliminate the human factor altogether and have election by sabermetrics. Let’s finish the job we started when we began giving our stadiums soulless corporate names and cut the rest of the heart out of the game once and for all.

      • largebill - Dec 15, 2010 at 6:43 PM

        Old Gator,

        You are misreading peoples arguments. No one is talking about setting one specific statistical minimum. Obviously, some positions are expected to contribute more defense than others. There is nothing wrong with a voter considering other contributions of a player than just his homers, RBI, BA, OPS+, ERA+, and on and on. What upset some of us is when a voters ballot seems to completely dismiss any stats as being relevant and just go on their gut feeling. That is just silly. No voter is able to observe every game of every player. So how do they compare player A to player B. His memory may tell him that the reputation of one was better than the reputation of the other. Referring to the stats lets a voter see if his memory or the players reputation match reality. There are voters who vote for Jack Morris and leave clearly much better pitchers off their ballots because their memory is one was a winner and the other not. However, if one reviews their careers (which is the very least one could ask of voters) they can only reach one conclusion – that Blyleven was a much much better pitcher.

      • Old Gator - Dec 15, 2010 at 10:13 PM

        Largebill: I never said anyone else was advocating statistical minimums; I and I alone (mea culpa, mea culpa, dress me in wolf hair shirts) posed such hypothetical thresholds as the logical end product of the attitude that stats were the only issue that matteredin considering HOF eligibility. I also haven’t advocated wholesale dismissal of stats. I’m arguing for a holistic decision making process that is both objective in terms of stats and subjective in terms of what contributed to making the candidate in question…well…famous.

  7. peteabrahambostonglobe - Dec 21, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    I find it amusing when people just assume they know things about me. Or believe what somebody else made up.

    For the record, I have not been a Red Sox fan all my life. Or ever. I was a Braves fan because the games were always on TBS. And from the age of 22 to 45, I lived outside of Massachusetts and either in or within close proximity to NYC. Once I started covering the sport, I became a fan of no rain delays and something interesting to write. Who wins or loses is really not my concern. I get paid the same either way.

    Old Gator, just FYI, I covered the Yankees and Mets for nine years before I covered the Red Sox. They’re in New York last I checked.

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