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Predicting the Hall of Fame ain’t easy

Jan 12, 2011, 6:20 AM EDT

Joe Carter homer

Back in 1995 Bill James wrote a book about the Hall of Fame.* In that book, he tried to predict who would be elected to the Hall between the years 1995-2019.  In that such an exercise is (a) fun; (b) impossible; and (c) intriguing, it was right up James’ alley.

Yesterday Bill from The Platoon Advantage went back over James’ picks to see how he’d doing so far and to figure out where he went wrong.  It’s a post that is (a) fun; (b) beefy; and (c) intriguing, so it’s right up Bill’s alley.

Personally, I’d like to live in a world in which Brett Butler, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker are in the Hall of Fame.  Not sure I want to live in a world in which Joe Carter is, but you take the good with the bad.

*The book was originally titled “The Politics of Glory,” but was renamed “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame: Baseball, Cooperstown and the Politics of Glory.”  I guess I understand the marketing decisions behind that, but God do I hate how books are titled these days.  If modern publishing conventions applied back in the day, “Heart of Darkness” would be titled “Where’s Kurtz? How two men faced the madness of the jungle and only one returned to tell the tale!”

  1. Jack Marshall - Jan 12, 2011 at 6:30 AM

    I love that list. It is astounding how many presumed shoo-ins were derailed by injuries, mid-career collapses or other problems—Sierra, Gonzalez, Saberhagen, Canseco, so many others. I found myself wondering if Bill’s predictions in other eras would have panned out better. I think so. I think he picked the greatest break-down, wash-out class of greats in baseball history.

  2. Paul White - Jan 12, 2011 at 8:22 AM

    My favorite example of modern book title shenanigans, sadly, was Posnanski’s latest. To wit:

    “The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds”

    Two colons? Really? According to Joe, this was the publisher’s doing, and I’m sure it was. Apparently they operate on the theory that people shopping in the sports section of a book store are too stupid to figure out what a book simply called “The Machine” with a bunch of Cincinnati Reds on the cover is about.

  3. heiniemanush - Jan 12, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    That was a terrific book. Too bad he hasn’t had the chance to update it, ala the Baseball Abstract. Speaking of the latter book we’re getting near time for a new edition, no?

    • thefalcon123 - Jan 12, 2011 at 10:22 AM

      I asked Bill this on his website a few days ago. Apparently he feels his methods are too out of date. The question and his answer below:

      “Pardon if you’ve been asked this a billion times, but now that another decade is behind us, are there any plans to release an updated version of the Historical Baseball Abstract?
      Asked by: Adam
      Answered: January 6, 2011

      Bill: The standards of research evolve so rapidly that much of what was best evidence ten years ago no longer is. I couldn’t do an update without starting over and re-visiting every issue. “

  4. Jonny 5 - Jan 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Craig, you just love pushing the buttons of Phillies fans don’t you??? First the I’m sick of Phills fans post, now that harmful and sickening photo above???? I might just Ralf now….. Well this calls for more Philly fan “Hubris”… It’s on now! I know I have something.. Ahh Ha!

    Twas The Night before Cliffmas and all through the Park,

    Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels embark,

    on a new training session to start off the day

    and attempt to erase the memory of the black,orange and gray.

    The rest of the Phillies asleep in their beds,

    with visions of Championships playing in their heads.

    The Phanatic on his 4 wheeler and Charlie in his cap,

    looks down his line-up, and batting 5th there’s a gap.

    When all of a sudden, arouse such a chatter,

    ESPN was on the scene to see whats the matter!

    Away from the Rangers he flew like a flash!

    Flipped off the Yankees and told them to keep their cash!

    When what to our wondering eyes should appear!?

    A familiar face of a man who was just here!

    With a nasty curve ball and a fastball that’s quick,

    an addition to a rotation that’s already sick!

    The most powerful rotation that’s ever been seen!

    The Big 3 is now 4, cause Cliffs back on the team!

    Now Halladay,Hamels,Oswalt and Lee!

    Victorino,Howard,Rollins and Utley!

    From the NLCS to the World Series we’ll go!

    100 win season? Ask Rollins he’ll know!

    Cliff came to our team cause he said it felt right,

    Merry Cliffmas to All and to all a good night!

    J/K, Keep up the good work

    • Old Gator - Jan 12, 2011 at 10:18 AM

      Johnny, go read some Wallace Stevens, will you?

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 12, 2011 at 10:45 AM

        I have a hard time tolerating Stevens poetry.Abstract, somewhat bizzare, and many times nonsensical. As if he was on an acid trip. I’m a big Poe fan myself. Who also may or may not have been high while writing. To each his own. But I’m also a huge fan of Theo Geisel so maybe I’m not the foremost expert on poetry, or even someone to converse with over such topics. Ha!

      • BC - Jan 12, 2011 at 10:59 AM

        Gator – maybe Jonny5 would like Walt Whitman better? It worked for Annie Savoy.
        Jonny5 – this one’s for you.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 12, 2011 at 11:09 AM

        Ahhh, Good old Walt, who had the sense to move on down to Jersey. His house is still standing there in what used to be the fine city of Camden, which is now a sh- hole, and Walt would be sickened by if he were to see it.

    • BC - Jan 12, 2011 at 10:29 AM

      Or some Hunter Thompson.
      Obviously us Northeasterners have nothing better to do today given the 1236246 inches of snow outside.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

      Wow…you really don’t work for a living do you? How else could you explain being able to come up with that? I could’ve used that to read to my 5-year-old on Cliffmas Eve.

  5. ralphdibny - Jan 12, 2011 at 9:27 AM

    Blame Google for all these long titles. You need as many searchable phrases as possible in your titles these days.

  6. umrguy42 - Jan 12, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    I’m picturing “Where’s Kurtz?” as being like a “Where’s Waldo?” book…

  7. BC - Jan 12, 2011 at 11:10 AM

    Hey, one thing. Can someone tell me why Joe Carter got so little love in the HOF voting? I would say he’s not an HOF’er, but figured he’d get a lot more love than he did. His 1986-1997 seasons were fantastic. RBI machine, could run a bit. Didn’t walk much but didn’t strike out an overwhelming amount either. Was his defense that sucky? Someone fill me in on WAR, UZR, or VORP or BURP or some other stat that knocks him down the list.

    • Utley's Hair - Jan 12, 2011 at 1:25 PM

      He could run? I only seem to remember him prancing around the bases like a giddy little school girl.

    • billtpa - Jan 12, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      It’s not WAR or UZR or VORP or BURP, it’s good old OBP. It’s virtually impossible to be “fantastic” when you’re making an out 70% or more of the time.

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