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Joe Posnanski’s BBWAA Hall of Fame project

Jan 14, 2013, 9:29 AM EST

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Posnanski makes a good point: there really are two Hall of Fames. (1) the BBWAA Hall of Fame, consisting of players voted in by the writers; and (2) the other Hall of Fame, consisting of managers, umpires, old timers, deadballers and players that the BBWAA didn’t think made the cut, voted in by various incarnations of the Veterans Committee and other ad hoc electorates set up from time to time over the past 70 or 80 years.

This is significant inasmuch as, if you argue what Hall of Fame standards are, you have to acknowledge that you are talking about two very, very different standards. With the BBWAA standard, I think we can all agree, being considerably higher than that of the various Veterans Committees.  To that end, Posnanski is taking the next couple of days to try to isolate the BBWAA Hall of Fame standard:

I’ll go through the BBWAA inductees — position by position using WAR to see where the BBWAA standard is — and then look and how the players on this year’s ballot match up. Like I say, I’ve been pretty surprised. It won’t change my voting because, like I said, I’m a big Hall guy. But I do think it might help clarify what happened this year with the BBWAA. I think the steroid mess was only a part of it.

He starts with first basemen here, and begins with talking about why and how he’s using WAR.

Overall I think this is worth doing because, however satisfying it is for us to say things like “how can you not let Player X in the Hall when Player Y is already in,” it’s a little disingenuous to do so when X is being considered by the tougher-grading BBWAA and Y was admitted to the Hall by Frankie Frisch’s crazy-permissive Veteran’s Committee in the 70s or whatever.

  1. yahmule - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    How much can we trust the judgement of a guy who would whitewash the image of Joe Paterno?

    • kirkvanhouten - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      oferfucksake

      He’s an asshole because he didn’t draw devil horns on the book cover?

      Attempting to understand context is not the same as justifying behavior.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        The problem with the Paterno book is that Poz is NOT an investigative reporter. He is a story teller. The PSU mess was dumped on him and he had no idea how to deal with it. He is a great writer and story teller, and he nearly always chooses subject matter that is a positive or uplifting story. He had no idea what to do with the PSU mess, and I really don’t think he has the cut-throat mentality necessary to be an investigative journalist. No one is perfect.

        There were plenty of other sources for facts about Paterno’s roll. I think the facts just make Posnanski’s book irrelevant, but I can’t condemn him for chosing not to make the book about Paterno’s roll in a horrible situation.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:23 AM

        He should have either dumped the project or written a fair book. His book, as written, is shit and the biggest problem with it is that in 20 years, when someone is looking for a book on Paterno, if they pick his up, they may not get the proper context of his role in the entire situation. That’s why, as a writer with his reputation and the amount of respect he deservedly gets, he should have simply dumped the project no matter the cost in time and money.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:03 PM

        This is one time where I wish people would tell me where they disagree, instead of simply thumbing me down. Because I like Joe Pos, but it’s hard to argue that he screwed the pooch with his Paterno book and lost a lot of respect throughout the sports-writing community. I think if you ask him, he might probably even agree that maybe he should have scrapped the project.

      • clydeserra - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:38 PM

        Chris, its because you are telling him to do something with his book.

        I get your opinion, you think its not a fair portrait of Paterno. Fine. But that’s not your call, its the call of the author and publisher. I suppose the question was from their point of view, do we wait another year or two, continue to fund it, or do we print it as we have it now?

        There are a lot of books that I think are dumb because the author missed a key fact/angle. Just makes it a bad book, I don’t have to read or buy.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:43 PM

        clyde, when your name is Joe Pos and you have built this awesome reputation, you have a duty to write a book that is all-encompassing and fair. To do anything less is beneath Pos…or I guess it should be beneath Joe Pos. He chose to glorify Paterno instead of calling a spade a spade.

        I guess the people here on HBT simply do not know enough about the situation to go against Joe Pos because they only know him from his excellent work and not from the garbage book he put out about Paterno.

      • clydeserra - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:21 PM

        Chris, sure I don’t know anything about the book because I don’t care about football and I am not really interested in the scandal, so your critique of my “pass giving” on this issue is correct. To me, JoPos writes great baseball stuff, I don’t care about the rest.

        As far as his duty goes, well, there is a whole lot of business in publishing that all leads back to the bottom line, money. Did his publisher want to wait another year or just go live with a puff piece. I am sure there were discussions and Joe Posanski was involved and ultimately signed off.

    • stex52 - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:54 AM

      Because it’s data driven. After he does the heavy lifting, we can go behind and check his results and conclusions.

    • megary - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      Given that he knows more about that subject than you for sure, or anyone else for that matter, you should certainly not use his book against him.

    • mrfloydpink - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      I am largely in agreement with yahmule, here. While a “takedown” was not necessary, nor was drawing horns on the book’s cover, I think Posnanski was very dishonest/disingenuous about the book. By that, I mean that he presented the book as a dispassionate work, as well as the work of a “reporter.” But it was neither–as others here have observed, he’s not a reporter, and as many reviewers observed, he’s not dispassionate.

      If Posnanski had come out and said something like, “I was very close with Paterno, and I feel I understand his point of view, and I’m going to document that,” then that would have been more honest (though more controversial and probably bad for book sales.) Of course, that’s not what Posnanski did, and he’s going to have to live with the fact that he lost a lot of fans/credibility as a result.

      • yahmule - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:12 AM

        Still, apparently, many people who will rabidly defend his lack of courage and common human decency. Sad, but not at all surprising.

      • Kevin S. - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        Of course, even if we conceded the lack of courage and common human decency (and seriously, writing a book that doesn’t talk about things the way you want them talked about is hardly a violation of human decency), that doesn’t have a damned thing to do with his BBWAA project. People are getting on you for the ad hominem.

      • ezthinking - Jan 14, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        Maybe you folks should realize the book was in editing when the scandal broke so changing the book is pretty tough at that point. There are/will be plenty of other books about the PSU deal. Pos book is not the dictionary, a singular definition; its one story about a man. There are plenty more stories to tell about him.

      • mrfloydpink - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:42 PM

        Actually, ezthinking, the editors moved UP the pub date, by something like six months. In general, it’s rather hard to argue against taking the time to get a book right; it’s particularly impossible when you willingly cut six months from the process.

  2. darthicarus - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:41 AM

    Andre Dawson believes this is a waste of time.

    • rodtorfelson - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:08 AM

      Alan Trammell begs to differ.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        Lou Whittaker would as well…if, you know, 5% or more of the BBWAA didn’t have it’s head up its ass.

  3. deadeyedesign23 - Jan 14, 2013 at 9:42 AM

    In all seriousness why do we still have the veterans committee? I know a big reason initially was to induct those early players, but do we really need someone to look back and say that Deacon White was a hall of famer despite watching him play as many times as I have.

    • rmcd13 - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      I believe that Ron Santo was a Veteran’s Committee selection. Sometimes the writer’s overlook qualified candidates. Lou Whittaker, another qualified candidate, would have no hope of ever getting into the Hall of Fame without the Veteran’s Committee. I don’t have enough trust in the BBWAA to eliminate the only current safeguard in the elections process.

  4. hushbrother - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Not only is George Kelly the worst player in the Hall of Fame, he also has the dumbest nickname in the history of baseball.

    • Gobias Industries - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Sounds like you’re just jealous because you were born with low pockets.

  5. Rich Stowe - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:19 AM

    Time plays a big part in the Hall of Fame as well (both the BBWAA and the VC) – when a player was voted in say 60 years ago, if you compare him to players currently being voted on, it might appear that player is “the worst HOFer” today. However, at the time they were elected, that wasn’t the case.

  6. Jeremy T - Jan 14, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I’m not sure why he’s using the median instead of the lower bound, or 2nd worst in the case of first basemen, where (as he said), Tony Perez is kind of an outlier. If we’re really trying to find out where the line has historically been drawn, wouldn’t Bill Terry be the more logical cutoff than somewhere in the middle?

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Before I read Joe’s project, that is solely going to use WAR to define the careers of players already in the Hall of Fame, can someone tell me how the defensive portion of WAR is figured out for guys like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays…as opposed to the defensive portion of WAR for guys like Ryan Howard, Dante Bichette, and Derek Jeter? Thanks in advance.

    • Jeremy T - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      Baseball Reference uses TZR for pre-2003 defense, explained here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/total_zone.shtml
      For 2003 and on they use Baseball Info Solutions’s Defensive Runs Saved metric. So they’re not the exact same method of measuring defense. Still, they’re on the same scale, and they’re good enough that we can get an overall idea of approximately how valuable a player was over his career. And really, that’s all that Posnanski is trying to do, he’s trying to figure out an estimate of what the BBWAA’s historical standard for the HOF has been.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 14, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      Here’s what he says about the standards he’s using:

      1. Baseball Reference Wins Above Replacement (WAR) — This is to measure career value. Obviously, many people have their issues with WAR — and many of their criticisms are fair — but my point is I just wanted a consistent standard. It could have been Fangraphs WAR, Win Shares, Baseball Prospectus VORP, OPS+/ERA+ … but I think WAR is sensible enough, plus it is the easiest stat to search.

      2. Baseball Reference WAR/7 — This is the players’ Top 7 WAR seasons added together — this is to measure how good a player was at his peak.

      While not explicitly stated, this is a rough measure. Nobody is going to be drawing any conclusions because a guy’s WAR/7 was 0.3 below the median, and there’s always room for reasoned arguments for where WAR fails (particularly on defense).

  8. humanexcrement - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    There is also the “Hall-of-definitely-good-enough-but-deserves-to-be-punished.” This is the hall of clemens, bonds, pete rose, Joe Jackson Arod and (to some) Roberto Alomar. Then there’s the “Hall-of-maybe-not-good-enough-but-such-a-nice-guy.” This is the Hall of Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, Jack Morris and Don Mattingly. And the list goes on. And on. And on.

    • 18thstreet - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:00 PM

      Jim Rice was not considered a nice guy in his playing days.
      Dale Murphy was, and is.

  9. hojo20 - Jan 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM

    Joe Poz is okay with people covering for child molesters. I can’t respect him after his “one hazy moment” theory.

  10. jwbiii - Jan 14, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Posnanski is sort of right and he is sort of wrong in stating that the Hall of Fame splits into the BBWAA HOF and the Veterans Committee HOF. The various incarnations of the Veterans Committee have really served five purposes:

    1) To honor the players of the 19th century. They have done this rather well. Among first basemen, they elected Cap Anson, Roger Connor, and Dan Brouthers. You or I may think that Cap Anson was a pig of a person, but all three of these were fine baseball players.
    2) To honor players the BBWAA missed for some reason. Players who are above the standards for BBWAA selections but were not selected by them for some reason. Johnny Mize fits in here. So does Ron Santo. Let’s hope they get to Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich while they’re still on the sunny of the turf.
    3) To honor players the BBWAA missed because they didn’t meet the BBWAA standards. Highpockets Kelly, Sunny Jim Bottomley, Orlando Cepeda, and Jake Beckley fit in here. I don’t much see the point.
    4) To honor managers, executives, umpires and such. Frank Chance goes here. Below the standards for a player but with two World Series wins and two other pennants as a manager. A similar resume didn’t work for Gil Hodges; I think it should for Joe Torre.
    5) To honor Negro League players. What little I know about the Negro Leagues could fit in a thimble and have room left over for about a dozen carraway seeds, so I won’t comment.

    If you want to read investigative reporting of the Paterno/Penn State crimes, check out Mark Scolforo. Investigative reporting is what he does and he does it well.

  11. simon94022 - Jan 14, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    The writers may have had a higher standard historically, but they have recently voted in Dawson, Rice and Gossage. And more than two thirds of them currently believe Jack Morris belongs in the Hall.

    Not exactly guardians of high standards.

  12. moogro - Jan 14, 2013 at 4:30 PM

    I think the Paterno book is fascinating discussion. It’s weird that this site if full of Pos fans and it seems like there is such seeming resistance to go there. There are clearly issues of time and money and contracts and narrative that are germane to a lot of the discussions we have here about sportswriting, bias, flexibility, etc. It seems like everyone just wants to bury the Paterno book and have Pos back to what he does best and move on. I’m not digging that vibe here. Dudes.

    • Kevin S. - Jan 14, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      I can’t speak for everybody else, but the issue isn’t so much that I want to bury the Paterno book but rather that it gets dragged in to shit on anything Posnanski does, regardless of whether or not it’s relevant. In this case, Posnanski’s moral judgment is in no way relevant to the blog series he’s doing, but the book was used as an excuse to launch an ad hominem attack on Pos. It might be relevant for, say, a conversation on how to treat PEDs and the HoF, but I’d argue that’s still a separate issue. I’m not afraid of having a discussion about the book, but I’m not going to humor people who use it to hand-wave away anything Posnanski does.

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