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A writer going off

I was going to do another trade post tonight. But then I started trying to catch up on all the blog posts I missed tonight while occupied by work. I came across a few Hall of Fame posts, since in a few short hours the 2010 selections -- if any -- will be announced.

I started to comment on one of the posts and then I realized I was babbling for far too long and that it needed to be a post of my own.

So, here it is. Take it for what it's worth.

As a writer for over 20 years, I take offense when people lump all writers together under some sort of derogatory heading that often goes like this: "Writers don't know shit."

OK. Let's dissect that a little. That's what's known as a generalization. Here is something that's a little more accurate:

"SOME writers don't know shit."

And here's the other part of that more accurate statement:

"Some writers know more than you or I will ever know."

When the Hall of Fame selections come out, certain players will be left outside the Hall door. Happens every year. And people will fume and vent and call people names. That happens every year, too. It is the bitching season, after all.

I happen to think that some of the writers who have Hall of Fame ballots are morons. They have proven it. But I also think that other writers who have ballots are brilliant. They have fantastic minds. So you have some people voting for Hall of Famers who don't know what they're doing and some voting who absolutely do.

And that brings up the question: does that mean the voting system is broken?

I don't know. Probably. I think the Veterans Committee might have a few more problems.

But I get irked when people say "throw out the writers, those incompetent ninnies."

OK, throw them out. Who are you going to get to replace them? I hear precious little about a solution to the problem. Tell me: Who is going to vote if the writers can't?

I do know one thing: unless someone comes up with a strict series of voting rules or develops some sort of numerical formula to determine who gets in PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS GOING TO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH WHO IS VOTING. ALWAYS.

And that is because this scenario happens whenever you get a collection of people together to decide something important. The people on the outside -- the excluded -- are going to bitch about the decision.

So, go ahead, dump all the writers. But if you get a bunch of scientists to vote in the Hall of Famers, I guarantee you're eventually going to have a problem with the scientists. If you get a group of politicians to do it, you're going to eventually have a problem with the politicians. Statisticians? You'll grow dissatisfied eventually. Historians? You'll be bitching about some historians' rational for not voting so-and-so in. You could have 20 of your best buddies from the bar voting for the next Hall of Famer and eventually you're going to get pissed off at half of them and want to fight the other half.

That's life my friends. It's the human condition. It's played out on American Idol on a weekly basis from February to May. And every fourth November people rip their idiot neighbor because he voted for the wrong guy to live in a giant white house in Washington.

I do agree that there are players that should be in the Hall by now. Andre Dawson really should be in the Hall. Bert Blyleven probably should be in the Hall. Hell, I think Gil Hodges should have been the Hall long ago.

I think if I was voting today, I probably would pick Dawson and Roberto Alomar.

And you know what? At least a few of you has a problem with who I just picked. Maybe one of you called me an idiot. But do you think I should have my blog taken away from me because of that?

Bitching can be fun. It makes for some great arguments.

But between the endless bitching, I'd like to see a suggestion on how things could be better. And maybe, just every once in awhile, I'd like to see some recognition for the writers who got it right.

I'm waiting.

(P.S.: I'd be stunned if Dawson didn't get in this year).

Comments

James said…
I hope the Hawk gets in. He was one of the best OFs in the '80s.

I agree that Hodges should be in - I still can't believe the Vets haven't put him in yet and it's a crime that Marvin Miller isn't in there too.
Night Owl, my friend, I hope you're right!!

Great post.
dayf said…
Take the vote forcefully and violently from the BBWAA and give it to quantum physicists - FOR SCIENCE

(the writers are idiots)

(all of 'em)

(everyone who has ever written anything ever = Idiot)

(I am unanimous in this)
dayf said…
(I know I just wrote something thus implicating myself)

(THAT'S CAUSE I'M AN IDIOT)

(for reals, quantum physicists)

(they couldn't do worse)
Two Packs A Day said…
I'm perfectly fine with the voting - you'll have some that vote the merit, others due to popularity of the player and in the end there will have to be enough votes for induction.

I like the high standards (75% of ballots) because the baseball hall of fame is not cheapened like the NFL "Hall of Fame" where they have to induct 4-7 every year even if some of the players don't receive 80% of the votes needed.
Field of Cards said…
Well let me say there are plenty of great writers with the HOF vote.

But we also have writers refusing to vote for players because the player didn't grant them enough access during their career. We have voters who decide who to vote for based on who else is on the ballot that year. We have voters who brag about voting for almost nobody and then point out they use All-Star games and Post Season appearances as primary statistics when evaluating players.

Players are judged on talent. Umpires are judged on skill. We can certainly weed out writers who consistently vote (or withhold votes) for reasons that are bizarre and publicly announced.

A panel could be formed to evaluate the voting records.

Let's get Peter Gammons, Rob Neyer, the team that puts out the 'Baseball Prospectus' series etc. People who have written books dedicated solely to analyzing statistics and how those statistics fit in the context of baseball history.

They would form a nice panel that could reshape who gets to vote for the Hall of Fame.

And I'm not talking about voters that put forth sound reasons why they won't vote for Blyleven, I'm talking about voters that left Ted Williams off ballots because they thought he was a big jerk.

There are voters out there that think Tim Raines was just a decent player.

I guess the bigger question is why do we assume writers are qualified to analyze statistics? Writers are qualified to write. We can find voters who are qualified to vote.

And I know I will get slammed for saying this.
Doc said…
I think the system is fairly well set, but I'd also open the avenue for tenured retired managers to vote. They, along with the writers KNOW the players.

As far as rule changes:

1. You do not submit your ballot, you lose your right to vote.

2. Vote for at least two players, but not more than 10 (maybe this would help or not).
Great post. We've talked about this before and since I'm one of the bitchers I'll man up.

In a perfect world I have no problem with the writers voting on the HOF. Like you point out, ultimately this is the stuff of bar arguments and endless debate.

You're right: there are writers like Roger Kahn who know more about baseball than I'll ever pretend to. At the end of The Head Game he makes a list of the 12 greatest pitchers of all-time. It's a not a completely serious list (it includes Jerry Solovey as #12) but by the time you arrive at page 304 you know this dude KNOWS what he's talking about. HIs #1 is Matthewson, but his #2 is Koufax/Gibson/Marichal, an idea he got from Pete Rose. Dude KNOWS.

I'll also say that I don't have a dog in this fight this year, so I'm not picking on anyone for selecting certain guys over others, etc.

In a perfect world, my problem isn't even that there is no official selection criteria for the writers to use in HOF voting, that they often interpret data and careers differently, or that they are the ones who vote.

What slays me, however, is that there are a number of writers who, in using their own criteria to make a selection, not only ignore players' stats but also pull their own categories for evaluation out of thin air.

The Brown article, supposedly, is about why Roberto Alomar got Brown's vote, only it NEVER gets into the why. He tells us that he only votes for "icon greats," meanders through a list of those, then relates a story about a time Jack Morris didn't kick his ass, then says he voted for Alomar before signing off. In the whole article there's not ONE shred of evidence as to why Alomar is a HOFer according to Brown. Unless of course one counts "greatness" and "iconic greatness," neither of which represents a quantifiable statistical category, as the bedrock of this argument.

That wouldn't fly as analysis in an average freshman intro comp class, and it ain't good baseball analysis or baseball writing. It comes across as someone in power (he DOES have a HOF vote) holding baseball history in the sway of a willfully uninformed opinion. As a fan that drives me nuts.

The solution is simple, though perhaps no less subjective: make these guys write reasoned arguments for their selections. No "b/c I say so" or "b/c he fits my idea of a gamer," but look at the stats and say why. People would agree and disagree, but at least there'd be something to argue with.
steveisjewish said…
There really are a lot of players that you can make a good case for this year - I think Dawson and Alomar definately get in - I think Big MAc should be in- he dominated an era where a lot of players where cheating - i think McGriff should be in for being the most consistent slugger of the era (before and after the steroids hit the big time) and edgar martinez too!
dayf said…
Ok, I've had my caffeine and I'm calm now.

1) not all writers are idiots.

2) there is a small but significant subset of writers who are gibbering morons

3)The BBWAA can keep the vote if and only if they do this one thing for me:

4) strap Jay Mariotti's ass to a rocket and shoot it into the sun.

5) Otherwise: quantum physicists.
night owl said…
Field of Cards ~ I do like your suggestion. There does need to be some sort implement in place to remove "the idiot vote." I think that is the primary issue here.

CCC ~ Yes, the writers (or whatever profession happens to be voting for Hall of Famers) who cannot explain their vote in a semi-rational way should be a) penalized; b) then removed.

dayf ~ You forgot Woody Paige. Paige should get the rocket treatment first.

30YOC ~ I really hope you're not disappointed.
Anthony K. said…
All I can say is *Clap*....slow *Clap*.....*Clap*

I will hopefully have my own BBWA HOF voting post up later tonight.

One thing I will bring up: if you vote for NO one, you should lose yoru vote.

Since I can remember (only the last 10 years or so), there has always been at least ONE player who deserved to make the hall of fame.

Anyways, here's hoping Hawk, Bert and Robbie make it in this year :D
Captain Canuck said…
not all writers are idiots. Just the ones hired by FOX, ESPN, .... what? oh, sorry.
Writers like CCC mentioned, writers that don't vote for someone because they were a bastard and wouldn't give an interview after a tough loss, writers who won't vote for Player X because no one deserves a unanimous vote...
these are the people the bitchers (and sometimes I) say are idiots.

Unfortunately, like in life, the few ruin it for everyone.

and for the love of the gods, why the hell is Dale Murphy not in the damn Hall???????
Sooz said…
There are several issues I have with the voting, but not because I think writers are morons. A member of the BBWAA gets a vote after 10 consecutive years in the organization and then keeps it for life. That rewards longevity.

The other problem is how long someone stays on a ballot. Is it still 15 years? Jim Rice got in on his last shot on the ballot last year? Does that mean for 14 years every other vote was wrong?

Those are two main things I don't get about the voting system.
Sooz said…
Oh, just to chime in on dealing with asshole players.

Last season, I got yelled at after a game by a player. BTW, he won the game and was just being difficult to everyone, but he YELLED at me in front of everyone.

Afterward, I calmly went to my computer to write my article and told myself to keep my composure. Him being a jackass doesn't take away from what happened on the field. And, I wrote the article as though the incident didn't happen.

What is funny is that other reporters threw in some snide comment about the player in their articles because they didn't like his attitude.

It takes a lot to not let things like that get to you. But, also, I think there is more biased when you like a player than when you dislike someone.
John Batman said…
Dawson and Alomar Yes. Blyleven No.
Dawson and Alomar had just enough dominance and durability (longevity) that feel like Hall of Famers. Blyleven was around a long time but I don't think he was ever dominant. He was good but never dominant. He is sort like Harold Baines
steelehere said…
Great Article Night Owl.

MLB.com listed the ballots of their staff writers.

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100105&content_id=7878286&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

Most of the voter's ballots were justifiable. That said, seeing how Marty Noble (who?) voted (Barry Larkin and Dave Parker only) is perplexing when you take into consideration who he didn't vote for.

It's interesting to note that when he defended his ballot he only explained by he didn't vote for Robert Alomar. His reasoning was that Alomoar was the best second baseman since Joe Morgan and because of the spitting incident Robert needed to wait at least a year.

Wow, sounds like someone who doesn't follow much baseball outside of the Cincinnati Reds.

Unfortunately, it's ballots like these that keep Alomar (5 votes short) and Blyleven (7 votes short) waiting until next year.
steelehere said…
As a follow up, below is link to Jay Mariotti's 2010 Hall of Fame ballot. You'll see he voted for NO ONE.

I wonder if this was his intention or if he was too busy taping an episode of Pardon the Interruption to take the time to vote.

http://mlb.fanhouse.com/2010/01/06/fanhouses-2010-hall-of-fame-ballot
Dinged Corners said…
<...some of the writers who have Hall of Fame ballots are morons. They have proven it....other writers who have ballots are brilliant....does that mean the voting system is broken?>

Rather, it means there are a greater number of morons than brilliantons voting for the HOF.

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