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HoF Debate: Bill James

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Postby rainman23 » Fri Aug 11, 2006 7:25 pm

A couple points. First, I see zero worth to the idea that an inductee "had to be associated with a particular franchise." A great commissioner isn't eligible? If we had irrefutable proof who created the game, he's not eligible? Great writers, journalists, broadcasters aren't eligible, unless they focused on one team? Silly.

And the suggestion that sabermetrics are just too "fuzzy"? Come on, the whole point of sabermetrics is to bring some rigor to the ideas that encompass baseball. Before James came along, there was a book of conventional wisdom that everyone adhered to, and heaven help the manager who ignored that wisdom. Whether or not anyone had ever seriously that wisdom, or it could pass muster if you did, was beside the point. You paid homage to these ancient truths.

James's early abstracts were a revelation. As someone who was in the early stages of a systems analyst's career, but had already been a baseball fan for a long time -- the idea that you could put these time-honored (but not necessarily time-tested) precepts under the microscope, and perhaps prove their worth statistically, or perhaps discover some surprising new things -- was incredible. It was terrific, and valuable, and entertaining. If you loved baseball, and you gave James a chance, you had to admire James.

HoF. I don't know. I don't think his career would meet any of James's own criteria for inclusion. But it's nice to see some of you guys at least treating the idea with respect. I expected to see this thread taken over by the troglodytes who hate and resent James's work without having ever actually read him.
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Postby Amazinz » Fri Aug 11, 2006 8:15 pm

rainman23 wrote:Whether or not anyone had ever seriously that wisdom, or it could pass muster if you did, was beside the point.

Beside the point? You don't really believe that, do you? The purpose of sabermetrics is to accurately evaluate the worth of players and events. Whether or not it can pass muster is precisely the point. Are you still a pioneer if you forge a line of research that dead ends?
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Postby rainman23 » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:34 am

Amazinz wrote:
rainman23 wrote:Whether or not anyone had ever seriously that wisdom, or it could pass muster if you did, was beside the point.

Beside the point? You don't really believe that, do you? The purpose of sabermetrics is to accurately evaluate the worth of players and events. Whether or not it can pass muster is precisely the point. Are you still a pioneer if you forge a line of research that dead ends?


I expressed myself poorly, or you only skimmed my post. I was referring to the pre-Sabermetric era. The 100 years where commentators were expected to spout cliches, and we were all supposed to accept it blindly. Sorry if I wasn't clear.
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Postby Ender » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:36 am

he'd have to be one of the top 5 sabermetric guys of all time in order to deserve it and he's not. He generally gives half baked ideas that are disproved by other better analysts.
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Postby rainman23 » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:45 am

Ender wrote:he'd have to be one of the top 5 sabermetric guys of all time in order to deserve it and he's not. He generally gives half baked ideas that are disproved by other better analysts.


If he's not one of the top 5 guys, I'll bet the top 5 benefitted from his work, and probably give him a lot more credit than you do. There's no telling where exactly sabermetrics would be if there hadn't been a Bill James, but I'm betting it would be several years behind where it is now. And not nearly as popular as it is today. None of your "top 5" guys have had nearly his influence.
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Postby Absolutely Adequate » Sat Aug 12, 2006 12:51 am

I don't see how he could not make the hall. He's been too important to baseball - and we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg, I think.

"Well, W.C. Handy only invented the blues which changed modern music forever. I don't see why they should put him in the Rock and Roll hall of fame. He never played any famous rock songs."

James changed baseball forever. He applied mathmatical rigor to a sport that had too long relied on "common sense." There isn't a team in baseball that hasn't changed it's drafting/scouting because of the work done in a Kansas basement in the late 70s.

That's the definition of a Hall of Famer. He forever changed the game in a way no one else ever did.
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Postby DK » Sat Aug 12, 2006 1:36 am

Amazinz wrote:
rainman23 wrote:Whether or not anyone had ever seriously that wisdom, or it could pass muster if you did, was beside the point.

Beside the point? You don't really believe that, do you? The purpose of sabermetrics is to accurately evaluate the worth of players and events. Whether or not it can pass muster is precisely the point. Are you still a pioneer if you forge a line of research that dead ends?


Well Curt Flood's pioneering ended in solid defeat, and he's still hailed as a hero. Not a HoFer, but a hero of free agency, even though he lost.

Either way this isn't the point, because James's theories (for the most part) do pass the muster, and have stood the test of time.
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Postby Mookie4ever » Sat Aug 12, 2006 8:08 am

Bill James has never played professional baseball, never managed a team, never owned a team and until very recently has not had any position in a mlb team.

The HOF categories are Player, Manager, Umpire and Pioneer/Executive. The only one that he even qualifies for is Pioneer/Executive. This is probably also the hardest one to qualify for since the pool of candidates is so huge and includes all executives, owners, commissioners, writers etc.

There is a grand total of one baseball writer in the HOF. Henry Chadwick elected in 1938.

When we evaluate whether players should be inducted into the HoF we evaluate them against their peers and standards set by the Hall for their era and position. We do the same with the Pioneers/Executives category.

With this in mind Bill James should be inducted into the HoF if you consider that he is the best/most influential baseball writer since 1938 and the second best baseball writer if not the best baseball writer in history.

Consider that none of George Daley, Dan Daniel (the Dean of American Baseball Writers), Wil Heinz, Len Koppett, Shirley Povich, Red Smith and WP Kinsella are in the HOF. You would have to say that James is better/more influential than any of these prestigious writers in order to elect him into the HOF.

The Baseball Writers of America give out an annual award for for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, the JG Taylor Spink award - Bill James has never won the award and it has been awarded yearly since 1962.

So should Bill James be in the HOF? No freakin way.
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Postby rainman23 » Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:18 am

DK wrote:
Amazinz wrote:
rainman23 wrote:Whether or not anyone had ever seriously that wisdom, or it could pass muster if you did, was beside the point.

Beside the point? You don't really believe that, do you? The purpose of sabermetrics is to accurately evaluate the worth of players and events. Whether or not it can pass muster is precisely the point. Are you still a pioneer if you forge a line of research that dead ends?


Well Curt Flood's pioneering ended in solid defeat, and he's still hailed as a hero. Not a HoFer, but a hero of free agency, even though he lost.

Either way this isn't the point, because James's theories (for the most part) do pass the muster, and have stood the test of time.


Again, I don't want any misunderstanding, just because one guy commented on my post without actually reading it (ironic, considering a couple comments I've made about people forming opinions about James without actually reading him). Anything I said about ideas not passing muster referred to the unenlightened pre-James era, when baseball was a quaint old game, and fans weren't expected to think much.

To get back on point...I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm a James fan. But HoF?...not any time soon. If down the road we find that sabermetrics has made an enormous difference in the game, and that James towers over other sabermetricians (and he will), then we can talk about the Hall. Not today, though.
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Postby ukrneal » Sat Aug 12, 2006 10:03 am

When someone says to you: greatest baseball player. Most people think Babe Ruth. Sure, some will think Mays, Bonds, Gehrig, etc. But most people think Ruth.

Do the same with Sabermetrics and people will think James. Sure others will say other names, but most will think James.

He has 1) Created something that never really was popular before and made it mainstram (just read Moneyball, a bestseller), 2) He's not a math whiz, but he comes up with the ideas, 3) Innovations HE created were: term sabermetrics, runs created, fielding range, win shares, pythagorean winning percentage, and secondary average (among others).

Some say that he is building on the work of others before him. Of course he is. Albert Einstein came up with e=mc2 or theory of relativity, but no one says, "Well, Albert didn't do much, he just built upon his predecessors!" James, like Einstein in physics, caused baseball to take a quantum (haha) leap forward. No one has his influence in this area, whether or not you think it deserved.

As a result, I believe he most definitely belongs (as a pioneer or whatever) in the HOF at some point.
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