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HoF Debate: Bill James

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Postby Matthias » Sat Aug 12, 2006 4:41 pm

Heh. Apparently a writer at Salon thinks James belongs in (as does Rob Neyer, James' former assistant).

http://www.salon.com/sports/col/kaufman ... wednesday/

But James has done enough for enshrinement even if he spends the next six years with his feet on his desk. He's analogous to Henry Chadwick, the 19th century baseball chronicler you learned about if you read Alan Schwarz's excellent "The Numbers Game: Baseball's Lifelong Fascination With Statistics."

Here's an excerpt from the Hall of Fame's bio of Chadwick, who was enshrined in 1938: "Henry Chadwick influenced the game by wielding a pen, not a bat. A renowned journalist, he developed the modern box score, introduced statistics such as batting average and ERA, wrote numerous instructional manuals on the game, and edited multiple baseball guides."

Not an exact parallel, given the vastly different eras the men lived in, but pretty similar.

I asked James if he thinks he might be Cooperstown material, but he said it would be "totally inappropriate for me to comment." So I turned to his former assistant, ESPN baseball columnist Rob Neyer.

"Of COURSE Bill James belongs in the Hall of Fame," Neyer wrote in an e-mail. "This just strikes me as ridiculously self-evident. And you're right, Chadwick is the perfect analogue."


Not that I've changed my mind. Just thought this was interesting was all.
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Postby bigh0rt » Sat Aug 12, 2006 5:11 pm

looptid wrote:Yeah it does. It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Merit.


No. I mean I can't even understand what the heck it's trying to say.
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Postby Amazinz » Sat Aug 12, 2006 5:14 pm

looptid wrote:Yeah it does. It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Merit.


Hall of Fame mission statement (partial): Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.

I'm sure that the phrase "significant achievements" is open to some interpretation but I doubt that anyone would consider acquiring fame, in and of itself, a significant achievement. So if even though it's called the Hall of Fame, hall of merit is probably closer to reality.
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Postby Chrisy Moltisanti » Sat Aug 12, 2006 8:57 pm

bigh0rt wrote:
Chrisy Moltisanti wrote:James is the one recognized for changing baseball with math more than anybody. Whether he truly did or not is beside the point. He's in.


This doesn't even make sense.


It does if you aren't a extremely right handed inside the box thinking HS teacher. ;-)

The fact is, to the bulk of baseball fans and those who know anything about it, James is (in many more informed fans point of view) ignorantly recognized as the main reason a significant change in the way baseball is approached occurred.

We live in an ignorant society with a vast gap between those who are informed and those who are not (and those that think they are). Things like the HOF represent how the majority feels. Not the informed minority. But you already knew all this.

And I echo Neyer's sentiments. "Of COURSE Bill James belongs in the Hall of Fame," Neyer wrote in an e-mail. "This just strikes me as ridiculously self-evident."
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Postby noseeum » Sat Aug 12, 2006 9:07 pm

Chrisy Moltisanti wrote:The fact is, to the bulk of baseball fans and those who know anything about it, James is (in many more informed fans point of view) ignorantly recognized as the main reason a significant change in the way baseball is approached occurred.


"Ignorantly recognized"? If it wasn't James who pushed statistical analysis to the forefront, who was it?
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Postby looptid » Sat Aug 12, 2006 10:40 pm

Amazinz wrote:
looptid wrote:Yeah it does. It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Merit.


Hall of Fame mission statement (partial): Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements.

I'm sure that the phrase "significant achievements" is open to some interpretation but I doubt that anyone would consider acquiring fame, in and of itself, a significant achievement. So if even though it's called the Hall of Fame, hall of merit is probably closer to reality.

I would disagree completely. The only consistant standard is fame. Often times merit begets fame, but the Hall has not used exceptional careers as their measuring stick, contrary to their mission statement.

Frank Chance was not among the best second baseman ever to play the game. But he did have a famous poem written featuring him.

Ray Schalk was famous for being one of the Black Sox that didn't throw the world series. He was also famous for setting the modern record for stolen bases in a season by a catcher. But he was not an exceptional catcher who was one of the best to ever play. His career average was .253 and he hit 11 career homeruns. Even adjusting for the era he played in, his game was far from exceptional.

Rizzuto and Perez translated post-season fame into a Hall enshrinement. Perez' numbers are similar in many ways to those of Dave Kingman, who is considered somewhat of a joke by many.

Then there are players like Bert Blylevin, who by virtue of never have won 20 games despite being a truly exceptional pitcher, wasn't famous enough to make the cut. That's just to name a few players.
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Postby Amazinz » Sun Aug 13, 2006 12:07 am

I think it's unfair to ignore the mission statement and cite a handful of examples. The hall isn't perfect and it hasn't always been consistent. There are definitely players in the hall due to their notoriety and not their merit. I think we can agree that most people in the hall of fame are famous just due to the nature of the game. For the reason you pointed out, it would be faulty logic to draw the conclusion that fame is the standard for induction because most people in the hall are famous.

I think I could make a fairly good argument that exceptional careers for players has been the standard (even though we sometimes disagree with the evalauation of the career) but I won't because I think that it is going too far OT. Which brings me to my second point. Each of your examples deals with a player and that doesn't seem applicable to Bill James. I think we should be looking at this list for any evidence of a track record that would support either side of the argument.
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