Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Taste of My New Gig

I recently was invited to write for Bitterfans.com. Here's a little taste of what I'm doing over there...Hopefully the amount of content here won't suffer for it.

Any Hall, The Problems Faced by Voters in the big Four

The recent Hall of Fame vote for the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame had me pondering the problems inherent in the rules and the processes put in place for voting. Every year there is some sort of controversy associated with the voting process - whether it's an argument over who didn't make the cut to this year's hot-button topic; steroids...but more on that later.

Each of the various Halls have their own arcane rules, typically lost in the translation when the voters try to explain, because they're usually making an attempt to put their own take on how voting should be done.

There exists a minority of voters, for example, voting on the future Hall-of-Famers for Cooperstown who will not vote anyone in on the first vote, because no one has ever been a unanimous choice. This reasoning is difficult to fathom. The argument placed before the public here essentially amounts to the following, "just because previous voters failed in their assessment of the likes of Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, we should continue to do things wrong."

With few exceptions, it is difficult to understand why a player is hall-of-fame caliber one year, but not the previous year. The statistics haven't changed.

The Baseball Hall of Fame allows the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to vote for up to ten players on a ballot in a given year. Amongst the exceptions that must be considered are players under scrutiny for other reasons. Rule number five that voters for Cooperstown are expected to adhere to - "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."

Granted, Ty Cobb by all accounts was a racist bastard known to sharpen his spikes before a game, and Gaylord Perry has admitted to the occassional KY ball, but recent events have openned a whole new can of worms.

Mark McGwire, implicated as much by Jose Canseco's book Juiced as he was by his refusal to answer questions before congress, sits in limbo.

McGwire's proponents say that without any hard evidence, Big Mac deserves the benefit of the doubt, often throwing in the idea that, "we all knew players were doing it then and we didn't do anything about it."

On the other side, the others point at the fact that McGwire has 14 years of remaining elegibility left and if they put him in now, and it comes out down the road that he was definitively using the substance, then they can't take him back out of the Hall. The consesus, however, is that McGwire would have been in on the first ballot had there been no doubt about how his numbers were achieved.

This begs a separate question; if McGwire didn't do anything, then are his numbers really Hall worthy?

Through 16 seasons Big Mac put up the following numbers - .263 BA, 1626 hits, 583 HR, 1414 RBI's, 1167 runs, 1596 strike outs in 6187 career at bats.Former Red Sox slugger Jim Rice, who has perennially fallen short also played 16 seasons and put up the following numbers - .298 BA (edge), 2452 hits (edge), 382 HR, 1451 RBI's, 1249 runs, 1423 strike outs all in 8225 career at bats.

So, in more career at bats (all during the "Dead Ball Era"), Rice, considered by enough writers to be unworthy of enshrinement that he still is on the ballot with little time left, had a considerably higher average, over 800 more hits, 40 more RBI's, 82 more runs scored, and struck out 123 fewer times.

McGwire won the Rookie of the Year, one Gold Glove and three Silver Slugger awards, Rice won the 1978 MVP award, and two Silver Sluggers. Six times Rice finished in the top ten in batting average, a feat McGwire never accomplished.

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