Wednesday, January 19, 2011

31 comments Phil Taylor Calls Himself "The Gatekeeper" And It Gets Worse From There

I was innocently reading Sports Illustrated this past weekend when I had nearly finished it and came upon the last page, which used to be Rick Reilly's domain. I tend to read this part now that Reilly has taken his lack of talents to ESPN. Phil Taylor had written about the Hall of Fame and calls himself "The Gatekeeper." Because nothing goes better with a bad idea than a bad nickname that gives the impression your consider yourself to be the final person to decide who gets into baseball's Hall of Fame and who doesn't, I thought I had to read this. And read it I did...now I am writing about it.

A few weeks ago, Dylan wrote this really good positive post about Rob Parker and the Hall of Fame and there was a great discussion about that post. I am the negative guy apparently, so I am going to focus on a negative article about a sportswriter talking about the Hall of Fame. I think every year the public should be able to choose 10 sportswriters to opine about baseball's Hall of Fame in a column. That's it. The rest can't write anything about it. How's that for a "Gatekeeper-like" idea?

The results of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting, which made members of second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven last week, sparked all the usual debates about snubbed players, outdated balloting procedures and methods of defining greatness. If only the Hall had a gatekeeper, like St. Peter at the pearly ones, to make a final call on who gets in and why.

I'm going to stop you right there. The Hall does have a gatekeeper to make the final call on who gets in and why. They are called the Hall of Fame voters. Instead of having one opinionated asshole who decides which players get in, there are many more opinionated assholes who gets to decide which players get in. This increases the amount of people who vote and decreases the chance one opinionated asshole may do a crappy job of choosing candidates for the Hall of Fame. I don't get why one person voting is better than many people when it comes to a vote about the Hall of Fame.

Consider this my application for the job. In a nod to baseball history, I would attempt to bring to the position the qualities of the sport's two greatest Rickeys, offering both the wisdom of Branch Rickey and the insistence on referring to myself in the third person of Rickey Henderson. Here's how the Gatekeeper would handle some of the thorniest Hall of Fame questions:

First, off I am shocked Bill Simmons didn't think of giving himself the nickname "The Gatekeeper" about five years ago in reference to the basketball Hall of Fame. I feel like his ego really dropped the ball on this one.

Q
| Why hasn't [insert the name of your favorite candidate] been voted in? He has more career RBIs than 17.2% of the lefthanded hitters at his position who are already....

A
| Stop right there, before you make the Gatekeeper doze off. He has nothing against numbers, either the traditional ones or the newer metrics, but he finds the endless parsing of stats to be an incredible snore.

And naturally if the Gatekeeper finds the discussion of an issue to be an incredible snore then that means that issue has absolutely no value. Right? I find science and medicine to be an incredible boring subject, and really other than the life-saving medicines that have cured diseases and innovations that make our lives easier and increase our productivity and (sometimes) our happiness...what the hell has science and medicine done for us? The answer: It doesn't matter! Who cares? It's so BORING!

So we have established (I am not calling him the Gatekeeper anymore) Phil Taylor is lazy and doesn't want to have to use anything outside of using his own biased opinion to judge players for the Hall of Fame. Not a good way to start an article.

Only in the world of sportswriting is willful ignorance in finding out new knowledge not discouraged by many editors, it actually gets a sportswriter a highlighted spot in the back of a popular sports magazine. "Hey everyone! I have no need to learn anything new! That makes me successful in my industry!"

Make the case with words. Describe the unforgettable moments your would-be Hall of Famer created.

Oh yes, indeed. Do this. That way the Hall of Fame will be consisting of players that created "memories" which naturally also mean this player was one of the greatest players of his generation. It's only logical only the greatest players in baseball history also created unforgettable moments.

Sid Bream created one of my favorite baseball memories. Knock down the walls Hall of Fame! Let Sid Bream in! Edgar Renteria has created two great postseason memories for two separate teams. Give him his own wing in the Hall of Fame!

I have never been able to fathom why "unforgettable moments" and a player who had 1-2 great memorable performances is supposed to overwhelm the entire body of work that player had over his career. As if 1-2 moments of greatness are supposed to make a player one of the greatest players in baseball history, while the rest of his baseball resume that says he shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame gets ignored. Here's a great example of this...

You want to persuade the Gatekeeper that Jack Morris should be in Cooperstown? Talk more about his 1--0, 10-inning shutout for the Twins in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series and less about how his WHiP stacks up against Hall of Fame pitchers.

Read this sentence again. (waits 10 seconds)

So talk more about ONE INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE that Jack Morris had that says he should be considered one of the greatest pitchers of all-time and talk less about how, you know, he actually compares to the other pitchers who are considered the greatest pitchers of all-time. This is not logical. I am not all about comparing players eligible for the Hall of Fame to pitchers who are in the Hall of Fame and denying them entry if they don't reach a certain level of production. Does it really make sense to take one great performance and say, "Jack Morris is one of the greatest pitchers of all-time because of this performance," rather than take what Jack Morris did over his entire career and compare it to what other Hall of Fame pitchers did?

The Gatekeeper is much more interested in whether a player created a lasting legacy in the sport.

A lasting legacy that 2-3 great performances can create, while a 14-15 year body of work isn't good enough?

Ozzie Smith is in the Hall because he made plays that no one dreamed a shortstop could make, not because of his fielding percentage.

Ozzie Smith is in the Hall of Fame also because he was a great hitting shortstop and a great fielder. In fact, he was one of the greatest players at his position. He also made great plays in the field no one else could make, but mostly he is in the Hall of Fame because he was one of the greatest players at his position in baseball history. So he meets the criteria to be in the Hall of Fame, so that's mostly why he was elected there. I am not sure he was elected into the Hall of Fame solely on the fact he could make plays no other shortstops could make, there were other factors as well.

Everyone who would even be considered for the Hall is impressive in some statistical area. So, enough with making a candidate's case by finding Hall of Famers with comparable stats. If the Gatekeeper wanted to discuss comps, he'd have gone into real estate.

Every player considered for the Hall is impressive in some statistical area? The 2011 ballot with Kirk Rueter, Lenny Harris, and Charles Johnson beg to differ. Bad players? Not at all. Impressive one statistical area...not exactly.

But you do have to compare a player's statistics in some fashion to other players of his generation or compare to who else is in the Hall of Fame. Why is it fine to compare Ozzie Smith's fielding plays to other shortstops, but it isn't fine to compare Smith's statistics to other shortstops?

The Gatekeeper believes the Hall of Fame has too many members as it is. In fact, don't get the Gatekeeper started, because he'll talk your ear off about how it's all part of the misguided tendency in sports to relax the standards of excellence. We don't just lock onto outdated milestones, like 500 home runs, we consider anyone who gets in the neighborhood, causing the bar to fall increasingly lower.

Phil Taylor's "created an unforgettable memory" criteria is one of the harshest set of criteria I have ever read about...in opposite world. Especially since each individual baseball fan probably has several baseball players that created unforgettable memories. Using subjective criteria based solely on the memory of how you felt during a moment would definitely cause the Hall's standards to tighten up by causing middle aged voters to recall how a player's performance perhaps over a decade ago made them feel. Nothing says, "restricted entrance" like relying on a person's memory and feelings for a player's candidacy.

The problem isn't limited to the Hall. Some people want to double the number of teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournament—or even worse, let everyone in. Loosening the definition of excellence is why we have expanded playoffs and expanded All-Star rosters. Does everything have to be devalued, diluted? The Gatekeeper wants a Hall that's harder to get into than his old high school jersey.

Let's not devalue the Hall of Fame by relying on a player's statistics over his entire career. Let's devalue the Hall of Fame by considering a player who created a special memory, as if this were also indicative that he was one of the greatest players in the Hall of Fame. Phil Taylor is loosening the definition of excellence simply by showing a disdain for statistics and basing a player's candidacy on how great of an unforgettable moment he created. It's great a player created an unforgettable memory, but if he wasn't one of the best players at his position during his career, I don't think he should be in the Hall of Fame.

Q
| Isn't it unfair to keep deserving players out when they don't meet subjective criteria?

A
| Define deserving. The Gatekeeper believes that no one deserves enshrinement in Cooperstown.

It seems Phil Taylor is taking the JemeHill form of sportswriting where he creates a false argument and then disproves it...thereby proving his own intentionally false conclusion as indeed false and impressing the 100 readers who didn't figure out that Phil Taylor just disproved his own argument.

Noted baseball thinker Bob Costas has said that the Hall should be limited to the immortals. The Gatekeeper couldn't agree more. How do we get such a Hall? By asking questions that can't be answered with a calculator. Did the player take your breath away?

Yes, Andruw Jones took my breath away at times. Does this mean he should be in the Hall of Fame? No. John Rocker took my breath away at times (he was a pretty good closer for a short period of time). Does this mean the Hall should call him for induction? Therein lies the problem with the "took your breath away" way of evaluating players for the Hall of Fame.

Phil Taylor's basic argument is we shouldn't rely on the actual statistical legacy a baseball player left behind, but we should rely on exactly how he made us feel. Using this logic there is absolutely no reason Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire should not be in the Hall of Fame at some point soon. Nearly everyone remembers how they made us feel during the summer of 1998.

Is he someone to tell your grandchildren about? The Gatekeeper evaluates an artist by how a painting makes him feel, not by the number of brushstrokes per canvas.

What a beautiful analogy. I just took 15 minutes off from writing to go pick flowers and ponder my place in this world.

Q
| Are the writers being fair when they refuse to vote for players they suspect have used steroids, even when there is no concrete evidence they did?

A
| The Gatekeeper believes the system would be infinitely better if he alone determined a player's worthiness. But since others have been entrusted with a ballot, shouldn't they be given exactly that—trust? The Hall of Fame doesn't just yank some fans off the beer line to vote.

No, the Hall of Fame takes them out of the retirement home to vote.

I'm just kidding of course. The Hall of Fame delivers the ballot personally to the retirement home in order to avoid any would-be voters from having to drive a car.

Only journalists who have covered the game for at least 10 years are eligible. If they don't feel comfortable voting for a player because, in their opinion, he is likely to have used steroids, the Gatekeeper respects their judgment.

So basically Phil Taylor wants the Hall of Fame election process to be more subjective. He wants less of an interest in using statistics and more of an interest in using unforgettable memories of how good that player was and how he made each individual person feel. He entrusts the writers to deal fairly with players who allegedly, or not allegedly at all but that writer has a certain suspicion based purely on his lifetime of sitting in press boxes and eating free nachos, used steroids while playing baseball.

Q | Are you also going to defend writers who refuse to vote for an obvious candidate in his first year of eligibility because they have arbitrarily decided that only certain players should have the honor of being first-ballot inductees?

Phil Taylor is fine with voters suspecting a player may have used steroids without any type of proof. He is fine with completely ignoring a player's statistics and focusing more on how that player made the sportswriter voter feel, which is a half-ass way of remembering a player's legacy. He is also fine with these same people he has entrusted to essentially make baseless accusations towards a player like Jeff Bagwell about steroids with the ability to not vote for an "obvious" candidate because that voter doesn't want the player to be a first-ballot inductee. This trust ends when it comes to a Hall of Fame voter determining when a player should be in the Hall of Fame.

I don't agree with a voter doing this, but if are going to allow Hall of Fame voters to create the evidence, be the judge, and the jury on steroids...what's the problem with this same sportswriter (who Phil Taylor has given the ability to keep a player out of the Hall of Fame permanently based solely on suspicion of using steroids) from having the ability to differentiate between a first and second ballot Hall of Fame player? At least that player will most likely get in the Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility rather than be turned away due to suspicion of steroid use.

A | That's where the Gatekeeper draws the line. The voters should not have the latitude to create a special class of Hall of Famer;

But feel free to not vote for a player based on your own baseless accusations of steroid use. In Phil Taylor's mind, and go ahead and not vote for a player if you think that player took steroids, go ahead and not vote for a player because his statistics may be good enough but he never took your breath away. Don't you dare not vote for a player because you don't want that player to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. Phil's advocating of subjective criteria stops when it comes a question as to WHEN to elect a player into the Hall of Fame. It is fine to have a bias against a player in not electing him to the Hall of Fame at all, but how dare you make that player wait if he is an "obvious candidate." That's just wrong.

Everything would be so much simpler if everyone would just listen to the Gatekeeper. If they did, Alomar, a maestro at second base, would still have been voted in last week. But Blyleven, who was a fine pitcher for a long time but a great one not long enough, would have been turned away.

This is not true at all. Bert Blyleven repeatedly took my breath away while watching him pitch and he even took his teammates breath away on many, many occasions in the clubhouse.

Hey, the Gatekeeper didn't say there wouldn't be tough calls. You have to bypass the very good to get to the best.

Unfortunately when it comes to reading about how a person should vote for the Hall of Fame you have to wade through a ton of unreasonable junk like this to get to someone who uses actual logic, not memory based hyperbole, on why Bert Blyleven should not be in the Hall of Fame.

31 comments:

rich said...

Describe the unforgettable moments your would-be Hall of Famer created.

This is the problem with the HOF, not the solution. Can anyone prove that David Eckstein is a "great" baseball player? No, but people use "great" and other words to describe him. It's really awesome to use words to describe things, but words lend themselves to incredible biases.

I hate to keep beat the Jack Morris thing into the ground, but you look at his stats and they're pretty underwhelming for a guy who is talked about so "loftily" (as Peter King might say).

I'd much rather have people prove to me that a player was awesome, not simply talk about it.

Pujols, Bonds, ARod, Griffey, etc. are all talked about in these great terms and their accomplishments are undeniable. However, for all the truly great players there's some evidence to prove it. People talk about Pujols being a patient hitter and then they can show that he walks a ton.

These types of players had a bunch of awe inspiring moments, but there's also objective evidence to demonstrate why those moments happened. For example, people remember the HR Pujols hit off Lidge in the NLCS, but when push comes to shove, what's more impressive that story or the fact that he was really good at baseball even beyond the timeframe of that story?

People talk about David Eckstein like he's God's gift to baseball and he was awful.

Words are great, but back them up.

your favourite sun said...

If that's the criteria The Gatekeeper is going to use to put Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame then where the fuck is Don Larsen's plaque? The Gatekeeper should not be swayed by Larsen's poor career numbers because he gave arguably the most lasting postseason legacy of any player in history.

One unforgettable memory I have of Bert Blyleven is when he defeated Jack Morris in Game 2 of the '87 ALCS. It might sound impressive that he decisively outpitched a great postseason pitcher in the postseason, but I guess you just had to be there.

Ozzie Smith is in the Hall of Fame also because he was a great hitting shortstop and a great fielder.

His offensive numbers are actually similar to Omar Vizquel's, with more stolen bases(although Vizquel had a lot, too). He was not a great hitting shortstop. The key difference between Oz and Vizquel, besides a little better fielding and an extra z, is that Little O played at the same time as A-Rod, Jeter, Tejada and Nomar...the Wizard had Cal Ripken and Trammell, who were great hitting shortstops but weren't winning batting titles or home run crowns. Or playing in the biggest markets.

your favourite sun said...

My favorite player as a kid was Kevin Mitchell. He was quite unforgettable...the gold tooth, the barehanded catch, the monster home runs, the story about him decapitating a cat. I would be more than willing to tell my kids and grandkids about him and what a great player he was at times, and the unforgettable things he did.

This is why any Gatekeeper is a dumb idea. If it was me, and if I was easily swayed by sentimentality, nobody could stop me from putting in my sentimental favorite. And it would baffle everybody else. But I could shrug and say "Hey, Mitch left a lasting legacy. And we can be pretty sure by his expanding gut that he wasn't on steroids."

For a fun exercise, we should list our own personal favorite player or players that could be declared unforgettable and get put in by a Gatekeeper who was willing to abuse his power. It'd give us an amusing picture of what a Cooperstown via Gatekeeper might look like. We've already got a beginning with Jack Morris, Sid Bream, Edgar Renteria, David Eckstein, Don Larsen and Kevin Mitchell.

(I know that Eckstein wasn't being listed as a favorite, but he fits the general idea of what I'm getting at here.)

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, I couldn't agree more. Some may say I don't like Morris b/c of his performance against the Braves. I don't like him, but I can be impartial and say he should/should not be in the Hall of Fame and he shouldn't.

I despise words and thinking of the unforgettable moments that a Hall of Famer created. It's stupid. If this made sense, I would nominate Jason Heyward right now and David Justice would be a first ballot Hall of Fame player.

See, I don't have an overall problem with unforgettable moments and using them in the context of baseball history to ADD TO a player's already-solid Hall of Fame resume. To use those moments as the ballot though, I say it makes no sense.

To answer your question, what is more impressive is what he did beyond those few moments.

Sun, that's a great point. I thought too little and should have mentioned Larson for the Hall of Fame.

I probably overstated it when I said Smith was a great hitter. I should have said he was a good hitter. I don't think Vizquel should be in the HoF, but I should probably do more research on that. The Gatekeeper would hate your idea of comparing Smith and Vizquel to get Vizquel in the HoF. He would want to know what you remember of Vizquel's career and if you remember no unforgettable moments then he shouldn't be in.

The whole idea of basing induction on memories is overly-sentimental and is also at the mercy of a person's memory recalling it correctly.

My favorite baseball player as I grew up, were in order of when they played for and left the Braves: Dale Murphy, David Justice, John Smoltz, and now Jason Heyward. Those were all pretty good players but I am not sure how many of them deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

As far as making unforgettable moments, Sid Bream is up there and Mark Wohlers should definitely be inducted, as well should Andruw Jones. I like that idea of adding players that would make it based on unforgettable memories and I submit Sid Bream and Andruw Jones.

Fred Trigger said...

Favorite players:, Charlie o'brien, Chris donnells and wally whitehurst. I was one of the lucky ones to meet the Mets and they made it an awesome experience. I still remember throwing a perfect strike to o'brien, even though I had no semblance of control in my high school years. It's kind of weird but I remember whitehurst had really strangely colored eyes. It almost looked like a lightning bolt. The things we remember from our youth...

ivn said...

let's see what I can dig up....I remember Carlos Guillen's suicide squeeze to beat the White Sox in 2000 playoffs. unforgettable! he's in. there's also Luis Sojo's inside-the-park grand slam against the Angels in the 1995 one-game playoff. first ballot! Mike Cameron hitting four homers in one game? I remember exactly where I saw that. he's in.

and then if we're talking about unforgettable memories you have to include Edgar Martinez's double to beat the Yankees in the 95 playoffs, aka "the hit that saved Seattle baseball." under the Gatekeeper's guidelines I'm pretty sure that makes Edgar the single greatest baseball player of all time.

re: Bill Simmons and "the Gatekeeper." I believe he's already claimed the titles of "Pop Culture Guru" and "Sports Tsar," and I think he's resting on those laurels.

Bengoodfella said...

Fred, Charlie O' Brien is one of my favorite players of all-time. If it weren't for David Justice, I would have had O' Brien as my favorite player. He had it all...and by "all" I mean he had a mullet. I bet it was an honor to throw him a pitch.

Ivn, no Hall of Fame is complete without Luis Sojo. Hey, he produced an unforgettable moment for you. There's no way he isn't in. Edgar may get in regardless, but the fact you have a memory of him then that automatically puts him in.

We are getting a good list going now. I think we should submit them to Phil Taylor as a group of people who created unforgettable memories that should be represented in the Hall of Fame.

your favourite sun said...

I will never forget a 2001 Cubs game with Delino DeShields scoring a game-winning run off a towering Sosa double. There was a play at the plate and DeShields did the most beautiful slide I have ever seen or probably ever will see: headfirst, full-speed, with seemingly his entire body moving away from the catcher except for his fingertips just barely grazing the corner of the plate. It was spectacular. To this day I judge every good slide by how it compares to that one--a perfect slide would thus be referred to as "The Full DeShields." Delino DeShields from Delaware, you were truly unforgettable.

your favourite sun said...

I'll also second the Cameron nomination. Not only did he hit the four home runs, he drove a fifth one in the 8th or 9th inning to the warning track. I will never forget that brief moment of super-excitement when I thought that I had just witnessed the first ever five home run game in major league history.

We'll also never forget that nasty face-to-face collision with a teammate Cameron had a few years later where he broke both his cheekbones. Partially because ESPN would not fucking stop showing the replay on a continuous loop several times a day for the next few weeks.

rich said...

Matt "pound me in the ass" Stairs for his HR against the Dodgers in the NLCS.

AJ Pierzynski's acting in the ALCS.

Dewayne Wise's catch in the 9th inning of Mark Buehrle's perfect game.

Dallas Braden's perfect game on Mother's day after his grandmother defended him against ARod.

Aaron "bleeping" Boone.

Pat Burrell's double in the game 5 and Pedro Feliz's single to drive Burrell in (winning run after the rain suspension).

I also thought Roy Halladay was an iffy HOFer (get his stats and awards away from me!) but then he threw a no hitter in the NLDS this year and suddenly all I could think of was how awesome he was.

Martin F. said...

Tuffy F'ing Rhodes for his 3 home run opening day game with the Cubs. Freaking amazing.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, unfortunately Delino DeShields son is making his own memories now. He plays in the Astros organization and was arrested for DUI recently. If there is a slide named after DeShields then he should automatically be in the Hall of Fame. Having a slide named after you is unforgettable.

Two votes for Cameron! That's pretty much a unanimous vote.

Rich, let's face it...Halladay was only a borderline Hall of Fame player. Sure, if you want to compare his statistics to other Hall of Fame pitchers it may look good, but what MEMORIES had he created until he threw the no-hitter in the NLDS? Absolutely none. That's why using statistics is so pointless, because they don't create memories. Now there is a memory of Halladay, he should be in.

Martin F, I thought Tuffy Rhodes was already in automatically just based on his name. It's unforgettable. Naturally George Bell and his jheri curl, as well as Dmitri Young, are now in too.

Anonymous said...

David Ortiz gave me many unforgetable highlights in 04. Must mean he's a lock!

cs said...

Dave Roberts - 1st ballot HOFer

Bengoodfella said...

Anon...Lock? What's better than a lock? Whatever it is, that's what David Ortiz is. He created multiple unforgettable memories for you. He is with Edgar Renteria in getting his own wing.

Naturally, Dave Roberts is in as well.

Bengoodfella said...

CS, I actually wrote that before you wrote that. Great minds think alike...or use the same joke.

Bengoodfella said...

Ok, I didn't write that "before" but at the same time.

Brian said...

How about Matt Holliday, and his 2007 play in game slide into home. So what if he may or may not have touched the plate, I will always remember that play. Unbelievable.

cs said...

Haha, yes, but seriously Dave Roberts. Dude should have his own wing, with a replica 1st and 2nd base. Fans can take each momentous step, reliving the "most important 90 foot sprint in sporting history". As you approach second, televisions all around you turn on, broadcasting non-stop Red Sox coverage and Dane Cook stand-up. Just think, those 90 feet separated us from this behemoth from New England, which has covered this country, and much of Latin America, with its filth. Let's call the wing "90 feet to Hell"

rich said...

CS,

We can also put a "Buehrle meter" in the HOF and rate each players moments on the Buehrle scale.

Bengoodfella said...

Brian, Holliday is in. Of course if Joe Morgan has his say then it won't happen. I think the entire Rockies fan base should be voted in as well because I remember how excited they were when he crossed home plate. That was unforgettable.

CS, I love that idea. We also could have a 90 foot track where fans race to see if they could have stolen the base in the appropriate time and changed Red Sox history as we know it.

Rich, I think we have better ideas than Phil Taylor did. I wish we could submit these ideas to him mockingly. I tell you what, we certainly have a long list of unforgettable moments. For a guy who wants a lot of people left out of the HoF, his method sure creates the opposite of that happening.

Nunyer said...

While I think Taylor's article was largely horseshit, I do think sentimentality does and should play a part in voting.

I believe another commentator here touched on it, for sentiment enhancing a HOF case and not making it... (I'm currently stuck in a training class, so wasn't able to read every reply in detail yet). But in certain cases I can certainly see "big moments" being the deciding factor in a HOF ballot. I can't think of a test case now, Morris doesn't make the cut for me either way, but at some point I could see a player with borderline career numbers deserving a spot because of undeniably awesome individual moments or a player that simply excited fans of the game beyond simple stats. Ozzie Smith backflipped around like a circus performer on PCP for over a decade, that helped his HOF case and dammit, it should have.

What's the alternative? Turning over HOF voting to the BCS computers if it's nothing more than a number crunch anyways? It's the Hall of Fame and not the Hall of Dudes Who Career Exceeded the Required Minimum Limits of Our Algorithm. I dislike Phil Taylor's representation of the issue, but I share some common ground with him.

Bengoodfella said...

Nunyer, I think I said that. I can get behind a small amount of sentimentality and I do think if the player has a good HoF case then a great moment could push him over the top. I just don't like how Taylor builds the case from the sentimentality on up.

I absolutely do not want to turn it all over to a computer. Not at all. I can get behind the sentimentality in part, but I can't get behind his extreme dislike for comparing players to other players and using statistics over sentiment.

your favourite sun said...

I think people can get behind the idea of individual moments or a player's connection to the fans enhancing what is already there. But great moments and memories shouldn't be used to overstate someone's case, and especially shouldn't be used to understate another's. It's the "Jack Morris is in but not Bert Blyleven because Morris had a brilliant World Series Game 7" mentality that is erroneous. Morris is supposed to get in because "he was more dominant" or he was a better postseason pitcher...yet the evidence indicates Blyleven was more dominant(more shutouts, lower ERA, more strikeouts, more wins) and his career postseason numbers were better, too. These same people who want to use Morris's most brilliant game to put him in the Hall will not be swayed when it's pointed out that the one time he faced Blyleven in the postseason(supposedly Morris's undisputed domain), he lost, because they don't remember it. So Blyleven or whoever is at the mercy of somebody's crappy memories.

Everything in a person's career should be under consideration, including things like "he was fun to watch" or "I remember him." It shouldn't be the central thesis...I'm fine with borderline candidates like Morris or Roger Maris or Don Drysdale or Tinker to Evers to Chance being supported by the impact they made. Even if I don't agree with all the conclusions I understand incorporating those elements. I'm not fine when someone is all "oy, how does Blyleven get in but not Morris?! My memory says Morris was more dominant!" Anyone who studies it though will see that their memory is wrong, or they need to reconsider how they define dominance.

Ozzie Smith would have gotten in without the backflips, they probably helped push his vote closer to 100% but they're not what put him in there. Being the greatest defensive shortstop of all-time and helping the Cardinals win 3 NL titles are what put him there. I know I compared him to Vizquel earlier but I wasn't really saying Ozzie was just Omar with backflips...he was not a borderline candidate. Vizquel is borderline, although I wouldn't put him in. Ozzie didn't need any sentimental favors, but I suspect someone like Omar Vizquel would.

your favourite sun said...

The other problem with sentimentality is that it can cut both ways...I seem to remember that Jack Morris's last career start with the Cleveland Indians ended in a bit of scandal. Apparently he had asked for the day off because he had some business on his ranch in Montana(where he had been spending his off-days all season) to attend, but Cleveland wouldn't let him have it. He showed up, got absolutely rocked and left the stadium before the game was over. Rumblings were that the Indians suspected he threw the game and they promptly released Morris despite his 10-6 record. They claim they released him because they were in a pennant race and didn't think he could help, but...this was literally one week before the strike began, and everybody knew it was coming. Morris made an emotional statement afterwards, kind of like "I don't want it to end like this," but unfortunately he never made it back to the majors.

Now, some of the above details might be slightly wrong, since I'm going purely by what I recall being reported at the time. But if someone's going to use Jack Morris's best moment to put him in what's to stop me from using his worst to keep him out? If The Gatekeeper wants to use unforgettable moments, then how can he justify putting in Roberto Alomar? We all know what his most unforgettable moment was, especially since it was probably what kept him from being a first-ballot winner.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, I think what struck me most in your two posts is that you went through what seemed like a fairly accurate Jack Morris story and then said you don't know if the details are absolutely correct or not. That's the problem with unforgettable moments, they are at the mercy of the human brain, which tends to forget things. For example, for about 10 years I thought John Smoltz had pitched 9 innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, which was incorrect, he did not. Ask any police officer, many times the human brain tends to remember things the way they want it remembered or forget little details.

You bring up a valid point in that unforgettable memories are at the mercy of a person's crappy memories.

I wouldn't put Vizquel in either. I think he is too borderline to be in the Hall of Fame.

Part of the whole unforgettable memory problem is are we only supposed to remember the good memories? If so, Alomar should have been a first ballot HoF, like you said. I guess that's all we are supposed to remember from Phil Taylor's point of view...and I think somewhere in there is a case to be made for PED users to be in the HoF.

Nunyer said...

Taking the sentimentality out of the equation, I think Vizquel has a very strong case compared to Ozzie. They both played and performed similarly in the post season, in a similar amount of total games. They were both top defensive shortstops. Vizquel being seemingly more reliable on the plays he got to, with Smith being slightly more error prone but with a slightly better range factor. Offensively, Vizquel was slightly better for more seasons. I just don't see Smith being a 90% first ballot lock while Vizquel being borderline based on the numbers.

If Smith is the #1 defensive shortstop ever, it's based on making highlight plays on occasion that no SS had ever made before... but his fielding percentage at SS for his career would lead me to believe that we "forgot" some errors in there as well when giving him that crown. Also, he played in the perfect era... with plenty of concrete astroturf turning infield singles into assists, turning fielder choices into double plays and generally reducing bad hops across the board. I think his "best defensive SS ever" crown is arguable. Just about all of his worse seasons for total errors and fielding percentage were in San Diego when playing on grass... Extrapolated over a career and he's a Cal Ripken or Alan Trammel with slightly better range if he is forced to stay on grass.

So, sentiment out of the picture, Vizquel deserves 75% of the vote within a year or two of eligibility if Smith is a first ballot guy with 92%. Sentiment in the picture, Smith smiled big, flipped around, spoke with no foreign accent and played in a baseball crazy town... everybody knew him and loved him... Vizquel, well... err... yea, he is coming up way short in those areas. Despite very comparable, and in many areas, superior numbers... he's borderline and probably won't sniff Cooperstown.

your favourite sun said...

I noticed too that Vizquel had a better fielding percentage but I've heard the claim several times, including from Whitey Herzog, that the turf was actually far more brutal to infielders than grass would be. You say "reducing bad hops" but others would counter "more hot and fast grounders that are far more difficult to handle." It's hard to say if the turf helped or hurt fielding numbers at first glance. Looking at Garry Templeton, the man Ozzie was traded for and an average fielder, seems to bear this out: whereas Ozzie's numbers got better in St. Louis, Garry's improved in San Diego. This could just be that they each got better with more experience about making less errors, or that their personal styles were such that their new settings were a better fit than their old ones. Ozzie's numbers are certainly better than the Cardinal shortstops before and after him but we should expect this...so I have to consider the turf advantage/disadvantage inconclusive at best, unless there's already been better analysis done on the subject.

Fielding numbers in general are tricky when comparing across eras, even ones as close as Smith's and Vizquel's...Ozzie could lead the league with those .976 fielding percentages, while Vizquel
one year got .990 and finished second. The game, even from the '80s to the '00s, seems to have changed so that fielding percentages got better, at least amongst the league leaders. Nine guys are ahead of Ozzie in all-time SS fielding percentage, and eight of them retired after he did or are still playing. I don't think Rey Sanchez and Jimmy Rollins are better fielders than Ozzie, or JJ Hardy if he moves ahead of him next year, just like I don't think Mike Bordick was a better fielder than Vizquel the year he got the .998 fielding percentage crown. League shorstop fielding percentage in Ozzie's era was .965, in Vizquel's shorstop playing days it was .972. The gap between each guy and the norm was thirteen points for both. Too many other variables are involved for me to think that the fielding percentage proves our memories are lying.

Defensive WAR, for what it's worth, clearly puts Ozzie a cut above Vizquel. And, for that matter, every other shortstop ever except Mark Belanger, with Cal Ripken and Joe Tinker a step behind.

I also disagree about Vizquel having more good offensive seasons. I would say the numbers indicate Smith was a more or equally valuable offensive player for longer. This is why I don't think Ozzie is a borderline candidate: he was a similar but slightly better offensive player than Vizquel and a similar but better defensive player than Vizquel, and I consider Vizquel to be pretty damn close to a Hall of Famer. I agree that Ozzie gets the 90+% because of his status as ambassador for the game(this is also why there's a ridiculous gap between the two in All-Star appearances, on top of Vizquel having tougher competition at SS), whereas without it he might have had to wait a second year like Alomar or several years like Barry Larkin(whose trajectory indicates someone who will get enough votes in a year or three) and Luis Aparicio(two players most statistically similar to Aparicio's career: Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel)...but I think he gets in regardless, albeit maybe a closer call than I would initially assume. Hard to say for sure since voters can't be anticipated, maybe if nobody's doing backflips they take a harder look at Trammell.

I think we would all agree though that if Vizquel's numbers belonged to an "ambassador of the game" type he'd likely be pushed from borderline candidate to lock.

your favourite sun said...

Ben - I also made that same mistake for years regarding Smoltz's performance. The narrative of the game is that it was an epic pitcher's duel until Smoltz gets pulled against his will, so we're probably not the only ones whose minds tricked us into believing the Twins won almost immediately after the Braves went to their 'pen.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, one of my favorite pastimes is to be critical of Bobby Cox. Smoltz may have been pulled against his will, but he was over 100 pitches and it wasn't a bad move. That being said, Smoltz did hang with Morris for 7 innings.

your favourite sun said...

I know, under analysis Cox's move makes sense, especially compared to Grady Little's opposite move. But it gets heavily criticized within the narrative set by the public memory, largely because the memory seems inaccurate.