BBWAA Fails to Gain Credibility

On the Internets, this is being discussed in great detail, but I just had to scribble something about it. Baseball Analysts has the story: 18 nominees for BBWAA membership, 16 make it. Those are:

Scott Miller from CBS Sportsline; Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Amy Nelson, Buster Olney, and Jayson Stark from ESPN; Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports; John Donovan, Jon Heyman, and Tom Verducci from SI; and Tim Brown, Steve Henson, Jeff Passan, and Dan Wetzel from Yahoo.

The two that are left out? Rob Neyer and Keith Law.

I’m going to ask you to join me in doing a little police work, and connect the dots. What do those that got BBWAA membership, and those that didn’t, have in common?

The 16 that got in make little to no use of Sabermetrics.

The two that missed out make heavy use of Sabermetrics. Neyer, a demigod to some of us Saber-heads, worked for the great Bill James (read Neyer’s interview at The Hardball Times). Law used to write for Baseball Prospectus, essentially a one-stop shop for all things Sabermetric.

It’s an injustice that Neyer and Law didn’t get eligibility. I have no connection to anyone involved in this matter, but it seems to me that there is some discrimination afoot. Let’s look at a hypothetical: of the 18 candidates, the 16 that get in are all Caucasian, and the two that are left out are African-American. Think there’d be accusations of discrimination if that had been the case?

Of course, I am merely assuming that their Sabermetric tendencies are the reasons behind their being locked out. There could very well be a legitimate reason that Neyer and Law were denied. I would be very interested in hearing it and await an official response from the Baseball Writers Association of America. Ahem. On official letterhead.

Maybe it’s all for the best. It’s the BBWAA’s loss for not getting two of the sharpest baseball minds in their club, and we can only hope that their “mistake” leaves them begging for credibility in years to come. We’ve seen some of the poor decisions they’ve made when it comes to voting, just in the past few years (see: 2006 AL MVP; 2006 NL MVP; 2007 NL MVP; keeping Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame), and we’ve seen how one of their members acts when urged to open his mind.

In impugning the BBWAA as a whole, I do want to clarify that the writers recently inducted, regardless of their use of Sabermetrics, are blameless. From the list above, I really have no qualms with anyone there except for Jon Heyman, who has been politely close-minded to advanced methods of statistics in baseball. I’ve never read the work of Miller, Caple, Nelson, or Henson, so I can’t say anything either way about them.

To Neyer’s credit, he’s handled his rejection with class. You can read his reaction in the comments at Baseball Think Factory. I’m sure he’s talked about it on his ESPN blog, but I’m not an Insider, so I wouldn’t know. An interesting thing to note from Neyer via a comment on BBTF:

According to BBWAA president Bob Dutton, my membership was rejected because I don’t go to the ballpark often enough (not that anybody really knows how often I’m at ballpark).

It seems like the BBWAA just randomly reached in the barrel of excuses and used the first one they drew. I can only imagine how humorous their excuse for excluding Law is.

Since the BBWAA is blatantly going to continue with the status quo, why don’t all of the Sabermetric sluggers band together, vote, and hand out their own post-season awards (I imagine it’d be nothing more than a token to elect players to the SABR Hall of Fame)? It seems like most of them hand them out individually themselves (via an article or blog), or at least have an opinion on the matter. If they have dunce awards like the “Pepsi Clutch Performer of the Year,” they should have “SABR Most Marginal Lineup Valuable Player of the Year.”

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  1. Nick

    December 08, 2007 08:33 AM

    I respect Neyer, and I am very familar with his work, but who do you leave out to let him in? Or Law for that matter? Do you drop Gammons? Olney? Stark? Kurkjian? Rosenthal? Those names ring true with the rest of America. I use Sabr stats when evaluating players, but I’ll admit that I am no stathead. Furthermore, a guy like Neyer is still kind of ‘underground’ to the rest of America even though he has broke in with ESPN. If you ask the guy next to you at the ballpark what they think of him, nine out of ten times the answer is going to be who, or I don’t like his methods. If you ask someone about Gammons they are going to say he is god. There has been great advacement for the SABR methods over the past five years, but it is still not a ‘mainstream’ thing. I don’t know if it will ever be, but you do see some elements of it creeping into everyones work, and that is a welcome invitation. I just don’t think people that pick up the Sporting News want to beat over the head with things they don’t understand, nor have a desire to learn. Everyone can benefit from brushing up on it, but some of the mathematical equations are over peoples heads, and they don’t want to evaluate talent with things they can’t compute themselves. Now, I’m not speaking personally, but this has been my experience while speaking to others. My dad, the biggest fan you will ever meet, has no use for it. Doesn’t respect, understand it, or want to know it, and never will. I think when the younger guys, our generation, gain control of the seats then you will see more and more of it in the mainstream, in the box score, in articles, but it is going to take time.

  2. Nick

    December 08, 2007 08:38 AM

    Bill, another thing. Maybe when you give credibility to mathamatical equations that can stand alone to debate any opinion, the words don’t hold so much weight anymore. I say if it’s a good enough format to build a team with (Boston, Oakland, Cleveland, Toronto, namely) then it’s good enough for a writer to base his vote off of. It will get there in time.

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