What is Greatness?

There has been much discussion around these parts (and elsewhere) about the merits of the Hall of Fame voting system.  Jim Rice's election yesterday has heightened awareness of that system, and based on yesterday's results it seems like a (perhaps minor and solely YFSF-based) groundswell is asking for this system to be "fixed".  But first something else needs to happen: someone needs to articulately spell out what, exactly, is "broken".  At that point then the proposition to "fix" it will serve some greater purpose. But nobody can define, lucidly, the parameters by which someone is judged to deserve enshrinement – the Hall as far as I can tell doesn't even do this, I've searched their website to no avail: they simply do not define "greatness", or, rather "fame".  In their mission statement they bullet the following:

  • Honoring, by enshrinement, those individuals who had exceptional careers, and recognizing others for their significant achievements

It leaves something to be desired, specificity-wise.  We can go back to the pornography discussion and apply it to the Hall, I suppose, you know it when you see it (sabermertricians put down those sabers!).  And that leaves a LOT of room, so much so that arguing that something is "broken" seems like a dead-end job. The Hall enshrines, by a fan's definition, those who are supposedly "great", but the standards by which we (and the record books) define greatness are ever-shifting, whether statistically or contextually. Had Rice played in an era where OBP was valued like it has been the last decade+ would his counting stats be that much more impressive? Would he have had more players to knock in? (Seriously – Jerry Remy and Rick Burleson hit in front of Rice, in 1978 they had OBPs of .321 and .295, respectively) Had Rice played in the "steroid" era would we be thinking of him not as great or even good but simply as an enormously inflated pariah and non-candidate?

I think there has been too much venom on this issue - from both sides. From those who think that Rice is undeserving — Rob Neyer's "we won't need to make stuff up" comment about Tim Raines from yesterday was a particulary and uncharacteristically unprofessional swipe from a superb writer pointing towards Dick Bresciani, an historian of the game with proven credentials (full disclosure – he's a family friend). Just as some of Peter Gammons' comments about Neyer and the Rice non-supporters have been equally juvenile.

We shouldn't be so absolute in proclaiming to know the rightness or wrongness of the awarding of such a cherished yet vaguely defined honor – that goes for those supporting both election and rejection of any player's candidacy. 

For those who wish to take this discussion further, I'd be curious to know how people define "greatness", and how the Hall might legitimately define this vague term for future voters.  I have my doubts that it  could ever be done with any modicum of success.

The comments are obviously open for this debate.  And don't make it personal.

46 comments… add one

  • The one thing I think should be fixed is the issue of first-ballot voting.
    Writers should be told they cannot refuse to vote for someone based solely on the desire to refuse them unanimity (the “Babe Ruth wasn’t inducted unanimously” argument), or a protest vote.
    Barry Stanton (didn’t catch where he’s from) says he didn’t vote for Henderson as a “protest vote” because he saw Henderson “dog it” too many times. He would have voted for him next year, he said, but knew he wouldn’t get the chance. If you think the guy’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t think voters should be allowed to leave players off their ballots just for the heck of it. Unfortunately, I don’t know how you enforce that. You don’t want to get into policing which writer’s opinion is valid and which one isn’t — because that’s easily down the road of Hall of Excellence, simply applying a statistical measure to the Hall and measuring a voter’s worthiness by how closely they hew to this standard.
    As to how to “fix” something that arguably has been doing the same thing with not nearly as much outrage for decades, Joe Sheehan from Baseball Prospectus had a good suggestion: Shorten the 15-year timeframe to five years because information now flows more quickly than it did when the Hall standards were established and eliminate the 5 percent rule because there’s no worry of a backlog with just a five-year window.
    That would cut down on the number of players hanging around, compiling votes when they may not deserve it (Rice, Sutter, Perez), and it would keep deserving players from getting booted before a groundswell can boost their candidacies (Evans, Whitaker).
    It’s not a bad idea. I might extend the window a bit and maybe drop the cutoff to 1-2 percent.
    But keep in mind that under this system, yes, Jim Rice would not have been elected to the Hall of Fame — but neither would Bert Blyleven. And at this rate, it seems unlikely Tim Raines would make it within five years either. Maybe a shortened window would speed up the vote-gaining process. In the end, though, I think it would increase the frustration of those advocating for whom they feel are obviously deserving candidates — and then we would quickly be hearing calls to fix the Hall of Fame all over again.

    Paul SF January 13, 2009, 10:07 am
  • How about a Dante-esque “rings of hell” for the Hall? You know, the “Legends Tier”, where you have the all-time greats, and then a lesser “Jock-Carriers” ring, where you have guys who are good but perhaps not all-time, and then maybe a “Sartre Room”, where players who inspire vehement debate and vitriol go. Or maybe the Sartre room is for the debaters and sportswriters…

    SF January 13, 2009, 10:39 am
  • I think Paul’s suggestion is a good one, and it echoes some pointers (I think) I made a couple threads ago. On the contrary, I think that the Veteran’s Commission could be turned into a place where guys like Blyleven and Raines can get in eventually, sort of an ‘idiot-proofer’ against the horribly broken *voters* of the BBWAA. Hey, Jim Rice was a borderline case, you can agree or disagree, the problem isn’t voting for him, it’s voting for him and NOT voting for Rickey, Raines, Blyleven, etc. I don’t know how to block morons like that guy Corky from voting ever again, but there has to be a way to trim down on the idiots on the board.
    Same with the MVP-voting process. The idiot from (I think) Minnesota who voted Jeter *6th* in 2006 (and thereby gave the MVP to Justin Morneau), is simply inexcusable. Same with the moron who left Pedroia *completely* off his ballot! It’s nice that the internet has removed that veil from the public’s eyes, but now there needs to be a review board for dumb voters. (If there is one already, I apologize for my extension of the rant.)

    AndrewYF January 13, 2009, 11:10 am
  • Careful with the HTML

    SF January 13, 2009, 12:07 pm
  • deleted Rob’s comment for flawed html.
    - ag

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 12:20 pm
  • Sorry about that. And I’m writing code now too. There’s no excuse for me.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 12:20 pm
  • Here it is again, with proper formatting:
    I don’t understand this nonsense about venom. Not only haven’t I seen it to the degree that word connotes, but it belies the fact that sports involves emotion. Since emotion pervades sport, we should certainly expect some it in disagreements of this type. Why try to stifle the best part of being a sports fan? The problem of course is when that emotion gets in the way of professional doing his job. For Neyer, he has yet to cross that line. By contrast, Gammons never came back after his medical problems. The difference between the two couldn’t be more stark. One is an equal opportunity offender (like James before him). The other really only gets piqued now when it involves a certain team (in between pushing their PR).
    If you only give writers five (or seven) years to make a decision I bet total votes will go up. This non-voting for absurd reasons arises because the voters know they don’t have to vote for a given player in a given year. Lessen their power by compressing it. Even better would be restricting the number of votes each year that a given writer can cast. That will get their attention.
    After that initial period, create a new committee of sportswriters, bloggers, and former players, say 25 of each, and force them into a room for a weekend, jury style. They can select anyone else, but the standard has to be higher than for the writers alone, say 80%.
    Agreed. All ballots have to be made public. These are professionals – not private citizens. Their choices should be subject to scrutiny.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 12:22 pm
  • Much to our chagring the new TypePad comment management system doesn’t allow editing of comments to clean up missteps.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 12:23 pm
  • or chagrin.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 12:23 pm
  • Typepad should just end every post with end tags.

    I just wrote three end tags, and they don’t show up. That’s what most message boards do. There’s not much of an excuse not to do it for discussion blogs like this.

    AndrewYF January 13, 2009, 12:32 pm
  • while we are making suggestions/comments, any chance of an iphone/mobile friendly interface for YFSF?
    Sorry to thread hijack!

    sam-YF January 13, 2009, 12:38 pm
  • > Typepad should just end every post with end tags.
    submitted an RFE two years ago for better comment sanitizing.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 12:40 pm
  • > any chance of an iphone/mobile friendly interface for YFSF
    Yes. This is one of our top goals for the off season.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 12:43 pm
  • Help me out here computer savvy AG and Sam…I use my iPhone to access the site all the time…are you saying there are improvements that we are looking into or that can be made? I don’t have any issues…I don’t think.

    John - YF January 13, 2009, 12:48 pm
  • YF and I discussed an iPhone app this weekend, but I am not sure it’s worth the R&D for our 16 readers!

    SF January 13, 2009, 1:01 pm
  • Ohhhhh you mean an actual application. Got it. I thought you fellas were talking about improving the functionality of the site when using your iPhone. I like the Apps offered, but they all seemed to be flawed in some way. Seems to me that if MLB (Facebook, AIM, etc…) can’t really get it right, maybe we should stay away. No offense to SF or YF, but we are slightly smaller and less powerful than MLB.

    John - YF January 13, 2009, 1:18 pm
  • Rice making or not making the HOF is a non-issue. Personally, I’m happy for him and I think it was the right choice, mainly because of the very personal perspective that he was THE reason I feared for the Yankees when they played Boston in that time frame. But if it had gone the other way and he got left out, no great shakes.
    Two dozen idiots making some personal statement by not voting for Rickey is also a non-issue.
    Neyer’s “make stuff up” comment was dismissive and asinine.
    “Venom” is indeed a strong word. In my opinion it happens to be the right one.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 1:19 pm
  • > are you saying there are improvements that we are looking into or that can be made?
    Yes, there are improvements we want to make to be more friendly to low pixel width/low bandwidth visitors.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 1:23 pm
  • As for Neyer, here’s what Theo said yesterday:
    “He was a slugger,” Epstein said. “He had incredible power. He was one of the most feared guys throughout his whole career. His whole career was a prime. He didn’t hang around long after his skills started to decline. His whole career was prime performance. He was a slugger. He wasn’t a guy who drew a lot of walks, but he did some serious damage. The stuff he did early in his career was incredible.”
    Per Neyer, how many of those statements are empirically true?
    - Incredible power? Sure, if topping .550 four times, and .600 once, is incredible.
    - Feared? What stat measures fear, exactly?
    - Didn’t hang around long? You mean the three years where he struggled to SLG .400 as a corner outfielder/DH?
    - Whole career as prime performance? Like how he never came close to 150 OPS+ after age 26?
    - Stuff early in his career Wait, I thought his whole career was prime performance?
    Ladies and gentleman, we have a reason for the Sox officially sanctioned Heisman campaign. The GM has lost all bearings w/r/t actual facts. Where’s Bill James when he’s really needed?
    Hopefully Brian Cashman is a Donnie Baseball fanboy.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 2:05 pm
  • I’m too young to remember Rice personally, so I only have numbers to go by, and really don’t have a strong feeling one way or another, but of course congrats to him.
    But ya, the 5 year deal make sense. To be clear, this is not an argument against Rice, but I don’t understand how someone could “fail” for 14 years to get in the 15th. The arguments should’ve gotten old in a few years, and everything’s hashed.. there’s nothing new!

    Lar January 13, 2009, 2:19 pm
  • Neyer wasn’t addressing Theo Epstein’s comments AFTER Rice made it in. He was quite unsubtly addressing Dick Bresciani’s work in bolstering Rice’s support. Neyer was unprofessional, this was a rhetorical flourish used for effect and in mean spirit, it was a smart-alecky (and frankly nasty) comment. Neyer’s made his point about Rice countless times, there was no need to take a personal shot at a good and earnest person.

    SF January 13, 2009, 3:20 pm
  • part of me has always felt the HOF balloting should be left up to a jury of peers. still not sure how to figure out the exact requirements to qualify as a “peer” but the veterans committee is not the answer. inevitably there would be just as many inherent biases with ballplayers as currently exist with writers. allow the writers to vote on sportswriters, broadcasters, umpires, managers and executives, but player votes should be left to players.
    -add me to the list of folks who access this site via iphone. an app would be cool, but not necessary.

    sf rod January 13, 2009, 3:21 pm
  • > Feared? What stat measures fear, exactly?
    No stat measures fear exactly or approximately. It’s just a figure of speech. As you said earlier (to paraphrase) “emotion” should not be banished from argument. I will embrace and extend to say that to be bound to statistics is far worse than being ignorant of said same. Jim Rice was fearsome in his day. Maybe it doesn’t rectify properly in stats across the pantheon of available numbers, and I DO LOVE numbers, chewing on them incessantly like rawhide in the maw of a hound. Rice, in his frame, was awesome indeed.
    > Ladies and gentleman, we have a reason for the Sox officially sanctioned Heisman campaign. The GM has lost all bearings w/r/t actual facts. Where’s Bill James when he’s really needed?
    Please, spare the melodrama. It’s not an issue. Wait, what? Oh. NOT AN ISSUE.
    > Hopefully Brian Cashman is a Donnie Baseball fanboy.
    Delicious, dripping sarcasm. I am sure you would agree that he has much better things to do with his time, as I am sure you understand that people who care about the Red Sox by way of direct fiscal involvement are not spending as much time on this as you imply. And by the way, I agree with everything Theo said. Congratulations to Jim Rice.
    > -add me to the list of folks who access this site via iphone
    sf rod: noted. It’s more likely to be a smarter stylesheet to lighten and realign the load. Changes are afoot and we are excited to work on it. Thanks to everyone who chooses to comment. And thanks to everyone else who gives us feedback about the tactile aspect of the site; please email us with your notes. But to reiterate, redundantly, most importantly, thank you for participating.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 4:23 pm
  • Neyer wasn’t addressing Theo Epstein’s comments AFTER Rice made it in.
    Of course not. But are you seriously suggesting that Theo’s comments aren’t reflective of everything we’ve (and he’s) heard about the case from the Sox organization and Boston media over the last few years? Theo’s comments are exactly reflective of the argument for Rice – a perfect summary in fact. Problem is, only the slightest strands are true but certainly not the hyperbole.
    I certainly don’t think there’s anything nasty in what Neyer said. People have been making stuff up. Theo’s comments make that perfectly clear. They’re indefensible from any truth standard. Theo should know better, but the problem is he wasn’t evaluating whether to pay Rice $15 million/year at age 31. If so, I’m sure Rice would have found his way to the Mets.
    Meanwhile, I’ve never seen Neyer specifically call an individual out without breaking down their case. That comment you’re killing was bitter, sure, but I don’t see how it was directed at anyone in particular. Please show me I’m wrong. But Neyer is one of the best these days, and I say that knowing he’s frequently skewered the Yanks. Comparing him with Gammons of today, on any scale, is completely unfounded.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 4:44 pm
  • Jim Rice was fearsome in his day.
    Albert Belle, come on down! You’re going to Cooperstown!
    Incredible power? check.
    Fearsome? check.
    Didn’t hang around too long? check.
    Stuff early in his career was incredible? check.
    Slugger? check.
    Surly? check. check!
    And by the way, I agree with everything Theo said.
    And like him you haven’t shown how any of it is, you know, true.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 4:53 pm
  • This article by Larry Stone is worth reckoning for two lines. One: “It’s just a sad fact of the process.” – Stone
    and
    “The bottom line is, it’s over with today,” – Rice
    ‘Nuff said.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 4:57 pm
  • “Nuff said” — guess not.
    > And like him you haven’t shown how any of it is, you know, true.
    You know, a comma is a powerful thing. So is emotion. So is implied agreement because one uses a comma, because I’m not imply agreement that what you said is true. So is 308 ABs at The Stadium over resulting in a career .336/.386/.661/1.047 split in the Bronx. Maybe how a Sock plays against the Yanks isn’t at all a reasonable metric for the HOF. But, yeah, what’s true? Maybe I remember it wrong. I don’t think I do.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 5:12 pm
  • implying

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 5:13 pm
  • Joey Belle at Yankee Stadium?
    .307 .372 .645/ 1.017 in 231 AB
    Will we find any distinguishing characteristics between the two?

    Rob January 13, 2009, 5:18 pm
  • > Will we find any distinguishing characteristics
    If you can’t differentiate the late 70′s/early 80′s Boston/Yanks to the 90′s Indians/Yanks, I would guess that we will not distinguish to your satisfaction.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 5:29 pm
  • “Fear shouldn’t play any role whatsoever in the decision. It’s an emotion word, and hopefully voting for the greatest players should be predominantly driven by reason.”
    -Rob, 5:29 PM January 12
    “The “fear” argument is biggest bunch of baloney and mythology.”
    -Rob, 7:09 AM January 13
    “Not only haven’t I seen it to the degree that word connotes, but it belies the fact that sports involves emotion. Since emotion pervades sport, we should certainly expect some it in disagreements of this type. Why try to stifle the best part of being a sports fan?”
    -Rob, 12:22 PM January 13

    So, uhh, which is it?

    Atheose January 13, 2009, 5:40 pm
  • Hah. The problem, of course, is Belle was far better than Rice ever was, even adjusting for time periods. Where Rice had two seasons at 150 OPS+ (and remember, OPS+ is adjusted for each year), Belle had four and a high of 193 OPS+.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 5:45 pm
  • Ummmm, way to grab quotes out of context.
    The problem with the “fear” argument, is that is essentially what the argument for Rice’s induction boiled down to. Even Theo quotes it verbatim (while getting the actual facts wrong).
    We can expect some emotion. But a whole argument shouldn’t be based on it. For Rice, it was, even for a sabermind like Theo.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 5:49 pm
  • I never saw Rice play live in the 70′s/80′s, and just looking at his stats I would have said he’s not a HOF’er. I agree with Rob’s statement comparing him to Reggie Jackson, because there’s just no comparison: Jackson had 12 seasons with an OPS+ over 137, and Rice only had 4. Rice is pretty good, but he’s not great, and I’m sorry to say so. Congrats all the same, I’m not upset with the decision at all.
    Lowering the voting time is a fantastic idea. Not voting Ricky in because he “dogged it out” a few times is inexcusable. That justification makes me want to vomit.

    Atheose January 13, 2009, 5:58 pm
  • > The problem with the “fear” argument, is that is essentially what the argument for Rice’s induction boiled down to. Even Theo quotes it verbatim (while getting the actual facts wrong).
    Disagree. “Fear” is not what the argument “boiled down to.” I understand that the “fear” argument is an augmentation that becomes a straw man to avoid the fact that at his peak, Rice was an incredible batsman. Propers to Jim.

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 6:21 pm
  • I’m really sorry I did it again. I won’t use tags in the future unless I’m more careful.
    Here’s the post with proper formatting:
    Sorry, that’s “making stuff up” hyperbole too. At his peak, and for three years at that, Rice was a very good batsman (150 OPS+).
    An incredible batsman from the same era?
    Reggie Jackson.
    Those two are so different, they shouldn’t be members of the same club.

    Rob January 13, 2009, 6:49 pm
  • CAREFUL with the HTML.

    SF January 13, 2009, 7:37 pm
  • edited… — ag

    attackgerbil January 13, 2009, 8:14 pm
  • Coming in late. What I don’t understand about the Rob Neyer “making stuff up” quote is this:
    What was made up?
    Did Jim Rice not exist?
    Was Jim Rice not a player?
    Did he not play Major League Baseball?
    Is he not eligible for the Hall of Fame?
    Does the Hall of Fame not exist?
    Did the 1975-86 timeframe not exist?
    Did Jim Rice not play from 1975-86?
    Do the stats used by Bresciani not exist?
    Did Jim Rice not compile any stats from 1975-86?
    Did Rice not compile the stats Bresciani said he did in that timeframe?
    Did Rice not finish in the positions Bresciani said he did in those stats during that timeframe?
    If the answer to ANY of those questions is “yes,” then yes, stuff was made up to justify Rice’s candidacy.
    One of the arguments against using “fear” as a reason for admission is that it cannot be disproven. So Neyer clearly cannot be referring to that argument either — because there’s no way to show that Rice was not feared. I certainly haven’t heard any contemporaries say they did not fear Rice. Simply because you cannot prove something doesn’t mean it’s “made up.” I can’t prove the wind is caused by air moving from areas of high pressure to low pressure, does that mean someone made that up?
    So it sounds like the only thing “made up” with regards to Rice’s candidacy is Neyer’s allegation that things were made up. And that’s the danger of throwaway lines and blogs. A good piece is ignored because the last line becomes the focus of controversy.

    Paul SF January 13, 2009, 11:49 pm
  • Again, I point to Theo’s quotes for a perfect summary of “The Case for James Edward Rice”.
    There clearly things have been “made up” to suit that case because the GM of the promoting team is still espousing them. It’s mythology easily disproven by the stats. No where in there does Theo make a historical argument – about 12 year periods or otherwise.
    As for Bresciani, can someone point me to where Neyer: a) specifically called him out; b) broke down his case; and/or c) referenced him in any way?
    As for the “Fear”, Neyer himself wrote: “With Rice clearly lacking objective Hall of Fame credentials, they are forced to fall back on the ill-founded, untestable notion that he was the ‘most feared’ hitter for more than a year or two. What I don’t understand is why so many voters in so many other cities believe it.” (Bold mine.)
    And finally let’s not forget Bill James who rated Rice the 27th-best left fielder in history (behind Roy White) and designated Rice “probably the most overrated player of the last thirty years.” The really sad thing is that the Red Sox have effectively bought James’ current silence.

    Rob January 14, 2009, 5:58 am
  • Neyer himself calls it an “untestable notion,” therefore he cannot be accurate when he calls it “made up.” How can you prove an untestable notion is made up? You cannot. That’s the whole objection to using fear as an argument in the first place, though I don’t think I agree. The stats crowd may not like it, but the anecdotes about Rice’s fearsomeness have been legion over the past few days, and no one has stepped up to say otherwise.
    In any case, Neyer should have just taken an extra minute, reread the piece before he posted it, and deleted the last line.

    Paul SF January 14, 2009, 10:01 am
  • the Red Sox have effectively bought James’ current silence
    This kind of statement does nothing to bolster your position, it just reinforces the sense that you are extremely bitter, and disproportionately so, over a borderline Hall of Fame vote.

    SF January 14, 2009, 10:11 am
  • You’re calling me names while not disputing the fact? Unless you think James is free to talk on the subject? Of course that’s not why he was hired. But he surely won’t be posting anything about “probably the most overrated player of the last thirty years” any time soon.
    Or perhaps, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, in a way you’re not for me, and conclude you’re simply reading me wrong. The sad thing for me is not that James’ silence has been bought, but rather that he’s silent at all. Here’s a perfect example where an outsider can speak freely while an insider often has to bite his tongue. That’s what I like so much about Neyer. Here’s a guy that works at the biggest club in sports and yet he’s never been afraid of rebel rousing.
    Again, stuff has been made up about Rice – a whole mythology in which “The Fear” only plays one part. I think Neyer was referring to the whole case, which Theo states very succinctly for our present purposes. Notably, no one here has defended Theo’s statements even as that same piece basically outs the GM as the behind the scenes organization pusher for the case. His basic assumptions are so flawed (sure, except for the “untestable”) they might as well be “made up”.
    And again, I’m still waiting for someone to show me where Neyer specifically called out the Sox historian, as indicated in the post and elsewhere here.

    Rob January 14, 2009, 10:57 am
  • But he surely won’t be posting anything about “probably the most overrated player of the last thirty years” any time soon.
    Maybe because he already has, and unlike some people — myself included — he doesn’t feel the need to repeat himself ad nauseum when he’s already made his point.
    I’m not a fan of Epstein’s comments, but then it’s clear he was talking as a fan and not a talent evaluator.
    Using your method of parsing his individual phrases:
    He was a slugger.
    True.
    He had incredible power.
    True. Slugging percentage deosn’t really measure the magnitude of a player’s power, and Rice hit some of the most monstrous home runs Fenway has ever seen. No one would deny he had incredible power when he squared up on the ball.
    He was one of the most feared guys throughout his whole career.
    Unprovable, and certainly debatable. Definitely not through his whole career, but then most people view his career for purposes of the argument as ending in 1986.
    His whole career was a prime. He didn’t hang around long after his skills started to decline. His whole career was prime performance.
    Arguably true. He had only two seasons between his rookie year and 1986 with an OPS+ below 120, then he fell off a cliff and was gone within three seasons. Of course, the read he “didn’t hang around long” was that he was released, not that he retired, but out of 14 full seasons, the first 12 were arguably his prime years, even if it was a lower level of prime after 1979.
    He was a slugger. He wasn’t a guy who drew a lot of walks, but he did some serious damage.
    Again, true, he was a slugger. True, he didn’t draw a lot of walks, and true, he did some serious damage. “Serious damage” is also something of an untestable assertion, but I don’t think anyone could credibly argue that it wasn’t true. Plenty of non-HOFers did “some serious damage,” too.
    The stuff he did early in his career was incredible.
    Easily a true statement. 1977-79 were amazing, the peak of his 12-year prime.
    As for Neyer, he was referring to the case for Rice, which has taken two prongs: the 1975-86 argument, posited by Bresciani, and the “most feared slugger” argument, posited by many people. So either he’s contradicting himself by arguing something is unprovable but then apparently deciding it can be disproven after all, or he’s alleging something in the stats-based argument is fiction, and the stats-based argument was first heavily publicized by Bresciani.

    Paul SF January 14, 2009, 12:17 pm
  • Sorry, but I don’t see how:
    a) 150 OPS+ twice is amazing? By that standard what was Albert Belle or Reggie Jackson to say nothing of many, many other “sluggers”? Invincible? Divine? Sublime?
    b) SLG is the only stat that indexes strictly power (total bases by at-bats). If that doesn’t show incredible power then you might as well be “making stuff up”. And a .600 SLG once and a career .500 SLG is simply not incredible unless you’re using language in a way that’s pure hyperbole. It’s plain pedestrian in the history of the game. Just for reference, that career .502 SLG puts him 89th all-time, or 49 spots behind Dick Allen. But then I suppose Dick Allen had godly power?
    c) Arguably true that he didn’t stick around? After three years struggling to SLG .400, he couldn’t have stuck around if he wanted to.
    d) Twelve year prime? When six of those seasons were below 130 OPS+ from a no-glove left-fielder/DH? If that’s the 12 year argument, I can see exactly how people are “making stuff up”.
    Also, please show me where Neyer specifically referenced Bresciani’s argument. You have failed to do so even as you keep saying he has. I take Neyer more at the frustration of Epstein’s version, which seems to be what everyone was saying over the last few years and which you readily admit is spoken as a fan. The problem is that fan was in a position to push the case well-beyond reason. I can certainly see why that’s infuriating to Neyer. And if James were still free to talk freely, I’m sure it would be to him too, especially as one devoted to the history of the game and who has literally written a book about what happened to the Hall of Fame – fifteen years ago.

    Rob January 14, 2009, 12:45 pm
  • What?
    You mean there isn’t a sabrmetric formula to calculate FEAR?
    Surely you jest!

    I'mBillMcNeal January 15, 2009, 11:17 am

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