Designated HitterJanuary 24, 2008
I'm OK, You're OK
By Bob Rittner

I think the most productive discussion is the one where, after spirited debate, each person argues in favor of his opponent's case. And the least productive is when each person comes away convinced he is right and has demolished his opponent's arguments.

I would like to spin off from the Mark Armour In Defense of the Hall of Fame thread to consider the differences between traditional baseball writers and the contemporary analytical community. The distinction is not always stark; I always considered Leonard Koppett an analyst, and I enjoyed reading Arthur Daley, Roger Angell and others who brought the game to life for me and often provided a sense of intimacy with the players. Often, they brought to the issues facing the game an intellectual perspective that stimulated thinking on subjects like expansion or the DH rule or the Curt Flood case.

And often they were fine writers whose humor and ability to delineate the character of particular people expressed the mood of the game and enhanced the joy of watching and thinking about it. I still alternately laugh and tear up reading Larry Ritter's "The Glory of Their Times" even while cringing at some of the cliches from Lefty O'Doul and others. Periodically I listen to excerpts on tape from some of Ritter's interviews, and hearing Sam Crawford describe Rube Waddell or barnstorming in the mid-west, or Hans Lobert discussing Honus Wagner's kindness to the rookie or Fred Snodgrass defending himself and Fred Merkle from the criticism both have endured makes the game real and vibrant. I really think it is required reading (or listening) for any baseball fan.

But in my mind, with rare exceptions, these were not really analysts. They were writing about the game as literary figures, creating plots and climaxes and denouements and using all the approved techniques of novelists. What mattered was the story. Baseball was the arena in which to exhibit character and moral principles. And stories were built around those issues. Players rose to the occasion or choked, were heroes or goats, overcame all sorts of obstacles and odds or failed to deliver for their teammates and fans.

The stories were exciting and sometimes even had whispers of truth in them, but they had nothing to do with what was really happening because most of what really happens is mundane and not terribly exciting. The job of these writers was to extract the drama from the details and to make the story as interesting as possible.

After a time, certain themes (often reflecting virtues like sacrificing for the team or out-thinking the opposition) became fixed orthodoxy, elevating strategies like sacrifice bunts and moving runners over and the psychology of winning to the status of gospel or leitmotifs in most story lines. I have sometimes speculated that in the first decades of the 20th century when the sport was considered disreputable by many and the province of hooligans, in an effort to make baseball more respectable, books and articles by Christy Mathewson (or his ghostwriter) and others focused on the "inside game," the intellectual components of baseball, and praised the cleverness and psychological maneuverings of manager John McGraw. The effect was not simply to make baseball a more intellectually and morally respectable game, but it simultaneously established the basic principles that hardened into "the Book."

I was satisfied with this sort of baseball writing and raised my son with my recollections of baseball in the 1950s and discussions of columns in the mainstream newspapers and books of the 1970s. When he was a teenager, he returned the favor by introducing me to Bill James. And in my mid-40s, I became dissatisfied. Of course, James was interested in the stories and anecdotes. (In fact, I was sometimes irritated when I expected a hard analysis of some player's ranking in his Abstract only to be treated instead to some tangent about Dick Williams socializing with Sal Bando.) But alongside were questions and a serious attempt to find some way to answer them. I did not always follow the math, but I did understand the logic, and it was exciting. I still read the columns but they were not enough. The columns were about human interest and could have been on any subject. James and company were about baseball specifically.

In a way, the sabermetricians have created a problem for the traditional columnists. The early journalists always used stats, but they were rarely the key to any argument, and they generally were rather simple and commonly understood. They were the details that lent depth to a story, like descriptions of scenery and characters' physical traits in a novel. The journalists' audience, training and medium are not conducive to detailed statistical analysis. When Murray Chass mocks VORP and the like, I think he is actually making a valid point (I am really biting my tongue now) in the context of what would be acceptable in a mass circulation newspaper.

Of course elements of sabermetrics can and should be incorporated into the columns, and the movement has earned the right to be respected by columnists. Some have and do, and even those who ignore or resist progressive statistical analysis are clearly influenced by it, at least on the margins. OBP has almost gained the status of BA, albeit not quite, even among traditionalists. But to ask them to accept its approach as authoritative or to defer to its judgments is futile. They can include OBP, even ERA+ or OPS+ in their assessments, but their style precludes the charts and graphs and more detailed statistics. You don't ask Tolstoy to include a chart of the nationalities of prisoners in "War and Peace."

And the reason is not that they are wrong. It is that the two groups are engaged in different purposes. And while it is easy for sabermetricians to apply the approach of traditionalists to liven up their writings, it is not so easy for traditionalists to incorporate statistical models and arguments in theirs. So there is frustration on both sides.

When a traditional columnist writes an article defending a position, sabermetricians attack using all the tools at their disposal, and sometimes with sarcasm and nastiness. If the columnist dismisses their arguments, they pile on. But it is even worse if he tries to meet them on their own grounds. Without the expertise, his statistical arguments appear juvenile and then the attacks often turn vicious and personal. A successful career journalist, out of his depth in this kind of debate, finds himself the object of mockery, and with the internet, there is now a public forum for the ridicule. The problem is there is no common ground. The traditional journalist is not wrong; he simply has a different purpose, and to critique him is like arguing with Shakespeare that Hamlet should have compromised with Claudius or brought him before a board of inquiry.

When an issue like the Hall of Fame elections arises, the problem is magnified because for statistically minded analysts there are objective criteria from which to begin the discussion. But to many traditionalists, the key word in the discussion is "Fame" as in who do people know, who had an impact on the story.

Jack Morris exemplified qualities that suggest he is a Hall of Fame character; Bert Blyleven did not. Jim Rice dominated because that is the story line, and for anyone who lived in his era, it makes perfect sense. It does not matter to those who are now voting if the statistics belie the claim.* When I watched a Yankee game and Rice came to the plate, I was scared. I was not as worried when Dwight Evans was at bat. I may have been wrong, but Rice felt like a star and Evans a supporting player. To say the journalists are wrong does nothing to advance the discussion because these players are first and foremost literary figures to them. You and I may know that Watson and Crick were far greater men than Alexander the Great and Napoleon, but in the pantheon of human heroes, you can bet Alexander will get in first, and nobody is going to identify Crick as Crick the Great.

I do think there can and ought to be dialogue between the "schools of thought," but I think it requires mutual respect for and recognition of the divergent approaches. The dichotomy is probably not as dramatic as I have suggested, but I do think it would help if in debating points each side tries first to ascertain where there is common ground so they can talk to each other rather than at each other.

*I am reminded of reading that the Medieval books about the Lives of the Saints were almost entirely fictitious as narratives of events. Their truth was in the morals of the stories, the standards of behavior and faith the saints represented. So a particular saint may not even have existed, but the virtue of courage or charity he exemplified did exist and was true.

Robert Rittner is a retired high school history teacher from Westchester county, NY, now living in Clearwater, Florida. He has been a baseball fan since 1951, moving to Florida in part because of the opportunity to watch baseball regularly. He is also starting to hit a little better in his softball league.

[Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer Newsblog.]


Excellent article. One small point. I lived throught the era in which Rice played. I'm from Massachusetts. I watched most every Sox game. I don't remember domination. I remember frustration. I remember a player being great for 3 years then only occasionally approximating that same level of success. I don't know who this guy is they're calling Jim Rice but he's not the very good but limited player I saw and who couldn't get anywhere with Hall of Fame voters in his first several years of eligibility.

From one retired history teacher to another: agreed, excellent article.

However, with respect to Jim Rice and Dwight Evans, it depends on when you were watching. It would have been hard to avoid seeing Evans as the star if you watched during 1981, when the OPS+ were Evans 162, Rice 116; or 1984, Evans 147, Rice 112; or 1987, Evans 156, Rice 101. Over 15 seasons in common, the records essentially even out, depending on how you choose to value the Gold Gloves.

The main problem I have with this is the two statements regarding Morris/Blyleven and Rice/Evans. Morris and Rice felt like Hall of Famers while Blyleven and Evans did not. But what made Morris feel like a HOF'er? It can't be just the mustache since they both had him. Is it simply because Blyleven didn't take himself seriously, therefore the writers didn't either? Or is simply the fact that Morris had the good fortune to play for the Tigers, Twins and Blue Jays while Blyleven toiled for bad teams? Or is simply Game 7 of 1991? It's probably a combination of the three, but isn't that a pretty weak argument to make? The same thing with Rice vs. Evans. Rice has that awesome 1978 season, plus maybe his batting stance was more intimidating? Or was it his prickly personality, which seemed to make people think that he meant business when he was playing?

That's the problem with not using stats as our perceptions a lot of times are wrong.

I don't get it. Where is all this sarcasm and negativity from the sabermetric community? I don't see it here, and I don't think it exists at THT, either (though I'd be grateful for examples of when THT gets too sarcastic -- it's something we try hard to avoid, basically because of columns like this).

Journalists can be plenty sarcastic about the sabermetric community, too. I don't see where the "venom" is, or how one side can be painted as more venomous than another.

If you're referring to comments in a comment board, okay. But have you seen what most fans say about analytic writers on those boards? I've been called idiotic and stupid more times than I can count, just because I dared to apply analytic thinking to baseball questions. (I've also been called "stupid" by posters on an analytic board for daring to suggest that clutch skill actually does exist. As I said, the venom runs both ways).

And this always gets me too: "I saw the player, so..." Well, I was a young adult in Boston in the 1970's. I spent one entire summer in the Fenway bleachers, and parts of many other summers. I saw these guys play. And I never thought Rice was the best player on his team for an extended period. I remember Yaz, Lynn and Evans. To me, Rice was part of the mix.

I'm all for the back-and-forth and the debates. I think that Rich and Buster have done us all a public service, and I think it's been entirely civil. I say, congrats, and keep it coming.

Well said. Every point you make is well reasoned and valid.

As for those disagreeing with Rittner's "feel" of Rice vs. Evans, that's his point. It's totally subjective, and while I'm sure most of the readership here at TBA would prefer a more objective measure, that doesn't mean the objective measure is the end of discussion. As the cliche goes, "Perception is reality", even when the perception is "wrong".

I agree with Tom, and he does not go far enough.

Baseball WRITERS need to sell the sizzle. With a thousand other writers covering the World Series, they need to be the first to create the meme, the storyline that everyone eventually accepts. Thus, Jack Morris becomes the legendary game 7 pitcher, even though his other World Series outings were pretty lousy as a whole. Even in the regular season, writers dunning for their favored MVP candidate will over play his positive characteristics, and then everybody believes them, whether or not they are true. So Rice becomes the most feared hitter in baseball, which title he deserved for a small percentage of his career.

Bert Blyleven was a better post season pitcher than Jack Morris by every possible objective evaluation. I mean, Blyleven won EVERY GAME HE STARTED IN EVERY POSTSEASON OUTING!!! Perfection as a starting pitcher, and with an ERA well under 3. Jack Morris was a fine post game pitcher, but he lost four games, and in the four games he lost (including one head to head against Blyleven) he was CLEARLY the reason his team lost. Blyleven was never the reason his team lost because he outpitched the other starter every time out.

Jim Rice, on the stats, is a marginal HOF candidate. If/when he gets elected, he won't have much worsened the overall quality of the HOF. His sizzle moves him from marginal candidate to likely HOFer. His sizzle is also why he has an MVP and a better player like Eddie Murray doesn't.

Jack Morris is not at all a HOF candidate. His sizzle moves him to not at all a HOF candidate who will get votes he does not deserve. Bert Blyleven is a HOFer by every possible measurement. But he has zero sizzle. All he has is 5th all time in strikeouts and 9th all time in shutouts and that should be more than enough. I mean, some one dimensional hitters have avoided HOF consideration, most notably home run guys. But Blyleven is not one dimensional: he struck guys out, he shut teams out, he won a lot of games, he pitched a lot of quality innings. Rice is not one dimensional; he hit homers, he hit for a good average, he drove in runs. Morris is not one dimensional: he's just not good enough. I mean, he has fame for winning games, and yet almost half his seasons he did not achieve a winning record. Mr. Sizzle.

Again, my main question is why the "establishment" picked Jim Rice to be their poster child for intagibles over statistics. For all the Jack Morris talk, he's probably not going to make it. Rice, on the hand, most likely will. I think you could make a better argument for Jack Morris then Jim Rice, couldn't you? That's why I find the whole Jim Rice thing baffling. He didn't belong in the HOF a few years ago, and now he's a near certainty to make it.

What a treat to click on one of my favorite sites and see an article from my old high school history teacher! I don’t know if you remember me, but I took a couple of classes with you, and I’ve actually gone on in a field related to history. (If you look at my email, minus "what," and add my first name, that's who I am.)

It’s nice to read this, so many years down the line, and to recognize how much I learned from you! It’s been a long time, but I still remember many of the things we discussed. In all my college and post-graduate education, I only had a few teachers who could compare to you.

Anyway, I thought your article was terrific (and it was nice to have confirmed that my admiration for your good sense wasn’t just the naïveté of a high school kid!). In terms of what it has to say about baseball, I agree with you almost completely. But there is a certain undercurrent in what you’re saying that I wanted to respond to.
If I remember our classes correctly (and I’m sure I do, at least on this point), you won’t take it personally if I try to take issue with part of what you’ve said. And I think this will be in the spirit of forwarding the project to find “common ground” between the two schools (although I have also found that “common ground” can be a problem when both sides claim it for their own).

You try to distinguish two modes of thinking about baseball (and perhaps about history?): the “literary” and the “statistically minded.” About the literary mode, you almost go so far as to say that the truth of the story doesn’t matter, and suggest a parallel with the stories of saints, which may have been untrue on their face, but whose “truth was in their morals.” But (as you effectively imply) this bargain – trading in truth for a good story – isn’t one that any journalist worth his salt will accept. The question is whether “narrative” can teach us things that are true that statistics might miss. Now, in the case of baseball, I think it’s probably true that statistics are almost uniformly more reliable; on almost every substantive question, I’m a Jamesian or neo-Jamesian or whatever. (Exception: Clutch hitting, which I think is real, despite the numerous studies disproving its existence. In my opinion, all those studies are methodologically flawed, in that they don’t define “clutch hitting” in a way true to the phenomenon. But that’s an argument for another day.) But let me try to raise a question which I hope is still close to your own heart – whether the same applies to history – and, I’ll be blunt here, I think it doesn’t, at least not in the same way. In other words, I’ll go one step farther than you: I’m not only saying that both the so-called “literary” and statistical modes have their own domains, but that the “literary” mode, properly understood, can teach us things which are simply true.

The serious defenders of non-statistical methods don’t defend their work as being “literary;” they claim that there are truths which statistics don’t and perhaps can’t capture. And in support of that position, let me make one suggestion about a kind of “fact” we can appreciate, but which doesn’t fit statistical measures, which I take from your own article.

You make a remark about Watson and Crick – that somehow, “we may know [they] were far greater men than Alexander the Great and Napoleon.”* Well, how do we know that? According to what notion of “greatness”? Aren’t you suggesting – at least implicitly – that “greatness” is something we can understand, and even know about? Of course, there’s no simple statistic for “greatness,” just as there is no statistic for justice; but that doesn’t mean it’s not in some way a “fact.” And to be sure, it doesn’t mean we can refine our understanding of what it means to be “great” by thinking about it, and that we can come nearer to the truth.

Now, when we get into issues like “greatness,” I admit, it’s not easy to think about them: there no universal “method,” and that means that there is unlikely to be universal agreement, and the strength of the conclusions depends on the intelligence and intellectual honesty of the person who draws them. But that is really what I want to claim: intellectual honesty is a moral quality, and there is no substitute for it. We can try to avoid this problem by agreeing upon some “method” which yields results that everyone can recognize. But those “methods” tend to exclude real evidence (as I tried to show in my example above). My conclusion isn’t that we should quit thinking, but that really coming to understand the truth on any issue requires intellectual honesty, and openness even to non-quantifiable types of evidence. Yes, that means that we’re never likely to come to universal agreement about issues of great importance; but that doesn’t mean we can do without the quality, and besides, no one in his right mind ever thought universal agreement was a possibility anyway. And this kid of thinking - which always finds it proof in the pudding - has the advantage of not excluding ANY evidence before looking into it.

I’ve overstated my point a bit, maybe, for purposes of drawing out the differences, but I'd stand by at least the core of the argument. Like I said, I agree with you almost completely in terms of how we understand baseball; I just would want to be careful about applying those strictures to all of history.

In the spirit I’m trying to uphold (and to which I was exposed all those years ago in your classroom), I’d be happy to keep the fight going, if you like.

(I apologize for any lack of clarity in this post, but I had to jot it off very quickly! And if you decide to answer and I'm slow to answer you, my apologies, but I'm very busy with work at the moment. When I saw you'd posted, though, I couldn't resist saying something.)

* By the way, I think Watson and Crick are pretty questionable examples. I wonder whether the discovery of the double-helix isn’t over-rated in terms of its contribution to science, never mind the question of the relative greatness of scientists and rulers of empires; I certainly wouldn’t compare these guys to Darwin or Newton. Anyway, that’s an issue for another day.

I see it doesn't post emails (probably for the best). My last name is the same as a boxer who won the heavyweight title in 1919. My email is [my last name]what at hotmail -- just like that, no spaces or periods between my last name and the "what."

As the cliche goes, "Perception is reality", even when the perception is "wrong".

Okay, so which perception of Rice is correct? The perception that garnered him 30% of the vote in 1995 or the perception that gave him nearly 75% this year? What does that say about the reliability of perception? And if you're okay with that, do we really want a Hall of Fame that's based on an unreliable version of reality?

Great article, still doesn't make Rice a HOFer.

Erik you are splitting hairs on Newton, Darwin, Watson and Crick. Should I throw Linus Pauling into the mix? All great men with different contributions and now you have ventured into the "how to measure quality" argument.

Another question is why the great shift in Rice's totals over the past few years. 5 years ago he wasn't close, now he is almost assured of entry. The main thing that has happened in the past few years is the whole steroid/PED scandal. So there must be some sort of relation between the two events. Do people the writers feel some guilt for encouraging (or at least tacitly condoning) the "steroid" era and their solution is to enshrine a pre-steroid era hitter? I don't think it makes any sense but I'm not a writer (plus who the hell know whether Rice took steroids or not?)

The consensus amongst most voting HOF writers would be that he didn't indulge in PED's, thus his numbers are "real", unlike the supposedly inflated numbers of the last 10 years.

How "real" are Jim Rice's numbers when they show a massive home/road split?

I'm going to weigh in on the article first and then on a couple of comments in this thread.

First of all, I was somewhat surprised by the position Bob took after reading a comment he made in Mark Armour's In Defense of the Hall of Fame article (scroll down to "Posted by: Bob R. at January 11, 2008 8:45 PM"). I put up the following comment directly after his: "Thanks for the thoughtful response, Bob. I think you nailed it." I also invited him to expound on this idea by contributing a guest column. When Bob submitted it, I thought it was well written and would be enjoyed by many and perhaps debated by others. The fact that I didn't necessarily agree with some of Bob's points didn't stop me from running it.

As it relates to the Hall of Fame, I believe it is important to note that the writers have developed what Bill James called "de facto standards" over the years that, for the most part, define what a Hall of Famer is. And I don't think enshrinement has much, if anything, to do with "fame" per se. Sure, many of the best players who are in the Hall of Fame are famous but many famous players have never been inducted into Cooperstown (although, in many cases, they have game-used memorabilia such as uniforms, gloves, cleats, bats, balls, etc., that reside in the museum to mark a special accomplishment). There is a good reason for this. The Hall of Fame is designed to honor the "best" players rather than the most "famous." The first five inductees (Cobb, Wagner, Ruth, Mathewson, and Johnson) were strong evidence of this fact.

The Baseball Reliquary's Shrine of the Eternals is designed to honor unique personalities. Unlike the Hall of Fame, statistical accomplishment is not a criterion for election. Although there are a few HOFers among the list of honorees, the vast majority are players such as Mark Fidrych, Curt Flood, and Fernando Valenzuela who have made a lasting imprint on the baseball landscape. I applaud the Baseball Reliquary for recognizing these individuals.

But the Hall of Fame, despite its name, has never been about electing "famous" personalities. Instead, it has always been about honoring baseball's best players (and managers, executives, and pioneers). I would hope that the writers would continue to uphold this basic truth by sticking to the facts (i.e., stats) rather than the storylines.

This is a beautifully reasoned and written article. I don't thinnk the point is to argue that the journalists are "right," just that they come from a different POV.

Richard Lederer says that the Hall of Fame has "always been about honoring baseball's best players," and while that is mostly true, it's not an unassailable axiom. If that were true, Pete Rose and Joe Jackson would have been eligible for--and would have been elected to-- the Hall of Fame years ago. By the same token, there are numerous dubious candidates that have been elected by the Veterans' Committee based in too significant a part on the veterans' fond memories of the players' character. Whether it's the morality of the HOF voting roles, the nepotism of the Veterans Committee or the literary-mindedness of the sportswriters, concerns other than objective greatness have always compromised the HOF vote.

In defense of Mr. Rittner...

"But the Hall of Fame, despite its name, has never been about electing "famous" personalities."

I don't think it's true that the Hall "has never" been about electing the famed. Yes, "fame" (why the quotations marks?) has never been enough, nor should it be. But let me give just one example: voters put more weight on certain accomplishments (post-season success, for example, or holding distinctive records) over others, even if they don't necessarily provide a good reflection of the overall excellence of the player being considered. Even James' Keltner list includes categories for post-season contributions (well, pennant races, at least) and contributions to the way the game is played. Those things at least deserve to be taken into account.

The exclusion of non-statistical evidence is one of the reasons that more traditional fans and students of the game complain about "stat-heads." It's a mistake Bill James himself definitely doesn't make (again, just read the Keltner list), but which too many of his students do. Sure, some of that "evidence" deserves to be tossed out; but some of it also deserves to be considered, and some of it can even teach us things about the game we might otherwise miss.

I understand where sportswriters are coming from. It's their job to create narratives, even when none exist. They cannot go to their editors with a story that says X team won the team because Player A got a lucky break because of a combination of luck and random variation. That sportswriter would be summarily fired.

But Halls of Fame do not exist to honor those who the narrative have already made famous. They exist to recognize he players who should be famous. If the Hall was primarily for players who were already known for making an impact on the game, then it wouldn't need to exist, because those players don't need any more recognition; those players are already part of Baseball's intangible Hall of the Famous. The Hall's purpose is not to recognize the most newsworthy or the individuals whose existence the biggest impact on the narrative of baseball, it's to recognize the players who accomplished the most in baseball.

In order to see what the purpose of the Hall is, why not begin with what it says about itself - i.e., with the written guidelines the Hall of Fame itself gives for inclusion? I wish I could find them online, but the truth is that it's not simply about "who accomplished the most in baseball." (For example, standards of character are explicitly included in the guidelines.)

We can argue about whether those standards are the right ones, but we don't get to recast the Hall's history in light of what we might like it to be. That's not being true to the facts.

I want to clarify that I consider Blyleven a definite HOFer and do not think either Rice or Morris should be elected. I also think Evans has not been appreciated enough in some circles, a point I argued vigorously elsewhere at the time of the Tony Perez selection.

As for the HOF honoring the best players, I think it should and am not happy with the more subjective arguments. But I do not think it always has. I don't want to research all the motives for many selections-cronyism, popularity et al-but I do think that outside pressure aside, a player like Rizzuto got in at least partly because he was famous while a contemporary like Vern Stephens was virtually ignored. Even if it was the veterans committee decision, in their initial eligibility, Rizzuto got over 25% of the votes while as far as I can tell, Stephens never got even one.

Looking at the Hall's own criteria, there is little guidance for electors other than eligibility requirements like years active and the like. The closest I can see is the statement "Voting shall be based upon a player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." That seems to leave a lot of wiggle room. The next article in the rules for election bans automatic election for one year or one time performances like no-hitters.

Other than that, I do not see much. The Hall defines itself as a home to "baseball's immortals" and mentions the Gallery as a place to view "bronze likenesses of the greatest players, managers, umpires and executives in the history of baseball".

As for other comments, I want to emphasize also that I do not consider the sabermetric community more liable to sarcasm and negativity than the traditionalist one. I do think that some traditionalists have that view, and while I do not agree with them, I think it understandable. As you imply, studes, sometimes the comments in the response sections from "true believers" and converts are arrogant and dogmatic and no doubt the most outrageous of any group are often, unfortunately, taken to be the norm. A site like Fire Joe Morgan can certainly be insulting to some. (By the way, just to avoid misunderstanding, I am not criticizing that site.)

Also, James T., I think you make a really interesting observation. I would like to speculate on why our perceptions might be different. Here is one among many possibilities. Might it be that home team fans, having their expectations raised by a year like 1978 are easily frustrated by failures later (like Yankee fans not appreciating A-Rod) while out of towners retain memories (traces? remnants?) of the devastation an opponent caused them and so credit him with domination he does not deserve?

As a number of people have pointed out, I am not claiming that the traditionalist view is correct or better or valid as a way to decide a player's value or qualifications for the HOF. I simply think it is helpful to understand the frame of reference of those with whom we are conversing so the discussion can move forward, and in this case to recognize that the frame of reference of traditionalists may have worthwhile insights for us to ponder.

If I may interject a personal note, I have e-mailed you Erik using the clues you provided and hope I got through. I certainly do remember you and would love to continue the conversation. Thank you for the kind words.

If I may follow up the personal note, the email did not work. You can also try [my first name].[my last name][at] erik with a k, and then like the boxer.

Re Micah's comment above, bringing up Jackson and Rose is pointless because they were suspended from baseball and have never been eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame.

With respect to Erik's comment, postseason play should most definitely be considered. That is part of a player's record. Heck, game for game, I would give postseason play more weight than the regular season. But I would only view the postseason as part of the total playing record. That said, there is little, if any, evidence to suggest that "voters put more weight on certain accomplishments (post-season success, for example, or holding distinctive records)." Oh, you can point to Bill Mazeroski if you'd like. But if Maz made it for his "famous" home run, why didn't Kirk Gibson or Joe Carter make it for their equally famous home runs? How about Johnny Vander Meer? Don Larsen? Orel Hershiser? Roger Maris? Maury Wills? All of these players are famous for certain accomplishment, including postseason success. As I said before, "Many of the best players who are in the Hall of Fame are famous but many famous players have never been inducted into Cooperstown."

As I have written elsewhere, let's not overplay the "standards of character" and "integrity" tests when it comes to the HOF voting. As far as I can tell, this has never been a test except in the case of Jackson and Rose (both of whom were on the ineligble list anyway) and the past two years with McGwire. There are several players with plaques in the HOF that had questionable character and integrity.

As a result, election to the Hall of Fame really comes down to "the player's record...and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played" (as excerpted from the RULES FOR ELECTION BY THE BASEBALL WRITERS' ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA on the Hall of Fame's website).

Thank you Bob R. for attempting to apply some common sense to the tension between the " traditionalists" and the " sabermetricians" regarding the qualifications for the HOF.Judging by the quality of commentary from Erik you must have been quite a teacher I would like to weigh on a couple of issues.
Initially, about post season accomplishments, the defintion of " " fame" and how it relates to the HOF.Basically, I agree with Rich , that post season accomplishments MUST be regarded under the criteria " contributions the his team." If the objective of any team is to go as far as it can any year with the ultimate objective being to win the World Series, any player who achieves in the WS must be rewarded to much greater degree than a regular season game.All hits, HRs , wins, etc. are NOT created equal This can have the effect of boosting a " Borderline" candidacy which might otherwise fall short to HOF status.. To me an obvious example of this is Catfish Hunter. His regular season credentials are virtually indistinguishable from Luis Tiant and standing by themself might fall a little bit short.However, when you ADD the consideration that he was 7- 1 in the post season as the ace of the 3- time WS Champion As between 1972 and 1974. This in my view puts him " legitimately" in the HOF.. By contrast, individuals like Gibson, Larsen, etc. were not deserving of serious consideration without their post season and thus their heroics are not enough.A similar analysis would , in my opinion. apply to the much debaJed case of jack Morris. Morris did lead his staff in wins 12 0f 14 seasons between 1979 and 1992, did lead the American League in wins during the decade of the 1980s and was consistently among the legue leaders in innings pitched and complete games virtually every year on the way to a tottal of 254 wins, a tottal which does at the least warrant serious consideration for the HOF.His critics will rightfully say that these figures were fueled in large part by excellent run support and point to an ERA of 3.90 and a mediocre ERA+ figure.Howvere, in my opinion what tips the scales in favor of JM. He WAS the ace pitcher for three different organizations which won WS, a feat matched by no one. HE- unlike Blyleven by the way- was the pitcher that always got the ball in Game 1 of all the big series. And he did perform, going 7-1 with an ERA around 2 until the post season of 1992, when at the age of 37, he gave up 19 runs in 23 innings while going 0-3. Thus, by combining his playing record and his post season accomplishments, unlike most that post on this ite, I strongly believe that Jack Morris belongs in the HOF.
In closing, I would suggest that the evauation of aplayer's worhthiness for the HOF, while similar in most respects to how a GM would evaluate a player's career "value" using solely sabermetric mehtods, is somewhat different because aditional weight must be given to those who perform the best when the stakes were the highest and the lights shone the brightest

I agree that post-season play should be included when evaluating a player for the HOF. Not as a negative, but as a complete picture. When Mariano Rivera comes up for the Hall, how could a voter ignore his October record? Indeed, with more postseason games being played than ever before, and more players participating, postseason play may swing the vote in the favor of a few players. I'm not sure that's ever happened, but seems to me there might be a greater chance of it happening today.

Also, I can't help but note Erik and Mr. Rittner trying to connect. Rich, perhaps you can forward Erik's email to Bob. Just trying to help. It's a small world. I am also a graduate of Mr. Rittner's former High School. HH! No doubt that's why I just called him Mr. Rittner. Teachers are always "Mister." Even thirty years on. :-)

Thanks Mike. We did connect.

Nice article BobR. I think last year when the Chass article appeared, the blogosphere did go slighly kinda negative on him. But, who can forget Rich Lederer trying to educate Bill Conlin on the use of sabermetrics. That was a no win situation. I tend to think the traditional people are the ones who does most of the sabermetric bad mouthing calling them techno stat geeks oor something similar. But, could it be that these traditionalists are on the downswing and they fear these bloggers as the competition. The bright news people do package their words around some of the new ideas coming from the blogosphere and not ban certain blog sites from the company facilities.