ESPN’s T.J. Quinn refuses to vote for the Hall of Fame and has a lot of good reasons for it

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ESPN’s T.J. Quinn was a beat writer for many years, covering the White Sox and Mets and then moved on to do investigative reporting for the New York Daily News and ESPN, with a huge emphasis on covering performance enhancing drugs in sports. If there is any Hall of Fame voter, therefore, who is qualified to assess how PEDs and the Hall of Fame mix, it’s him.

Except he has decided that even he can’t do it and gave up voting for the Hall of Fame two years ago. Today he explains why:

Even before the issue of performance-enhancing drugs overwhelmed the annual conversation, I questioned my capacity to evaluate a player’s fitness for immortality. My only qualification, like all voters, was 10 years’ service as a BBWAA member. But nothing in my years as a beat writer covering the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and nothing in my years covering doping as an investigative reporter since has prepared me to evaluate the effect PED use should have on a player’s legacy.

He goes on to explain why the “keep the juicin’ bums out” arguments are essentially incoherent as generally applied. He also notes — as we have noted here at HBT lately — that it’s kind of a problem to give votes to guys who haven’t actively covered the game in years. Personally I think Quinn is eminently qualified, but even he himself thinks the fact that he hasn’t covered baseball on a day-to-day basis since 2002 prevents him from being up to the task. So who is?

But at the end of the day, the game, the Hall and journalism would be better served if voting was limited to a select group of veterans, historians and even journalists — if they’re the right journalists. Columnists and national writers who have devoted their careers to the game, not dabblers. That wouldn’t solve the problem of how to evaluate players in the age of modern chemistry, but at least the right group would be making the call.

I think it would be hard to come up with the right group of voters — ex-players are a particular problem as I think they are among the least suited to objectively analyze players’ contributions — but I think Quinn is right that the current electorate — ten-year BBWAA veterans who, quite often, aren’t even baseball writers anymore — is the wrong crop.

A lot of food for thought here. It’s nice to see someone with the franchise chewing on it all, even if he chooses not to vote.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.