The Posey and Heyward omitters speak

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Yasushi Kikuchi, the writer who left Buster Posey off his Rookie of the Year ballot, explains himself:

Kikuchi said he left Posey off his ballot because of the late-May promotion. “Obviously it was a tough decision,” Kikuchi said. “To me, Rookie of the Year is the best rookie player throughout the whole season. “On the other hand, I know Buster had a very big impact for the Giants. I know how important his role was to contribute to the Giants winning the championship.”

Like I said before, though I don’t agree with it, I at least understand how someone can have a thought process that goes “the players who were there all season get more credit.”  It’s a crude way to go about things, and in this case I think such an approach steered Kikuchi into the ditch, but I see what happened, and that’s about as much as you can ask.

Dejan Kovacevic is the guy who left Heyward off the ballot.  He did have Posey first, however, so we should probably keep things in perspective.  As for his inclusion of Pirates Neil Walker and Jose Tabata, Dejan has been defending himself on Twitter this afternoon.  Some of his comments, edited slightly for clarity:

Felt very firmly about Posey, thus chose him 1st. Felt Walker/Tabata had strong years, comparable to rest of class . . . Neither Walker nor Tabata is off-the-board choice, as seen from list of NL rookies with 400 PA, ranked by OPS.

At that point Dejan linked to this leaderboard. I guess I understand what he’s saying about Walker and Tabata not being “off the board,” but it’s worth noting that they’re lower on the board in nearly every significant category — including the one he cited, OPS — than Jason Heyward was.  Dejan goes on:

[I] Obviously saw way more of Walker/Tabata than others, but that also gave perspective on them performing at high level in poor lineup/setting . . . Feeling always has been with voting that broadest variety of perspectives bring best results. Few can argue final overall tally, I’d think . . . No one else cast a vote for Walker, an easy-to-make case for a top-three ROY performer. That, to me, underscores importance of local views . . . Local writers will see/appreciate things a player can do that others might not. That counts, for a player’s good facets and bad . . . Felt firmly that my first-hand view of Walker/Tabata merited their ROY votes. I also respect right of anyone to disagree/vote differently.

I appreciate Dejan defending his votes, and — if you look at some of the replies to specific questions to others in his Twitter feed — him being very gracious and polite about it.

Still, while the explanation is welcome, it doesn’t do much to persuade me, to put it lightly. Not that he’s trying to persuade me or anyone else of course. It’s his vote and if he wanted to tell us all to pound salt, he could do so. I disagree with him and think he whiffed badly in this instance, but the same can be said for a lot of these votes, and we’re not entitled to an explanation, even if we want one.

With respect to both Kikuchi and Kovacevic:  the only serious question I ever have when I see an outlier awards vote is whether there was any funny business. Was someone trying to make a political point, or were they not taking their task seriously. While I think Kovacevic saw the vote through black and gold colored glasses, I don’t see any way you can accuse him of funny business here. Same goes for Kikuchi whose vote was principled, even if misguidedly so. In either case, anyone saying silly things like their votes should be taken away (Really Jon?) is off base.

But at the same time, I’m not going to simply wave my hand and say that “everyone is entitled to their opinion.” I mean, they are, but that doesn’t make their opinion unassailable. Opinions can be wrong if they’re based on bad facts and poor reasoning, and in this case, I think Kikuchi and Kovacevic’s were.

No, New York players do not get an unfair bump in Hall of Fame voting

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Angels owner Arte Moreno said something interesting yesterday. He was talking about the retired former Angel, Garret Anderson, and said “If he would have played in New York, he’d be in the Hall of Fame.”

The initial — and, I would add, the most on-point — response to this is to note that, for however good a player Anderson was at times, no definition of the term “Hall of Famer” really encompasses his legacy. He was OK. Pretty good on occasion. Nowhere near a Hall of Famer, and I don’t think you need me to go over the math to establish that. The only way Anderson would ever sniff the Hall of Fame one day is if we sent Tony La Russa back in time to manage him for several years and then brought him back from the past to strong-arme the Veterans Committee.

The more interesting question to me is the matter implied in Moreno’s comment: that players in New York get an unfair boost when it comes to the Hall of Fame.

I get why he might say that and I get why people might believe it. New York gets all the press. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere and, my God, people in New York will not let you forget it for a second. East Coast Bias™ and all of that.

Except it’s baloney, at least as far as the Hall of Fame goes.

I think it’s fair to say that, yes, if you play in New York, your reputation gets elevated more than if you played elsewhere, but I think there are limits to that what that elevation gets you. You’re more famous if you knock in 100 as the third-best guy on a Yankees team or if you are involved in a notable game or series or controversy as a Met, but it doesn’t mean you get some extra helping hand from the BBWAA five years after you retire.

At least one guy I know, Adam Darowski, has taken a rough look at this on the numbers. He has determined that, by at least his measure, Yankees players are the fourth most underrepresented contingent in Hall of Fame voting. Red Sox are fifth. Mets are in the middle of the pack. It may be more useful to think of this without reference to any numbers, though, and look at it in terms of who is and who isn’t getting some sort of unfair bump.

If there was a New York Premium to Hall of Fame consideration, wouldn’t Bernie Williams, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Elston Howard, Don Mattingly, Roger Maris, Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Andy Pettitte and a bunch of other guys of that caliber get more support than they’ve historically gotten? I’m not saying all of those guys deserve to be in the Hall, but they all have better cases than Garret Anderson and none of them got in or appear to be getting in any time soon. They are close enough on the merits that, one would think anyway, an aura of New Yorkness surrounding them would have carried them over the line, but it never did.

Meanwhile, almost all of the most borderline Hall of Famers are old, old, old timers who were either poorly assessed by the Veterans Committee or who had the good fortune of being good friends with Frankie Frisch. Again, not a ton of Yankees make that cut. A whole lot of Giants do, but I suppose that’s another conversation. The questionable Hall of Famers of more recent vintage represent guys from all over the big league map. The only Yankee I can think of in relatively recent years who raised eyebrows was Catfish Hunter, and I suspect more of that was based on his legacy with the A’s than with the Yankees, where he really only had one great season.

Here’s what I think happens, practically, with New York players: If you play in New York, merely good and notable performance makes you huge in the moment and in casual remembrance, but your historical legacy is often written down a bit as a function of overall team success. Also — or, maybe, alternatively — it’s a matter of every good Yankees era being defined by such a big meagstar — Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Reggie, Jeter — that the really good, even Hall of Fame-worthy guys who played with them are overlooked to some degree. Which, when you think about it, kinda sucks even worse for them because their megastar teammate is, thanks to the rings, in some ways getting elevated by team success while the lesser stars are denigrated because of it.

Which is not to say that we should cry for New York players. Paul O’Neill will never have to pay for a steak dinner in Manhattan for the rest of his life and, thanks to all of his friends in the press, Andy Pettitte’s obituary won’t mention his PED use at all while Barry Bonds’ obit will mention it in the first graf. It’s getting to the point where if you can simply avoid infamy and not suck for a five-year stretch you can get your number retired and a place in Monument Park.

But New York players aren’t getting unfair consideration in Hall of Fame voting. Indeed, I think they’re probably getting graded a bit too harshly.