A none-too-pretty look inside the Veteran’s Committee voting process

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Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle was one of the 16 members of the Veteran’s Committee this year, and he voted on the Hall of Fame earlier this week. Today he has a column about that process and it’s pretty eye-opening.

The first part: how sworn to silence the committee members are. Jenkins talks of how unwilling the ex-players, executives and historians would be to participate in the process if their votes or thoughts behind them were made public. Which may be true, but it also speaks of everything wrong with the process. There is no accountability at all. The Hall of Fame is about history and merit, not about whether people might be offended at how you voted. That difference can, if perpetuated over time, be the difference between legitimate institution and a glorified fraternal society.

But the secrecy was not the biggest problem. It was what were clearly hidebound thinkers on the committee. Jenkins speaks of the deliberations:

At one point, someone asked if it was necessary to bring WAR, a trendy new stat, into any discussion. There was a bit of mumbling, mostly silence, and it never came up again . . . Whatever. I certainly didn’t feel dated or out of touch hashing out a man’s Hall of Fame credentials with Robinson, Fisk, Herzog or anyone else involved. I’m sure the brilliant Hirdt could have backed his opinions with WAR, WHIP or any other statistical measure known to man, but he spoke of traditional numbers and criteria of considerable weight: character, temperament, clutch performance and other intangibles, such as how it felt to witness the greats, and how they were viewed by other icons of the game.

I don’t think that mindset made a difference in this year’s election. None of the players on the ballot, I feel anyway, were close enough that a minor disagreement on how they were valued statistically would have made much a of a difference.

But again, it speaks to the makeup of the committee. How much do you want to bet that the mumbling when WAR was brought up was because the members simply didn’t understand those metrics as opposed to those who totally understand them but have decided that they aren’t important? I’m guessing that was the real issue. Just ignorance or discomfort with that stuff so there was a desire to move into what they know.

Which I think matters. It’s totally legitimate to decide, with all of the information at your disposal, that what is truly important are RBIs or character or intangibles or whatever and vote on that basis. But if your committee simply doesn’t understand the state of the art — and not just some nerdy bleeding edge stuff, but the stuff that mainstream analysts and front offices use to evaluate players — they’re pretty unqualified to offer what will be the final assessment on any given player’s merits as a Hall of Famer.

Probably doesn’t matter for the current crop of Veteran’s Committee candidates. But because the BBWAA refuses to vote in so many qualified or borderline guys, they’ll be in front of the Veteran’s Committee one day too. And unless the system becomes transparent and the voters become people who are actually willing and capable to engage in anything beyond the most superficial baseball analysis, they won’t get a fair shake.

Mark Melancon thinks Lewis Brinson “disrespected the game”

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The Marlins and Giants have some bad blood with each other. On Monday, closer Hunter Strickland had a meltdown, blowing a save after allowing three runs to the Marlins in the top of the ninth. Lewis Brinson drove in the tying run with a single. He could be seen flipping his bat and yelling something in excitement on his way to first base. Brinson ended up advancing to third before Strickland was pulled from the game. On his way out, Strickland started yapping at Brinson. In the clubhouse, Strickland punched a door in anger and broke his hand. The next day, Giants starter Dereck Rodriguez hit Brinson with a first-pitch fastball, which led to Dan Straily hitting Buster Posey.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, Giants reliever Mark Melancon went on KNBR’s Tolbert and Lund to talk about Brinson’s behavior. Here’s what he said:

My perspective was that he was disrespecting the game. I’m all for being excited and being happy you got a base hit there. There’s nothing wrong with that. But holding the bat out too long and flipping the bat, then rounding first and continuing to jaw. To me, it looked like he was looking right at Strickland. That’s just showing a guy up and it’s not needed. You know? Be happy, celebrate with the team. Do it right. But don’t rub it anybody’s face. That’s not the right way to go about it.

For what it’s worth, Strickland didn’t say much about the incident after Monday’s game. Via KNBR:

If players celebrating upsets the Giants so much that one of their players gets angry, punches a door, and breaks his hand, perhaps it’s unhealthy for them to focus on such behavior. Take a new philosophical approach so that your players don’t unnecessarily wind up on the disabled list for long chunks of time.

Brinson is 24 years old and hitting .180 in his first full major league season. Of course he’s going to be pumped up when he gets a big hit. Let the players have fun rather than policing their behavior. Maybe it’ll help bring fans back to the ballpark.