Take one red pill before voting

January, 5, 2009
It's Hall of Fame season, during which a fair number of voters publish their choices and then smart alecks like me make fun of them.

Oh, but that was in 2008. Among my New Year's resolutions: no more making fun of my fellow BBWAA members. In 2009, I will instead offer praise to colleagues like Ken Davidoff, whose Hall of Fame ballot mirrors almost precisely my own (if I had one). But what I really like about Davidoff's ballot is that he actually seems to have thought about it, and realizes that it's an ongoing process that will be informed not by mob rule, but rather by new ways of thinking …

    A year ago, I'm not even sure I fully understood OPS+ and ERA+. Now, they are staples of my analytical diet. Perhaps I will be using more sophisticated tools a year from now.

    My point being, to lock in on a Hall of Fame decision and stick to it is to rule out future, deeper levels of understanding -- that we're all trying to attain, at everything we do.

    On a related note, I'm convinced more than ever that actually seeing these candidates play can be as much a hindrance as a benefit. When I think of these Hall of Fame candidates, I initially think of individual moments. For [Jack] Morris, indeed, it's this game. For Andre Dawson, it's this game, because I attended it and it was part of his 1987 season that won him NL MVP honors. For Jim Rice, it's the entire 1978 season.

    But Hall of Fame candidates shouldn't be judged on snapshots, IMHO. They should be evaluated on entire albums of information. The statistics stand the test of time. Our memories are not as reliable.

    I'm going to keep working at this voting thing, for as long as it's still the BBWAA's responsibility. And to me, to keep working at it means to keep processing new information. Even if it results in some flip-flops.

You've seen The Matrix, right? Early on, Keanu Reeves is offered a choice. He can take the red pill, and become enlightened. Or he can take the blue pill, and return to his old life forever, with no memory of what he's missing.

Well, at some point Davidoff decided to take the red pill. Good for him.

One quibble, though. When Davidoff writes that "we're all trying to attain, at everything we do" … "deeper levels of understanding," I think he's being far too kind. It's quite clear from the Hall of Fame balloting every year that some significant percentage of the voters gobbled down the blue pill a long time ago.

(You can see more red-pill Hall of Fame ballots here and here).


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