THT Awards

Welcome to the awards.

For award definitions and background on the column itself, please consult the Primer.

All weekly stats are for the period of Monday, July 20 though Sunday, July 26. All season stats are through Sunday.

This week’s proof that assigning wins and losses to a pitcher is an arcane practice that must stop

Good Luck Division:

Nick Blackburn and Gio Gonzalez were owned by Matt Holliday and Justin Morneau with 18 combined runs allowed between the two of them. They escaped their own ineptitude with matching no decisions because they faced each other. Jose Mijares actually took the loss despite being merely poor rather than disastrous, yielding one run on three hits in an inning and a third.

Bad Luck Division

Rich Harden and Joe Blanton had the misfortune of facing each other as they each shut down the opposing hitters, posting seven frames with only one run allowed each. They got matching no-decisions in a game that took 13 innings to reach a conclusion.

Brett Cecil’s day was ruined by Scott Downs, who inherited a 1-0 lead and allowed two runs on two walks, a double, a triple and an error. Cecil had effectively shut down Cleveland for seven innings, striking out nine and scattering 11 baserunners.

Clayton Richards was victimized by a Bobby Jenks blown save on the same day after providing the White Sox with eight on-run innings on four hits and seven strikeouts.

Zack Greinke was brilliant against the Rangers, striking out 10 in seven innings. His only sin was giving up a Marlon Byrd solo shot. I would also say something about Scott Feldman putting up a classic ASADIIFP performance with eight scoreless, four-hit innings with only two strikeouts.

A brief Mark Buehrle note

I feel obligated to talk about the Buehrle no-hitter. But I have a couple of handicaps to worth with here. First off, I have not watched it. I was at a Prospect League game in downstate Illinois at the time. And also through the quirk of scheduling, I will be five days behind the curve when this article posts. With those two things in mind, I fear that I have nothing informative and original to say about the game itself.

That being said, because of the standard subject matter of the column, one might say that the game conforms to the any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching principle. But the fact of the matter is unless a pitcher strikes out 16 or 18 batters, then a no-hitter or perfect game is almost definitionally a confluence of a lot of luck and a lot of skill. And if you did rack up that kind of a strikeout total, you would be pushing any kind of pitch count limit you might be on or wear down and lose a slice of that brilliance. So I say we take that luck factor as a given and use this event as an excuse to talk about Buehrle himself.

I think Buehrle flies a bit under the radar when it comes to the national scene. He has a kind of quietly consistent excellence that usually bores the sports media to tears. He is deathly boring for ESPN or talk radio jocks to cover because he doesn’t have flashy accomplishment. He’s finished in the top five of Cy Young voting only once. He only has eight shutouts and 24 complete games in his 288-start career. This is his seventh season with an ERA in the threes. His two down seasons were a 4.24 and a 4.99. He’s rarely bad. He’s simply really, really good.

He also isn’t in the media often because outside of his absurd truck, there’s nothing particularly interesting about his life when he is off of the mound. He has never picked fights with Jay Mariotti or Phil Rogers. He doesn’t get in trouble or monopolize every microphone in a 10-mile radius.

I forget where I heard it, but I remember a radio show or a podcast a while ago where the host and the guest were weighing possible 300-game winners playing today. The guest threw out Buehrle’s name as a guy who might age well and find his way into contention for 300. He currently stands at 133 wins as a 30-year old, so that is plausible. Clearly, the odds are not terribly good, but any bet on a pitcher outside of a couple of years from now is a weak proposition.

What I find interesting is that if he keeps up his current performance for the next 10 seasons and ends up right in the neighborhood, he would be his generation’s embodiment of the criticism that has dogged Mike Mussina, where a Hall of Fame case could be made for a very good pitcher for a very long time, but one who lacked the high peaks that you find in a Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson or Johan Santana.

At this point he doesn’t have those ridiculous seasons in which he ran away from the rest of the league and posted an ERA in the neighborhood of 2.50. It is fair to ask if that should veto anybody’s hall credentials, but it bears mentioning that Mussina is a good comp for Buehrle at this point. Mussina had 136 career wins at the end of his age 30 season and probably could have seen 300 had he decided to carry on. I am not saying that this is at all likely or reasonable to expect. I am just thinking out loud here and you can tell me how ridiculous and off-base I am in the comments if you like.

Vulture alert! Vulture alert!

Phil Coke squandered the two-run lead he inherited. When the Yankees finished their domination of Dallas Braden, he was gifted a lead, and eventually a win.
Wes Littleton Award

To succeed, all Kevin Gregg had to do was retire Edwin Encarnacion, who currently sits at .202/.331/.372. To fail, he would have had to allow Encarnacion to homer, and then allow Jonny Gomes to follow it up with another blast.

Please hold the applause

Jon Rauch retired two batters, walked Ian Stewart, and let Ryan Spilboroughs triple to drive in Stewart, making a two-run Diamondbacks lead into a one-run advantage. He still was credited with a hold.

Any sufficiently advanced defense is indistinguishable from pitching

Braden Looper scored a victory with seven scoreless, four-hit innings despite striking out only one Milwaukee hitter.

John Lannan would have won the game had Mike MacDougal not blown the save. Nevertheless, he struck out two of the 29 batters he faced. In eight innings, he allowed one run on five hits and a walk.

This week’s dumbest thing ever

As I was flipping through the channels Friday, looking for highlights of Buehrle’s perfect game, ESPNews was covering SEC’s football media day. Evidently the story of the day was that somebody had failed to vote for Tim Tebow as the preseason all-SEC quarterback and reporters were trying find out who had the audacity to do such a thing. Naturally, I was a bit taken aback since I was unaware that anybody anywhere cared about who was named in what amounts to preseason predictions.

As a baseball fan, I would be floored if a single year went by when at least one award didn’t get completely botched by the voters, let alone if the right guy won, only not unanimously. I fail to see how anybody with any measure of sanity could consider this a story worth hours of airtime and breathless attention. There aren’t many areas where I am a foremost world authority. The field of inconsequential, made-up awards with arbitrary definitions is what I do here. I’m not building a framework to convert the upcoming HITf/x tool into a comprehensive defensive metric. Nope, I am here to figure out new ways to poke fun at empty batting averages and pitchers who get saves in 30-3 blowouts. Preseason conference coaches polls are the definition of inconsequential awards with arbitrary definitions.

Joe Carter Award

Raul Ibanez had some bad luck on balls in play, which nuked an otherwise positive week in which he doubled twice, hit a home run and walked four times in 25 at-bats. Still, he hit .200/.310/.400 while driving in eight runs.

Rey Sanchez Award

Travis Ishikawa was seven for 21 with no extra base hits and no walks for a symmetrical .333/.333/.333 line.

Hank Blalock hit .292/.292/.375 in 24 at-bats. That is five singles, two doubles and nothing else in particular.

Harmon Killebrew Award

Blalock’s teammate Andruw Jones had a small 14-at bat sample. But despite zero singles in those 14 at bats, he was very productive with two doubles, a home run, and three walks for a .214/.353/.571 line.

Steve Balboni Award

Jim Thome whiffed 10 times in 22 at bats, negating his home run and four walks with a .091/.231/.227 overall line. Juan Uribe had a similar week, minus the walks, going .208/.208/.333 with 11 strikeouts in 24 at-bats.

This week’s second dumbest thing ever

I watched a few minutes of Jim Rice’s press conference for his Hall of Fame induction. His remarks have made some headlines, notably his observation that metal bats keep young players from learning “fundamentals,” which he narrowly defined as hitting behind the runner and a willingness to sacrifice for the team. What stuck with me was his insistence that major league organizations don’t teach fundamentals anymore, but instead teach on-base percentage. My mind swarms with responses.

First off, I am curious whether Rice believes that he was inducted in the Hall this weekend because of his ability to ground out to second base or because of his peak as a first-rate home run hitter in the late ’70s.

Secondly, I am curious how the ability to get on base at a high rate and provide others with base runners to knock in could be thought of as anything other than a fundamental skill.

Third, I wonder if he really believes that teaching a good sac bunt and teaching the ability to work a walk are mutually exclusive within an organization.

Fourth, as a Royals fan, I feel ripped off since my favorite team seems incapable of teaching either of those skills.

Fifth, this is at least a little more understandable than Joe Morgan’s crusade against the guys with spreadsheets and calculators. At least the sabermetrics set was the core of the anti-Rice movement. The propeller heads often have said that Morgan is underrated by traditional analysis.

And lastly, I wonder how long it will take for somebody to Photoshop a graphic with Jim Rice yelling at those darned kids to stay off his lawn.

This week’s MVP

AL: Michael Young is having a resurgent year, hitting .313/.368/.497 and making me look foolish in the short term for doubting whether he would hit enough to be a positive contributor on an infield corner. His move to third base has been a huge positive for the Rangers defense, allowing Elvis Andrus to ply his trade where Young was a liability last year and putting Young at a position where he could be a solid performer defensively.

Young outdid himself this week, firing off a .500/.560/.864 line for Ron Washington’s troops while they were going 5-1 on the week.

NL: Andre Ethier smoked five doubles and two bombs, and drew five walks, good for a .545/.630/1.045 week.

Special interleague edition: Matt Holliday split his week between the East Bay Athletics and St Louis. He was probably the best player in baseball, going .556/.581/1.037 in 27 at-bats.

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Comments

  1. Geoffrey said...

    I’m pretty sure that Mark Buehrle’s response when asked about being the next potential 300 game winner, just after Randy Johnson won his was some thing along the lines of, “You’re kidding right? I don’t want to play that long”.

  2. Mike Eller said...

    John, thank you for bringing light to the Tim Tebow “controversy.” It’s a story like this that is making me slowly wean away from ESPN. Sometimes their stories become so bad that I feel like I mine as well be watching E! or the Style Network.

    Also, prediction: My boy Andy Marte will be your AL MVP next week.

  3. digglahhh said...

    Beating a dead horse alert:

    You what else is a fundamental skill that they don’t teach anymore? Serendipitously being drafted by a team that, by chance, plays in a ball park that happens to conform to your particular skill set, thereby egregiously inflating the perceived caliber of your own offensive prowess – but doing so in an era before it became particularly fashionable to scrutinize home/away stats or seek ballpark adjusted numbers. They just don’t teach kids how to do that anymore!

    Here’s an even better fundamental, embracing the label of “most feared” hitter of your day, even though it is based predominantly on a prejudiced racial archetype of the assertive, and sometimes surly black man, instead of any statistical evidence that may support the notion of being a “feared hitter.”

    Jim Rice, mean black man. Career IBBs, 77 in nearly 10K plate appearances (roughly similar to Robin Ventura). Led league, zero times. Number of seasons with OPS+ of 140 or higher : 4. Conclusion: Very feared.

    George Brett, all-American looking white guy (actually was kind of a jerk though). Career IBBs, 229 in approximately 2,500 more PAs. Led league twice.  Number of seasons with career OPS+ of 140 or higher: 10. Conclusion: Not so much.

    The only place in a baseball stadium where Jim Rice was more feared than George Brett is in the seat next to the daughter of a team Executive.

  4. Mike said...

    As a White Sox fan, Buehrle is my favorite player for a few things you mentioned and a few you didn’t.  He consistently works deep into ballgames which is a valuable skill in today’s game.  He always takes the ball every fifth day.  Most importantly he works fast.  As a fan who watches the whole game, this is so underrated.  Watching baseball is so much fun than watching the grass grow between pitches.  If you blinked, you missed his inning in the All Star game.  A few years back, I was at ganes that Buehrle and Freddy Garcia worked back to back.  You really appreciate Mark when watching Freddy wander around behind the mound after every pitch.  You can alos compare what Buehrle does with his stuff to what Javier Vazquez never managed to do with his.

    He may never win 20, strike out a guy an inning, win a Cy young or be a Hall of Famer, but if there was a Hall-of-the-very-good-for-a-long-time, he’d get in on the first ballot.

  5. digglahhh said...

    For the record, dlreed52, those characterizations of Rice were not mine, but a reiteration of the prevailing consensus of opinion by those charged with the responsibility of electing players to the HOF. Rice had something of a contentious relationship with the media, no? At the very least, he’s been portrayed as such.

    Now, none of that is necessarily material to his overall character. None of that means that he is mean, ill-tempered, lacking compassion or empathy. Simply, it only means that some members of the media may have held (quite possibly shortsighted or childish) grudges against Rice.

    Personally, I don’t think that Rice was a HOF-caliber ballplayer. It seems you do, and that is fine – that is just a difference of opinion, for which there is plenty of room. I was not, however, attempting to slander Rice’s character. I might be tempted to peg you as being overly sensitive because I don’t think any of that was all that unclear in my post.

    My comments about him being feared simply stem from the fact that the empirical evidence available that gives us clues to quantify an abstract quality such as “feared” is in stark contrast to the prevailing public perception. Why might this be?

    Certainly we’ve seen many instances in the past where semantics and racial stereotypes intersect. Guys who are referred to as “grinders” or “lunch-pail guys” are disproportionately white. Guys referred to as “sparkplugs” or “ignitors” are disproportionately Hispanic. White superstars are “hardworking;” black superstars are “athletic” and “gifted.”

    So, my point is that the fact that Jim Rice would likely be more “feared” by most of the media than George Brett would, say, on a desolate streetcorner at 1:00 AM, quite possibly influences the likelihood to which they will attribute the description of “feared” to him in any context. Fear is as much about perception as reality, and when the two diverge, people often unintentionally suggest rather poignant bits about themselves. How else do we reconcile the schism?

    I’ll try again, how often do you think the following group of hitters is/has been referred to as feared: Chipper Jones, Mark Teixeira, Lance Berkman, Todd Helton? Now, how about Vladimir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez, Juan Gonzalez, Frank Thomas? You think there’s any chance the former was referred to as “feared” more often than the latter?

    There’s very subtle, implicit, racial assoociations at work in the creation of Rice’s rep/myth as being uniquely fearsome. That’s all.

    My comment about the owner’s box was just a sarcastic dig at the overall dynamic. No reason I should be shamed about it; I’m just the metaphorical umpire here…

  6. Greg Simons said...

    digglahhh, I was pretty sure I read your comments as you explained that you intended them, and I’m glad you responded to dlreed52 to confirm that.  Very interesting insights regarding the use of the term “feared.”

  7. dlreed52 said...

    I was watching the Red Sox on television one afternoon in 1982 when I saw Jim Rice do something I’d not seen either in the fifteen years I’d been following the game or in all the seasons since.  Jim Rice, the former MVP and Hall of Fame outfielder whom digglahhh characterizes as a “mean black man” rescued a small child while everyone else in attendance that day sat frozen in fear and apprehension. 

    Jonathan Keane, then four years old, was attending the game with his father and brother when, in the fourth inning, he was struck by a line-drive foul off the bat of Red Sox shortstop Dave Stapleton. Rice, who’d been standing with one foot on the top step of the dugout, had followed the path of the ball and was trying to see where it had struck.  Reacting to the sound of the impact and the moan that came from the crowd, the big outfielder sprinted over to the stands with one thought he would recall:

    “My child,” he said. “Just someone, myself, just taking care of my child, picking my child up and taking him to the clubhouse.”

    He threw out his arms, picked up the injured boy and raced with him into the clubhouse where Red Sox physician Dr. Arthur Pappas made a quick examination of the boy before having him rushed by ambulance to nearby Children’s Hospital.

    Young Jonathan had suffered a serious skull fracture resulting in significant blood loss.  Fortunately, thanks to Rice’s swift response and the skilled care the boy received (which included some rather delicate surgery), he was able to return home five days later. Today, he lives, happy and well, in Raleigh, North Carolina where he works for an Internet concern.  The only lingering effects of the horrible accident that day at Fenway are a small scar on his forehead and his gratitude toward that “mean black man”: “He is somebody that saved my life, and I thank God for him being there.”

    No one denies that George Brett was a great ballplayer.  I doubt anyone would argue that he too was a feared hitter.  Indeed anyone would be a fool to argue against 3,154 hits lifetime and three batting titles (especially the latter two which were won without the assistance of indifferent Twins outfield play).

    But, digglahhh, to dismiss Jim Rice’s reputation as a feared hitter, a player who is surpassed in both the tandem categories of career average and home runs by only nine other retired major league players (Hank Aaron, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams) is as transparently specious as your utterly and unpleasantly wrongheaded contention that “The only place in a baseball stadium where Jim Rice was more feared than George Brett is in the seat next to the daughter of a team Executive (sic).”

    Shame on you!

    [A more complete account of Jim Rice’s rescue of Jonathan Keane may be found in the Gene Garber column of July 25, 2009 at ESPN.com (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hof09/columns/story?columnist=garber_greg&id=4353486)]

  8. dlreed52 said...

    Your response raises a number of points, digglahhh, so in the interest of clarity, I’ll address them separately.

    You suggest that I feel that Jim Rice is a Hall of Fame-caliber ballplayer and that’s correct but in some ways irrelevant to our discussion.  I’m what you might call an “inclusionist.”  I feel that the Hall of Fame serves as a repository for the game’s history and the more individuals it recognizes and commemorates, the better.  There are probably many players I would consider worthy of enshrinement that you would not.  This, as you say, is a difference of opinion and we’re both fine with that.

    As to Mr. Rice specifically, I myself have argued with other fans about his lack of a discerning eye at the plate, how he ranks very high on the Red Sox all-time list in so many offensive categories but has numbers nowhere near the top under such headings of “On-Base Percentage” and “Bases on Balls.”  And if pressed as to who was the better ballplayer, Brett or Rice, I would have to agree that Brett was even though their skill sets were very different indeed. Again, as an inclusionist, I would argue that there’s room for the two, very different types of hitter just as I would argue that a pitcher who won a high number of games through longevity—a Blyleven, Kaat, or John, for example—deserves the same consideration for the Hall of Fame as a pitcher who was dominant for a short period—a Koufax or Dizzy Dean, for instance. Once more, we may agree to disagree, and, again, this isn’t the crux of the issue I was addressing in my response.

    Another point I want to be absolutely clear about regarding Jim Rice is that while I would contend that he’s a viable candidate for Cooperstown, I would certainly not nominate him for sainthood.  Having followed his career closely, I read a lot of copy in which he was characterized as “surly” and “uncooperative.”  I’ve read accounts in which he was purported to have tried to intimidate people with his size and his glare. I’ve read remarks he made in which he demanded to be judged solely upon his numbers and in which he characterized his teammates as “colleagues” rather than “friends”—the latter statement flying in the face of the cherished myth of “team chemistry.”  I even know of one instance in which Rice was reported to have grabbed the forearm of a Red Sox employee, and because the gentleman suffered from eczema, his skin tore and bled. 

    Certainly none of this is particularly praiseworthy and some of it is worthy of censure only.  And yet, while it is true that in my own brief personal encounters with Jim Rice, I saw only a quiet and pleasant gentleman, both of these sides of Rice’s personality are equally beside the point. The crux of the issue is your interpretation of the term “feared hitter,” not the alleged “mean black man” who was certainly a “feared hitter” in his time.

    (To be continued)

  9. dlreed52 said...

    (Continued from previous post)

    Your discussion of race and semantics is a thoughtful one though I’m not inclined to agree with all of your points there either.  I believe the term “sparkplug” is applied to scrappy middle infielders who make up for their lack of power with on-base ability and speed.  Some of these players are Latino, yes, but the term has long been applied to generations of white players.  Eddie Stanky, Marty Barrett, and Ron Hunt come readily to mind.  And the nickname “The Ignitor” belongs specifically to Paul Molitor, a white fellow from St. Paul. 

    But let’s not put too fine a point on this discussion either.  We can agree that stereotypes have found their way into sports reporting and have shaped the reading public’s perception of ballplayers.  Willie Mays, for example, was one of the smartest ballplayers to ever lace on a pair of spikes, but writers used to gush about his being “a natural,” rather than the astuteness of his play afield.

    None of this is applicable to Rice’s reputation as a “feared hitter” any more than your rather curious notion “that Jim Rice would likely be more ‘feared’ by most of the media than George Brett would, say, on a desolate street corner at 1:00 AM.”  This strikes me as misinterpretation at best and projection at worst.  “Feared” in the context of “feared hitter” is Reggie Jackson in the late seventies saying that he’d have a better idea about the effectiveness of the Yankees pitching staff “once Dr. Rice and Dr. Lynn had had a chance to examine them.” It’s Whitey Herzog devising radical shifts to minimize the damage Rice would do against the Royals—a fairly common practice today but uncommon then.  It’s the intimidation factor engendered by watching Rice a Louisville Slugger made of ash (rather than maple) in two on a checked swing.  It’s the comments made by so many of his contemporaries that because of his combination of power and percentage (again, batting average and slugging percentage, not OBP) he was the one slugger in a lineup of sluggers, a in which the number eight hitter hit thirty homers (Butch Hobson, 1977), that you didn’t want to face.

    (But what about the absence of intentional passes I hear you cry—why did Brett get so many more than Rice?  The answer is simply because, in context, it wasn’t a particularly effective strategy.  When Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, he wasn’t walked intentionally even once.  Why?  Because to do so would mean that the pitcher would now have to face Mickey Mantle with a runner on base.  You walk Brett, you face Al Cowens.  You walk Rice, you face Yaz or Lynn or Scott or….  Eighth place hitters in the National League walk a lot too.  Respect is not the issue; the pitcher batting ninth is.)

    Finally, I do take issue with what you say are reiterations.  digglahhh, I don’t know you from a bucket of paint, and as such, I’m in no position to comment on you as a person—for instance, to peg you as insensitive just as you might be tempted to peg me as overly sensitive.  But I did read what you wrote and I found that very insensitive especially given that in your response you reveal yourself to be a thoughtful person. 

    Mark Twain once observed that “the history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.”  I would contend that your reiterations have the same effect as repeated slander: it really doesn’t matter that the opinions weren’t originally yours.  By repeating them, by reiterating them, and then by reinforcing them with what you term “a sarcastic dig at the overall dynamic,”  you extend their wretched lives.

    I wasn’t at your elbow when you wrote the piece. Maybe you were merely making an attempt at satire and it went awry.  Perhaps the somewhat vague context of the commentary on race was an attempt to bolster the tenuous connection between “fear in desolate places at one in the morning” with “feared hitter.” I really don’t know.  I do know your contentions were wrongheaded and I feel they were unpleasantly so.  I stand by both those opinions.  And if you’re not ashamed, then so be it.  I’ll be ashamed for you.

  10. digglahhh said...

    Thank you for the very thoughtful and insightful response. Regarding the “dig,” what can I say…  The medium is key; the internet is the home of snark. I’m snarky, blue, dry, sometimes distasteful, and sometimes hyperbolic. I’m more Will Leitch, less Buzz Bissinger.

    My being unapologetic for my remark is also rooted in what I’d presume is a differing opinion on how we (should) deal with the history of race within our society. I’m a little confused though as to what reiterations I shouldn’t have brought out – that Rice was considered mean? You don’t particularly contest that. That assertiveness is perceived as threatening quality when exhibited by a black man, but a sign of confidence and empowerment when exhibited by a white man? Jim Rice was absolutely more intimidating in the eyes of the media, and to man fellow players, than were many of his peers. What I’m questioning is the root of that intimidation.

    I’m also not sure what comments of mine have the same affect as repeated slander, considering I’m not really slandering anyone in particular. I’m making an (I would argue accurate) assessment of the less than refined views our society has about race. I’ll be happy to relegate them to the dustbin of my writing tools once our society, first, honestly recognizes them, and then attempts to rectify our practices and values. In other words, when Jim Rice feels he and George Brett are indistinguishable in matters more relevant to society than OBP, I’ll be more than happy to stop drawing attention to such issues.
    But, I do not want to turn this into a discussion about race, so I will digress here. 

    Your point about intentional walks and line-up protection is taken. Plate discipline is also an issue here, pitchers may have figured they could pitch around Rice and catch him fishing. That’s an unappreciated aspect of how Bonds was able to amass all those IBBs, by the way. Whatever you think of the man, it’s unquestionable that he had an all-time-y good batting eye. He wasn’t going to swing at anything out of the zone, so “pitching around him” only meant that you risked missing and giving him something crush. He wasn’t going to bite and weekly roll over a double-play grounder on a pitcher six inches off the plate no matter what – better off not risking it and just putting him on. Brett had a very good eye as well. I grant that IBBs are not the end-all-be-all of quantifying who was most feared (in the strict baseball hitting sense), but they can be a useful, though not complete, proxy.

    My perspective is that Rice’s offensive prowess was substantially exaggerated by his home park, and that his reputation as being uniquely feared within his era is a bit specious and a bit the product of some not-too-pretty implicit racial association. I don’t think he’s HOF-caliber. He’s certainly not the worst player to ever get inducted, and I don’t consider it some horrible injustice that he’s been. Though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that Rice being in while guys like Minoso, Blyleven, Santo, and Allen (a guy really hurt by racial issues and perceptions) being on the outside is hardly indicative of a pure meritocracy.

    And, I’m not going to take issue with you identifying yourself as an inclusionist. I respect that view. I wouldn’t consider myself a “small Hall” guy. I think the size of the HOF is about right, though I’d love the chance to swap, say, one out of every 10 guys for another. Is Rice even among the 10%, I’d most eagerly swap? Probably not.

    Once again, thanks for the incredibly civil and intelligent discussion, that’s a rarity nowadays. And, please, don’t take my snark as an attempt to be derisive.

  11. kds said...

    On the issue of measuring fear of a hitter with IBB’s; has anyone looked at the number of times the hitter ahead of Rice was walked to get to him?
    Given his very high GiDP rate I think this might have happened more than rarely.  If I were to try to invent a “fear” statistic I think I would use something like the ratio of a batters IBB’s to that of those batting directly in front of him, adjusted by the quality of those batting behind him.

  12. Dave Studeman said...

    kds, John Walsh wrote about that in the 2009 Annual.  He had a great article about how many times individual batters were “dissed,” meaning how many times they had batters intentionally walked before them, in the Retrosheet era.  No surprise, Jeff Kent led the list with 175 times.  Jim Rice was down the list, though he was still “dissed” 64 times, the same as Cal Ripken and one less than Willie McCovey.

  13. dlreed52 said...

    I appreciate the kind words, digglahhh, and I write these concluding remarks out of respect for your obvious intelligence and the diligence with which you’ve constructed and defended a hypothesis which, alas, I find utterly unconvincing.  I believe you have taken the phrase “feared hitter” out of its historical context and then, having assembled a collection of facts, each of which contains some large measure of truth, asserted that collectively these fact support a contention that the phrase “feared hitter” somehow pertains to race.  You write that you don’t want to “turn this into a discussion about race,” but you can’t un-ring a bell you’ve so resoundingly rung.

    Because I feel that the close proximity of a sequence of facts does not necessarily constitute a valid argument any more than a sequence of numbers necessarily comprises an equation, I have tried to offer evidence—admittedly without citations (which could be produced if I chose to spend the time—e.g., “I think Jim Rice does belong in the Hall of Fame,” Gossage said. “No hitter scared me, but Jim Rice came the closest.” 1/8/2008—Associated Press story “Gossage voted into baseball Hall; Rice just misses”)—of the color-blind, historical context in which Jim Rice was considered a “feared hitter.”

    Possibly my view is naive and my evidence superficial, but it has the advantage of being fact-based.  Yours may possibly be a more penetrating insight, but it’s based on inference, contemporary wisdom, and wee-hour desolate street corner fantasias.  I need facts, sir, not conjecture, if I am to be convinced.

    Having said that,  I hereby rest my case against your premise. 

    As to your style, which you characterize as “snarky, blue, dry, sometimes distasteful, and sometimes hyperbolic,” I will only say that on the whole I find it pleasantly literate save for the one unfortunate remark—the “dig” already discussed.  My umbrage at that remark may be simply a case of a difference in sensibilities.  That being so I’ve decided to make a copy of our discourse and store it for future reference.

    The older I get the one certainty I seem to have (aside from Mr. Franklin’s constants of death and taxes) is that I need to constantly re-examine those thing about which I’m absolutely sure.  It’s possible that a few years down the road, I may see things differently.  I rather doubt it though—but we can chalk that up to my own brand of snarkiness, snarky in the sense of being “crotchety” and “snappish” as compared to “sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone.”

    With best regards to you and to all the readers of this blog, I surrender the field to further examinations of IBBs and GIDPs….

  14. John M Barten said...

    In relation to evaluating whether a guy is worthy of election to the HOF, I really don’t care about personality or any percieved effect it had on his performance. Being the most intimidating hitter isn’t important as far as I am concerned. The only thing that matters to me is the end result of his play. If that intimidation didn’t translate into results, then it isn’t relevant.

    In terms of his personality off the field, I don’t really care about that good or bad in relation to the HOF and evaluation of him as a player. Him taking care of an injured kid is a nice side story, but only that.

    I think one thing we really should shy away from is relying on beat writers to shape our perception of players and their personalities because they are self-serving voices. Rice had the reputation of being a jerk mainly because writers felt like he was aloof and uncooperative. Even without the above story, we shouldn’t really hold it against players when they don’t feel like being Dan Shaughnessy’s bestest friend in the whole wide world. I have more to say about the personality fixation in sportswriting that I’ve been carrying around for a while now. I need to weave it into something coherent to throw in a column.

    In terms of actually putting Rice in the hall, I am and was against it on the merits of his play. I could accept the view that he belongs in based on a more inclusive philosophy, but I would hope that that person would now committing him or herself to advocating for players who are better candidates than Rice, like Santo, Blyleven, Trammell, and Raines.

    And thanks for the discussion. It has been a fun read. I say time and time again that my readers are a lot smarter than I am. This is more evidence.

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