No Homers Club

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Sometimes the attempt to rectify a problem creates a far bigger problem than the original. Take Andrew Raycroft starting for the Maple Leafs, Gary Cherone singing for Van Halen, or pretty much the entire history of the War on Drugs. This was the situation this week when Baseball Writers Association of America took the bold move of entering 1995 by admitting web-based writers such as Ken Rosenthal and Buster Olney (They already have the website to match. Is that Geocities?). The Raccoon Lodge, as Michael Lewis memorably dubbed them in that book that Billy Beane wrote, extended the honours of front row press box seats, all the hot dogs you can snarf, and the right to give the MVP to the third-best player on the Minnesota Twins to 16 of 18 writers nominated.

And that's when the shit hit the fan.

The excluded writers, Rob Neyer and former JP henchman Keith Law, are two of the more prominent web-based columnists out there (especially Neyer). After their exclusion, there was much speculation that the two were being excluded because of their penchant for sabermetric analysis and their willingness to criticize other writers.

I won't get into all the inside-baseball details (you can follow the links to read them all), but basically Neyer appeared in a Baseball Think Factory thread, and criticized the decision to exclude Law. Law, on his blog, blamed Tracy Ringolsby for blackballing him. A poster called ballfan called Law a liar, and took a shot at Neyer for once criticizing a book on Amazon using a pseudonym. ballfan, was quickly unmasked as... Tracy Ringolsby. Neyer's jubilation was short-lived, however, as Law emerged from the back and shockingly turned on Neyer, putting him in the Regression to the Mean while Ringolsby waved his cowboy hat in joy. All in all, it sets up a hellacious six-man slobberknocker at No Way Out.

Joe Posnanski, probably the best sportswriter in America right now, interviewed BBWAA prez Bob Dutton on his blog. Dutton basically argued that Neyer and Law were rejected because the association's mandate is to advocate for conditions and access at ballparks. Since it was established (through contact with a shadowy, unnamed ESPN higher-up) that Law and Neyer don't attend enough games, they got the kibosh.

No disrespect to Dutton, who seems like a standup guy caught in a tough situation, this has the ring of making up excuses after the fact. Clearly, this advocacy is not the only thing the BBWAA does - and I doubt that including these two is going to hamper it in any way. I can't see a flannel-pajama clad Neyer on his couch, chatting with Bud Selig: "Sure, Bud, cut the press box at Miller Park in half. I only watch games on Extra Innings! MWAHAHAHA!"

And of course, there are lots of other things the Raccoon Lodge does, ie the stuff the public gives a monkey's about, that Law and Neyer would really help improve. Furthermore, the "you have to go to lots of games" canard is really exposed by a look at the Canadian roster, which apparently includes veteran mitten-stringers like Larry Millson, Bob Elliott, Jeff Blair, and.... Aislin?!?!? Yes, the guy who does the cartoons for the Montreal Gazoo has a Hall of Fame vote. I'm sure he's a fan, but I doubt he makes it to a lot of games these days. And the suggestion that he's more qualified than Rob Neyer is insane.

These types of issues will only become more common as the Internet takes more and more eyeballs away from print media; another example is the press box access some NHL clubs have granted to bloggers this season. The BBWAA could have gone some ways towards bridging the divide, but instead have come off as a petty, out-of-touch old-boys club that couldn't organize a piss-up in a brewery. Plus ca change...


Paul D said:

Great summary of the events. There's definitely something fishy going on though... apparently, the logic is this: The BBWAA asks ESPN to submit names for consideration. They look at the names, someone complains that Law and Neyer shouldn't be on the list, so they... what, go back to ESPN, which just submitted the name, and said "Wait, what, really? Are you sure.... like, really really really sure? Doesn't Neyer live in Portland? Come on!". And then, the un-named ESPN employee, who is apparently not the editor who originally submitted their names, says "Uhh... yeah, you're right. Hell, they don't even pay for Extra Innings, we do! Screw those guys".

Varry Galk said:

On the one hand, Neyer is one of the foremost baseball thinkers who absolutely deserves a say in the award voting. On the other, I can get why an organization would be somewhat cheesed by the thought of admitting someone who has devoted millions of printed words to treating that very organization with scorn and condescension (even if almost always deserved).

Law likely lost some journalistic cred when he breathlessly "reported" that Vernon told the Jays he was not going to re-sign with the club. I guess everyone's entitled to a Berger moment.

I'm just glad that the watchful, uncompromising glare of Cox Bloc is finally off David Suzuki.

Godd Till said:

So, you're saying that Kim and I shouldn't hold our breath waiting for those Lou Marsh votes?

As for Law, there are a lot of people on the list less qualified than him, that rarely ever write about baseball, or do it terribly (hello, Jay Mariotti).

The full list of members has been released for the first time ever... I'll try to post on it today or tomorrow.

Varry Galk said:

Hey, Grimace answered your Molitor question!

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This page contains a single entry by Godd Till published on December 10, 2007 8:23 PM.

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