James’ transition from iconoclastic and groundbreaking baseball analyst to whatever he is now has not been smooth. The set of skills he had that made him so good in that role and so influential to so many people have not served James as well now that the movement he has started has now become part of the mainstream of baseball analysis. Questioning everything, and not believing any conventional wisdom was a great way to reinvent statistical understanding of baseball 30 years ago, but that approach has failed James badly now.
Therefore, what is at stake in Hall of Fame voting is how the game’s history gets passed down from one generation to another. This is further complicated by the vague and differing definitions of what makes a Hall of Famer, specifically the relationship between narrative and numbers in evaluating players. Jim Rice, for example, got an increase in support because of his great 1978 season and the false, but broadly accepted narrative that he was the most feared hitter of his generation.
Ron Santo will appear on the Veteran’s Committee ballot for the Hall of Fame this year and has a good chance to be elected. Should Santo win election, it will be the second year in a row in which a favorite of more quantitatively oriented fans and writers will have been elected to the Hall of Fame. This will be good news for Lou Whitaker, Tim Raines and others. If I had a vote, I would also support the late Santo who was one of the best third baseman in the game when he was playing, is still among the very best ever to play that position and was a beloved announcer and community figure in Chicago during his post-playing days.
One possible area worth exploring is different ways of using left-handed throwing players. For most of the history of modern baseball, left-handed throwing big leaguers have only been pitchers, outfielders, first baseman and designated hitters. Obviously, many left-handed throwers rank among the greatest ball players ever including hitters like Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial and pitchers like Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn. However, it is still possible that by restricting the use of left-handed players, teams are missing a possible strategic advantage.
The Giants have won the World Series bringing the championship to San Francisco for the first time ever! When Buster Posey caught the third strike on Nelson Cruz, a journey which began with my mother dropping off me, my brother and our friend Charles, who back then was known as Tony, on the corner of Clay and Van Ness in San Francisco sometime in the mid 1970s, ended in a hotel room in Tbilisi, Georgia more than 30 years later. Those spring and summer mornings, my mother would give each of us seven dollars-three for a ticket in the upper reserved section of old Candlestick Park, the remainder was for bus fare and food. When the bus driver was in a good mood and only charged fifty cents for the ballpark express, there was plenty left over for hot dogs, soda, popcorn and ice cream, but if the driver charged two dollars or more, it made for a hungry day at the ‘Stick.