Thursday, September 14, 2006

Voices of Reason and Conjecture

1. The New Republic's Sacha Zimmerman defends the new race-segregated season of Survivor, which premieres tonight. The article is full of good points. This is the first season of Survivor since the second one that I plan to watch.

2. ESPN.com's Bill Simmons proposes a tiered Hall of Fame for the various major sports. It's an interesting idea, but I fear that it would just lead to more lax standards. All sorts of marginal guys would get in with the justification that "well, they'll only be on the first tier," and there will be a gradual relaxation of standards for the tiers. Babe Ruth is a top-tier guy, but where is Lou Gehrig? 3rd tier? 2nd tier? Maybe the tragic ALS angle will push him up to 1st or 2nd tier, and then we'd have to compare his numbers against all the other 3rd-tier HOF guys, like, I dunno, Rod Carew or Al Kaline. Eventually it trickles down and the next thing you know Kirby Puckett and Bruce Sutter are in the 3rd tier while good-but-not-HOF-quality ballplayers like Dave Kingman or Brett Butler start filling in the vacant 4th or 5th-tier spots. Better to have one set of standards to argue about than five sets. All told, I think the baseball Hall of Fame does the best job of not making mistakes, mainly by being very selective. Still, I can't think of a logical explanation why Bert Blyleven and Goose Gossage don't have plaques in Cooperstown.

2 Comments:

At Friday, September 15, 2006 at 11:41:00 AM PDT, Blogger Ryan said...

Gehrig has to be a tier 1 guy under any reasonable tiered system. I've heard Simmons pitch before, and to some degree I agree with him. Ryne Sandberg and Willie Mays were not in the same class; Clemens and Gaylord Perry, ditto. It would make for interesting discussions.

Can't say I buy TNR's Survivor argument, either. Remember, this is Survivor's response to the critique that they don't have enough minority contestants.

 
At Friday, September 15, 2006 at 1:17:00 PM PDT, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Well, how big is your first tier? Remember, there's about 220 HOF players, (about 150 batters and 70 pitchers not named George H. Ruth) five tiers, and presumably each tier is smaller than the one below it. So how do we divvy it up, 10 1st-tier, 20 2nd tier, 35 3rd-tier, 60 4th-tier, and about 100 5th-tier?

Baseball-reference.com has 4 different indices to rank Hall-worthiness. HOF Monitor has Gehrig 6th among eligible batters. HOF Career Standards has Gehrig tied for 9th. Black Ink has him at 10th. Gray Ink has him at 13th. Figure about 2-to-1 batters-to-hitters, and only one of those systems has him in the top ten of all eligible players; the others would put him securely in the 2nd tier.

But here's the thing: one of those systems tells us there's a legitimate argument to be made that Gehrig belongs in the first tier. OK, well, another of those systems tells us that Frank Robinson and Sam Crawford are to be ranked higher than Gehrig. OK, so maybe they're first-tier players, too. Back to our first system, though, Sam Crawford is ranked way down at #119 (eligible and non). That throws it all out of whack, but hey look, Frank Robinson is #30 there. So geez, there's all sorts of people you can compare and say deserve to be at a certain rank.

And that's just arguing about the 1st tier. How, exactly, do we set the standards for the 4th vs. 5th tiers? Anybody in the Hall who wasn't a blatant mistake has an argument to be made for putting him in the 4th tier. And really, who's going to vote against getting a HOF-worthy player off of the bottom tier?

It'll be like grade inflation. Sure, at the beginning, half of the guys in the Hall will be in the 5th tier. But eventually the "average" HOFer will want to be in the "average" third tier. And that leaves the bottom tiers wide open.

Re: Survivor. Did you watch the show last night? I think the only previous network shows with this many Asians have been All-American Girl and Banzai. Splitting the teams up by race certainly brings ethnicity into the foreground, but I don't see anything inherently offensive about that.

 

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