Q&A with the Los Angeles Daily News’ Tom Hoffarth

The Los Angeles Daily News‘ Tom Hoffarth may provide more coverage of the baseball book beat than anyone else in the mainstream media. Because of The Cooperstown Casebook‘s release date, I missed getting into his annual “30 Baseball Books in 30 Days” roundup back in April — now in its 10th year, which means that he’s logged 300 reviews under that umbrella — but thanks to his interest, I made sure we could do something. The result is a two-part Q&A. From part one at the Daily News:

Sports Illustrated writer Jay Jaffe won’t get to cast his first ballot in the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process until 2021, the mandatory 10-year wait after he became a member of the Baseball Writers of America Association while employed with the Baseball Prospectus.

The irony is his one vote won’t nearly have the same impact as all the research he has processed for Hall deciders spanning the last two decades.

In his latest and greatest public voting manual… Jaffe has no designs of ending enlightened argument that funnels into the imperfect media selection process.

As Tim Raines benefits from new-age data that will get him inducted on July 30 along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez, Jaffe explains the intent of his project that started with a measuring tool he created called JAWS – Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score – and hopefully continues with some common sense and historical perspective

From part two at Hoffarth’s blog:

Q: If we take the book title as a statement rather than a headline, are we advocating the Hall of Fame membership that has voted over the last 70-something years needs a do-over? Could we wipe everything clean and pick 325 players in one massive re-election?

A: That’s a bit of a red herring. I don’t advocate we remove anyone. If you ask me about players who don’t belong, sure, I could start with Tommy McCarthy (outfielder inducted in 1946) or some others that are listed as “dubious” in the book. But I spent my time on this book actually trying to understand why those guys that I’d kick out are in, and how they got in, and what they did bring to the game. It’s too late to evict anyone. No one should pack their plaques. It’s all part of the game’s history and how our definitions of what a Hall of Famer changes. There’s nothing set in stone. After the original five went in (in 1939 – Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Ty Cobb), we may have had stars of the game but there was a dearth of statistical information. No Baseball Encyclopedia to compare guys or even for player to know where they stood. If players like Sam Crawford (elected in 1957 with 2,961 hits) or Al Simmons (elected in 1953 with 2,927 hits) knew they were short of 3,000 hits, maybe they would have played longer to achieve that, but maybe they weren’t aware of those milestones. Interpretations change. Now we compare players better and we should just do a better job of choosing going forward. We have better tools to examine careers.


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