Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Et Tu, Brutus?

The Hartford Courant - Jeff Bagwell's home newspaper - has a columnist named Jeff Jacobs, who apparently is a voting member of the BBWAA and wonders if the chore is "worth the hassle."

About Our Boy Jeff Bagwell:
Based on numbers alone, Bagwell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame...

...We have seen tens of players like Bagwell blow up from a skinny 20 to a cartoon 35. We have seen tens of players like Bagwell break down physically in their late 30s. I will never vote for Rafael Palmeiro or Mark McGwire, not in 15 lifetimes, but I also don't want to be part of any witch hunt. I only want to play the percentages...

...I have wanted to wait a few years to see if anything surfaced. To watch ESPN, Yahoo!, New York Daily News, the Texas media — someone with the resources and vigor — put Bagwell in its headlights and see if he emerges clean. I have no intentions of making him wait forever. I will wait another year or two.

To recap:

*By the standards of baseball, Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer.
*But Bagwell played with Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire.
*So this writer will wait until someone with enough time, money, and desire decides to put Bagwell on trial for PED use (something of which Bagwell was never officially linked).
*If no one does so, and soon, he'll just go ahead and vote for him.

This has to be one of the laziest arguments I've ever heard in not voting for a player. "By the numbers," Bagwell is a Hall of Famer. By the character clause, too, actually, Jeff Bagwell is a Hall of Famer, because he has never been linked to the use of PEDs. There have been whispers, even flat-out, undeveloped accusations, about Bagwell. But a whisper isn't admissible in a court of law. Which is exactly what the Hall of Fame is not.

Jonah Keri sums it up:
We believe ourselves to be experts, able to pinpoint when a player supposedly started using, exactly how much benefit he gained, and how we should thus evaluate his numbers. With players like Jeff Bagwell, the pseudo-analysis goes a step further, with hordes of writers declining to vote Bagwell into the Hall of Fame because he had big muscles, and some other players of his era were caught using, so … well … you know.

Jeff Jacobs is a prime example of why this Michael Rosenberg column is spot on:
It was probably always wrong for the media to determine the news with its award votes, but now it is ridiculous. We're not just creating news; we're creating controversies. Why should we be the judge and jury for every ballplayer? It is one thing for columnists (like me) to express opinions about what Braun did, did not do, or should have done. It's quite another for us to officially validate or void a player's achievements.

The purpose of becoming a sportswriter or columnist is to have an opinion. What Jacobs has done is to shy away from that role, let others do the work, and then pass judgment on other journalists' - the ones with "resources and vigor" - work.