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January 12, 2014

BP Unfiltered

Nominations Needed For The Hall Of Famously Weak Arguments

by Ken Funck

You just can’t get it out of your head, can you?

That ridiculous baseball argument your friend just made, or you read on some blog, or you heard on sports radio or television. An argument that is so clearly, demonstrably false you never imagined it would ever be necessary to argue the other side of it. An argument supported by the type of flawed reasoning that causes our old friend Steven Goldman to recommend that you “tap out, call a cab, walk away.” And worst of all, an argument that is being made not by just one temporarily logic-resistant human specimen on one unfortunate occasion, but by a large group of people, and frequently.

For me, Hall of Fame voting season seems to bring out the worst of these, so two Januarys ago I started my very own “Hall of Famously Weak Arguments” to document and honor the most unsupportable, cringe-inducing baseball opinions of them all. I deputized the BP readership as honorary members of the BBWAA—Baseball Weak Argument Arbiters—and put you all to work nominating and voting on the foundational class of logically unsound baseball canards. We identified and discussed no fewer than 15 nominees, and voted in these five:

  1. “You can’t know how good he was unless you saw him play.”
  2. “He’s one of only a small number of players to reach this (random collection of stat thresholds).”
  3. “Slow players that draw walks merely clog the bases.”
  4. “He’s a winner!”
  5. “Sabermetrics takes all the fun out of the game.”

Those five are all no-doubters, but there are plenty more deserving candidates out there. It’s time to give a few of them their due and, in the process, perhaps achieve some level of catharsis over of this year’s HOF debate. So consider this a call for nominations. Please let me know the worst baseball arguments you’ve heard—not limited to the Hall of Fame—either in the comments below, or by e-mail to kenfunck@gmail.com. I’ll take a few of the holdovers from last time, add in a few that our staff find particularly objectionable, put together a ballot, write up a few arguments for and against each entry, and give you the opportunity to vote in a new class. Or not—maybe all but one of you will decide to send in blank ballots as a form of ironic protest, and the only actual vote I’ll get will read “Armando Benitez.” It’s all up to you.

Ken Funck is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ken's other articles. You can contact Ken by clicking here

24 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Peter Benedict

The worst I heard today: "His defense wasn't very good, that's why his team never won". This was supporting a "Mike Piazza doesn't belong in the Hall" argument.

Jan 12, 2014 20:22 PM
rating: 2
 
Probably Handsome

If you support Player A’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame, despite his PED use, you must also support Player B’s candidacy because Player B also used PEDs.

Jan 12, 2014 20:52 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

To make sure I understand, the bad argument you're describing is that you have to vote for Sammy Sosa if you vote for Barry Bonds, despite the fact that Bonds clearly put up HOF numbers, while Sosa ... not quite so much.

Jan 13, 2014 09:36 AM
 
Probably Handsome

Yes, or some variation of that.

Jan 13, 2014 13:33 PM
rating: 0
 
bossfan101

He pitches to the score.

Jan 12, 2014 22:00 PM
rating: 1
 
Eddie Bajek

Most wins of the 80's is one that's been beaten to death.

Jan 13, 2014 04:31 AM
rating: 1
 
Llarry

I would generalize this to "Most of the 's", since usually the stat chosen is cherry-picked, and the decade is arbitrary.

Jan 13, 2014 07:46 AM
rating: 1
 
Llarry

Argh, that was supposed to be "Most 'whatever' of the 'whenever's"

Jan 13, 2014 07:47 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

This is similar to the cherry-picked "the only player to reach this arbitrary list of statistical plateaus", but perhaps it's distinct enough to merit its own entry.

Jan 13, 2014 09:38 AM
 
danteswitness

I think it is distinct enough if only because it is even lazier than the usual cherry-picked stat nonsense.

Jan 13, 2014 10:26 AM
rating: 1
 
Randy Brown
(189)

How about "He played in an era where people cheated (which is every era, but I digress), so I am going to treat him the same as I would a known cheater. Even though I have no proof, anecdotal evidence, or reasonable or unreasonable suspicion that the player in question was actually a cheater."

Jan 13, 2014 05:48 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Does it differ to you if "treating the same" is inclusive/positive instead of exclusive/negative? My take on the PED thing has generally been that I can never know who did/didn't use and when they did/didn't use, so I treat them all the same--it becomes irrelevant to me when deciding value/greatness/Hall-worthiness. My guess is that you're chafing against treating everyone like a cheater and thus excluding them (e.g., the Gurnick ballot), but is it just as wrong to assume they all might be cheaters and thus not disqualify anyone (e.g., the mythical Funck ballot)?

Jan 13, 2014 09:46 AM
 
Randy Brown
(189)

Yes, a bias toward 'don't disqualify anybody' or a bias toward 'disqualify everyone' are different things in my book.

If a voter wants to disqualify someone with actual links to PEDs, I'm not going to get too worked up about it. But if the HoF vote is being used to reward both excellence on the field and absence of PED taint, I think withholding that reward from a clean player is a far larger injustice than granting that reward to a suspected player. In my eyes, punishing the innocent is not a morally defensible mechanism for making certain that the guilty remain unrewarded.

Jan 13, 2014 10:30 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

Any argument that places definite end points on the PED era. Double negative bonus points if the argument concludes that the PED era is over.

Jan 13, 2014 06:48 AM
rating: 1
 
PeterCollery

You shouldn't steal second, even if its a gimme, with a great hitter at the plate since that opens up a base for the intentional walk.

[If the defensive team thought that they were better off with the runner at second and the great hitter at first, they'd have walked him anyway. By walking him after you steal, they're making the best of a bad situation.]

Jan 13, 2014 08:14 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

Wow. I'm embarrassed to admit that I never really thought about it that way, but I think you're probably right. Unless you yourself are convinced that the RE of man on first with Casey at the bat is higher than (n*(RE of men on first and second with Sub-Casey at the bat) + (1-n)*(RE of bases empty with another out recorded)), where n is the perceived percentage chance of a successful steal. It's amazing how good managers are at math.

Jan 13, 2014 09:58 AM
 
PeterCollery

That would be the argument for not stealing, but that's not what you hear. People treat the steal itself as harmful to your prospects.

Jan 13, 2014 10:45 AM
rating: 0
 
kozysnacker

You DO NOT talk about Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and greenies in the same sentence.

Jan 13, 2014 10:13 AM
rating: 0
 
kcboomer

"He did the little things."

"He was better than (name of incredibly weak HoF VC selectee) so he should be in also."

"He had that one great game."

Jan 13, 2014 15:17 PM
rating: 1
 
John Collins
(110)

He was as good as Hall of Famer so-and-so (who was one of the worst mistakes the HOF made). "Tom Henke was as good as Bruce Sutter, so..."; "Jamie Moyer was as good as Waite Hoyt, so..."

Jan 13, 2014 17:59 PM
rating: 1
 
Scott Slezak

He was the most feared hitter of his generation.

Jan 13, 2014 20:07 PM
rating: 1
 
PeterCollery

Wait - are you saying that Jim Rice *doesn't* belong in the HOF?

Jan 14, 2014 07:20 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Ken Funck
BP staff

This is a holdover from our vote two years ago, and will definitely be on the ballot.

Jan 14, 2014 10:51 AM
 
godfather

"He never was the best player on his own team..."
This one is exemplary of those who need categories to register a vote. So anyone on Ruth's teams is out? Absurd. And yes, seeing can be believing, and should be. What the baseball writers concentrate on is how not to make themselves look like tools, but they are often trapped in stats, which are part of the game, but not its be-all, end-all. Looking for things a player didn't accomplish is an escape. These tools owe Morris an apology, as well as Whitaker and Trammel and some others...

Jan 28, 2014 11:03 AM
rating: 0
 
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