Played around with Google Forms and came up with a little five-question poll about Hall of Fame and fun.
My friend Tom Tango has more ideas than he can keep up with. One of those ideas is something he calls the Indis — to be pronounced IN-dees. The idea is that the name would sound like the nickname everyone used for Indiana Jones. The logo for the Indis is the Indiana Jones hat. I have told Tom that The Indis would look better from a purely superficial perspective if he called them the Indees or even the Indys. So far, I have not convinced him.
Indis is shorts for Individualized Won-Loss records, and it is something that he came up with years ago. He described it like so: “I have a simple method to convert Wins Above Replacement (WAR) into an individualized Won-Loss record for each player, such that the sum of the players’ individual Won-Loss records on a team will match that team’s Won-Loss record.”
Simple, right? I can give you a basic (and only a basic — I’m not very smart) explanation for how he does it.
I’ve been wanting to say something about the Baseball Hall of Fame … and I worry that I will not quite hit the point and it will come out like I’m saying something else. Here goes anyway: The last few years, the Hall of Fame process has — more than ever, I think — become a comparative process.
That is to say, more and more players become eligible for the Hall of Fame and we compare the players to those who are already in the Hall of Fame. This is explicitly what Jay Jaffe does with his superb JAWS system. He uses WAR to compare a player’s career value and his peak value against the average Hall of Famer. JAWS has become very, very important in how people think about the Hall of Fame.
And that’s good. But it isn’t just JAWS. Every player who comes up for the Hall vote is at some point compared to Hall of Famers … and, to be clear here, so there is no mistake, NOBODY does this more than I do. I probably have spent half my lifetime word supply comparing Dan Quisenberry and Bruce Sutter, Tim Raines and Tony Gwynn, Luis Tiant and Catfish Hunter, Edgar Martinez and numerous Hall of Famers, on and on. I love doing this. I will not stop doing this. I intend to do this later in THIS VERY STORY.
So, again, please don’t miss the point of what I’m trying to say here.
What I’m trying to say is if we focus too much of our efforts on comparing players we end up missing something crucial.
Every player must cut his own path to the Hall of Fame.
Some Browns games are more “fun” to write about than others. I put “fun” in quotation marks because none of them are fun to write about. But some are at least funny or quirky or maddening or emotional. The last two weeks, the Browns have lost convincingly and uninterestingly to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals. These were toothache games where the Browns did some “quote-unquote” good things and sort-of, kind-of, maybe-but-not-really had a chance to win the fourth quarter if this had gone right and that had gone wrong and Superman had come and whatever.
These two games were complete wastes of time, really. The Browns weren’t going to win either, and the good signs don’t add up to anything, and people are muttering the same nonsense about them not quitting and forget all that. Let’s do some math instead.
The two worst days on the calendar to get a kidney stone, I can tell you, are:
- Every other day including Thanksgiving (tie).
Yes, OK, 3:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning I woke up to that awful thing, the kidney stone pain, and any of you who have gone through it know that it’s not super pleasant. I spent the last three days drinking lots of water, fighting off the various waves of agony and nausea while waiting for this thing to pass. There is really not much to add about the pain of kidney stones other than to say that if you happen to watch the Lawrence Taylor leg-snapping sack of Joe Theismann when you’re in the midst of a kidney stone attack, you think: “I’d trade for that.”
For a few years now, Bill James has had a problem with WAR. He has mostly stayed quiet on this because, well, he knows that he’s Bill James. He remembers how the people who held the power in baseball punched down hard on him as a young analyst. He has some power now, being a legend and one of Time Magazine’s most influential people and the Godfather of Moneyball and a three-time World Series winner with the Boston Red Sox. He does not want to punch down hard at the young analysts today. He absolutely wants to encourage people to advance baseball thought.
But, like I say, he has a real problem with WAR. And Thursday night, armed with strong feelings about the Jose Altuve-Aaron Judge MVP race, Bill let it rip.
Baseball Reference never stops improving, which is one of the reasons I love the place. The searches keep getting better. It gets easier and easier all the time to find cool stuff. Love it.
But I have to admit: dWAR baffles me.
dWAR is Baseball Reference’s “Defensive Wins Above Replacement.” It is such a convenient concept — a one-stop number that estimates how much value above replacement level a player brings with his defense — that I look at it all the time. But, like Inigo says in the movie, I don’t think it means what we think it means.
Take Keith Hernandez. Please.
It is an odd thing to give up football. For the first 50 or so years of my life (and especially the first 30 or so years of my life as a sportswriter), football governed my autumns. Every fall weekend, I had to go — physically go sometimes, yes, but more often mentally and emotionally go — to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Foxboro, Massachussetts., to Manhattan, Kansas, to Oakland, to Austin, to Cincinnati, to Ann Arbor, to Athens, to East Rutherford, to Pasadena, to wherever the kickoffs mattered most.
All those years, I could not imagine life without football. The sport was as much a part of me as the music I listened to, the books I read, the friends I made, the air I breathed.
“It’s the Cleveland Browns
When they’re Siped up, you can’t shut ’em down
Take your tranquilizers, pop your beer-can lids
It’s the Kardiac Kids.”
That is the chorus of a novelty song from my childhood, a song called “The Kardiac Kids,” by Messenger. It came out in Cleveland in 1980 when the Browns had a semi-magical season, and I probably hear that chorus in my head once or twice a month. It’s like that gum commercial in “Inside Out.” I expect to hear it in my head for the rest of my life.
–“The Browns haven’t given up. You have to credit them for that.”
Announcer Trent Green with 4:58 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.
“I agree with not calling a timeout here. They’re down two touchdowns … just get out of here.”
Announcer Trent Green with 1:12 left in game and Browns down two touchdowns.
* * *
Trent Green is an old pal, so I’m not singling him out here. This is what you get when you watch Cleveland Browns football*. One minute, the announcer is overwhelmingly impressed by how the Browns just don’t quit. They next minute, the announcer advising the Browns to, yeah, go ahead and quit before someone else gets hurt. It’s a Browns life.
*Honestly, why would you do that to yourself?