Baseball Writers Flame Warz

Let's set this flame war up. I first read the news story on Fire Joe Morgan. Apparently,

"Eighteen web writers were nominated for membership in the Baseball Writers Association of America... Sixteen of the eighteen writers got in. Not bad, huh? But wait: who were the two unluckies who didn't quite cut the baseball-flavored mustard? None other than Rob Neyer and Keith Law, two men of reason." - Fire Joe Morgan

"Sixteen of the 18 nominations were recommended for approval: Scott Miller from CBS Sportsline; Jim Caple, Jerry Crasnick, Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian, Amy Nelson, Buster Olney, and Jayson Stark from ESPN; Ken Rosenthal from FoxSports; John Donovan, Jon Heyman, and Tom Verducci from SI; and Tim Brown, Steve Henson, Jeff Passan, and Dan Wetzel from Yahoo." - The Baseball Analysts

So to summarize: Keith Law and Rob Neyer, two of the most sound baseball writers out there will not be able to vote for MLB Awards, nor be granted access to press boxes, etc.

The response is unsurprisingly against the BBWAA. Many have figured that this is just another example of the old boys club excluding the new faction of intelligent writers who actually use data to back up their analysis, and basically are equipped to write some scathing articles that sometimes, piss off the old folks who are part of the ol' fightin' regime.

According to the head of the BBWAA, Bob Dutton, the BBWAA contacted ESPN and were told that attending live games were not integral to Law's and Neyer's writing, and that neither hardly attend live games at all... because of this, and being a main reason to be a part of the BBWAA, Law and Neyer were excluded.

Keith Law has his own thoughts and put them up on his personal blog. And it's pretty good reading. Writes Law:

First and foremost is that yes, I do attend MLB games on a regular basis. I couldn’t do my playoff advance reports without actually going to see the teams play live; on the season’s final Saturday, I hopped in the car and drove from Boston to Philly because I hadn’t seen the Phillies play and wanted to get at least two games with them before writing them up. I’m not even sure why this was in question, since I mention being at games all the time. (Seriously, did they think that I sat at home and pointed the radar gun at the television?) I watch games from the scouts’ section, not the press box, because the view is better, and I usually eat before going to the park, not in the press dining room, because the food is better.

Second, Bob Dutton, the president of the BBWAA, has said this:

Some board members informally contacted folks at ESPN with this question and were told neither Rob nor Keith regularly attend big-league games and do not need to do so in order to do their jobs.

To the best of my knowledge, this isn’t accurate. Jack O’Connell, the secretary of the BBWAA, has my full contact info (including cell phone #), and he has the contact info for the baseball editor, who submitted the list of nine names. Neither Jack nor anyone else on the seven-member committee contacted me or the baseball editor to ask if I attended big-league games regularly. We were also both in Nashville in the hotel at the time of the meeting, but again, we weren’t contacted. In fact, we can’t figure out who the board members “informally contacted” at ESPN, because there was no one else with the authority to speak about Rob and myself. I have expressed this concern to Bob, although I won’t reprint any of his private responses to me here.

There are various statements out there on blogs and in blog comments (by the way, thank you all for your support) saying that ESPN somehow told the BBWAA that I didn’t need to be a member. This is false.

Third, the rank-and-file were presented with a binary choice on the motion to admit these Internet writers: Yay, which admitted the 16 who got in and rejected Rob and myself; or nay, which would have admitted no one. There was a little floor debate, but the names could not be unbundled, and I was told by more than one member that they felt there was “no room for discussion.” Given that scenario, I would have voted “yay” as well. Better to get Gammons and Stark and Verducci and Passan and the others in than to get none in at all.

I only know two members of the committee: Dutton, whom I just met for the first time after the vote and who seems for all the world like a great guy; and Bob Elliott, whom I’ve known since 2002 and whom I respect as a person and a writer. I do sort of know Tracy Ringolsby, who isn’t about to nominate me for the Spink Award, but I’d like to give him the credit to think that his personal feelings about me didn’t affect his professional judgment here. I’m told he also voted against the general proposal to admit the 16 who did get in, so this is probably as much about the Interwebs as is it about me. I’ve only exchanged emails with O’Connell and with Phil Rogers (the latter exchange coming years ago), and have never had any interaction with Paul Hoynes or David O’Brien. I’m not sure if any of them would recognize me if they saw me at a ballpark or at the winter meetings or anywhere. Would it have helped if anyone on the committee besides Bob Elliott was more familiar with how I go about doing my job? Perhaps.

This is when Tracy Ringolsby goes apeshit, he does a couple of posts on Law's comment board, then goes by the handle "ballfan" on Baseball Think Factory, and makes a complete 17 year old girl out of himself. He ends up quitting on the discussion, and is pretty much lambasted by the online community, and also guys like Dayn Perry come to bat for Law and Neyer as well. If you have an hour, the comments are pretty entertaining, here's a few retarded Ringolsby zingers:

"There also is the possiblity that Keith Law is not being honest in his post. Having been there and witnessed the events, I can assure you that there are several issues which Law alleges that are flat out lies, but if he didn't use the lies he wouldn't be able to make his point. "

"There are plenty of things to dislike about what I do and I don't usually argue with it, but to have someone like Law accuse me of being anti internet shows that he once again is spouting off about crap he doesn't know about. There have been several times during the year I have questioned him on his facts and accusations and he has explained the mistakes by saying he is young and inexperienced and makes mistakes but people need to be understanding. Boy that's great crediblity. If Law had questions about the vote or my vote, he had plenty of opprotunities to ask me in Nashville, but never once broached the subject. Yet, he didn't hesitate to make accusations against me."

Neyer & Law vs Ringoslby


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