Tag Archives: Shingo Takatsu

Fix the hall

With the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame failing to elect a former pro player for the first time since it went two straight years in 1986 and 1987, people are asking what the heck is wrong.

It’s not a shortage of good candidates. In three years, the Players’ division has managed to elect only longtime Chunichi Dragons second baseman Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, while arguably the best candidate, Tuffy Rhodes, treaded water in the middle of the ballot.

This year’s ballot was both larger, increasing from 21 candidates to 30, and better stocked with players who had huge careers.

This year’s results

Reliever Shingo Takatsu and outfielder Alex Ramirez, each got the same number of votes as they did last year, but it’s not true that everyone who voted for them a year ago did so again, because I didn’t. But Masahiro Kawai, a perplexing high flyer dropped from 218 to 210, while Rhodes crashed from 102 to 61.

This year’s poor outcome, however, might encourage some changes to the way things are done.

What can be done

I’m glad you asked. I don’t have a concrete solution, like changing the way the ballots are structured or voted, but while the whole process is administered efficiently and above board, it is a closed circuit.

Baseball writers who cover players during their careers then vote on those players. The results are then announced to the media and only then relayed to the public through that media filter. The event is a press conference in the long narrow hall where the plaques are hung, and as wonderful as the surroundings are, it’s not a good venue for a press conference.

Unlike the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, Japan’s wonderful museum at Tokyo Dome is closed on the day results are announced. TV cameras are there to record the introductory speeches and the speeches of those being enshrined — or their survivors.

The only public part of the enshrinement process is when new members are presented with their plaques at Game 1 of the annual all-star series. There are fans in the crowd, but there’s no time for anything more than a wave to them.

The first thing to do is take the private process and make the fans a part of it.

Hold the induction ceremony outdoors and invite the public. Give honorees more than a day or two to prepare their remarks. Give their fans time to show up. Make it an event that for one day stops baseball time in its tracks.

Give voters a chance to go public

Look I may be wrong when I say Masahiro Kawai– whom I loved as the Yomiuri Giants infield anchor at short for years–is not really deserving of a place in the Hall of Fame. I’m wrong a lot. But if you think he is, why not tell everyone your reasoning?

Sure, full disclosure might bring abuse from the public, but it would ensure more careful deliberation by voters. How about we go halfway, and have the ballot committees give voters the chance to make their votes public. Then we can have a debate and I can learn stuff and the public can be more involved.

Of course, every writer has that option in this day and age, but I may be the only one who uses it other than a few Hall of Famers who take to the press each year to issue proclamations on who is and isn’t up to THEIR standards.

My podcast partner John E. Gibson complains about the lack of standards, but neither of thinks that’s really the problem, but I like the idea of looking at who is in and what the current candidates have in common with most of them.

If we don’t find a positive way to solve it, I’m sure the Hall of Fame can come up with a “solution” that causes more problems.

A little background

The first nine members were selected by the special committee, and that group included only one former professional player, the Yomiuri Giants’ first Japanese ace, Eiji Sawamura. The following year, his Russian teammate, Victor Starffin, became the first player to be selected by the competitors’ ballot in 1960.

The competitors’ ballot, considered anyone and everyone who played amateur or professional ball, managed, coached or umpired until it was disbanded after 2007 in favor of two competitors’ divisions, the players’ division for recent retirees and the experts’ division for those who hadn’t played in 21 years.

At least until 1965, former players still in uniform could be elected, since the manager of the Nishitetsu Lions, Tadashi “Bozo” Wakabayashi was elected in 1964. The next year, the Hall inducted the managers of the Yomiuri Giants, Tetsuharu Kawakami, and Nankai Hawks Kazuto Tsuruoka.

Perhaps someone didn’t like the idea of Hall of Famers in uniform, because from 1966 to 1996 nobody was allowed on the ballot who had been active as a player, manager or coach in the past five seasons.

Thus, Sadaharu Oh, who last played in 1980 and then coached and managed until 1988, couldn’t be considered until 1994. It created a huge logjam as guys like Oh, Masaichi Kaneda, Kazuhisa Inao, Katsuya Nomura and Shigeo Nagashima had to leave the game for five years before they could go in the Hall of Fame.

The Players’ division can now consider guys in uniform if they haven’t played for five years, while the experts’ division can handle anyone out of uniform for six months, and can consider other contributions to the game. The special committee is now how non-players and amateurs get in. It used to be the last resort for players, and players selected by the special committee are not considered competitors, even if they did little else but play.

Hall of Infamy

I have a message for some of my fellow voters in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame’s players’ division, and I’d like you not to take it the wrong way: Get your heads out of your asses.

I wish I knew what was up with some Hall of Fame voters because if it was simply a matter of looking at 30 former players and choosing the seven you think are most qualified, we wouldn’t get the dog’s breakfast we saw from the 2021 players ballot.

To be fair, it was a packed ballot, with a lot of solid candidates, but for the first time since 1987, none of the new Hall of Famers were former pro players. The Hall said it was the first time since 1998 that no former players were elected, but the Hall doesn’t count former players elected by the special committee, which inducted 209-game winner Hiroshi Nakao that year.

2021 Hall of Fame ballot posts

With a slew of solid candidates on this year’s ballots it’s easy to see how big candidates can split the ballot. Shingo Takatsu led the players’ division vote with 72.3 percent, coming just 10 votes shy of induction. I didn’t vote for him this time, but he’s an OK choice.

But if quality of the player matters, then perhaps voters should ask themselves these questions, lifted from Bill James’ old abstracts:

  • Was this player ever considered the best at his position in his league for any length of time?
  • Would you expect a team to be a pennant winner if he was its best player?

Shingo Takatsu? He was one of the better relievers for an extended period, but if he was your best player you wouldn’t win a pennant.

No. 2 on this year’s players’ ballot was lefty Masahiro Yamamoto, who I did vote for. He was considered one of the CL’s better starters for a long, long time. He won a Sawamura Award. So obviously, his best was pretty darn good. The same could be said for No. 3, Alex Ramirez. He won two MVPs and four Best Nines.

After that we get into a shit show. I don’t mean to disrespect the substantial quality of all the guys on the ballot. Fifty-eight percent of the voters named Masahiro Kawai on their ballots. He was a terrific player, but if he’s the best you’ve got, you’re not going to win a pennant.

Two hundred and eight voters named him on their ballot. These are people who have been covering pro baseball for established outlets for over 15 years.

I love Kawai. He was a really good player who I thought was underrated during his career, but if you voted for him, I would appreciate it if you take your vote more seriously. If in your carefully considered opinion, you really think Kawai belongs in the hall, then your considered opinion needs a hell of a lot of explaining.

Norihiro Nakamura, a player who deserves serious consideration, got none. He received four votes, and will not be eligible to be reconsidered for another 14 or so years when he can get onto the experts’ division.

Hirokazu Ibata, a much better player than Kawai, got 1.8 percent of the vote. Kenshin Kawakami, perhaps a good candidate, got 1.4 and he’s gone, too.

It’s like there was a rebellion and voters decided that after voting in Kazuyoshi Tatsunami a year ago, and putting strong support behind Yamamoto this year, that no other former Dragons deserved support, since Kazuhiro Wada barely survived the first cut.

There are so many players on this ballot who are comparable to guys already in the Hall, but many of them may not get there because votes are being wasted by people who have no respect for their vote.

If that’s you, I’ll be happy to publish your reasoning. The more we discuss our choices and rationale, the better they should get.