I began following baseball in 1978. I began teaching college in 1994. Throughout my teaching career, I’ve heard complaints that our students just don’t know so many facts anymore. And in recent years, I’ve found that younger people don’t know the same baseball numbers that many people knew when I was in high school and college.
We could debate whether or not baseball is less popular than it was then. And depending the measure(s) you use, you could pick either side of the argument and find sufficient support. As for in the classroom, I’m going to try to pull rank here and say that students today do not know less than they once did; they know different things than they once did. For example, there was a time when I could name all 40 US presidents in order. To give you a sense of when that was, we’ve had six presidential terms since. Students don’t ever need such trivia clogging their brains today. Rather, they can just look it up. It takes seconds.
And this brings me back to baseball and the Hall of Miller and Eric. Sean Forman is the person responsible, at least in part, I think, for fans knowing fewer numbers. He founded the greatest web site for baseball statistics, baseball-reference.com way back in 2000. Since then it has grown and grown. It’s the go-to for almost anyone researching anything about the game. He also co-founded Baseball Think Factory, my favorite place for post-ballot Hall discussion and a web site chock full of information in its own right.
Forman’s election wasn’t an easy one for us for at least a couple of reasons. To begin, he’s just 44 years of age. He’s not close to meeting the Hall’s executive age requirement. Of course, the Hall has no age requirement for pioneers. I suspect that’s because those who wrote the rules couldn’t imagine that there were be a pioneer who hasn’t been long-since dead. Whatever the case, we’re willing to use their rules as written to try to come up with the best HoME we can.
The other barrier to Forman’s election is the man-crush Eric and I both believe we have on him. He’s done what every hard-core, crazy fan of baseball statistics would like to do. So yes, the man crush is there – but for all of the right reasons. Forman is incredibly influential over today’s game. It’s the most valuable, most complete, and most easy to use place for stats for nearly everyone in the community. BBREF WAR is the most commonly used and the most open-source, easy-to-understand version out there (to be fair, fangraphs explains theirs well, but it’s not one I can totally buy). BBREF is just the best at what it does. That’s all there is to it. More importantly, they’re the first to do it this comprehensively.
Before BBREF became as large as it was, I imagined willing a $700 million lottery and donating a pile of money Forman’s way so he could improve the site in the way he believed it needed improvement. Well Sean, I never did win that lottery. The best I can help you with today is induction into the Hall of Miller and Eric.
With Forman’s election, we have only five to go in our Pioneer/Executive wing.