The Baseball Writers Association of America, the sometimes hidebound group that votes on postseason awards and Hall of Fame honors, took a big step into the 21st century Wednesday.
The BBWAA, meeting at baseball's winter meetings in Las Vegas, granted membership to four leading writers who toil for Web sites that aren't connected to print publications, and who aren't themselves former newspaper writers who've migrated online. The new members are Rob Neyer and Keith Law of ESPN.com and Christina Kahrl and Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus. Law used to write for Prospectus before leaving to work for the Toronto Blue Jays, then ESPN.
"This is an important step forward for the BBWAA," said Atlanta Journal-Constitution writer and BBWAA president David O'Brien, quoted by Kahrl on Baseball Prospectus. "I'm pleased to have been part of the decision to welcome Baseball Prospectus writers into the organization."
The BBWAA opened its doors to online writers for the first time last year, but the group was made up entirely of writers for the megasites CBS SportsLine, ESPN, FoxSports, SI.com and Yahoo. Many of them, such as Peter Gammons and Ken Rosenthal, were longtime former members from their days as newspaper writers.
Law and Neyer were voted down a year ago, leading Law to write a testy post on his personal blog in which he disputed the claim that he didn't attend enough games, the reason given for his and Neyer's exclusion. Both men say they attend a lot of games but don't sit in the press box.
Neyer, on the other hand, said in an e-mail Wednesday, "I wasn't miffed about being blackballed, because I couldn't quite see any tangible benefit to becoming a member. What I was, was annoyed that the process seemed to have been somehow rigged, and that a deserving candidate like Keith Law was also snubbed (and other deserving candidates like Joe Sheehan apparently weren't even considered)."
Sheehan also writes for Prospectus.
Both Neyer, via e-mail, and Law, in a new blog post, mentioned that the only real impact their new membership will have on them will be a chance 10 years from now to vote for stathead favorite Tim Raines for the Hall of Fame.
"I am still unclear on why, exactly, I might need to be a member," Law wrote in his blog post, the headline of which -- "Woo hoo." -- appears to be sarcastic. "After conversations with probably a dozen current members, I think the opposite is true -- the BBRAA [sic] needed people like me, Rob, etc. as members, to try to boost their credibility as an organization in a time when they receive so much criticism for the backwardness and outright hostility towards intelligent analysis (statistical or scouting) displayed in so much mainstream writing, to say nothing of the RBI/wins fetish in BBRAA voting."
In an e-mail, Law said he would have removed his name from BBWAA consideration if he'd had the chance. "I think the way they treated me last year was disgraceful, and they still haven't fully accounted for it," he wrote. "I also think that there's nothing different about me as a writer today compared to me as a writer last year."
Carroll, who writes about injuries for Baseball Prospectus as well as a Football Outsiders, wrote in an e-mail that "It's not going to change anything I do aside from allowing me to attend more games."
Kahrl, who writes the Transaction Analysis column for BP, was more expansive. "While I expect to still write about transactions," she wrote in an e-mail, "I really want to try and breathe new life back into the game story as an art form, and perhaps in my conceit try to take pages from Runyon and Lardner and Pete Palmer and Keith Woolner to provide something old and something new, all at once."