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Book Review: The Cooperstown Casebook

The Cooperstown Casebook Who’s In The Baseball Hall of Fame, Who Should Be In, And Who Should Pack Their Plaques By Jay Jaffe

Bill James wrote the most essential text about the Hall of Fame—his 1994 book “The Politics Of Glory”—and followed that seven years later with his tome “The New Historical Baseball Abstract,” the most comprehensive all-time ranking of players.

The conversation about Cooperstown has changed, however, since James left Hall of Fame debates behind in 2002, when he joined the Red Sox front office. A cloud of steroid suspicion now hangs heavy over each year’s ballot, while a series of stingy Veterans Committees, even with frequent restructurings, have failed to elect any post-World War II players but Ron Santo—and even in that case they awarded Santo posthumously.

Fortunately for us, Jay Jaffe has carried the torch for reasoned Hall of Fame debate since 2004, when he introduced his JAWS system, which weighs the virtues of Cooperstown candidates using empirical methods.

Jaffe’s JAWS system forms the backbone of his wonderful new book “The Cooperstown Casebook,” which blends and updates the concepts underpinning “Politics” and “Abstract” to produce the new standard by which Hall of Fame books will be judged.

“The Cooperstown Casebook” is essential reading for all baseball history enthusiasts and is recommended for anyone interested in intelligent discourse about the Hall of Fame.

Jaffe writes informative, entertaining capsules about every player enshrined in Cooperstown, from inner-circle members to the most dubious Veterans Committee selections. He devotes space to more than 50 additional players who deserve at least some consideration for the Hall, saving the most deserving for pullout essays that precede each of the “Around The Diamond” chapters.

For those unfamiliar with JAWS—or the Jaffe WAR Score System—it establishes Wins Above Replacement standards at each position, using the players enshrined in the Hall of Fame as guides. The system considers the totality of players’ career value and also their best seven individual seasons when arriving at a final JAWS score.

For instance, JAWS views second baseman Bobby Grich, shortstop Alan Trammell and center fielder Kenny Lofton as three of the most qualified position players among Hall eligibles who aren’t currently enshrined or on the writers’ ballot.

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Regardless of your perception of Grich, Trammell and Lofton, there can be no debate about “The Cooperstown Casebook.” It is the most comprehensive, most enjoyable evaluation of the Hall of Fame since James two decades earlier. I know I will return to “The Cooperstown Casebook” year after year to get my Hall of Fame fix.

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