Kenny: The Hall of Fame’s anti-recency bias

From SABR member Brian Kenny at Sports on Earth on February 8, 2016, with mention of SABR members Adam Darowski:

There is a phenomenon in economic and psychological circles known as “recency bias.” It involves placing too much emphasis on what we have recently observed; something that has just happened often takes prominence in our minds.

In baseball history, I believe we now have what I would call an “anti-recency bias,” believing what we have just witnessed can’t be nearly as important as what has come before it. Deeds we have seen with our own eyes can’t possibly measure up to the feats that now have the imprimatur of history. Baseball has a powerful nostalgia engine working full-time. Books and columns are churned out year after year, emboldening the belief in the greatness of old-time players. Players from the cable era were far more exposed, with every bad start, and every blown postseason save on national display. It’s a new twist to the old Groucho Marx line, where we wouldn’t want any part of a club that would have one of our own generation as a member.

There are 59 major league players in the Hall of Fame born in the 1890s and 1900s (these are the players of the 1920s and ’30s). Currently there are just 27 players born in the ’50s and ’60s (players of the ’80s and ’90s). Obviously the process is still dealing with this era, but considering expansion and the increase in the American and international baseball population, the ’80s and ’90s players are being left behind.

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Originally published: February 11, 2016. Last Updated: February 11, 2016.