The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

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At first it seemed as though I must have received the wrong e-mail.

This can't be right.

Just a couple of weeks ago I pulled up a similar document. The e-mail I discovered in mid August was titled "Panhandle Baseball Conference All Conference Teams." I was so puzzled by it I even went so far as to call Legion baseball Coach Tim Herrera to ask him about it.

Upon further inspection, I realized it was the list from 2012. Ummm ... OK. Never mind. Sorry Coach.

But again this week I received a simiar e-mail. It was also titled "Panhandle Baseball All Conference Teams." Again I was puzzled. But when I realized that this was actually the 2013 list I was even more confounded than I had been two weeks prior.

What was so befuddling about the 2013 list was that not a single Post 17 player was named to the first team. Of the 10 players named to first team slots (including two pitchers) seven were from Alliance, two from Gering and one from Chadron.

This list was voted on by coaches in the conference. The coaches were not allowed to vote for any of their own players.

I'm not going to say that any of the players named to that list were not deserving. I'm not qualified to do so. In order to feel in some way qualified to make such a list, one must have seen all the players in action - and often, or at least often enough to get a true sense of their abilities and contributions to their team.

Lacking a personal viewing, at least I could feel more comfortable were there some numbers to inspect.

Of course seeing all players often enough to make such judgements is nearly impossible. After all, these games are not nationally televised. I saw a large majority of the Sidney games - including games against Chadron, Gering and Alliance. I must admit, I saw a lot of really good ball players that weren't wearing Sidney uniforms.

Except for those wearing black or red I never saw any player often enough to make a true judgement of how one stacked up against another. That was never my focus anyway. The game in front of me was really all I was ever concerned with.

But Coach Herrera made a good point when I spoke to him earlier this week. Actually, he made an obvious point. It's a point I had already made to myself. It was the point that was the primary cause of all my confusion upon receiving the e-mail in the first place.

"After all, we won the district and beat the runner up four out of five times this year," Herrera said.

How is it possible, we wondered, that the best team in the conference did not have a single player worthy of inclusion on the first team? Was it something personal? Did some of the other coaches have some animosity toward a Post 17 player, coach or coaches?

Maybe yes, maybe no. I have no evidence to support any such claims - so for the time being I'll consider it nonsense. For the sake of argument let's consider that their was nothing personal here. Let's just say the voters made an honest effort to vote for who they believed deserved first-team honors. That may well be true anyway.

That being the case I see a flaw in the voting. As stated earlier I am not qualified to make informed judgements on the ablility of players I may have only seen once or twice. As for the Post 17 players, I know Colton Onstott, Tyson Herrera, Lane Harvey and Devon Sullivan are outstanding baseball players. But all of them had bad days. What if I had only seen them once and on such a day?

But that situation doesn't just exist for me. It existed for the voting coaches as well. It is not only that the time viewing opposing players is limited, there is also no data by which voters can explore to help them make informed decisions. Baseball is, and always has been, a numbers-driven game.

I know Hank Aaron hit 755 home runs and Babe Ruth hit 714. Willie Mays hit 660. While those numbers are committed to my memory, I can find any number of other stats on anyone I choose to investigate in the major leagues - past and present. Miguel Cabrerra is hitting .355 with 43 home runs and 130 RBI for the Detroit Tigers this season. Only Chris Davis' 47 home runs stand between Cabrerra and another triple crown.

I didn't know those stats until I looked them up. But the coaches who voted for the Panhandle Baseball Conference All-Conference Teams don't have such a resource. I suppose they can keep up with things to varying degrees - local newspapers, websites, social media, conversations with other coaches and parents, etc.

I don't know how to solve this. Maybe all teams should have statisticians who make their numbers available to all programs - at least at the end of the year. I know numbers don't tell the whole story, but they tell a lot.

The voters may not have known how many times Sidney catcher Onstott caught runners napping on the base paths. The numbers can't tell one what kind of a leader Sullivan was. But for the asking, they could find out that Onstott hit .379 with 14 extra-base hits. They could find out that Sullivan hit .394 with 32 stolen bases and on the hill had a stingy a 1.92 ERA.

Alliance, or any of the district team needn't have to ask how Herrera pitched in the clutch. What was his line in the districts again? I think it was something like two hits, no runs and 19 strikeouts in 12 innings.

I know these numbers courtesy of Tony Bayne, who was the volunteer stat keeper for Sidney. Since Bayne, who's son Blake was named to the junior all-second team, was always gracious in sharing his work with the the Sun-Telegraph, we routinely published the numbers in these pages. I suspect not all teams have such a resource.

But in order to make an accurate and fair vote all teams should have such a resource. It may not be perfect, but at least it allows for a more informed vote.

I don't really care if an uninformed vote, as this one must have been, hurts a city, town, boosters or even a parent. But what about the boys and young men that put their heart and soul into America's game all summer long? Shouldn't they have the benefit of a fair and informed vote.

 

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